Thursday, April 19, 2012

Catching up (with more pictures)

Alright, I've been slacking around here. Time to get back up to speed.

A few weeks ago I met up with Ryan and another local runner, Phil, who is registered for this year's Black Hills 100. The plan was to run the first/last 29 miles of the BH100 course, starting at Dalton Lake and working back to the finish line at Woodle Field in Sturgis. This is probably the toughest part of the course with a few good climbs/descents. The northbound direction (the way we were heading) is theoretically easier since you have a net downhill dropping from the Hills into Sturgis, but there are still some good climbs in there (plus, if you're running the 100, you already have 70 miles on your legs).

First thing we noticed upon arriving at Dalton was that it was noticeably colder up there than it had been when we left Sturgis. Cold enough that the puddles in the road were iced over. So, our first mission was to get moving up the hill and into the sunlight. The first picture is taken a few miles from Dalton Lake, on the ridge above the Little Elk drainage (which is dammed, thereby creating Dalton Lake.....somewhat interesting random trivia factoid: of the 22 named reservoirs in the Black Hills, only 4 are natural lakes). The lake itself is to the left, further down the drainage. You can't really see it, but the road leading into the lake is down there somewhere.

After the initial climb out of the Little Elk drainage, the trail rolls a little bit along the ridge before you start a long descent into the Elk Creek drainage. At this point, you're starting to get fairly close to the norhtern edge of the Black Hills and occasionally can catch glimpses of the open prairie to the north and east. Interstate 90 is actually located just below that timbered ridge (referred to by locals as the Hogsback) in the middle distance of this pic.

As the trail nears Elk Creek, you get a few good views of the canyon below. We've heard it referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Black Hills", but there is also a different canyon that is in fact called Grand Canyon on the Wyoming side. The idiosyncrasies of local names. Regardless, the canyon is fairly impressive from up here.

A bit further down the trail you com across the Crooked Tree, which is incorporated into our race logo. Ryan and I have a strange fascination with this tree. What can we say, we're fascinated by freaks of nature. That's me in the blue and Ryan in the white, by the way.

Not long after the Crooked Tree the trail crosses Elk Creek multiple times. As I documented in a previous post, the creek was totally dry back then, although it might have some water now that we've gotten a few days of steady rain. But probably not much and certainly not as much as it had at this time last year.

Basically, from that point on, we were on the same route that I had run the previous weekend, so I won't rehash the details here. I'll just mention that it was getting a tad warm (upper 70s) by the time we emerged from the Hills into the more open areas around Alkali Creek, Fort Meade and Sturgis. A sharp contrast from the sub-freezing temps that had greeted us at Dalton Lake when we started. The last few miles were a bit of a slog for all of us, although the speedier duo of Ryan and Phil had pulled a bit ahead of me by then. All in all, though, not a bad day on the trails.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I nearly fell on my face taking in those views descending back toward Elk Creek last summer. At least I was slow enough that the sun had come back up by then. They were harder to see on the way out (unless you turned around).