Friday, June 21, 2013

The Forgotten Waterfall: Spearfish Falls

The waterfalls of Spearfish Canyon attract thousands of visitors each year. Bridal Veil Falls, located along the scenic byway (Hwy 14A) is hard to miss. Green signs mark it from either direction. Besides the signs, it's difficult not to notice the cars pulled off at the shoulder, the crosswalk, and most recently, the new observation deck. Almost everyone driving through the Canyon sees Bridal Veil Falls. Roughlock Falls may be off the beaten path just a little, but still manages to be the most popular waterfall. Signs mark it from either direction, and many visitors know of Roughlock Falls before they ever arrive at Spearfish Canyon.

Spearfish Falls remains overlooked by many. Locals know it well, but for many visitors it goes unnoticed. I suppose the reasoning could be that for many years the Falls were nonexistent due to the water being diverted for use by the Homestake Mining Company. In 2003, the water was allowed to run freely again. Since then, I, personally, have been to Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls more times than I can count. I had never been to Spearfish Falls though. It isn't hard to find or far away. It isn't even a big secret. I just never got there. I was very impressed with what I had been missing.

To get there, take the Spearfish Canyon scenic byway (I took it leaving from Spearfish, so heading south). It only takes about 25 minutes to reach the trailhead. The drive is beautiful and very relaxing. There are plenty of places to pull off to enjoy the Canyon, including Bridal Veil Falls. Once you get to Savoy, you'll see Spearfish Canyon Lodge on your right (you can turn right on Roughlock Falls Rd to head to Roughlock Falls) and the Latchstring Inn on your left. For Spearfish Falls, park in the parking lot of the Latchstring Inn. On the southeast side of the lot, you should see the trailhead.

The hike itself is very short and easy. However, there are some steps so it is definitely not wheelchair accessible. The trip down to the falls takes only about 5-10 minutes. You cross over a couple of bridges that take you over Spearfish Creek. There are some great photo opportunities on this trek.

When you reach Spearfish Falls, it is beautiful! There is a great place to sit and just enjoy your surroundings. The roar of the Falls drowns out much of the traffic from the nearby road. The mist is refreshing on a hot summer day. It is such a peaceful place to unwind.

After a few minutes, I decided to venture down the rest of the path. I was told that the trail is a big loop (about 3/4 mi long) and that I would end up back at the trailhead from the other direction. The rest of the trail was wonderful. There are some beautiful views and plenty of wild flowers and different types of berries along the way. I definitely enjoyed the hike.

However, when I got to the point where I needed to cross the creek to finish, I found that the bridge was washed out. I'm not sure how long it has been this way, but this is your warning. It was no big deal though. I simply had to turn around and walk past all the pretty flowers and great views again (bummer, not). Plus, this gave me another opportunity to stop at Spearfish Falls again. In all, the whole hike took me about 20 minutes.

As I said, it isn't terribly hard to find. It isn't time consuming or difficult. For whatever reason, Spearfish Falls just remains forgotten. However, I can now say I have seen all three waterfalls in Spearfish Canyon, and I really can't pick a favorite. I would encourage everyone to take the time to experience all three for themselves.

- Cortney Slaight of Visit Spearfish, Inc.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Getting a Grip on Rock Climbing

I recently got the chance to find out more information on a sport that is becoming more and more popular- rock climbing.  I met up with my friend Liz and her rock climbing expert boyfriend, Mark Ellefson to chat about this cultivating attraction. Mark has been climbing for over five years and is currently working on becoming a certified rock climber.  After just trying it for fun one day, he now tries to climb almost every day and says it is his true passion.  

After talking to Mark I began to realize that climbing in the canyon is truly a hidden treasure! With ten plus climbing areas to choose from, ranging from beginner to advanced, there are routes for almost everyone. Many people believe rock climbing in the canyon is the perfect location. Mostly due to the fact that it is all weather, all season climbing-you can climb any day of the year!  Mark says, “It’s sort of like an outdoor gym!” New routes, each with bolts attached with hangers, are constantly being made just because people love to do it. Mark tells me over 100 new perfectly manicured routes have been made just in the last year and a half…wow! 

Later that day I got the opportunity to tag along with Mark and Liz to climb at their favorite location-“Blue Sky.” It didn’t take long to discover why this was their favorite. I do recommend wearing good hiking shoes as it is a bit of a steep trek to get there! However, once you have made it to the top, the sight is incredible! I am told this is the climbing area with the best views.   

Mark and Liz set up their equipment and got right to climbing. The first route was “Indecent Exposure,” which I was told is an intermediate climb.  They both looked like natural climbers and I was amazed at just watching. I even learned some new climbing terms! Such as “belaying” which is a climbing technique to secure the climber during their climb. Also, “dyno” short for dynamic, is a gymnastic upward leap for a distant hold. I got to witness this move during Mark’s second route, “Teddy.”  He made this move look effortless, but it definitely requires some upper body strength!

 As Mark began to repel down the mountain the rain clouds began to move in. We packed up the gear and headed down the mountain. All in all, it was a great day and I certainly have a newfound appreciation for this awesome sport!

- Erin Budmayr of Visit Spearfish, Inc.