It’s cold out, or windy, or really hot, or raining…it’s not a good day to spend outside, right?…or is it?
One thing anyone who lives near mountainous terrain can tell you is the weather can change at a moment’s notice–which can be both good and bad–and it can vary greatly between nearby locations. The Trekker’s have experienced this regularly in the past, most recently, last weekend. Our local area was socked in with heavy, freezing fog. It was a damp, 30ish-degree, January day. Not exactly ideal for being out (though the hoarfrost on the trees was beautiful!) Previous experience has shown us how variable our local weather can be, dependent on terrain. Due to this, we knew the weather in the Hills could be far different than what we were currently experiencing (being married to a meteorologist who can look up conditions in certain areas helps too 😉). So, we picked an easy trail in Custer State Park and headed out. We knew, at the worst, we would be able to enjoy a pretty drive and could get some nice hiking in; while at the best the weather could be FAR different as we climbed in elevation. Boy, are we glad we did!
As we headed for the park, Mr. Trekker made the prediction that we’d emerge from the fog shortly after passing the entrance sign (where the road begins to gain in elevation)…he was right on the money! (I’m gonna channel Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Carribean and state, “there’ll be no living with him now.” 😝) As we headed toward our trailhead, we made several stops for photo opportunities of the gorgeous hoarfrost the freezing fog had left behind. I can’t quite explain why, but that natural occurrence utterly fascinates me. The way the frozen crystals cling to the local flora can cause a smooth piece of bark to look almost furry. It reminds me of the tiny hairs on a spider’s legs.
When we arrived at our trailhead, the sun was shining brightly and continued to do so…for the remainder of the afternoon. We had many opportunities for viewing the fog bank below us, in the lower elevations, but it never reached our altitude until the very end of our trek. By then, we had returned to the car and were wandering about, seeking out prime picture opportunities. 😁
We hiked the Robbers Roost trail in the southern portion of the park. The trailhead is located off of Oak Draw Road (just to the east of the Prairie Trail trailhead), which you can reach from the southern arm of the Wildlife Loop Road (Route 16A). The hike just follows an old road, out-and-back, though it can be combined with other old roads, in the local area, for a decent hike, horseback or mountain bike ride. (We’re looking forward to returning with our bikes when the weather warms!) The trail wasn’t anything exciting, it was just an old fire road that winds through prairie land, around and over hills throughout the park, but we had a great time! The scenery used to be more picturesque, but after the large, Legion Lake Fire that swept through this area in December 2017, this region of the park now consists, mainly, of a burn scar. For this reason, be aware in the warmer months as there is very little shade. You should be prepared for hot conditions.
Below is a short video I took, at the end of the hike, of the coyotes’ haunting song that seemed to welcome the fog as it silently slipped back up the mountainside…(turn the sound up for this one!)
So, don’t be afraid to seek out the “boring” or “go-nowhere” treks, they can sometimes offer some surprises of their own. On this day we enjoyed a great–albeit INCREDIBLY muddy–hike (basically in shirt sleeves)…in mid-January…in SOUTH DAKOTA! Whereas, if we had stayed at home, we may have felt depressed by the cold, damp, foggy day.
Below are a few more pictures of our trek, more are available on the Tranquil Trekker Facebook and Instagram sites. (If you haven’t followed these yet, please click the links at the upper right-hand corner of the page, and do so!). Thanks, as usual, to Mr. Trekker, for several of the pictures in this post and on the other sites!