South Dakota camping style: Part 5, Harney Peak

2 Aug
Wednesday we started out early for Harney Peak.  We wanted to be well on our way to the top before the day got too hot.  We knew that hiking with all the kids would make us slower.  Harney Peak is the high point of South Dakota and the highest peek between the Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees.  It is 3.5 miles to the top, but the elevation gain is only about 1000 feet, so most of the trail is not too steep.
Ben started out carrying Baby Dumpling in the baby pack; the rest of us had to hike on our own 2 feet.  Right from the get go, Cutie Pie did not want to hike.  “My legs are broken,” she told me.  Luckily, my trekking pole collapses down to just the right length for a small 3 year old.  I told her she could be the leader and she cheered up.
She got frustrated when the other kids refused to hike slowly behind her.  I used Aunt Katie’s trick of super powers next.
“Cutie Pie, how will we get to the next rock?  Lets use our Super Dinosaur Power/Super Running Power/Super Star Power/Super Butt Wiggle Power/Super Pooh Bear Jumping Power”  That got us a good deal further along the trail.

The views were spectacular along the way.  My photography skills don’t do it justice.
Blueberry Pie offered to carry Cutie Pie and she let him for 100-200 yards. Then I produced apples from my pack.
I promised her that if she would walk all the way up, I would carry her all the way down.
She would go for a bit and then say, “Momma, I just want you to carry me.”
We pretended to be baby ponies. I distracted her by having her tell me what ponies eat.  I told her I knew a story about a pony named Rocket and I told her Grandpa’s story of Whitey & Mimi for the first time.  She loved it.  In this way, we got to the marker for 1 1/2 miles.  We had fallen pretty far behind the others, but they were waiting for us there.  She was excited to be caught up and went a bit further on her own.  Then she just stopped in the middle of the trail.
“You just go, Mommy,” she said, motioning me on with her hand.  This was different from the whining and fussing of before.
“I won’t leave you here all alone,” I said encouragingly. “Come on with me.”
She sighed and took 2 more steps and then stopped again.  “You just go, Mommy.”  That squeezed my heart, so I picked her up and tied her on my back with my baby carrier and carried her the rest of the 2 miles up the Mountain.  She fell asleep almost instantly, so I think she really had walked as far as she could go.
Just before the peak, there is a huge flight of stairs.  We had planned to eat lunch on the summit, but stopped at the base of the stairs instead.  Baby Dumpling was getting fussy and so were the other kids.  I broke out a package of chips to go with our sandwiches.  Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips are good for troop morale.
 Luckily, Cutie Pie was willing to climb up the stairs herself.  I’m not sure I could have carried her.  They were not as steep as the ones in this picture.  This is inside the Fire Tower. 
 Lucky for me, Cutie Pie was excited to get to the Princess Castle on top of the Mountain.
When we got to the top, 5 children were miraculously recovered from fatigue and went scampering about like mountain goats, climbing all over the granite boulders.
I alternately prayed for their deliverance from death  and begged out loud for them to come down.  (I’m not exaggerating.)
   I think that maybe on some of the higher peaks, I’ll stop just short of the summit.
 I’m not sure the view is enough to compensate for the sharp pain of fear that goes crushing through me when I am up so high. 

 Even from the complete safety of the stone walled fire tower, I was only barely able to keep myself from dropping to my hands and knees when I looked out over the Black Hills from 7,242 feet above sea level.
I know I look all calm here, but it is only a facade.
 I didn’t know this, but chipmunks live at the top of mountains, and there were about 100 running around and climbing the boulders with my kids.
I started to feel better about the whole being higher than anything else I could see feeling and then Cherry Pie started balance beam walking along the cliff side edges of the boulders again.   I finally sat down with Baby Dumpling and leaned against a boulder and covered my eyes and told myself that if they all died, there was nothing I could do about it.
Picture Ben took while I was cowering on the ground .
I stayed there until Ben was done exploring and ready to take us all down again.
We switched things up on the way down.  Ben put the 3-year-old  in the baby pack, and I tied the 6-month-old onto me and down we went.  My trekking poles were great.  Besides helping me keep my balance down the mountain, I loaned them to various kids several times to motivate them to keep going.
By the end, all our feet hurt and we were all tired.   The 12-year-old is the only kid who never complained about being too tired or that his feet hurt.  The girls who were sure they couldn’t take another step were soon running about again as if they had done nothing all day.  The grownups to IB Profin and sat in our camp chairs like lumps.
For dinner I warmed up 2 cans of chili and we had Frito Pie.  Gotta love that propane stove. 

4 Responses to “South Dakota camping style: Part 5, Harney Peak”

  1. Brad Saum August 3, 2012 at 7:59 AM #

    What a great hike! Standing on the granite summit at the highest point in the Black Hills is definitely a great reward. I always believe the scenic views and spirit of Harney Peak is much more appreciated because we have to work a little to get there. Great hike!

    • GlowWorm September 3, 2012 at 10:23 PM #

      Thanks. There were beautiful views all along the way.

  2. Dawn August 30, 2012 at 11:33 AM #

    Great story! Talking about the children’s abilities was very helpful. I’ve been all over w my now 6, 8 and 12 yr old and it’s not always easy to tell if a hike or climb will be ok for them. I will def do this climb on my next trip out west. Have you ever done bear butte with them. We did 90 % of it, in july, before the wind pick up, the sun started going down and I thought it best to turn around.

    • GlowWorm September 3, 2012 at 10:22 PM #

      Thanks for your comment! My kids are 12, 10, 8, 6, 3, and 7 months. The oldest four were totally capable of hiking Harney Peak even with no preparation. We have not climbed Bear Butte, but we like camping and climbing as a family, so I’ll have to check it out.

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