Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quad state trip

A couple of months ago my running teammate Eric Morse came up with the idea of visiting (bagging) a few states he had yet to run in. I’m always up for an adventure so I signed on immediately and as soon as Al Bernier heard about it he was in as well.

Eric laid out the basics of what he wanted to see and I did a bunch of research to figure out how to maximize our time and not only get the four states (ND, SD, MT, & WY) but also get some other interesting locations. I researched nearby county high points , fire towers, state high points, benchmarks, and trail runs in the Badlands and Black Hills .

I figured out a general plan but nothing too solid and brought along a ton of maps so that we could figure out where we wanted to go on the fly. There were so many things to do and we tried to cram it all into a little more than four days.

The trip started with a cold (27 degree) and dark (4:30 am) run at Eric’s house then we were off to Rapid City SD. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and quickly made our way to Belle Fourche SD. We visited the visitor’s center and the monument for the Geographic center of the US . The true center lay 20 miles to the North and we’d bag that the next morning. We headed out for 8 miles, running a double loop of the paved bike path in Belle Fourche. The next morning we drove to the field where the actual center was located. After some pictures Eric and I headed off down the road and Al followed a bit later in the car picking us up four miles down the road.

Me at the center

In three states at once.

Then we headed for ND to bag the state high point (White Butte. We did a nice 4 mile run on an un-maintained trail to the summit and back. There was a cairn and a register, Al signed us in and I was surprised to see how many people had visited this point. It really seemed desolate and I couldn’t imagine other people out here. Next up we decided to see if we could locate the point where MT, SD, and ND all met. We were able to locate the area and were surprised to find a monument. Next up we stopped in the town of New England for gas and a photo-op on our way to a county high point and a benchmark. Navigating the maze of dirt roads went relatively well and we hit that high point and two others as we completed a loop in ND. We finished the day with a 60 mile drive to Baker MT where we found a place to stay for the night. We got hooted at when we went out for a run; I guess three guys in shorts running around town is not a common sight.

Al and Eric on the summit in ND

We left Baker early the next morning and drove to a county high point in MT, we had some trouble matching a trip report to what we were seeing and as we were getting close to bailing things started to make sense and ultimately we found the spot we were looking for. I found an antler and we also came across a good sized prairie dog colony on the way back to the car.

We then headed for a fire tower in Montana, but were thrown a curve when the road became un-negotiable in our rental vehicle. We decided to head out on foot and run to the tower, but we could only guess how far it was as we couldn’t exactly pinpoint where we were on the map. It turned out to be a great 10 mile run. We were rewarded with great views from the fire tower and an added bonus – the fire tower had a geocache in it. We were really covering all of the nerdiest hobbies imaginable (although it didn’t feel that nerdy to me).

After the 10m run we hopped in the car and headed for Devil’s tower in Wyoming. It was an impressive sight and we got a close-up look by running the 3 mile trail looping around the tower. The final drive of the day was another long one with us ending up in Deadwood SD. We found a nice hotel and checked in, but it wasn’t the final trek of the day. At dinner Al mentioned that Mt Roosevelt was only a couple of miles away and was drive-able. Eric stayed behind as we headed up the access road. We were stopped a little over a mile from the summit where snow blocked the road. We were hoping to catch sunset so it was off for a run again. I felt lousy with a stomach full of P’zone and lemonade and 5,000’ of altitude. It turned out to be well worth the trip as we hit the top just after sunset and we able to check out the view from the lookout tower. In spots on the summit there was up to 3’ of snow, which was a cause for concern as we planned on going 2,000’ higher on the following day.

Running at Devil's tower

We were up early the next day and out toward Sylvan Lake for a run up to the highest point in SD. Prior to the run we stopped for a short hike up Sylvan Peak which is the Custer county high point. Eric headed out to do some running (and 10x1 minute hill repeats!) while Al and I climbed to the top. It was only a 24 minute climb and we were rewarded with views of Harney Peak and Crazy horse. We descended and met up with Eric who was going to have a long day of running (with an hour already in the bank). We headed out from Sylvan Lake to the top of Harney and made the 3 miles in just over 42 minutes. There was some mud and snow but for the most part it was very run-able, it was what I would call Colorado-TechnicalJ. We spent some time on the summit checking out the lookout tower and rock outcrops then headed back once we got pretty cold. The run down went by quickly and we even saw some people who were heading out for a hike. The great thing about visiting at this time of year is the total lack of crowds; we almost always had wherever we were to ourselves.
Summit of Harney

After the high point we headed to Crazy Horse , but I have to admit my energy level was at a low and at one point I spent about 30 minutes snoozing in the car. I woke up in time to watch them blast out a section of the sculpture. The final tourist stop of the day was Mt Rushmore where we spent about an hour or so wandering around checking out the sites and taking pictures. Then it was off to Wall SD and a run on a grass/dirt track and some more strange looks as we ran through town.

The final day of the trip was about a half-day in SD. Eric and I were out running by 6:15 AM and we did an out/back on the main road. It was kind of funny (and a little sad) when we turned to come back to the hotel and you could see it 2.5 miles off in the distance. We quickly gathered up Al and headed for the Badlands. Our second run of the morning was much more scenic as we ran a loop in the Badlands that included a tough climb for the first ¼ mile. Al stayed behind and took some pictures.
Al is on top of the outcrop

I was surprised to see him way up on a rocky outcrop when we were heading back. He claims he could hear us yammering over a mile away. We finished our trip with a very touristy stop in the Wall Drug Store . A “store” that was the size of a city block. It was mostly a collection of goofy stuff, but we had fun moseying around. By 1:30 we were on a plane heading home and thinking about where we could go next!
Al at sunset on Roosevelt
Me at Wall Drug
Miles driven – 1,123
Miles run – 60
Peaks bagged:
White Butte, Slope County ND – 3,506’ (ND state highpoint)
Brown Benchmark, Stark County ND – 3,061’ (ND county highpoint)
Black Butte, Hettinger County ND – 3,012’ (ND county highpoint)
Whetstone Buttes, Adams County ND – 3,149’ (ND county highpoint)
Fallon county high point, Fallon County MT – 3,620’ (MT county highpoint)
Tri Point, Long Pines MT – 4,220’ (MT fire tower)
Mt Roosevelt, Deadwood SD – 5,490’ (SD lookout tower)
Sylvan hill, Custer County – 7,000’ (SD COHP)
Harney Peak, Pennington County – 7,242’ (SD state high point)

States run in:
South Dakota
North Dakota

Sites visited:
Geographic center of the country
Tri state marker (SD, ND, & MT)
Devil’s tower
Crazy Horse
Mt Rushmore
Wall Drug
The Badlands

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