For a number of years now, Bob and I have walked the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Most is the time the trail seems like just that…a trail, but when it travels through an old cut where the trains went through a hillside, without having to go over it, I am reminded again that it really was a railroad. As we walk through those cuts, I can almost imagine a train coming through there. Bob can too, because he jokingly asked if we should watch out for the train. It is like we can see the trains, like a ghost train or an echo train.
It’s strange to walk where only trains have traveled prior, but with the Rails to Trails program, many more people are doing just that. Since the trains are no longer using those tracks, it has become a great way to reclaim the space, and for people to be able to see the countryside on a trail that is a little easier that some of the backwoods trails that seasoned hikers take. Bob and I love our backwoods trails too, but trails like the Mickelson Trail and the neighborhood trail that we walk at home make for a good place to get some exercise without having to go to the gym, and neither of us likes going to the gym anyway.
The cuts in the Mickelson remind me a lot of our travels on the 1880 Train, between Hill City, South Dakota and Keystone, South Dakota. That train goes through a lot of those same cuts, and maybe that is why we can both almost hear and see the echo trains. It’s a place we have been before…a lot. We love to ride the 1880 Train. It is usually the highlight of our annual trip to the Black Hills…other than our hike up Harney Peak, which is our favorite hike of all the hiking we do.
As we move on past the cut in the Mickelson Trail, my thoughts move back into the reverie I always feel when I am out on the trail…any trail. There is such peacefulness there, and it’s so quiet most of the time. I can just lose myself in thought, which is probably why we don’t talk much on the trail. We are simply enjoying the scenery, and going where trains have traveled.