“Where is my damn burro?” Our Harney Peak Trail Tale

Long ago, visitors could ride a burro UP Harney Peak. Today, Custer State Park burros simply roam free. As we reached the summit of Harney Peak, Matt and I were wondering “Where is my damn burro?”

Here’s the rest of the trail tale:

Time for another Hansen Summer Bucket List item. This one was a LOT more challenging than anticipated:

Julia, Matt and I took on Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, it’s the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps. We packed 8 bottles of water into backpacks, laced up our hiking shoes, drove to the Sylvan Lake trailhead and headed out, er, UP!

At the trailhead.

We took Trail 4 up. It starts in beautiful wild flower and native grasslands, then progresses to through absolutely gorgeous granite rock, trees and bushes. You end up climbing about 1,000 ft. At some points there are gradual descents, which has you wondering if you’re going the right way (we were). It took about 2.25 hours to ascend. It’s a well-travelled trail and we saw a few people — most of them were descending. We didn’t start our hike until 2:30 in the afternoon. (“Oh, it’s 90 degrees F, with the fire warning at extremely high? Let’s hike Harney Peak. Now.” Not my smartest moment.)

Even so, the heat was not unbearable. It got cooler and we climbed, and there was always a nice breeze. We sweated, but not uncomfortably so.

Matt taking a quick h2o break.
Jules didn’t rest much…

During the final climb, Trail 4 combines with Trail 9. About this time, Matt and I were tired. We weren’t certain how far we had to go, and while we were determined, we were also feeling our lungs–and legs.

About this time, Matt and I were also wondering “Where is my damn burro?” I could’ve used a lift up to the Fire Tower.

One of the burros we’d met that morning. Hello to you, too, buddy. Let me get a carrot!

We made it!

Julia summited first!

It’s quiet at the summit, where there’s a gorgeous Fire Tower. We were quiet, too, enjoying the amazing views while we caught our breath. And basking in the pride. I was really, really proud of the kids. After we high-fived and toasted with water, I could see they were silently proud of themselves, too. Lovely moments to watch them in accomplishment.

That, I believe, is Nebraska.
There’s Wyoming in the background!
Jules at the top of her game (as usual!).

One last climb

Inside the Fire Tower, there is a very short but very narrow, steep metal staircase to the very tip top. Shaking all the way, I ascended, snapped a quick photo–and gratefully climbed down.

sorry if it’s blurry; I was shaking at this point…

We all took a bit more quiet time to imprint the views on our memories. I prayed — I always feel closer to the Big Guy in nature, and His presence was very near so near to Heaven. I also lightened our backpacks a tad by sharing some of our trail mix with the locals:

We then climbed down, via Trail 9. It’s a much easier route, but still a challenge. As one guy said as we neared the trailhead, “I’ve never been so happy to see grass in my life!”

Us, too. Although the granite was gorgeous.

And I hope Matt and Julia forever remember our Harney Peak hike, their pride–and realize yet again that they can do anything they set their minds to. I’ll back ’em up every step of the way.

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