Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Black Hills National Forest Fire Tower Tour

The morning started out gray and dreary. Noelle and I were prepared for another less-than-spectacular day. Despite the clouds we decided to drive out past Jewel Cave and explore a bit along the South Dakota/Wyoming border. That area has always intrigued me; there are lots of red rock canyons that look interesting. Our excuse for the trip would be to check out some old Forest Service fire towers that we’d never been to before. We packed up a picnic lunch of sandwiches, chips, salsa, and apples and hit the road.

To get to Custer we decided to take Flynn Creek Road which neither of us had driven before. It was scenic and worth the trip, although it appears the Flynn Creek Picnic Ground no longer exists. From Custer we headed west past Jewel Cave and then up Elk Mountain to the Lookout Tower.
Elk Mountain Lookout
The view was quite nice from tower. Luckily for us, the weather had started to clear a bit. We ate our sandwiches at a picnic table near the tower then drove down the mountain and into Newcastle, Wyoming. I had heard about a hiking trail in the forest and on BLM lands near a place called Mallo Camp. When I inquired about this at the visitor’s center in town, they had no clue what we were talking about. We decided to give the trail a shot anyway.

The drive to Mallo Camp was pretty. We found the trailhead for the Mallo Trail rather easily. However, following the trail itself was another matter. A few trail signs were down, making route finding a bit tricky. We followed the trail the best we could, then followed what we thought was the trail back down to the road we had parked on.
From there we had a pleasant walk along Beaver Creek and back into Wyoming. (We hadn’t even realized we had crossed into South Dakota.) Back at the car we decided to take a scenic route back to Custer. We drove Boles Canyon Road and took a nice detour to the Summit Ridge Lookout before descending to US-16 and the pavement.
Summit Ridge Lookout Tower

Just before getting back to the highway we noticed an interesting grave marker just off the side of the road. I am quite curious about who it belongs to and why they are buried in this spot.
Ah, the mystery of the Black Hills. 

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