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