05-Jul-2014 -- As I reflect on 12 years of confluence hunting, usually these confluence visits end up being more difficult than I anticipate. This visit to 44 North 104 West actually was one of those rare instances where the visit was easier than I had anticipated. Read on.
I was in Day 1 of a whirlwind 3 day weekend, finally getting out and practicing what I preach, namely, to "get out there on the landscape." As my destination today was one of my long-desired places to visit, the magnificent Theodore Roosevelt National Park, this confluence point in the Black Hills, being "relatively" on the way, was a natural one to attempt. I had just successfully visited 43 North 104 West, but it took longer than I had anticipated, with a long way to go to my destination. Still, I hoped that I could visit 44 North 104 West without too many hours of daylight spent. After reaching US Highway 18 at the north side of Edgemont, South Dakota, I had a decision to make: Either travel to the east, north, and then west along US Highway 18, or travel to the west, then north, and then east along US Highway 18. Reasoning that with the 4th of July weekend upon us, traffic would be heavier in the eastern arm through the Black Hills, and thus, I drove west on US Highway 16, then north in Wyoming along US Highway 85, and then east along US Highway 18. Just before entering South Dakota from Wyoming, I turned north onto the gravel Boles Canyon Road. I had never been on this road before, and the adventure began.
The large stones that Boles Canyon Road was comprised of made for slow going, but the day was clear and I very much enjoyed the forest-covered slopes here in the Black Hills. As this was the far western part of the Black Hills, few tourists were here, and I only encountered a few vehicles. After about 30 minutes and rising quite a bit in altitude, I reached the turnoff to the west. I had been wondering if I would be able to drive this one lane track in a standard vehicle, but because the conditions were dry, I took it slowly but was successful. I drove to a junction with another track to the north and parked. Gathering supplies, I set off up the slope, into the trees, toward the confluence. This area had been grazed, and the flies were having a grand time with all of the droppings around. I stepped carefully but fortunately left it all behind and even found a faint wildlife trail that amazingly led just about to the confluence.
I arrived at the confluence at just before noon local time. The temperature was a very pleasant 85 F under mostly sunny skies. The confluence lies in a meadow bordered by trees, and despite the lack of a view, it was a beautiful spot. I had a very tidy collection of South Dakota confluence points. I had not been to a South Dakota confluence since my frozen trek to 45 North 97 West about 18 months ago, and it felt good to return. For some reason, in these 12 years, I had not visited 44 North very often. I visited a point in Maine, then an attempt in Wisconsin (which I'm still smarting over, but I'm over it now. Almost), one in Minnesota, and now here in South Dakota. But I have stood on 104 West more often, from South Dakota down through Nebraska and into Colorado. I spent about 20 minutes at the site documenting the experience. There were a few big flies and wasps but I still enjoyed my time there.
I hiked out the way I came in, downhill, filming a short video until I came near the road. On the way up, I had wandered a bit, losing some GPS reception, but now that I knew the way out, I angled a bit to the west. As I came out into the sun, I found a magnificent tree that had fallen over with roots exposed. As I neared the vehicle, two men on ATVs rode up, stopped at the road junction, and then drove off to the west. I stood there awhile. I do love the Black Hills. I drove back to Boles Canyon Road and enjoyed some very nice vistas to the north. As the road I took back to US Highway 85 via Beaver Creek and Mallo Road required nearly an hour, when I reached the highway, I had a decision to make: Could I squeeze in a hike at Devils Tower National Monument, which I had never before visited? In the end, I decided to go for it, taking State Highway 585 to Sundance and to reach the Monument, and loved every moment. The region had received quite a bit of rain this summer and the sweet yellow clover was in bloom everywhere. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!