Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter Hiking in Spearfish Canyon

The transition from fall to winter in Spearfish was a smooth one, especially compared to the transition Spearfish saw last year where over three feet of snow blanketed the Northern Hills on October 3rd. Since 50+ degree weather is rare in Spearfish during December, I have been taking advantage of the great weather and picturesque scenery that Spearfish Canyon offers.

One thing to consider, when hiking in the late fall and winter months, is daylight. And by daylight, I mean the lack there of. In order for me to get a solid hike in on a normal work day, I have to be sure to be leaving the office by 2:00 p.m. at the latest in order to get out in the hills before I run out of light - and there’s nothing worse than being out in the snow, ice, and cold when darkness falls, approx. 4:15 p.m. One idea, while you’re hiking, is to pack a headlamp, just in case you DO get carried away looking at the beautiful sunset and have to scale back down an icy mountain. Also, always pack gloves, a hat, and maybe even some hand-warmers. Be sure to include a First-Aid pack as well, as even the best outdoor adventurer will slip on an icy rock, and nothing breaks the skin like some dirty hard-packed snow and ice.

Another tip for winter hiking, is layering. LOTS of layers. It may be cold, but you will definitely get warm while out on your adventures. I suggest, a tee shirt, a hoodie, a vest, and a coat, just to be safe. You may get warm, and you can peel off a couple of layers, and continue hiking, only to reach your destination, sit down, and start shivering. This is when you put your layers back on, and sit there, sweaty, but chilled. Not the best feeling in the world, but worth getting to that lookout point.
Be sure to let friends or family know when you do plan to go out on an adventure as well, and when you intend to return. Cell service in Spearfish Canyon is rarely found, so I try to check in right before I leave, and as soon as I get back into range, just so my friends don’t send out the search party for me.
Below are a few more pictures from some of the many recent adventures I’ve taken:

Hope (my dog) and I ran into this quite a lot over the last couple weeks – the creek’s freezing, then thawing through the day, with ice bunching up at the crossings. I’ve taken my fair share of polar plunges recently, and had to change my socks once I got back to my car. Luckily, I’m very familiar with this particular creek and know that there’s a very low chance of drowning.

The sunsets the Spearfish area has been having have been unreal, but like I stated before, it’s a mad dash to make it back to your car before darkness hits.
This was a beautiful night hike (it was actually an afternoon hike, where I underestimated how long it would take me to get back to my car), and no, I did not have my headlamp, and yes, I DID fall down. Twice.

Good luck, and if you’d like to check out more images like these, check out my Instagram Page!

 Guest Blog contributed by Seth Courtney, Spearfish
– Photos courtesy of Seth Courtney, Spearfish