hike

Many of us define success by the degree or the career we have. I don’t dispute the value of the college degree, but is that really what defines us, or is it what we do with our lives that defines us. I know a lot of people who have a degree, but do not work in the industry they degreed in. That doesn’t mean they failed, just that they found success in something other than their area of study. Some people do work in their degreed area, and are quite successful at it. Still, that doesn’t define them either. My niece, Kayla Stevens is one of those who work in her degreed area, and yet the person I see is so much more than a social worker. She works at the VA hospital in Sheridan, Wyoming, but she is really all about her family.

Since having their little girl, Elliott, Kayla and my nephew Garrett have been basking in the sunshine of having a family. Elliott is such a character, and she keeps the not only on their toes, but she keeps them laughing too. They hardly need any entertainment, because their girl, who is almost 2 years old, is very entertaining. Kayla is a great mom and really loves being the mom. She may be a social worker by degree, but she is a family girl all the way. Her husband and daughter are the most important people in her life.

Recently, when Garrett’s parents, Mike and Alena Stevens were visiting, the whole family got the chance to go hiking along the Tongue River near Sheridan. The family had such a good time. Sheridan is a pretty area, and there are lots of places to go for a nice weekend getaway. Kayla’s family lives near Sheridan, out in the country. Kayla and Garrett go out to their place after church on Sundays for lunch, and are often there for dinner on the weekends too. They love their families, and want to give Elliott the benefit of knowing both sides of her family. They realize just how important it is for her to know both sets of grandparents, as well as aunts and uncles. Family is so important to Kayla and Garrett, and they feel very blessed with such close families. Today is Kayla’ birthday. Happy birthday Kayla!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

JD13876265_292781794411876_617624038936402311_nMy nephew, JD Parmely is a single guy who mostly just loves cars, working on cars, and driving cars. For the most part it’s all about the cars for JD. But there is one more…well, really two things that are even more important to JD than his cars. I never thought I would see the day that happened. I think anyone who knows the Parmely family can guess what is more important to JD than cars. Yes…his nieces Reagan and Hattie. JD has always loved kids, and had a great time playing with his younger cousins, but no cousin can hold his heart like his nieces do.

Any man who has kids knows how quickly those kids steal your heart, but girls have a tendency to wrap their daddies around their little finger pretty quickly. While JD doesn’t have kids of his own, he has found out how quickly two little girls can have a major effect on one uncle. A man spends his whole life learning to be a strong man. Nothing is supposed to have an effect on them…right? Wrong!! Enter two little girls, whose smiles can melt your heart in a second. Add to it the fact that these two little girls like some of the same things the uncle does, such as cars and motorcycles, and the fact that they don’t mind getting dirty on the trails they hike, and 13557692_272603193096403_6265197797856153303_n10387478_10203972189043974_3295763557144631040_nyou find yourself with every ingredient necessary to steal a heart. And that is exactly what those two little girls did.

JD still loves his cars, motorcycles, and mechanical work, and he loves working on the house he bought from his grandparents, but none of these things will ever take the place of those little nieces…and I think JD is totally ok with that. Being uncle to Reagan and Hattie is the highlight of his life. But then he always was a kid at heart. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Friday was our last full day in the Black Hills, and while the hike for the day was the longest we did this trip, at 7 miles, we felt the best of all the hikes. I’m sure there are a couple of reasons for that. First, our muscles finally got used to being worked like they used to. Second and possibly the most important, it was cloudy and cool. While I prefer warm weather, most of the time, when hiking, cool weather is much better. The clouds kept the sun off, and while it was cool, it did not rain. Don’t get me wrong, I was tired when we were done, and truth be told…before we were done, but we made it. I have found something out about myself during this time…it isn’t just about finishing a hike…it’s about that something inside me that…that sense of accomplishment. I made it, even though it hurt, and made me tired, and many people would think I was crazy for walking 7 miles just to say I did.

The hike of Friday moved us to the 51.9 mark one way on the Mickelson Trail, which for us is 103.8 since we do each section twice. That is something I can feel good about. My hope for next years is that we will continue to stay in the necessary shape for the tougher hikes. We lost Harney Peak for this year, because we just weren’t in shape for it. That saddens me because Harney Peak is my favorite hike, but it also makes me more determined to be able to take that hike next year. Still, every hike is an accomplishment, and I am happy that we got to go.

The afternoon brought another of our favorite things to do in the Black Hills…riding the 1880 Train. Now I suppose many people would think that is kind of a little kid thing to do, but since I get sick on merry-go-rounds, and the carnival rides have the same effect, I’ll stick to the 1880 Train, thank you. It always allows me to imagine what it would be like to travel in the Old West…or even when my Dad was a kid riding the trains his dad worked on. I don’t think I’ll every outgrow the train rides. And riding the train in the beauty of the Black Hills is the perfect end to a lovely vacation.

Today, Bob and I hiked the next section of the Mickelson Trail. It was a 3 mile stretch one way, so going out and back put us hiking 6 miles. While this hike was half a mile shorter than yesterday’s and on the Mickelson Trail, which is much more level, the hard thing about this hike is that out of the 6 miles, approximately 5.5 of it was in the bright sunlight, with no shade to be found. We knew up front that it was going to be a tough hike.

We started our hike at the White Elephant Trailhead, so named because of a Feldspar mine across the highway that was named the White Elephant Mine. From there our hike took us on the uphill side of this portion of the trail. Our walk back would be mostly on the down slope…a good thing when you think of being more tired and hot.

When we came to the first real area of shade, which was a place where the builders of the railroad that used to occupy this trail, had found it necessary to cut through the rock for the tracks to go straight through it. Bob noticed a tree that had persevered in its fight for life by reaching through the cracks in the rocks to find the soil it needed. He found it interesting, and asked me to take a picture of it, but I saw something different…perseverance. That tree pushed itself through the little cracks in the rocks in order to live. It was fighting for its life.

As we walked along, I kept thinking about that little tree, and several others as we had seen along the way. Against all odds, they lived, because they never gave up…they persevered. As we sweltered in the heat of the late morning, going from shade source to shade source, we were thankful once again that we were experienced enough to have plenty of water…even if it was warm by this late point in the hike. The little tree stayed on my mind, and I began to see what perseverance is all about. Yes, the tree was fighting for its life, and I was just working toward the end of the trail. They weren’t even the same thing…or were they. In reality, we were both after the prize…the end of the race…the victory. Yes, that was it! We were alike, and like that little tree, I had the victory. The tree had life, and I persevered and made it to the end of another trail. With the completion of today’s hike, we have walked 48.3 miles of the 108.8 mile Mickelson…twice, since we walk out a ways and then back. That is a victory…that is perseverance.

 

Today, Bob and I went on a hike called the Iron Mountain Loop. It is a 5.1 mile easy to moderate trail that we found to be quite pleasant…except for that one hill. I’ll go into that more later. We began our hike thinking what a lovely day it was and what a nice change it was from the 90 degree days we had been having. Our first fork in the road put us onto the actual trail we wanted as it split from the Centennial Trail, which is a trail that is much more used. I thought about that old Robert Frost poem I had always loved, called “The Road Less Traveled” and felt, as I always do on the trail, like the adventure was just beginning.

Our hike continued along beautifully, and we were very much enjoying ourselves. Then the trail came to an end. There was another trail…much less traveled, that went to the right and to the left. Looking again at our trail book, I determined that the trail to the left would meet up with the Iron Creek Trail so we…or should I say, I decided that we should go that way. As we started down the trail, we immediately hoped that we would come upon the other trail, because having to come back up this hill would not be fun. The further we went down the hill, the more I began to think this was a mistake.

Finally, I decided to consult the trail book again. At that point, I realized that the Iron Creek Trail was probably right near where we were, but that was not going to be the easy way back to our car. We were going to have to go back up that hill we had just come down. The big problem I see here is that while I am an experienced hiker…I am an out of shape experienced hiker. I had now just turned and easy to moderate trail into an easy to moderately strenuous trail, and one that an out of shape experienced hiker was going to find…well, difficult!!

With a sigh, I told Bob we needed to go back up. After about 30 minutes, we finally made it to the top of that hill, and back to the trail we had come in on. While it was still easy to moderate, it seemed strenuous to our tired bodies. Finally, we got our second wind, and the trail became easier to maneuver. I can’t tell you how glad I was that we are experienced enough to have plenty of water. When we finally got back to our car, we felt tired, hot, and yet good about ourselves. Even though we were out of shape, we had made it 6.5 miles instead of 5.1, and part of it was very strenuous. I think we did really good…except for that one hill!!

Our favorite hiking destination is Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The first time we hiked up to the peak was in 1995, just a week after our youngest daughter, Amy and her husband, Travis got married. We had been planning the trip for a while, and were looking forward to relaxing and hiking in the hills. We really didn’t know much about where we were headed, except that it was a favorite destination of lots of people in the hills, and we knew where to find the trail head. We really thought that was enough. Little did we know!!

We had planned the hike for the third day of our trip, but found ourselves at the trail head the second day of the trip. We read the information on the sign telling about the trail, and as it said that Sylvan Lake was in the shadow of Harney Peak, we figured that it couldn’t be that far. So we decided not to wait until the next day…oh boy, were we wrong!!

Thankfully, it was September, and not the heat of a July day. We had jackets on and I was wearing a sweater. To make matters worse, I had my purse/planner, which was not light, and we didn’t have any water. We really thought we were going on a little walk. The hike actually took about 2 1/2 hours, each way…not bad considering our inexperience and my purse/planner!! That purse ended up weighing…oh, about 2 tons, by the time we got back down to the car. And, of course, you recall that we had no water. Thankfully there was a little snow on the ground!!

Nevertheless, despite the fact that we were not really in the greatest hiking condition, and all the other ways we simply were not prepared for this hike, we ended really loving the trail. We kept hoping that we would live to reach the end of the trail, and we were stunned at the people who had little kids on the hike…and the little kids didn’t seem to be having any trouble!! Of course, they did have water, so I suppose that helped.

When we reached the top…finally, the view was all we needed to get hooked on that trail. It is amazing up there. Still, we did not dare make that hike again for a number of years, even though we go to the Black Hills every year. I guess we were a little bit overwhelmed. When we finally took that hike again, we were much better prepared for the hike. I don’t take my purse anymore, for one thing. Now we take a backpack with lunch and a couple of 20 ounce bottles of water in it, to eat and drink at the top, because we know that it is 2 hours up and 2 hours down, and we like to spend about an hour at the top. We also have a water pack that holds about a 2 liter bottle of water, for the hike up and down, because we really can’t expect to be able to find snow when we go over the 4th of July week. Basically I guess I’m saying that while we will always love that hike, and we have gone up about 7 times now, we are a lot wiser about how to hike these days. I guess you just have to live and learn.

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