South Dakota's Highest Peak

Black Elk Peak, South Dakota- July 1, 2019

© Ryan Thompson

Today I woke up with one thing in mind, Black Elk Peak. The highest peak in South Dakota. The mountain was a little over 7000’ in elevation, which is about 2000’ more than I am used to in the Adirondacks. I hadn’t been really hiking at all during this trip and I was getting excited to actually be hiking a mountain so I could really check out the landscape around me. The peak was in a state park that cost money to get in. Finally found a spot in a crowded parking lot and sat there and made breakfast.

Starting up Black Elk Peak you go through this forest of pine trees and then get to a spot where there are none. All lying there on the ground. A beetle infestation kills the bark on these trees. Not able to hold water in they die fast and then cover the ground. New trees have trouble growing through all the downed tree so the spot usually stays bare for a while. Getting towards the top it kept getting more crowded and crowded. I thought that a peak at around 7000’ would be a little hard for most people and would keep away the tourist type. Boy was I wrong. The trail was littered with garbage and everywhere you went there was already a line of people taking pictures. I made it to the top though and everyone seemed to be hanging out at the fire tower and not exploring the rest of the peak. So i climbed the fence to to the tower and sat myself on the actual highest point of the mountain to take some photos.

The views from the top were great. It seems like the landscape around here is all flat with these giant stone structures sticking out if the ground in different places. The tower up hundreds of feet and have never had anyone be one the top of them. After hiking i went to the lake to cool off and get a somewhat bath to get all the sweat and dirt off of me. I didn’t stay long but it felt good to actually be swimming for the first time in a while. Made it back to the same campsite I’ve been at and decided to go talk to the people climbing. They seemed to be packing up and chatted with them for a while about the climbing and me hiking Black Elk Peak. Their faces when I said i climbed it were priceless. They seemed to have the same attitude about tourists as I do and told me that that place was a tourist trap after the fact of already climbing it.

After I made dinner I was trying to plan on what to do next. I liked the spot but needed to keep moving. There wasn’t much else for me to check out that wouldn’t cost me Fifty dollars. I began to think about my family and my friends. How much I miss them. Its fun traveling on your own. You don’t have anyone else to deal with. You can go to a spot and be there as long as you please. I just wish some people were here with me enjoying it as much as I am.

Mile - 2103