Hiking the 50 trail for my 50th

Leslie Silverman

Well this is my last column being a 40-something. I had my wonderful 50 first list all ready to go and then the zombie apocalypse happened. I’m still trying to do things on it but some of them are impossible.


In fact, right about now I should have been heading to San Francisco to visit Alcatraz and the Redwood National Forest. Instead I did my first cruise night of my life. Which was kind of cool. It involved cruising up 8th Street in an old Honda Prelude while watching muscle cars whizz by revving their engines and doing burnouts. ‘Merica! 


I finally made my way up to Dinosaur Park, which was way cool although I don’t understand why dinosaurs are looking down on Rapid City? It’s kind of those bizarre roadside attractions things like a world’s biggest ball of yarn (which I have seen in Minnesota).


I also decided to hike the trail labeled number 50 in the Black Hills forest. For those of you in the know you know that’s The Flume Trail. For those of you not in the know now you’re in the know.


Sadie and I have been hiking a small part of it from the Coon Hollow Trailhead to the Air Force Base Lookout almost on a daily basis. This past week we kept going from there. She was a little confused at first. By the end of the trip she was like, “Mom, why did you drag me on this? I’m 11. In dog years I’m a senior citizen!”


This trail is kind of interesting. Aside from its historical significance it’s interesting in terms of the way in which it’s marked — or blazed. We hiked it from Coon Hollow to Sheridan Like, so I could be “surprised” at the end by the tunnels. It’s super easy to follow until you get to Boulder Hill. Then it’s just plain dumb.


You can take a shortcut and knock off three miles of hiking by taking what I assume to be Boulder Hill Road. That’s cheating. Instead my friend and I took the three-mile loop that went around, which we thought was Boulder Hill.


From there we crossed the road and got to a tiny lake with a marker in the lake. Had I not seen the marker we would have been completely confused. Even with seeing it, it was in the lake, so we had to assume the direction in which it was pointing.


We made no wrong turns here. About an eighth of a mile after this though there is the dumbest sign ever. It points in the direction from which we came and says Flume trail loop. And then points the other way and says Boulder Hill. Only there are two ways to go here.


I voted for far right, my friend for middle right. She was wrong, we learned when about a mile down the trail we got back to the Boulder Hill Trailhead we detoured three miles from in the first place.


Confused?  So was she. I wasn’t because I kind of knew she was wrong but didn't mind the extra two-mile detour. Better signage showing what was behind door number one would have helped. The trail must be easier to follow from Sheridan Lake, but not as climactic at the end so


I would still do it the way we did in spite of the dumb lack of signs.


After Boulder Hill it’s pretty straightforward, although you actually do have to pay attention. At times you’re on what I call carriage roads and a small footpath off the main road is really where the trail goes. I found these to be easy to spot because I was in the moment. But if you’re a hiker who just talks and doesn’t look you’re likely to get lost. 


There is a section of twists and turns through fields — I’m assuming due to private property  — that was super fun to follow. My friend was a bit astonished we didn’t miss a turn through that section. I am pretty good at navigating. Mind you, I had no tools, GPS, map, compass. But I did have a landmark mountain I kept steering towards or away from as we hiked. I had also memorized the online map I viewed.


The only wrong turn I made was towards the last third of the hike. We ended up crossing a cattle guard, which I knew was strange. And in short order we found ourselves on a Forest Service road. We turned around and prior to the cattle guard found the faintest trail ever with a tiny blaze that never said 50.


Coming from Sheridan Lake it was obvious where to go. Coming from Coon Hollow, not so much. And what got me is after this blaze like 10,000,000 trees were marked with blazes, but by that time it was obvious where to go.


Had there just been one marker by the faint trail it would have been super helpful. But apparently it’s supposed to be a mystery of some sort! By the end of the hike you’re excited to see the tunnels near Sheridan Lake. The tunnels are just plain rad! And you also get a view of the lake on your way back to the car. I think if we had started in Sheridan Lake like so many people suggested it would have been an easier trail to follow, but it would have been kind of anti-climactic at the end.


I think hiking the 50 for my 50th was a swell idea. I have no expectations of hiking the 89 for my 89th. I do plan on conquering as much as my 50 first list as this brave new world will allow.


I am training for the Michelson, by bike. And still plan on grabbing another state highpoint before year’s end.


I know 50 isn’t really old, but it really is.  It’s a half of a century! When you’re in your 40s you could kind of pretend that you weren’t quite old. But in your 50s you’re old. By millennial standards — by 30 something standards — you’re just old. I guess the cool thing is I now qualify for


AARP discounts! And eating dinner at 5 p.m. and going to bed at 9 p.m. will seem normal. 


And I get to say that I am in my nifty fifties, which is way cool because it’s like the only decade that rhymes with its preceding adjective!

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