I’m on my way to Terry Peak, looking for snow while heading up Hwy. 385. Alongside the road, it’s perhaps 2 inches in the shadows, and none in the sun. And sad to report, it hasn’t changed much when I turn off Hwy. 14A and climb the long hill up to the ski resort.
So I’m pretty surprised to find a full parking lot of cars at Terry Peak, most with South Dakota plates but a scattering from Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota. It’s been dry and warm, but Terry Peak has made enough snow to open several runs, with the snowmaking crew ready to go as soon as colder temperatures prevail.
It’s a sunny day – no wind – with a temperature a little above freezing. I buy a cup of coffee and find a good viewing spot at an outside deck table. I’m not generally the type to relax outside in December, but watching the mostly young crowd hang loose as they glide downhill on skis and snowboards makes for a tranquil winter scene. The air is invigorating, but the pace is leisurely and restful. Alas, pleasant or not, daylight is already fading and I want to continue up into snowmobile country in search of the “white gold.”
At the bottom of the peak, I turn north towards Spearfish Canyon and the spruce forests beyond. If there is snow to be found, I will find it there. There are half a dozen cars parked at Cheyenne Crossing when I turn into the canyon. It’s a fine little eatery with an award-winning breakfast menu and fine steaks and fish for dinner.
There’s enough snow to set a winter scene in the canyon, and it’s a beautiful drive no matter how moody Mother Nature is. The dark waters of Spearfish Creek are bubbling and swirling along. The trout are probably hungry and eager, if a fly fisherman was to take an off-season trek along the banks. The creek’s deep holes and pools are likewise ice-free, but their waters lie still and silent. Would the ripple of a lure bring up a giant from the deep?
I decide to turn around at Savoy, where the Latchstring Inn has lured perhaps a dozen hungry gourmands through its doors. Across the road, Spearfish Canyon Lodge offers luxury accommodations, and a reasonable number of folks seem to be enjoying a winter get-away.
But while I see a few thin tracks, the lots are empty and there are only a few snowmobiles lined up cold and motionless nearby. If this short day was only a little longer, I would walk up to Roughlock Falls. No matter what the weather, this is one of the finest beauty spots in the Hills. After all, why not take advantage of the quiet solitude while the snow lovers wait for a change in the jet stream?
In fact, there is no reason not to enjoy the outdoors in whatever form it comes. You might not need snowshoes on the Mickelson Trail so far this winter, but what is more refreshing than starting out cold and ending up warm and well-exercised after hiking through the winterscapes made easily accessible with the unusual temperatures. And those who love four-wheeling can bundle up and ride the Black Hills trails permitted for motorized all-terrain vehicles.
I don’t have time to drive farther into snow country today, even though I know that the trails have opened around Trailshead Lodge. In fact, reports from the Black Hills Trails Office are that all the trails are open, although most have only a few inches of snow. And snowmobilers can go to the Game, Fish & Parks website and view an interactive map that provides the latest trail conditions.
I’m almost home when I slow down for several MUVs crossing the road and heading down the dusky trail towards Nemo. Their frames are covered with canvas to keep them warm. I bet they had a fine time, I think, as I reach the driveway to my home.
And, snow or no snow, I sure had a wonderful winter afternoon myself!