Sunday, August 22, 2010

South Dakota Summer~ Hiking Lover's Leap Trail 3 "so-called" miles with a 3 year old

My "Hiking the Black Hills" book said that the Lover's Leap Trail

is a 3 mile loop that

starts out with a 30-45 minute strenuous climb

to the peak.

Followed by a moderate to easy one mile return.

The "one mile return" is highly debatable . . . more like two.

But maybe circumstances clouded our mileage judgement.

We knew it would be an adventure with three skeptical kids.

One of those three being three years old.

Up the first stretch, she said, "I'm going to need a bubble bath after this."

Going up the third or fourth stretch of pine cone and rock covered path,

she declared breathlessly, "I'm going to need THREE bubble bath-ez!"

Near the top, we were rewarded with a beautiful outcropping

of white and rose quartz

upon which I did get the kids to perch for a shot

and to hold up a few "cool" rocks for a picture.

My daughter also discovered a heart in the path.

This would be the only photo of me:  my feet.

Because I am too vain to have a photo with no shower or makeup.

Not long after the quartz,

Jim spotted this tree

and said, "Take a picture of this."

When Erin asked, "What did that?"

I said, "A porcupine."

After this tree, Jim suggested we stay "grouped up".

Perhaps it was people who did this to the tree with a knife or something.

Or perhaps it was a nice large kitty's scratching post.

We, fortunately, did not find out, and moved on to our destination:

where legend says two native lovers jumped to their death.

The rocks did have haunting familiarity to a similar scene in the movie

The Last of the Mohicans.

Jim and I could hear the movie soundtrack pounding in our ears.

Or . . . maybe that was our heartbeats pounding in out-of-shape protest to the climb.

While it is not Harney Peak, or McKinley, or Everest,

we did have to take a picture to mark the moment.

{Notice each one is leaning against something.}

No guard rails here,

Tom was eager to get going down the hill

so that Erin did not unknowingly step over an edge

or around a bottomless corner.

A mother and daughter had caught up with us

with their ambitious panting black pooch on a leash.

I was more worried about the dog

pulling one of them over the edge.

Yet, I did keep a tight grip on Erin's pudgy little paw.

As we began our descent,

Erin picked up a crooked pine branch

pretending to be the "grandma" and that I was her "sweetie".

This little game was a good excuse to hold her hand

. . . because she was an old lady needing her "sweetie's" help.

And entertained her enough to curb the whining

. . . because grandma's do not whine.

Baby Ponderosa pines carpeted the hillside on our way down.

And soon, we heard the trickle of a stream.

Ten creek crossings were before us.

We had planned to walk through the water,

but each crossing did have boards that could be crossed,

rocks, or a walk through the water.

Along with acres of poison ivy on either side of the trail.

At each crossing, the kids washed their legs in the water.

And after awhile,

Jim and I took turns carrying Erin on our back.

The poison ivy leaves were right at her hand level.

And a three-year-old with poison ivy was something

to avoid!

Which, thankfully, we did avoid.

At last, we made the ten creek crossings,

the end of poison ivy,

and got to a nice smooth paved trail.

To find this waiting for us:

along with about 500 of his friends.

This one being the smallest:

So . . . we asked a KELO-land news photographer who had just come around the bend

if we could get back to our room at the State Game Lodge

about a half mile away with a heard of 500 bison blocking us.

His response . . . "Oh, just stay on this side of the road, and you will be fine.

Besides, it's not like they are going to charge you

unless you piss one of them off."

Ok, so I should have taken a clue from his nonchalant and naive disrespect for

2000 plus pounds of wild mating-season bison bull.

But, I thought, "Well, he did just come around the corner,

so he must have seen where they are,"

and the tired part of me thought, "This herd could stay here ALL day."

We set off on the opposite side of the highway from the buffalo,

planning to climb up the side of the hill about 25 yards for some distance.

Jim, me, Tom and Syd, both wide-eyed looking at us like we were crazy,

and Erin in her three-year-old non-stop chatty oblivion.

A few steps into it, we decide to turn back.

I mean, we both know that being on the "other side of the road" is no protection.

We also know that we don't have to try

to "piss one of them off" for it to actually happen.

And we know how 2000 pound domestic angus bulls behave

when competing for a female's attention.

A few minutes later we see two buffalo cows come around the corner

on that "opposite" side of the road.

Both older, wiser kids reminded us that we would have come face-to-face with them.

So . . . Jim asks a tour van driver if we can hop in with his tour

for a ride around the corner.

And, "voila", a tip of some cash later, we are at our starting point

on the other side of the herd.

And that

is our "Lover's Leap Adventure."

Worth it?

You bet!

Recommend it?



  1. How cool! This is something my crew would flip over all the photos, and your little girl is a hoot! She and my 4 year old little girl would get along great, I'm sure. A bubble bath cures all ailments, right?!

  2. Man, what a trip! Your photos are wonderful. That must have been such an adventure for the kids. We had a similar experience on the west coast of Florida. We did a huge hike that started with walking across an 8-inch wide dam (the top was just 2 inches above the water), then bushwhacked through the forest for 2 hours. When we got back, there were about 8 alligators in the river on either side of the dam. Well, we had to walk it, because it was the only way back. Kind of freaky, but 3 adults and 2 kids did it.


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