Scripture Motto

"Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." Matthew 5:16

Monday, June 25, 2012

Black Hills Backpacking Adventure update

Me at Devil's Tower
[For those not be interested in my travel log, you might skip the details; I hope you’ll pursue the links and photos I included. To summarize: We saw beautiful sights, experienced wonderful family togetherness, and I finished reading a book for next week’s post.]

“In that day the great trupet will sound. Many who were dying in exile…
will return to Jerusalem to worship the Lord on his holy mountain.” Isaiah 27:13 nlt

Before setting out on our backpacking adventure, we visited some of the Black Hills sights the first day and acclimated our bodies to the higher elevations. We began at Wind Cave, which was fun and interesting.

Then, my husband wove our Explorer up and down the curvy roads and through several rock tunnels to Mount Rushmore. Along the way, we stopped to take pictures of bison, pronghorns, and prairie dogs, as well as gorgeous mountain vistas. We took pictures of our stone-faced Presidents. Amongst the crowds of people touring the sight, accents from different parts of our country along with German, Japanese, and French were heard.

From there, we drove north to locate our starting and stopping points on the Centennial Trail. When a group of not-so-savory teenagers hopped out of their cars at the place we thought we would leave our vehicle, our plan of going north to south was flipped.  It was then I called the parents of a friend to arrange our transport to our starting point.

A goal of five miles-a-day for four days seemed manageable since we were all a bit out of shape. We packed what we felt was enough food and gear for our backpacking adventure and as always, over packed.

With two liters of water, my sleeping bag, pad, clothing, and a little of our food, my pack weighed twenty-four pounds—my max preferred pack weight. My son’s and husband’s each carried about thirty-three pounds of similar gear along with the tents and much more food than me. (It’s when we do these things that I fully recognize my extra body fat.)

The section of the well-marked trail we chose to hike turned out to much easier than expected. There were miles of fairly level sections where we took turns leading.  On the more strenuous inclines, I let the guys pass me as the rhythm of my three-to-four-step-catch-my-breath pace was too slow for their longer strides. They patiently waited for me at the top.

Unlike the older more traveled Appalachian Trail on the east coast, the Centennial Trail of South Dakota didn’t have designated camping or provided shelters. So, after walking 6.8 miles the first day, my retired Scoutmaster husband found a spot to pitch our two tents on a hill above the trail. We cleared away the pine cones and small branches on two fairly level spots. My husband set up a cooking area on an old fallen Ponderosa, which also served as our seating for the evening. Before we could wash our cookware, water was filtered from a spring back along the trail.

Ponderosa Pines are very tall, but not too big around. They also grow with lots of space between them, so private space for private matters is pretty much impossible to find. We left modesty back with civilization, and depended upon respect…if you get my drift.

I never slept better on my one-inch self-inflating pad than I did that night. Even the sound of thunder didn’t keep me awake. Between the tiredness of my body and the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent, peace reigned upon me.

The next morning we were all refreshed and ready to go. My feet seemed quicker and steadier than the first day. There was a 500-feet decline into a picturesque meadow with a babbling creek meandering through it. By noon we reached our next five-mile destination, a trailhead with a parking lot, people, and outhouse below a dam. There were no trees, no shade, and large rocks were the only seating area—other than the outhouse.

Rapid Creek, Black Hills, South Dakota
My legs needed a rest from our faster pace, but my son and husband were anxious to keep going. They talked as we passed around beef jerky of doing more miles in fewer days—which was fine with me, but I needed to rest at this point. Instead, we all agreed it would make more sense for me to get off the trail and for them to finish the remaining 8½ miles to our vehicle without their heavy packs. We unloaded my smaller pack by stuffing its contents into their packs, and refilled the largest water bladder.

I felt the hot afternoon sun on my back and knew staying here was not a good option for me. I remembered seeing a visitors’ center along the highway at the dam, but how would I carry two heavier than need be backpacks by myself to reach it.

About then, two men dressed in green parks uniforms and wearing hip-waders approached their trucks. “I’m going to ask them for a ride to the visitors’ center,” I told my son while my husband was at the creek filtering water.

My husband was taken aback when he walked up the bank and saw me loading one of the heavy packs into a pickup bed. Without argument, he grabbed the other one and helped his wife get into the truck of a stranger. “I don’t know where my car keys are; can I have yours?” I handed him my key and kissed him goodbye.

Five hours later, he and my son picked me up at the visitors’ center ending our four-day twenty-mile backpacking adventure—not exactly as planned.

That night we stayed in a nice hotel, enjoyed the showers, private flush toilets, and soft beds.

Our vacation didn’t end then, though. The next day we explored more of the Black Hills—Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon, and Devil’s Tower, where we watched two climbers rappel down the columns.

The next day, we drove through the Badlands and then headed home.

We didn't have time to travel on across Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park...maybe, next time. back next week for my review of “The Secret Keeper" by Sandra Byrd

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