Sunlight and fair weather are precious commodities in winter not to be squandered. The dogs and I were more than ready to get out into the South Dakota forest and do a little hiking. Even though recent snowfalls in the Black Hills had made it difficult to head too deep into the wilderness, there were still plenty of hiking opportunities available close to Rapid City. Just west of Johnson Siding, the southern trailhead for the Bogus Trail System sat off Highway 44, easily accessible and begging to be explored.
We pulled into the small parking area at the start of old USFS Road 749 (now marked as ATV Trail/ Bogus Trail 6301). We prepared to hike up the snowy road, keeping our eyes and ears open for any off-road vehicles that might be on the trails. As it turned out, we would end up having the woods to ourselves that day, and wouldn't encounter any other humans on our journey.
The snow slowed us down significantly throughout the day. For the most part it was intermittent and the terrain varied between dirt, snow (of varying depths), slush, and ice patches. I had to watch my step on the uneven terrain but the dogs managed just fine. They trotted easily up the road while I clumsily plodded along behind them.
It was a beautiful day to be in the forest. Maggie found plenty of fresh snow to roll in along the way, much to her delight. Tall evergreens rose high above the pristine white powder all around us. It was a lovely and fitting sight for a December afternoon.
After a short walk up the road, we passed by the start of Trail 6332 on our left. Soon after, we came to the spot where Trail 6328 crosses Trail 6301. We had explored the eastern portion on a previous expedition. The western stretch began off to our left. We had never tried this section of trail before and decided to give it a shot.
The trail took off up the hill, marked by small yellow signs in the trees. We followed the arrows and set out along the narrow path. This was no ATV trail, but was instead meant for nothing wider than a dirt bike. The single-track turned out to be a hill climb that ended up leading us farther and farther up the mountain.
Granite boulders and protrusions greeted us as we made our ascent. Our pace slowed as we gradually hiked up the snowy hillside. We stopped frequently to catch our breaths -it was a fairly steep trek.
Towering pines blocked out the infrequent sunlight. We stopped for water breaks when the terrain leveled out. At one point we had to make a little detour around several large downed trees. The trail resumed its relentless climb up the mountain.
Rocky outcroppings loomed over us. Deer tracks were visible in the snow. The tracks began to follow the path we were on and the dogs sniffed excitedly after them. As we made our way up the hill, the snow deepened. Suddenly we found ourselves in thick, heavy snow that was up to the dogs' bellies. The hillside was steep and difficult to traverse in these conditions.
We could see the top of the hill just ahead of us. There was no way we were turning around; having to navigate back down the mountainside would be more treacherous than continuing on our current course. I knew we were nearing the end of this leg of the journey, if we could just get up and over this hill! One step after another, we slowly climbed and finally the ground began to level out again.
The snow became patchy again. We stopped to take a quick break after the strenuous stretch of trail was over. Just off to the left of the path, the trees gave way to views of the other wooded hills in the distance.
Our steep climb had turned into a gently rolling hill. Near the top, we abruptly came to the end of Trail 6328 at an intersection with the western section of Trail 6305. Where 6328 ended, 6305 continued directly in front of us and also to our right.
Instead of plunging deeper into the woods along the path in front of us, we decided to take a right and begin making the loop back towards the direction we had originally started from.
This junction was a great place to take a break before continuing on our adventure. I congratulated the girls on completing the trail up the hill. In fact, we had now completed all of Trail 6328. After the dogs indulged in congratulatory treats and finished drinking their water, it was time to keep going. From here on out we would be making our way back down the hill.
This stretch of 6305 plunged us back into deep snow. We waded through a section that slowed our descent.
The short section of 6305 that we were following soon ran directly into 6301. Bearing to the right, we were now back on the road we had started from. The deep snow gave way to tire tracks and patchy spots of slush.
Gravel, slush, snow, ice; each step was different and had to be taken carefully. Even though the road was wide and easy to follow, we had to be cautious on the way down. The girls seemed to be having a good time regardless. This exciting winter adventure was sure better than sitting around the house!
Eventually we were back at the spot where Trail 6328 crossed 6301. On our right was the western section of 6328 that we had just completed.
We continued down the hill with a sense of accomplishment; this trail hadn't been easy. It was an arduous stretch that climbed almost entirely uphill, sometimes steeply. It had been fairly strenuous at times. This type of trail isn't for everyone -it's mostly for those that just enjoy hiking in the forest, with the adventure itself being its own reward. There were no big payoffs; no spectacular views or points of interest. There was simply the joy of conquering a difficult trail through the woods.
Just over 2 hours after we had begun our journey, we were back in sight of the car. The snow had slowed us down quite a bit. Under better conditions we probably would have made better time.
The dogs seemed to enjoy the adventure. There were many interesting smells along the way, and plenty of snow for Maggie to play in. The girls didn't mind the strenuous nature of the hike -they were filled with energy the entire time. They had fun on our wild little trip through the winter mountains. It was a challenging but enriching trek fit for a fair December day.