The sun hit the calm water acting like a mirror as it reflected the image of the granite pillars emerging from the depths of the lake. The laughter of children echoed as they played at the water’s edge. This was the scene at the trailhead of our first hike in the Black Hills this season. We were with good friends Dino and Lisa who made the 9 hour trek from northwest Minnesota to visit our little oasis.
Our plan was to hike the 2.8 mile Sunday Gulch Trail touted as one of the best hikes in the hills. Rated as “Strenuous” due to the vast elevation change it was the perfect trail for our inaugural hike. Does it get any better? Depends on who you ask……
If Dino were to write the opening to this post it would go something like this…..Day 2 of our so called “vacation”. All I have done so far is work! “Hey Dino, want to drive the skidsteer and level some prairie dog mounds?” Two hours of bouncing around later my arthritic hands and calcified arches are killing me! And what does Jim give me when I return? A warm beer! Now they want me to go on this 2.8 mile death march with screaming kids everywhere! Imagine what kind of bacteria there is in that water with all those screamers running around.
But off we go dodging crying kids, bickering spouses and dogs that won’t shut up. Did I mention my calcified arches are killing me? I am not complaining, I am just saying… Down and down we go getting our feet soaked in these muddy patches of water. Don’t these people know what goes down must come up? How far down does this damn trail go? Jim is in the lead and keeps passing logs and stumps that are perfect for resting areas my feet. Did I mention they hurt? I have a medical condition, I am not complaining just thought you should know.
We finally get to the bottom of the death march, now it is all up hill, but wait it looks like Jim and the girls are taking a break on the log ahead! Finally! As I catch up they stand up and start hiking again! What about my arches? They need to rest! Ugh, onward we go, one foot in front of the other… It will be fun they said, best hike in the hills they said…. What’s that up ahead? Stairs and handrails? You have got to be freaking kidding me, how are my arthritic hands supposed to grip those?!?!Well, that is how I envision Dino’s opening to this posts. I better stop with his interpretation before I lose too many readers. It seems like more of the hikers we saw were doing the trail counterclockwise but several of the reviews we read said to do it clockwise and we did not regret it. The trail was not too crowded and with most of the people going the other way, we only ran into ½ dozen people going our direction. The occasional tour helicopter would fly over as it took tourists on the area sights.
The trail started out at Sylvan Lake whose large rock formations will just leave you in awe. We climbed and wound through several of these formations then started a 1.5 mile downward trek which provided great views of the surrounding countryside.
Everyone was all smiles at the trailhead!
Once at the bottom there is a hairpin turn which leads you back up the gulch. There are several stream crossings requiring you to cross on rocks or logs but if you are careful you can do it without getting your feet wet.
|Here comes the stairs!|
|One of several log crossings|
|Up and up we go!|
|Another stream crossing|
Soon we came to a series of rock and concrete stairs with handrails. How cool is that? The stream ran down beside many of the stairs and we were able to see some trout in the deeper pools. Up and up we went breathing in the fresh air and working our calves and looking at all the cool formations. Dino mentioned something about arches but I did not see any. Maybe he was talking about an arch he saw last year in Moab.
Overall, it took us a little less than three
hours and was a great hike. I would highly recommend for anyone in the area. What’s
up for tomorrow? I see Dino and Lisa brought their bikes, maybe we will go for
a bike ride!
|Last uphill stretch!|