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Guarded by Ghosts, Revealed by Angels
Jun 6, 2013
There are a lot of hiking trails in the Black Hills that take some local knowledge to enjoy. White Rocks is one of them. Former Deadwood resident Tony Tuscano of Texas suggested that the climb to White Rocks was worth the work. He was right. He described it as "the best view of Deadwood … the dominant hill over lower Deadwood.” Tony’s description was enough to get the hike on my bucket list.
Getting by the Ghosts
The directions to White Rocks involve the local cemetery, Mount Moriah. You need to go outside the cemetery proper and follow a trail described as “quite steep” for 750 feet to the grave of Seth Bullock. Up the hill and beyond the grave is a utility trail, and you keep following that to the top.
The ladies at the cemetery toll booth (you know you are amongst famous ghosts when people pay to get admitted) were helpful. The first volunteered, as she shook her head, that it was “really steep” to get to White Rocks. The other lady assured us that it was “a great view.” Both were exceptionally correct.
The Top is Right Above You
A strange thing about that trail is that you can see the white rocks as soon as you leave the cemetery, and they look about two miles away — straight up. There were a few people on top that we could barely distinguish, which makes you brace for a very long hike. But it’s a lot more like climbing a ladder. It is steep, but not long, which must create an optical illusion — or maybe I was passing out from a lack of oxygen.
Standing With the Angels
The hike is probably only twenty minutes each way, but worth it. When you climb up on the top of the rocks — which truly are white — you have a commanding view of Deadwood and the region. The devastation of the Grizzly Gulch fire remains immediately behind you. The logs are laying side by side along the humps of the lower mountains in a pattern that looks like fur on an animal’s back. The ladies at the booth said we could see four states, but until they do a better job of spray painting those state lines, who am I to say?
No Mountain Goats, But….
I was zoomed by some kind of a bird, saw turkey vultures circling (maybe looking for fallen hikers) and one family that climbed the rocks like mountain goats, but no dangerous wildlife. After we got down and had the mandatory engine-fueling ice cream, the lady serving us claimed a mountain lion lived up there! But she hadn’t been there for four years — I bet the ghosts got him.
Lee Schoenbeck grew up in Webster, practices law in Watertown, and is a freelance writer for the South Dakota Magazine website.