Place of Peace, Power, and Gratitude

For certain, I find inspiration in the illustrative, passion-filled words of John Muir, the master naturalist, the whispering-to-the-wee plants botanist,

Tallest Point in South Dakota

Tallest Point in South Dakota

the glaciologist, the avid and skilled hiker, the potent political activist, the great appreciater of His Creation.  His words moved Presidents and led to the creation of National Parks, ‘America’s Best Idea.’  But even Mr. Muir gained inspiration from more than books.

  “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Indeed, his walks across the Eastern United States, his hikes through the Sierras and Yosemite, his summits of grand mountain peaks, his adventures in Alaska…all these nature experiences fueled his fire, and perpetuated him even when his time confined him to cities and public offices in the pursuit of writing persuasive arguments and garnering support for conservation.  Surely, I have some empowering experiences that are keeping my pilot light aglow.

One place that stays with me is the Black Hills of South Dakota.  It was the location of my first real vacation as a child.  I hiked the trail to Mt. Harney, learned about bison (and bison burgers), discovered the gem of Custer State Park, fished from granite outcroppings along Sylvan Lake, tent-camped below the wispy canopy of pines, and enjoyed the views along Needles Highway.  The Trail to Harney is perhaps one of my favorite places of all.  I hiked it with my family when my legs were little and the 6-mile round-trip trek seemed to take ages.  I hiked it with my brothers when we returned years later (with longer legs, it was a slightly easier hike).  I even took up the hike once more with my soon-to-be fiance;  I proposed to her at the top of Mount Harney!

The trail sticks with me.  The twists and turns in the trail.  The muscovite mica specks glistening in the sunlight.  The vista of the fire tower (our peak) from the opposite side of the valley.  The difficulty of detouring around, under, or over fallen logs.  At the top, I remember sitting next to my new fiancé and keeping our trail mix away from the extremely curious chipmunks.  I remember standing at the top with my brothers, proud of our accomplishment, though yet unaware of our mistake to forget the sunblock.  The view from the fire tower…the badlands to the east and the great plains, the rolling Black Hills surrounding us, the towering needles and spires of granite protruding from the forest, the endless sky sits almost within arm’s reach.  There it is.

The Black Hills gives me peace.  It makes me very, very thankful.  And it helps give me the power needed to keep promoting sustainability despite difficulties.

At any rate, enjoy a few photos I’ve taken of my favorite part of the country.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

View from Harney Peak

View from Harney Peak

Do you have a rejuvenating space?  I’d love to hear of it.


God’s Garden

After Great Sand Dunes National Park, we descended from the mountains, stopped at Pueblo Colorado (Pass Key 50 West restaurant!)  We visited Garden of the gods in Colorado Springs before turning towards home.

Garden of the Gods

View of Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods.

Praying hands in God’s Garden.

Spectacular rock formations…reminds me of Bryce and Zion in Utah.

Colorado Sandbox

After visiting the Earthship community in New Mexico, we drove to Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa, Colorado.  It was a beautiful day to climb the dunes!  Two out of three of us climbed “high dune” the 650 ft dune visible from the parking lot that only appears to be the tallest in the park.  Hiking sand dunes is extremely strenuous, particularly at 8,000 ft above sea level (versus 400-900 ft around Missouri), boy, I tell you what (*Hank Hill voice*).  The great part about reaching the top is being able to come back down any way you want.  I moon-hopped down the soft-sand embankments while my bro-in-law spent most of his time rolling and sliding down the steeper dunes.  Exhilerating!

Anywho, the day was beautiful for photography.

Prairie, Forest, Snow-capped Mountains, Great Sand Dunes, Blue Sky

If you ever have the chance to visit Great Sand Dunes NP, you’ll have the chance to climb sand dunes, enjoy the beach-like creek, hike in the nearby forest and mountains, visit nearby wetlands, and enjoy one of the cheapest national parks that I’m aware of (only $3 a person!).  Just remember to hike the dunes early in the day, carry LOTS of water, and expect to get sand in your shoes.

Bryce in the Snow, a Nice Wintery Show

Along the long road from Missouri to San Francisco and back in February, we visited Yosemite, Death Valley, and Zion National Parks.  For the next National Park, we took a long 1.1 mile tunnel leading out of Zion Canyon and made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park.  The view of snow-accented hoodoos from several viewpoints, at elevations greater than 8,000+ ft,  were magnificent.  The cool air smelled clean.  The hoodoo amphitheater was splashed with red and orange rock, white snow, brown and green, patient and hardy trees, and a bright blue sky capped this gift from God.

Could stay here all day and run out of memory on my camera!

We were among a handful of visitors on this day.  It’s a pity that traffic goes to the Grand Canyon and bypasses the grand canyons of Utah.  Nevertheless, since I’d never seen the Grand Canyon before…that was the last stop before the push for home.