Centennial Trail Between Bear Butte and Alkali Creek Trailheads

In this post, I review the northern portion of the Centennial Trail that runs between Bear Butte State Park and the Alkali Creek trailheads (this also includes Fort Meade) in the northern Black Hills.

The Trekkers have been taking advantage of our mild winter weather this year and have been ticking off more sections of our goal to hike the entire Black Hills Centennial Trail (in pieces, we’ve been working on this goal for the last decade. 😝)

This winter we’ve been slogging our way through the northern portions of the trail.  Today’s post is going to focus specifically on the sections that run between the Alkali Creek trailhead and Bear Butte State Park (Fort Meade is included in this).

Where can you find the Alkali Creek, Fort Meade, and Bear Butte trailheads of the Centennial Trail?

When hiking the Centennial Trail from these trailheads you can choose to start from whichever one you’d like and can travel northbound or southbound from any of them.  All of these are pretty easy to find as they are all close to populated areas (namely I-90 and Sturgis, South Dakota).  See below for specific directions to each:

    • Alkali Creek trailhead:  located adjacent to I-90 across the highway from the Black Hills National Cemetery at Exit 34.
    • Bear Butte trailhead:  found at Bear Butte State Park which is northeast of Sturgis, SD on Route 79.
    • Fort Meade trailhead:  located on the eastern edge of the Fort Meade historical site off of Route 34, just east of Sturgis.

What will you see on the Black Hills Centennial Trail in the Northern Hills?

This whole area sits in the shadow of Bear Butte, meaning it offers spectacular views of that unique formation.

Bear Butte is a “sister” volcanic plug to Devils Tower that is located in eastern Wyoming.  The American Indians who named this geological formation gave it this name as they thought it resembled a sleeping bear. (I think it more resembles a sleeping stegosaurus or dragon, but the tribal people probably wouldn’t have been familiar with these critters, so I’ll give it to them. 😀)

The idea of the bear plays into the American Indian legend of the giant bear who scored the sides of the Tower with his claws, leaving the large columns of igneous rock behind.

The Centennial Trail between Alkali Creek and Fort Meade trailheads

My favorite of these sections is the portion between Alkali Creek and the Fort Meade historical site in Sturgis.  As its name would imply, Fort Meade was originally built as a fort in the late 1800s.  It now features a museum, multiple historical buildings, and a VA hospital.

As you venture near the fort you start to see many historical buildings popping up along the hiking route.  One was just an old ( but beautiful) stone fireplace and chimney.  Another looked to be old, stone barracks.

On the Centennial Trail, looking towards Fort Meade from the north

On the Alkali Creek portion, we made a loop of the Centennial Trail and through the Fort Meade Recreation Area.  This place is awesome!  I had heard about it before but had never been there.  We’d definitely like to go back and do more of the trails.  They would be perfect for mountain biking or horseback riding, in addition to hiking.

We brought roads 11 and 12 back to the Alkali Creek trailhead to complete our loop.  They were much easier and quicker than the way out as they were mostly on old forest roads.  Be aware though, this section has no shade as it traverses the grassland portion of this trail.

The Fort Meade historical site

This section of the Centennial Trail is VERY pretty.  It is comprised of forested hills (much like the rest of the Black Hills) and prairie sections.  There are lots of different ecosystems and flora represented here, ranging from pine forests to prairie grassland.  It made me wonder if this is what Bear Butte looked like, before the fire in 1996?

Bear Butte, the sleeping bear (or sleeping stegosaurus, if you prefer. 😉 )

This portion of the trail is comprised of a bunch of up and down sections, but nothing too terribly steep or long.  It reminded us of some of the Devils Tower hikes in Wyoming where you are hiking through the trees but can still look out over the plains.

While one portion of this hike is VERY close to I-90 (the highway is maybe half a mile away?) it isn’t very noisy because you’re in the forest on the “other” side of the hill!  Yay science!

The Black Hills Centennial Trail between Fort Meade and Bear Butte trailheads

The rest of this section of trails is comprised mostly of just prairie and prairie dogs. 😊  We did spot a grass fire to the north as we were hiking along.  That was a little disconcerting as were surrounded by highly flammable material. 😮

We weren’t too worried as it was quite a ways off, we could see the authorities were already on scene, and the wind was blowing the fire away from us.  It did get us thinking about what we would do if a fire was to come racing across the grassland while we were hiking through it. 😝  There was a farmhouse nearby we could have run to or there were some small cow ponds scattered nearby.  These may not have been very clean or nice but they would have sufficed in a pinch! 😂

Take note that these portions of trails could be VERY warm in the summer (which is partially why we enjoyed them this winter).  Much of the Centennial Trail in this region traverses grassland with no shade to speak of anywhere.  While the brisk, South Dakota breeze usually accompanies you, you won’t be able to escape the unrelenting sun. (Between the hot sun and that breeze–plus the fact that the air is usually quite dry here–you can dehydrate quickly and easily.  Not only do they dry you out, but the constant breeze and dryness can make it so that you don’t even realize how much you are sweating.)

That being said, this portion of the Centennial Trail is a great hike!  It offers some amazing views and it is easier than many portions of the trail that are further south.  This is because the altitude is lower here and the elevation changes are far more minimal.  So if you’re looking for something fun to do, check out the Centennial Trail in the Northern Black Hills!

 

Have you tried out any of these routes?  What did you think?  Tell me about your hike in the comments!

 

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For an easier, yet still scenic portion of the Black Hills Centennial Trail, hike the Alkali Creek to Bear Butte section (which includes Fort Meade)!

 

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Stay Mindful by Using a Smartphone Purposefully

In this post, I discuss ways to lead a more mindful lifestyle by using technology as a tool rather than as entertainment.

Mr. Trekker and I are pretty good about not being glued to our phones.  We have a standing rule at our house that there are no phones at the dinner table (with the exception of emergencies/family situations or, sometimes, when making travel plans on the run).  We’ve actually had strangers comment to us (in a good way) how unusual it is to see two people sitting together at a restaurant just talking to each other, with neither of us being on our phones.  They always seem so impressed.  I hope, by this small act, I can inspire other people to use their smartphones purposefully, as well.

My Week Without a Smartphone

A while back, I lost the use of my phone for almost a week. 😮   I was reminded of what life was like before we all had computers at our fingertips at all times. 😂   It was due to this weird situation where Verizon pushed an update through and that basically “broke” my cellular ability.  So I could use apps when I was connected to a WiFi network, but that was it.  I couldn’t make any phone calls AT ALL (which is ironic since wasn’t that the whole point of having phones to begin with?!)  After troubleshooting several things I decided that my phone was shot.

Fortunately, I have a warranty so I was able to get a free replacement from Apple.  It was the same, old model I already had, and it had a crappy camera that took pictures with pink backgrounds 🙄  but at least it worked.  I didn’t want to spend the money on a whole new phone at the time (we had literally just bought one for Mr. Trekker a few weeks before) so this was a good enough replacement.

On a personal note, my local Verizon store was FAR more helpful in dealing with this issue than Apple was over the phone. (The nearest Apple store is almost 400 miles away, in Denver).  I’ve had good luck with Apple customer service in the past, but the Verizon store won this round!  Apple seemed somewhat confused as to what exactly was wrong with the phone.  Even though they told me not to bother with the local store because “the carriers don’t deal with this issue” Verizon was able to understand my problem and diagnose it almost immediately.  This potentially saved me $100’s in replacement costs!

Remember the days before Smartphones?

It was weird to be thrown back to a life without a smartphone.  I appreciated the break from the constant temptation to check social media or email while doing mundane things like standing in line at the store.  I did feel very isolated though, and cut-off from the world.  I could contact people via Facebook Messenger if I had a WiFi signal, but I couldn’t text.  We haven’t had a landline phone in over a decade so, even at home, I realized I had no way to make a call to 911 if it was needed (fortunately it wasn’t).  It was humbling and frustrating.

Part of me would love to throw all this tech-garbage away and just go back to an old-fashioned “dumb” phone.  I used to love my old flip phones, where I could send a quick text message or write a simple note to myself.  I could even take the occasional picture (if it was REALLY important because they were EXPENSIVE!)  I could *gasp!* call someone (or have them call me) if we needed to get in touch.  I really miss those simple days, they feel so 2006-ish! (Yeah, I didn’t get a cell phone of any kind until after I graduated college in 2005, told ya I was old-school! 😉)

How to Use a Smartphone Mindfully

Smartphones do have their benefits.  They’re pretty handy when I’m away from my computer and need to make an update to my blog or handle other work-related business.  Basically my entire livelihood is made via the internet so having access to my blog, social media and email (let alone old school phone calls) from almost anywhere means I can be far more productive with my freelance work (and it gives me far more freedom to be away from home–the office).

I read the book Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport, recently as research for another project I’m working on.  It was a very interesting read!  I’d recommend this for anyone who feels technology has too much control over their life.  In it, he stresses using technology, such as phones and social media, as minimally as possible to pursue more fulfilling things in life.  I don’t feel like I struggle as much as many of the people he discusses in the book, so I didn’t feel the need to implement all of his strategies.  However, the book did help me to structure my free-time better and prioritize things I really care about.

I pride myself on not being a technophile, but this book really brought home to me the importance of using technology as a tool rather than as a device for entertainment. (It made me think we should view it almost like a pen or a drill, that is needed solely to complete a task.)

As an example, rather than scrolling through my Twitter or Facebook feed, I strive to only check a few, individual people who I follow.  This helps me stay up-to-date with family and friends who live far away.  I also check a few, specific, news sites so that I remain in-the-know on current events.  There are also a few, individual groups that I am a part of that help me to achieve my blogging and writing goals (I rank these under Professional Development).  That’s it.  If I’m not using my phone or social media for those purposes, I try not to use it at all.  There are always other free-time options to pursue.  I’ve got a stack of books I’m working my way through, I’m also still enjoying the Star Wars, adult coloring book Mr. Trekker got me for Christmas several years ago, and I’ve got other projects to keep me busy.

Our lives are hectic enough!  I challenge you to look for ways to reduce your smartphone use.  Maybe instead you could interact with some flesh-and-blood humans 😉; take a walk, read a book or go throw a baseball with your kiddo (or a tennis ball for your pup!)  Let’s try to be more mindful and purposeful when using our smartphones!

What do you think?  Have you seen any benefit from being more mindful with the use of your phone?  Let me know in the comments!

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Do you find yourself constantly reaching for your phone? Read on for ways to be more mindful and use your smartphone purposefully.

 

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Using Mindfulness to Overcome Road Rage

In this post I discuss how we can use mindfulness to better deal with annoying things in life, like slow drivers.

“The gas is on the right grandma!”

“If you can’t drive, get off the road!”

We’ve all been there right?  We all get irritated by slow drivers…or the person who pulls out in front of you which forces you to slam on your breaks…or that special model of car that apparently wasn’t built with a blinker…🙄

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid the slow or less-than-perfect drivers that we encounter in our daily lives. However, instead of letting our frustration take control in those situations we can use mindfulness practices to help overcome that road rage.

The Importance of Being Mindful while Driving

There have been several occasions when I was irritated at being stuck behind a slow driver.  Though I felt my Road Rage Meter soaring, I couldn’t pass them safely, so I waited.  Inevitably, we soon came around a curve and there was a deer standing in the middle of the road.  Our slower speed allowed both myself, and the driver in front of me, plenty of time and space to stop.  But if I had raced around that corner…

On other occasions we came over a hill and there was a cop waiting on the other side.  Because I was stuck behind the slow driver I knew I had nothing to fear, but if I had been happily zooming along at the speed I wanted to drive…my wallet would have been the one feeling the rage.

My point is, maybe that slow person has been placed in front of us for a reason. Call it a Guardian Angel, Fate, or the Universe stepping in, but maybe that obstacle in our path is actually there to help us.

Mindfulness Helps us Embrace the Current Moment and Decrease Road Rage

I try to see slow drivers as God (or the Universe, or Fate) telling us to slow down a little.  I believe these situations present themselves to us as opportunities, chances to be more Present in the current situation that we find ourselves.  I mentioned in a previous post how much I enjoy long drives on winding roads.  When we find ourselves stuck behind a slow driver we can be mindful and appreciate the sunny day, or the scenic countryside, that we’re currently driving through.  Or maybe this is our chance to connect more meaningfully with the person sitting next to us.  Maybe it’s not a beautiful day at all, but rather the rain is drumming peacefully on the windshield; something I find to be incredibly relaxing.

I see (and hear) some people, in their cars, who appear to be very angry.  They lash out at anyone who pulls out in front of them, or who doesn’t drive quickly enough.  You can see them gesticulating wildly, or hear them yelling at another driver. (I’ve even see people standing outside a stranger’s car, at a red light, screaming at them through the window.)  This type of behavior is frightening, but I also think it’s indicative of a larger problem in our society today.  Many of us are overstressed and are strained to our limits.  Some of us are hurting in one or more areas of our lives.

If we can show a little patience towards each other, to be understanding if someone pulls out in front of us (or wave an apology to them if we are at fault), if we can show just a little extra kindness towards each other, maybe it will make another person’s day.  Maybe it will pull them out of the dark place they are in, just a little bit.  Maybe it will give them a little hope that there is still some kindness in a world that can be difficult to navigate at times.

To Conclude

I get just as irritated with slow traffic (or the large family milling about, blocking my path at Walmart 😉) as the next person.  But we never know when these obstacles are put in our lives for our benefit.  So the next time you find yourself stuck behind a slow–or bad–driver, instead of getting angry and yelling at them (or using gestures that you wouldn’t want your mother to see 😮), look at it as an opportunity…to spend a little more time enjoying the beauty of the world around you.  Besides, if we can put a little positive energy and light out into the world, I believe it will come back to us.  Also, it’s a simple way to help make this big, blue ball we all live on a little better place, for everyone.

Do you have any suggestions for how to be more mindful while driving?  Let me know if the comments!

 

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Do you find your blood pressure rising when you get stuck behind a slow driver? Use mindfulness to help reduce your frustration!

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

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