Over the years of my childhood, my dad, Allen Spencer would tell my sisters and me a story about his walk to and from school as a kid. He always said that he and his siblings, Bill and Ruth had to walk five miles through the snow to get to school, and it was uphill both ways. Of course, my sisters and I didn’t believe Dad’s stories…then. And my sisters still might not believe it, but I’m here to tell you that there are certain conditions in which such a journey might actually be uphill both ways, or at least seem like it.
On Saturday, Bob and I headed up to Hot Springs, South Dakota to do some hiking. Our plan was to finish the last 13 miles (26 miles, since we would hike out and back, thereby doing the 13 miles twice) of the Mickelson Trail. The Mickelson Trail is 109 miles one way, and with this last leg of the hike, we will have hiked the entire trail twice, for a total of 218 miles, because of the walk out and back.
Saturday turned out to be the hottest day of the three days we hiked…well over 80. To top it off, we didn’t get started until 1:30 pm, because of our drive over. Well into the heat of the day. We were hiking a five mile stretch, or ten miles total. As we walked, we were thankful that since we were going uphill the whole way over, we would be going down hill the on the way back…or so we thought. It was very hot all day, and several times we thought the trail ahead looked like a down hill slope, only to find that it was not. As the day grew hotter, we started back…noticing as we did, that we were still going uphill. My thoughts drifted back to all those times when my dad had told us his famous story about walking those 5 miles to school on the snow, uphill both ways. I think I now understand that while it couldn’t have been uphill both ways, to a kid walking to school, it could certainly seem like it was uphill both ways. Our hike on Saturday, couldn’t have been uphill both ways either, but somehow in the heat of the day, the trail caused an optical illusion that made it seem like it was uphill on the way over, when in fact it was downhill a good portion of it. Now we were faced with an unexpected uphill hike back.
The hike Sunday and the one today were far more pleasant, and the really good news is that as of 10:00 this morning, Bob and I can say that we have hiked the entire Mickelson Trail, from Edgemont to Deadwood…twice. It is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that we have today. It took us a few years…about 15, I would say, but since we don’t live in the area, that’s not too bad. There were beautiful sections, where we walked for hours through the trees, and boring times, when we found ourselves hiking along the highway, but all in all it was a great journey. Would I do it again? Hmmmm, maybe some sections. Others…well, I don’t think so. Nevertheless, if there was another trail like it, I might consider it. Call me crazy.