Thursday, May 16, 2013

Walking The D.C. Booth Thoen Stone Seven

 This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the D.C. Booth Thoen Stone Seven. This being my first time, I had no idea what I was in for. For those of you who don't know, the Thoen Stone Seven (Run/Walk) is a seven-mile course that starts at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery, goes along the Rec Path through Spearfish, runs up and down Lookout Mountain on the east side of town, and then follows the Rec Path back to the Fish Hatchery. Proceeds from the event benefit the Booth Society (the non-profit organization that "promotes, preserves, and enhances the educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities" at the Hatchery).

Now personally, I think running this course would be a blast. However, this event also happened to coincide with Mother's Day Weekend, so guess whose lucky mom got to tag along on this adventure? My sister and I both live in Spearfish, so my mom and my brother, who live on the flat side of the state, decided to come visit. The three of them were a little leery when I brought up, what I thought was a fantastic idea, that we all do the Thoen Stone Seven. They immediately informed me that there would be absolutely no running, but that we could try the walk. My sister's two kids love the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery, so my mom thought that at the very least we would be supporting an attraction that our family gets so much enjoyment out of. When talking to my older and wiser brother, I told him not to worry because since mom was going to come too, we would just walk. He laughed and said "Ha, because that's the only reason we couldn't run seven miles". After all of this coaxing, I got all three of them to agree, and I signed them up.

The morning of the race, we were all up bright and early. I really had no idea what to expect but with my uncertain posse, I was not about to let that show. We arrived at D.C. Booth around 7 AM. Walkers were supposed to start the course at 7:30. We got all registered and received our shirts. The walking group wasn't huge, but it was a good size. There were a number of people in our group that actually ran most of it. With that, we hung towards the back so as not to slow anyone up. As we settled into our pace, we were not the very last ones. We enjoyed walking the Rec Path with Spearfish Creek running alongside. When we got to Lincoln Street, (I could be wrong on this, but being that I'm not a morning person, I was not paying attention to details) we cut over towards Lookout. The course goes through the tunnel under the interstate and then to the trailhead on Lookout Mountain. The course was flagged and very well marked. We had no concerns of getting lost.

As we started up the mountain, we passed a couple groups. The walkers weren't a very competitive crew. It was all in good fun. My brother and I ended up at the front of our pack with my mom and sister trailing behind us a bit. There were several good places for "photo-ops" (which more or less meant our group needed to take a breather). Regardless, the views from Lookout are incredible and well-worth stopping to enjoy. The trail consisted of a number of inclines and then gentle slopes downward as we wound our way up the mountain. It truly is a great hike. The hardest part of the whole course is as you reach the summit of Lookout. At that point, we made plenty of stops and there may have been some crawling at times. The views from the peak are beautiful though! After all of that hard work, it was time for another "photo-op".

After a short break, we started the journey downhill. Again, the only tricky part was near the top. After that portion, my mom broke our #1 rule of  no running as she dashed up the last incline ahead of all of us. We then started the much easier hike down the rest of the trail. When we reached the bottom, the course got back on the Rec Path and led us back to D.C. Booth. The last portion of the walk is scenic too as you walk the shady path along the creek and through the Spearfish City Campground.

As we neared the finish line, my competitive streak came out just a little bit. Although we were not the last in the bunch, I still did not want to be passed by a runner. The runners started the course at 9, a full hour and a half behind us. In my opinion, there was no reason we shouldn't be done before them, even if we were moving a little slower. My family humored me, and we picked up our pace and crossed the finish line less than a minute before the first runner did. Kudos to that guy because he was moving! He finished that whole course in less than an hour! After the race, all walkers and runners were invited for pancakes, which of course sounded awesome!

 If you happen to make it to Spearfish during Booth Weekend, I strongly recommend participating in the Thoen Stone Seven. If you are a runner, you will enjoy the scenic route and pushing yourself to finish with a competitive time. If you are a walker, the course is not terribly difficult. In my opinion, this would be a great way to experience Lookout Mountain for the first time since the trail is so clearly marked with flags along the way. In all, my family really enjoyed the Thoen  Stone Seven. In fact, it was actually my mom who suggested we do it again next year.

- Cortney Slaight of Visit Spearfish, Inc.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hiking Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain is one of three distinct peaks that surround Spearfish, forming this "Queen City's" crown. Crow Peak, Spearfish Mountain, and Lookout Mountain are well known landmarks among the locals. The closest hike to town, Lookout Mountain, sits on the east side of Spearfish. This trek provides amazing views of the area and can easily be done in just a couple of hours by most people.

There are a couple places to start, but the most popular trailhead is just off of Interstate 90 at Exit 12. Don't let the steep start scare you off. As you continue on, the trail ranges from easy to moderate with a couple of difficult inclines. Although the trails are not marked, most are fairly visible and easy to follow. In fact, the most popular trail meets up with an old road that spans much of the mountain. This old road is mowed and maintained, making it ideal for novice hikers.

The summit offers impressive views of Spearfish and the surrounding areas. Crow Peak rises out of the western horizon, overlooking the city. Looking to the north, you'll find gently rolling hills that go on for miles. And to the south, you can see the breathtaking Black Hills National Forest.

This hike is the perfect way to spend a couple of hours outside. Offering great views and moderate challenges, Lookout Mountain is an obvious favorite for many hikers.

- Cortney Slaight of Visit Spearfish, Inc.