The world was in turmoil, and the past month had been nothing short of stressful -time to head out into the forest! Sometimes there's nothing better than immersing oneself in nature. It's like a cure-all for the ugliness and intensity of the human world.
The sun was shining; we decided to explore more of the trails surrounding the Log Porch Road area of the South Dakota National Forest.
We followed Log Porch Road to its end at a closed Forest Service gate and parked at the small lot just below that. From there we began the gentle stroll up the dirt road. After walking only a few minutes, the start of the trail known as 'Bone Up' appeared on our right. We had explored this section of path on our previous expedition.
Bone Up wound northwest from here, curving through the forest before rejoining Log Porch Road farther up. We were interested in a trail that stemmed from Bone Up -a lesser known path that followed higher terrain.
Referred to as 'South of Heaven', the trail we were looking for followed the ridge line above the south section of Bone Up. After a short hike heading north along Bone Up, we came to the beginning of South of Heaven on our right. It was not marked, and we would have missed it completely if we weren't looking for it.
We took a right onto the start of this inconspicuous trail. The path led us uphill and deeper into the forest.
Soon the terrain became rocky. Granite boulders began to make up the scenery around us. Large stones lined the pathway as the trail snaked between them.
Upward the path climbed, through increasingly rough terrain. It was challenging and fun. The dogs were having a great time following the stony trail as it ascended up the ridge.
Once we had made to the top, it was time for a water and treat break. We stepped off the trail and enjoyed the view of distant wooded hills as we took a little rest. Beams of sunlight broke through the trees, warming the rocks around us. It was a beautiful section of forest, and a lovely spot for a pause as the smell of pine trees wafted in the breeze.
Back on the trail, we continued our hike through the rock garden. In a few places we had to scramble over the boulders, but the girls made it up with no problems. They really seemed to be loving this trek through interesting terrain.
We continued along the path as it led us north through the woods. The scenery began to open up as the trees thinned out. We could once again see the forested hills across the valley.
After about 1 mile of hiking, we reached the end of South of Heaven as it intersected with another trail known as 'Cookie Lady'. A right at this junction would take us deeper into the forest. We decided to turn left and begin the hike back towards Log Porch Road.
There were no markers at the intersection of South of Heaven and Cookie Lady; it was signified only by a large log lying parallel to the trail. We followed this short section of Cookie Lady west and soon came upon a handmade bench alongside the path. Carved into the bench was the solitary expression "Whooot!".
Okay. I decided to oblige, and proceeded to let out my best 'Whoot!' call into the valley below, but received no kind of response. After a brief rest on the bench for treats and water, we continued on our way.
The short hike along Cookie Lady led us back to Log Porch Road. A left here would take us down the hill towards the car (a right would've led us farther north into the woods). We began the easy stroll south along the wide Forest Service road.
After a little while we came upon a cattle guard crossing the road. On the other side was the start of USFS 173.1A on our right and the southern end of Bone Up on our left (both of which we had explored on a previous expedition).
We continued down the road, and after a bit reached the junction with USFS 173.1B. Heading straight here would take us to Big Bend Cemetery. We stayed to the left and let Log Porch Road take us down the hill. Rodents rustled around in the brush lining the trail, adding to the girls' enjoyment of the day.
We passed by the turn onto Bone Up where we had begun our hike just 2 hours earlier. Within minutes we were back at the car, having completed our loop through the trail system.
This had been a fun and adventurous hike through the forest. It was just over 2 miles long. Although not terribly strenuous, it was still physically demanding and may be difficult for some. My dogs loved scrambling over and among the rocks, but others may find it a bit too challenging.
We had a wonderful hike through the enchanting woodlands. Many trails weave through the area and we passed by several begging to be explored on another day.
South of Heaven had been an exciting path through fun and interesting terrain. The hike had been a fabulous way to get outside, take our minds off everything else, and relax in the tranquility of the forest.