On yet another beautiful day in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we decided to hike a portion of the 111-mile Centennial Trail. A short drive from our rental in Hill City, we were able to access the trail at the Samelius Trailhead.
We had a great day for a hike with picture perfect weather.
Early on in our hike, we saw many huge piles of cut pine trees. These are trees that have been killed by the Mountain Pine Beetles devastating the Black Hills, or thinned out in order to prevent future attacks.
We saw Harney Peak off in the distance again. We'd summited this mountain earlier in our trip.
I was glad we didn't have to climb up all that way again, but on this hike I wore the t-shirt I bought celebrating our achievement.
About 3.5 miles into our hike, we passed through the Big Pine Trailhead and had to cross a road. We didn't see another soul for our entire hike except parked at this trailhead.
The trail became rockier and started climbing after we crossed the road. Fortunately we were warmed up by this point.
Less than a mile later we arrived at the Black Elk Wilderness. This is the same area where we'd picked up the trail to the Harney Peak summit on our previous hike. This time we'd be sticking with the Centennial Trail (#89). You have to sign in when entering the wilderness, but there is no use fee.
In the wilderness, the trail became much more lush, and there were a few obstacles along the way. The hiking was gorgeous, though.
We were hoping to hook up with Trail #14, Horse Thief Lake, which would take us around to Horse Thief Lake and Campground. We thought we could make it when we checked the Black Elk Wilderness map, but by the time we reached six miles of hiking and had still not encountered the trail crossing, we decided we needed to turn back. Today was "supposed" to be a rest day before our last bike ride on the Michelson Trail, after all, and we wanted to get back while it was still light out.
After a snack break, it was time to turn around and head the six miles back to our car. Fortunately the way back was more downhill, and the late afternoon sun was illuminating the trees so nicely, it was a real treat.
We had another treat as we flushed out a small herd of white-tail deer and then the largest flock of wild turkeys we'd ever seen as we walked nearby. There were many, many more than this photo shows, all heading away from a road and up to the top of a steep hill.
We returned to the starting point as the shadows were growing long. We'll have to come back one day and hike more of this beautiful trail.
Stay tuned as we head east for our next stops: Wall Drug and Badlands National Park....
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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