Those who know me well know I'm not that fond of high places. Sometimes though you just have to go where the photos are. In the last few weeks I have flown in a helicopter and hiked to some steep spots to "get the shot." Here are just a couple examples.
It takes special permission to get to the high spots on Mount Rushmore. Security is very tight around the Shrine of Democracy, so this kind of access is one of the treasures of my job with the South Dakota Department of Tourism. Scott Howard and I documented maintenance work last week on a crack sensor placed on Abraham Lincoln's nose. I'm guessing this is the last time I will be in this sort of proximity to the famous faces.
Even though we had more safety gear strapped to us than probably necessary and a well-trained escort, I reached a spot below the faces that was as far as I was comfortable climbing to. Scott was braver than me and did ascend far enough to be touching Teddy Roosevelt's chin. Good for him! I'll live without that distinction on my resume.
Following longtime travel associate Mike Gussiaas up the steep, slick rock and flowing water trail to Community Caves in Spearfish Canyon is another feet I may not attempt again soon. I made it, but not without a lot of stopping to catch my breath and looking for the next stable footing position.
The caves themselves are spectacular and feel a bit exotic for South Dakota. I've seen some pretty incredible pictures from here in the winter when the waterfall is frozen over the mouth of the caves.
I would give directions to this, but I'm afraid I didn't keep track of exactly where in the canyon we parked and began the hike with a wade across Spearfish Creek. Perhaps someone will comment with directions on the Dakotagraph page at Facebook. EDIT - Thanks to Mistie Ainsworth-Caldwell for these directions - Heading south on 14A from Spearfish, travel 2.6 miles. You will pass a large parking lot and a smaller pull-off on the right side of the road. Park at the long pull-off on the right at the 2.6 mile mark. From there cross the road to the creek side. Follow the beaten path down to the creek, cross it and find the path up to the caves from there.
I will add that if you are headed to Community Caves, you will want shoes with good tread and your feet will get wet!