Thursday, September 10, 2009
Black Hills National Forest: Stratosphere Bowl
Today I finally got around to running some errands I’ve been meaning to take care of for a few weeks now. I awoke, did some dishes, ate breakfast, and then took a shower. Then I hit the road headed to Rapid City for a haircut. Before reaching Rapid City I decided to try and find the Stratosphere Bowl Overlook one last time. Noelle and I had been unsuccessful on two previous attempts at finding it. Today was different however. I saw an old, gated Forest Service road on the opposite side of Highway 16 and made a u-turn to check it out. It turned out to be FS 370, which according to my map lead directly to the overlook.
After a short hike on a pleasant, but surprisingly warm morning I found the limestone edge of a large depression. A little further on I saw some wooden railings and finally found the plaque with information about the Stratosphere Bowl. The view from up thee was pretty interesting and I found a few more stone informational panels surrounded by a chain-link fence that told the story of the Stratosphere Bowl and the balloon launches that had happened there in more detail.
From the Stratobowl I headed into Rapid where I ate lunch and got a haircut. From there I moved on to Piedmont where I met Nick for a hike he mentioned and that I’d never heard of before: up Little Elk Creek. The hike was pretty incredible, especially considering I’d never heard of it before. The unofficial trail meandered along Little Elk Creek and made its way through lots of different trees; oaks, ponderosa pines, box elders, elms, and aspens. Perhaps the most interesting part of the hike though was the geology. We walked through a nice limestone canyon with some pockets lined with calcite spar crystal. We turned around at an interesting section of creek where the water cascades over some exposed granite and into some deep little pools. What a great hike, and nice to have someone to hike with.