Monday, July 9, 2012

Mysterious Ways: Hiking

I don't often post spiritual stuff, but after DH and my hiking experience; it is hard not to post about the whole experience.

DH and I went on a vacation to South Dakota.  We visited the Badlands and Black Hills.  We went to the Crazy Horse Memorial.  During the orientation video Billy Mills was explaining why the Black Hills were selected to be the site of the memorial.  (Billy Mills is from the Lakota Tribe and Olympic Gold Medal Winner)  He discussed that the Black Hills are a very spiritual area for the Native Americans. I was really hoping to leave the Black Hills with this feeling.

One thing DH wanted to do during our trip was hike.  He researched different places to hike in the Black Hills.  He picked Harney Peak/Tower Trail #9.  The trail is rated Easy/Moderate.  It is 3.5+ miles up.  We also chose the day with the coolest temperature during our trip (the first day of our trip was 104 degrees).  Take note that Harney Peak is the highest natural point East of the Rockies. 

Harney Peak taken from a Custer Park road
First, we applied insect repellant/suncreen.  We had lunch in the picnic area near the trail head.  I advised DH to bring two bottles of water with us.  One for the way up, and one for the way down.  I grabbed some grapes to nosh on during our journey. We were ready to go.

 We set off on the trail.  We were not smart on the way up to use an app such as RunKeeper or All Trails.  We had a vague idea of where we were headed based on the maps we saw.  The only mile marker we saw stated that it was 1 1/2 miles back to the trail head.  So, we had two miles left to go.  We were trying to gauge how far we had left and where we were going.  While the trail was clear, our views of the mountains were foggy.  

The beginning of the trail was gravel and fairly easy to walk on.  As we ascended the trail the terrain became more unpredictable and challenging.  It was rock, dirt, wooden steps, concrete steps, and wooden bridges.  Oh, I forgot to mention tree roots.  There were tree roots we had to navigate around too.  There were many ups and downs on the trail - physically - oh, and emotionally, too.  At one point, DH and I discussed turning back, because of the down ups before we started to ascend to the top of the mountain.  We did not have faith that we could do it. 

As we neared the top, the fog started to lift.  We started enjoying the view more. At this point, we really weren't sure how to feel.  Exhausted from the exercise, excited to see the top of the mountain we were climbing, motivated to get it done.  We had people telling us that we were almost there. 

We came to a Y in the trail.  I saw that one  way took you on a hard trail (Trail #2) and the other went to the peak.  DH started to go down the hard trail and I started up the makeshift stairs of rock on lumber.  I was second guessing my direction, when a kind lady coming down the stairs said, "You have about 250 steps to the top" On the inside I was thinking, "Thank God, for people OCD enough to count steps."  She also told DH and another group they were headed the wrong way.  Then, she told us a little ways up the steps was a mountain goat eating near the trail.  I got excited to have a chance at a wildlife viewing.  The mountain goat on the other hand was all paparazzi'd out.  We could not get a good view of his face.  It was still cool to watch him eat and not care that a lot of people were passing by.
 I did not count to see if we actually only had 250 more steps to go.  I was so exhausted it took everything I had to stand upright and put one foot in front of the other.  I cannot express the joy I felt when I saw Harney Tower.  Harney Tower was a tower they used way back in the day to watch for fires. 
We explored the tower and the surrounding area (as far as we were comfortable).  DH took this picture from where he walked.  I was too scared #fearofheights.  If you look you can see me standing safely on the stairs near the tower.  As soon as my confidence grew, I climbed onto a flat part and stretched my legs.  I took in more of the view.

 Below is a view from the tower.  At this point the fog hasn't completely lifted.

Another view of Harney Tower (taken from near where I stretched)

 DH and I told each other that we were proud of each other for climbing a mountain.  Then, we headed back down.  DH brought up the GPS on his phone, so we could track our speed and distance.  It really helped in keeping our attitudes in check.  When we got towards the bottom, we the fog cleared up.  We could see the breathtaking views of the mountains.  DH and I discussed how so many times on the way up we felt like giving up and going back.  We couldn't see the peak from most of the trail, no matter how much it cleared up.  DH said that he would have given up had he seen the peak from the beginning.

DH isn't a religious man, but I brought up how I felt God works in mysterious ways.  In my knowledge and opinion God does not interfere with human free will.  If He would not have created the weather conditions to be foggy, and DH and I agreed we would have given up on the hike at one point or another.  When I did feel like giving up, I felt my spiritual side guiding me to continue.  I never mentioned to DH that I wanted to give up after on particular grueling up-down-up in the trail.  He didn't mention he was feeling the same way either. 

Towards the beginning/end of the trail there was this tree laying across the trail.  On the way back, I was sooooooooooooo very excited to see the tree.  Never in my life did I think I would welcome an obstacle.  I truly felt accomplished after completing the climb/hike.  I also felt my spirituality strengthen.

 What has gotten you through a tough work out?  Has it strengthened your roots?


  1. So glad that you made it to the top and enjoyed your hike. I am a wilderness ranger that hikes that trail at least once a week (as well as hiking the other trails in the area). It is a tough hike. Oh and that tree was most likely cleared with a crosscut by myself or a coworker!

  2. Thank you for the reply. It was a tough but rewarding hike! My husband and I look forward to taking our kids up once they have enough endurance to make it up to the top by themselves. I am truly amazed at all the different people hiking the trail. Thanks for the work you do to maintain the trail. We will definitely be back! Hopefully, next time we will do it in 4 hours instead of 5 :)