Deerfield Trail (Trail #40) in the Black Hills

I review the Deerfield Trail (Trail #40) that traverses a portion of the central Black Hills.

At 23 total miles long, the Deerfield Trail (Trail #40) can be accessed from several trailheads throughout the Black Hills.  It begins at Deerfield Reservoir (there’s a spur trail that actually circumvents the entire lake), crosses the Mickelson Trail at about the halfway point, and eventually, spans all the way to the Centennial Trail near Pactola Reservoir.   It traverses canyons, meadows, valleys and ridges.  Sites that housed old mining camps (and some that are still-operating) and the occasional remnants of an abandoned homestead dot its course.  This includes one squatter’s paradise that was built directly into the rock!  Tailings from old mining sites, remnants of ramshackle cabins and numerous stream crossings–often with charming, simple, log bridges–are scattered throughout the trail’s length.  

img_1904.jpg
This is one of the forest roads the trail traverses.  It was such an iconic site I kept half-expecting to see a horse and cart saunter by!  😂
IMG_1901
I LOVE the golden leaves contrasted against the still-green grass and the various brown hues of the log and dirt…

Things to See on the Deerfield Trail

img_1922.jpgThe trail runs through several canyons that are similar to those found on Rimrock Trail, that traverses the rim of Spearfish Canyon, and others that you see on the Little Elk Creek Trail, near Sturgis.  The canyons are especially gorgeous in fall as the never-ending green of the spruces, that blanket the canyon walls, contrasts with the yellow and orange of the aspens and red of the plants that frame the creek.  There are also several sections that run along ridges that are reminiscent of those found in the Eagle Cliff and Big Hill areas in the Northern Hills.

This is another trail system that crosses multiple eco-systems, similar to the trails that traverse the rim of Spearfish Canyon.  The canyon sections are lush and green, while the ridge sections are comprised more of a drier, arid prairie.  Treks on the Deerfield Trail can even include a variety of weather depending on which side of the mountain you find yourself.  You may start off your hike in sunny, blue skies, veiled with wisps of cirrus clouds.  By the time you reach the ridgeline, a cold breeze can be blowing darker, heavier clouds in.  Then, after a quick lunch, you can retrace your steps to the other side of the hill and return to a warmer, sunlit forest.

img_1927.jpg

Things To Do on the Deerfield Trail

The trail is open year-round, for various activities, including horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing/cross-country skiing, depending on the time of year.   Large portions of the route follow old logging and forest roads that are wide and well-graded, so travel is often smooth. (Some of these are still in use so keep your ears and eyes open as you may have company on the trail).

While the entire route could be completed in one attempt with an overnight trip–or a VERY long day-trip (if you had a car at each end)–it is usually conquered in sections (as the Trekkers are attempting).  It should also be noted that some of the trailheads may be difficult–or impossible–to reach in the snowy months (at least with a typical, road-worthy vehicle).  The elevation grade for this trail is moderate compared to many of the other, longer ones in the Black Hills.  While some sections will get your heart pumping, many consist of scenic, tranquil afternoon hikes in the woods.

One of the best features of this hike, for me, is its solitude.  Some portions are more heavily traveled than others–namely the canyon sections–but often times you’ll find you have the trail to yourself (especially in the colder months).  It’s not unusual for the only evidence of others having used the route to be the deer, elk, coyote and often, mountain lion tracks–usually following the deer tracks! 😳–that remain in the mud or snow.  Don’t be surprised if you see the flags of some white-tail deer flying high as they dash out of your way as you traverse the trail.

IMG_1906
Elk print!

Below is a picture from the same area on the trail, but at different seasons (fall and winter).

IMG_1924

A few more pictures from this scenic trail!

img_1917.jpg


If you’re looking for a peaceful, casual hike through some beautiful countryside, consider giving the Deerfield Trail a try!  Have you hiked portions of this trail?  What were your favorite parts?  Tell me about them in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!
Have you been looking for an easy, more lightly traveled, scenic hike in the Black Hills? Read on for my review of the Deerfield Trail (Trail #40)!

 

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Mindfulness and the Open Road

In this post, I explain my love of the open road.

I love going for drives, I absolutely LOVE them.  I love road trips too (as anyone that’s followed this blog for a while should know) but I also love just simple drives around the countryside.  It’s hard to describe the feeling of peace and freedom that comes from the open road.  I enjoy drives by myself on winding roads (just me and my Honda, dancing through turns).  I also enjoy them with Mr. Trekker, my trusty side-kick, and usually, the primary driver.  He’s probably one of the only people I can stand being stuck in a car with for days on end. 😁 (This is another good sign to watch for if you’re considering marrying someone.  The question isn’t just can you tolerate, but do you actually enjoy lengthy car rides with your significant other? 😁 )  

Can you inherit wanderlust?

I maintain it’s not my fault that I have this crazy obsession with the open road, it’s in my genes.  I seem to have inherited my maternal grandfather’s wanderlust.  He used to love to “go for a drive”.  Oftentimes, he’d invite us grandkids along (it didn’t hurt that this usually meant there was a Wendy’s frosty in your future if you went). 😉  I can remember my grandma asking him, “why are you going this way?”  His response was always, “I already went the other way!” (duh! 😉)  I firmly endorse this statement!

Mr. Trekker even knows if he’s driving us somewhere, we can’t go the same way twice.  Why would we go home the way we came, we already saw that stuff today?! 😝

Can wanderlust be taught?

I don’t think this desire is all Nature though, I blame Nurture, as well.  I went on numerous road trips throughout my childhood, with both my parents and grandparents.  I rode along with my paternal grandparents, one year when they returned to their home in Kansas after a visit to Indiana.  I also rode to Florida for family vacations several times as a child.  I even helped my maternal grandparents drive there on a few occasions, as I got older and they started wintering in the warmer climate.  My parents and I also took numerous trips to New England over the years, to visit family.

As it turns out, there were times Mr. Trekker and I may have been quite near each other, throughout our childhood, as he grew up near where the family we were visiting lived–we didn’t actually meet until college though.  He also shares my love of road trips, probably due, in no small part, to the highway adventures he enjoyed while growing up.  His parents took him throughout New England, as well as to countless Civil War battlefields up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

fullsizeoutput_2a0

Songs about the Open Road

There are a few songs that well relate my love of the open road (click on the link on each title to hear the full song):

In “Take a Back Road”, by Rodney Atkins, the lyrics state:

…Gotta get outta here, get it all off my mind
And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel…

These lyrics speak to me because there are times when I feel like I need to escape from the stress of daily life.

…Tear down some two-lane country who knows?
Get lost and get right with my soul…

We shouldn’t be afraid to go the long way through the countryside, things seem to fall back into balance after spending a little time on the open road.

I’ve been cooped up, tied down ‘bout forgotten
What a field looks like full of corn and cotton…
…I need the curvin’, windin’, twistin’ dusty path to nowhere…

I, personally, could never forget the sight of a field.  I grew up surrounded by them (and still live by the prairie).  But that isn’t the case for everyone.  A lot of people are constantly surrounded by a concrete jungle.  I think this separation between us and our evolutionary roots with the natural world causes angst for people.  Getting out on the open road helps us get back in touch with those roots.

OwbfA0VdSG27DCOHCAgD8Q
In “Backroad”, by Granger Smith, the lyrics state:

Barbed wire fence carving out a hillside, cutting holes in the midday sun
Like a postcard framed in a windshield covered in dust
I love the rhythm of an old grey blacktop
Steer the wheel, one-handed on a two-lane, hugging that line
I got the windows down, no one else around singin’…

I used to be incredibly outgoing and extroverted.  I would get re-energized just by being around other people.  These days, I’m still outgoing, but more and more, I prefer quiet and solitude.  Mr. Trekker and I can spend several days in the wilderness, with just each other, the birds, deer, moose, and maybe a bear for company.  We head into “town”–that can mean very different things in different parts of the country–to restock on supplies and get a shower, and within a day we’re both ready to get back to the solitude again.  These days, I get exhausted being around people all the time.

**My freelance career probably doesn’t help my newfound introverted side much.  I spend more time alone (or with just the dog) now than I ever used to, which I am PERFECTLY happy about, mind you.  I have actually found, now that I’m not around people as much, my patience for them (in parking lots, while driving, in stores) has actually increased.  It’s like less exposure to people increases my tolerance level for them! 😂 

We hope to someday get property in the Hills.  Maybe we’ll live close enough to our neighbors so that we can actually see their house from ours…maybe. 😝  We currently live in town, but at least in the summer, our backyard is walled in by green trees, shrubs, and bushes.  I can at least pretend I’m alone.  I see pictures of other neighborhoods where the houses are closer together, or the properties aren’t separated by barriers.  Or I see pictures in large cities where big buildings block out the sky unless you’re looking straight up.  These images just make me cringe!  They get my anxious heart pumping!  I need room to breathe, ya’ll! (Again, not really my fault.  I grew up as a farm girl in Indiana, it only makes sense that I love wide open spaces.) 😁

Granger Smith goes on to say:

Freedom is the miles I’m rollin’ on…
…I feel the wheel like a melody, like a radio dialing in strong
The breeze smells like a summertime hay field’s just been cut
I got the windows down, way out of town singing…

There is freedom on the open road (and the smell of fresh-cut hay is DEVINE!)  Don’t just take my word for it.  There have been some famous people who have shared my love of it too.  John Steinbeck, for example, in his book “Travels with Charlie” (his poodle) comes to mind.  In that account, he and Charley enjoy a country-spanning road trip, sleeping out of his truck camper.

IMG_0710
Another song that reflects my love for the open road is “My Church”, by Maren Morris.  The lyrics of that song state:

…I find holy redemption
When I put this car in drive
Roll the windows down and turn up the dial
Can I get a hallelujah
Can I get an amen
Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya…
…I find my soul revival…
…Yeah, I guess that’s my church…
…When this wonderful world gets heavy
And I need to find my escape

I just keep the wheel rolling, radio scrolling
‘Til my sins wash away

I get this sentiment. I feel the same way about the open road.   I feel refreshed and stimulated when I’m out there.  It’s almost a spiritual experience or a spiritual renewal of sorts.  I feel so much more relaxed after a good, long drive. It’s like I can breathe again, like I’ve been rejuvenated.

**This is partially why I love being out in nature so much.  It’s quiet, it’s natural, it’s solitude, it’s peaceful.  You gotta respect it because it can kill you, 😳 but it can also refresh you in a way nothing artificial can.  Nature and wide-open vistas are my Xanax!  

Oddly enough, I don’t love the Plains because they are too wide open.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  I love the mountains, but I couldn’t live in them, either.  For one thing, the weather can be too extreme.  For another, they block the view!  I prefer to live in the foothills, they are an almost “Goldilocks”-type region.  You get to experience the best of both worlds.  The flatter land that leads up to the base of the mountains is open, so you feel like you can breathe, but it doesn’t continue on endlessly.  It is reigned in by the rocks (and you can also enjoy mountain views as well).  You also benefit from the protection the monoliths provide from the worst of the weather, and lower altitudes usually offer more mild weather, as well.

MUY4d37CQ7GfowzN3rRPXQ

I love taking my car on the winding back roads.  It’s fun to drive and it makes you feel like you’re one with the land, it’s like you can finally relax. I LOVE the smells of the country, yes, even “those” smells.  Manure is natural too kids! 😉

Below are some more pictures of our travels on the open road.  Don’t they just make you feel like you can breathe?:

IMG_0692

fullsizeoutput_367.jpeg

PlXLxJJhRFOWNIe+aVgFUQlAcQSIEETay0vDzwEdsJFw

9koqx4mfqvazlakt1vlrg.jpg

oVitkaCzTDCTS1nucw2Riw

dAMa81OsQBe0o9tHI8OjYA

So, the next time you get the chance, don’t be afraid to get out there and enjoy your own back roads a little!

Do you enjoy long drives in the country?  Tell me about it in the comments! 

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you love long drives on country roads? In this post, I explain my love of the open road and why I find long drives to be so rejuvenating.

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

 

Solo Hiking is Risky

I give a personal account that highlights why, I firmly believe, it is a bad idea to venture out into the Wilds alone.

Author’s Note:  I’ve touched on this subject before, but I feel it is VERY important so I decided it deserved its own post.  My opinion is a little controversial, but I don’t care.  Multiple situations we’ve encountered on the trail have fortified this belief…

SOLO HIKING IS VERY RISKY!

I know some people don’t like to hear this but stick with me here.  Some of us have an independent streak that is so strong it can, unfortunately, outweigh our common sense at times. 😇  I’m not trying to tell people what to do, obviously, at the end of the day, we’re all adults and we have to make the final decision for ourselves on what is best for us.  Only we can determine what risks we’re willing to take regarding our own personal safety. I’m just trying to weave a cautionary tale.

Getting Stuck When Adventuring Alone

Several winters past we were snowshoeing in the Big Hill area on a warm, March day.  That portion of the Black Hills had received another foot of snow from a blizzard earlier in the week.  We were hiking a new portion of the Big Hill recreation area, where new fat bike and snowshoe trails had been added, that we weren’t very familiar with.  Unfortunately, due to its newness, the maps for these trails were a little unclear and not well signed (or if they were signed, the info was buried under several feet of snow). 😝

Accidents Can Happen FAST in the Wild…

We were maneuvering down a gulley, (which may or may not contain a creek bed in warmer months).  We thought we might be on-trail, but couldn’t really tell. (You are allowed to venture off-trail in these portions of the national forest, especially in the snow, and we knew our general location, so we were just having fun and exploring).  Mr. Trekker had taken the lead and was cutting trail, I was following almost exactly in his footsteps.  He took two steps, I took two steps…and my right leg immediately sunk into hip-deep snow.  

Normally, this isn’t too big of a deal.  It can be difficult to get out, but you just have to work at it.  This time, my leg was stuck fast.  I could move it around, but my ankle and foot refused to budge.  It was in the 40s and sunny that day, so the snow was heavy, wet, and easily packable. (This was one of those days where large ice-balls gather on the bottoms of your snowshoes as you walk.  I had sunk to almost knee-depth a short time earlier, and had a little trouble getting out as my snowshoe had created almost a vacuum in the snow.)  So, we weren’t too concerned.  We began digging…

…and digging…and digging…

We finally dug far enough to reach my knee (we learned something from this event…snowshoes make good shovels! 😳) and I kept trying to loosen my foot, but to no avail.  This was getting a little ridiculous!  Also, after several minutes half-buried in the cold stuff, any part of my body that was touching the snow was starting to get cold! 🥶 

We kept digging and about the time we reached my shin we hit something hard…very hard.  We couldn’t tell what it was, other than we wouldn’t be able to move it and my snowshoe was lodged UNDER it.  We couldn’t reach my foot–it was enclosed in my hiking boot which was firmly lashed to my snowshoe…and we couldn’t reach the bindings on the snowshoe to free the boot…at this point, my claustrophobia started to set in.  I DO NOT like being stuck.  It makes me feel like I’m suffocating.  I had images of sinking into this hole and being smothered by all the *&%$# snow! 😝 

I wasn’t too worried about being stuck forever because we knew what we needed to do, and I knew I wasn’t injured…but you start getting a little panicked when the adrenaline from the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, and that can easily override rational thought.  Fortunately, Mr. Trekker, with his IRRITATING AS HELL 😉😉 sense of calm was there to help keep my panic–mostly–at bay. 😝

You May Have to Wait a Long Time for an Outdoor Rescue

It was becoming clear that we’d have to tamp down the snow around where I was stuck to have any hope of getting me out, as every scoop we removed immediately filled in with more snow from other parts of the drift (it was almost like digging in sand).  So, Mr. Trekker set about using his snowshoes to make a base around me.  

By now I was starting to get uncomfortable.  I was getting covered in snow that was blowing back on me from what we were scooping out of the hole.  Also, the cold from the snow I was leaning on was conducting through my thin, hiking pants.  Fortunately, we had supplies. (Another safety rule, ALWAYS bring extra supplies, even on nice days when you’re venturing onto trails and areas you’re familiar with.  You NEVER KNOW when you will need them!)  

I had the windbreaker/top-layer of my winter coat with me (which is waterproof).  I put that on to shield me from the snow blowback. We also always carry a small, 20-year-old rainfly from the first, $30 Walmart tent we ever purchased. (We usually use it as a base to sit on for lunch).  Today, it provided a much-needed, extra layer between the cold snow and my tush so I could sit–fairly comfortably–while Mr. Trekker worked to free me.    

O6++I26wR6Gtdps6PAx7Og
The picture doesn’t show the depth of the hole well, but it was close to six feet deep and maybe 10 feet in diameter!  The dark spot at the bottom is the log my foot was stuck under.  Snow had partially filled in the hole, already, by the time I got free.

FINALLY, my superhero-on-snowshoes was able to tamp down a base of snow around me to work from and then we set about digging further.  At some point, we figured out my foot was lodged under a large, fallen tree, and its entirety was buried under FEET of heavy, wet snow.  It wasn’t going to move, so I had to.  Finally, after about 30 minutes, Mr. Trekker was able to reach the lashings on my snowshoe and unhook them, and I was then able to remove my foot. I was free!!! (We were then easily able to twist the snowshoe around and lift it out.)  

To be clear, we never saw the ground.  There was snow under the fallen tree, as well, which means that portion of it wasn’t sitting on the ground. (We think there was probably an air pocket around the fallen tree and that’s what I fell into.)  So, we don’t know exactly how deep the drift was, but by the end, the snow piled up around me was at least shoulder-height from where I had sunk into the drift.  So, it was easily six feet deep at a minimum!

Solo Hiking can be Dangerous

Stuff happens fast out in the Wilds folks.  My “event” happened over the course of one step and about two seconds…and it took two, able-bodied adults more than 30 minutes to get me free.  I don’t necessarily think I would have died if I had been out there alone.  I wasn’t injured (fortunately) and I had full use of my arms and my other leg (as much as I could twist it around).  However, it would have been CONSIDERABLY more difficult, and taken considerably more time, to dig out if I’d had to rely on my own devices.  This increases the risk factor exponentially for two reasons:

      1. With the exception of my hiking boot and the gator covering my calf, the only protection between the entire rest of my leg and large amounts of cold snow was a thin layer of hiking pants (it was a warm day).  It was also breezy, so every time we tried to throw snow out of the hole, half of it would blow back in my face and cover me (adding to my wetness).  If I had been stuck out there long enough, frostbite could have become a real threat to the areas of my skin that were touching the snow.
      2. Hypothermia was the other concern.  Because it was warm and sunny, if I was able to stay above the snow, I stayed reasonably warm.  However, digging out meant getting covered in snow and getting wet.  It also meant leaning/sitting on cold snow at least somewhat.  If it had been 20 degrees–or more–colder, like it usually is when we venture out “shoeing”, the risk would have been even greater. I could have called for help, but that portion of the trails wasn’t heavily used (hence why we had to cut trail).  There were also a lot of snowmobilers in the area that day and their noise may have drowned out my cries.  

To conclude

So this brings us to my point.  Unless you are trekking a heavily used trail at a busy time, (and remember, even popular trails can be isolated at certain times of the day, the week, or the year) solo hiking (or solo-adventuring in any manner) is risky!  I know this position is strongly debated, I don’t care, I stand by my conviction.  Illness, injury, equipment breakdown, animal attack, losing your way, all these things can happen VERY quickly and easily.  Cell service is lost just as quickly, and GPS shouldn’t be trusted either.  All it takes is one, nasty rolled ankle, or a fall, to put you in a precarious situation that you can’t get out of on your own, or to leave you stuck somewhere you can’t call for help. 

Your furry friend is a great companion, but unless they can search for a cell signal, then dial 9-1-1, and THEN give a good explanation of your location—unlikely—they DON’T count as a trekking buddy. 😜 (A furry friend may have been able to help dig me out in this situation IF you could make them understand what was needed, and then IF you could get them to help correctly–maybe your dog is more well-behaved than ours). 😝  

This was one of those unique situations that don’t seem that bad on the surface.  I wasn’t injured, I wasn’t sick and we weren’t lost.  I just had my leg and foot trapped under a log and several feet of heavy, wet snow (as it was, we ended up “shoeing” around a good bit after Mr. Trekker “recovered” me.)  But in other conditions, or if I had been alone, this could have gone bad very quickly.  

I’m a firm believer in learning from the mistakes of others (or at least the situations others find themselves in).  So please, take my experience as a warning.  In my case, we avoided disaster.  But had I been alone, and had it been colder (or if I had been injured, God forbid), this could have very easily ended up as a rescue scenario and then only once I was able to raise help.

There was no cell service where I was, and I was stuck so I couldn’t crawl to where there was service.  I should also point out, we were less than a mile from a regularly-used road, so we weren’t really out in the wilderness–this wouldn’t have helped my situation either, had I been alone.  Likely no one on the road would have heard my cries for help (I was in a gully, they would have been driving by at 50 mph and their windows would have been closed).      

Obviously, I can’t force anyone to follow my advice.  There is no Adventure Police manning the trails ticketing people who venture into the wilderness alone.  But I think we can all logically acknowledge that it IS riskier to solo hike.  Bad things can happen SO quickly and SO easily when we’re enjoying nature.  Even on fairly easy trails and/or on good-weather days.  A perfectly wonderful day can turn dangerous (or at least problematic) in an instant.  I’m not trying to be a killjoy, but I feel very strongly about this.  For that reason, I can never endorse someone adventuring alone, anywhere off the beaten path.

I know some people really enjoy going out alone, so you need to make the decision for yourself if it is worth the risk.  Also, sometimes, people don’t really have any acquaintances that enjoy these types of activities.  This problem is much easier to fix.  If you don’t have a trekking buddy, this is a great opportunity to make new friends!  Look for groups online or join a meetup group (or start one yourself!)  

So my final word on the subject is this:  I implore you, please, think twice before going on a solo hike!  

And also, sometimes, superheroes wear snowshoes! 😉😘😍

 

What are your thoughts about the risks of solo hiking?  Tell me in the comments!

 

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Solo hiking is very risky. I know this is a controversial opinion, but please read on for my reasoning based on personal experience.

 

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Cross Country Skiing is Hard! Be Persistent!

This post is a glimpse into the ongoing process of the Tranquil Trekker learning to cross-country ski…

Most articles I’ve read about cross-country skiing call it the “easy” winter sport.  You never hear about people having terrible accidents on cross-country skis.  “It’s something even a beginner can do!” they say…these are LIES I tell you, filthy, dirty LIES! 😮😉

Cross-country skiing is HARD!!!

The Trekkers have been cross-country skiing for several years, though we usually only get out a few times each winter. (This is especially true in winters like this one when we hardly had any snow until February. 😝)  This could explain why I’ve struggled so much to grasp the techniques of the sport.  I read somewhere that you have to ski 10,000 kilometers to become skilled at cross-country skiing–it was a Canadian talking, for those of us living south of the border, that’s over 6000 miles.  We’ve probably skied less than 100 miles so far, so we’ve got a little ways to go. 😝

We’ve pretty much done all the stuff you’re supposed to do to learn to ski.  We’ve watched various videos on Youtube, we’ve talked to the “experts” at several sports shops and equipment rental places. (To be fair, we haven’t taken an actual class, I can’t quite bring myself to do that.  I don’t need five-year-olds skiing circles around me to humble my skiing ego.  The bruises and sore muscles I acquire every time we go out take care of that just fine, thank you. 😝)  

An example of what frustrates me so much.  All these experts make skiing sound so EASY!  “The snowplow technique is an easy and effective way to stop yourself that even beginners can employ.” Will someone please tell me how I’m supposed to do this with six inches to a foot of snow on top of my ski?  Or at the very least, with a six-inch lip of packed, icy snow surrounding the lane my skis are in?!  They don’t tell you THAT in the videos! 😝  

The trainers also say things like, “if you fall, just get your skis under you and roll back up!”  Uh-huh, again, how do I do that when I can’t even see where my skis are under all that snow?  And when I can’t get any leverage, because every time I try to push myself up my arm sinks into the powder up to my shoulder? (I’m just saying, my lack of skill may not be ENTIRELY my fault, 90% my fault, tops. 😉) 

I think a lot of these “experts” and trainers are used to cross-country ski resorts, where the trails are groomed and the terrain is fairly flat.  They aren’t guiding people in the backcountry, through the secluded (albeit GORGEOUS) national forest, where hills can be steep, turns tight, and you may have to break your own trail.

Cross-country skiing is easy! (NOT!)

This sport is, supposedly, easy to master.  People don’t usually even wear helmets when engaging in it.  They aren’t needed, you aren’t going that fast.  You hear people say, “if you can walk, you can ski.”  This may be true for some people, but, on a normal day, my feet don’t–usually–slide out from under me due to their waxed or fish-scaled bottoms. 😝  I do believe that saying is true regarding snowshoeing, I just think skiing takes a bit more finesse.  

Let’s just be blunt here, I pretty much suck at skiing.  Yes, that flailing spider monkey you see SLOWLY making their way down the hill, the one you pray doesn’t hit you, or the one you just want to avoid entirely…yeah, that’d be me. 😇  I’m the one who, when on skis, falls over…WHILE STANDING STILL…on flat ground!…because I had the audacity to turn my head to look in another direction. 🙄

For those who aren’t familiar with the Eagle Cliff area where we usually ski, it has some groomed trails. (The area is run by volunteers so sometimes you have to be patient for them to finish with the grooming and plowing at the trailheads.)  To be clear though, it isn’t unusual for us to have to break trail when we go skiing.  Or, if we don’t have to actually cut a trail, oftentimes there is just a two-track ski path available to follow, that was recently cut by someone else.  If it was only just created, it may not be packed much yet.  Due to this, we may not have the struggle of breaking through six inches (or more) of fresh powder, but we can still sink with every glide we make as the process of packing the trail is still occurring (it almost feels like walking in sand).  I only stress this to make people aware, we often aren’t dealing with perfectly groomed ski trails here.

Cross-country skiing IS fun! (No really!)

Regardless of the frequent humiliation, when I am able to remain vertical, I really enjoy skiing.  I like the exercise.  I like the way I can glide along, almost soundlessly, through the beauty of the snow-shrouded forest, with just the *wisp-wisp* of the skis slipping through the powdery snow as an accompaniment.   I LOVE seeing the adorable, little, rodent paths crisscrossing the snow as they make their way from snowbank…to fallen log…to tree…

I do feel bad, though, for the rodent whose path suddenly ends in the middle of a large area of wing-swept snow, where it’s obvious that something both much bigger than himself (and with talons) scooped him from his daily business, never to be seen or heard from again. 😳  At least it was a good day for the bird, I guess. 🤭  

I enjoy watching the deer spring effortlessly through the snowpack at our approach.  I always find it fascinating, “reading” the stories the forest “tells”.  In the Black Hills, this often includes the large, padded tracks left in the snow by a giant feline’s paws.  You can picture it stalking the unsuspecting deer herd in the meadow below, from its vantage point on a ledge high above.

Learning to cross-country ski

After several years of trying, I have finally learned to use my knees while skiing! (This technique may seem like a no-brainer, but it was a huge game-changer for me, so bear with me. 😉)  

I’ve always known a bent-knee stance should help with control, flexibility, and looseness.  Apparently, I’ve just never bent my knees enough.  It’s amazing how well things work when you do them correctly. 😝  All of a sudden I felt like I hit this sweet spot.  I could finally use the angle of my knees and the weight of my body to turn–a little!  I could finally attempt the “snowplow” maneuver used for stopping–slightly!  But, for the first time, I actually felt like I had a little control (“little” being the crucial word). 

I also found, the lower I kept my center of gravity, the easier it was to keel over into a fall if I felt like I was losing control.  I FINALLY conquered my fear of plastering myself into the nearest tree!  Now, if I feel like I’m heading towards a tree and can’t seem to turn the skis from their stubborn track, I can lean to my side and slide to a safe stop–with legs that flail a bit less.  Getting rid of the fear changes everything! (Remember I have anxiety! 😉)  

The best method when cross-country skiing actually reminds me of the best method when mountain biking…stay loose!  When you’re fearful or worried, you’re tense; you’re tight; your body can’t flow with the normal rises and falls of the surface you are gliding over.  And if you do fall or hit a bump badly, you’re more likely to injure yourself due to your, already tight, muscles.  So, this newfound ease of mine is a game changer!   

I also need to learn that I’m not really moving all that quickly.  It just “feels” like I’m careening down the hill at unimaginable speeds.  In the real world, I’m actually just coasting along. 😝

Be persistent when learning a new skill

For me, this has been one of the most frustrating activities we have attempted, but I FINALLY feel like I’m starting to make some progress!  I think there’s a take-home lesson in this.  That is, never give up.  If there is something you enjoy doing, something you have your heart set on, something you want to accomplish, keep working at it, keep persevering.  You may fail several times, but each time is another opportunity to learn a new technique that you can implement on your next attempt.  Each time you try, you get a little better, a little stronger, a little faster.  

I read that the word “F.A.I.L.” can be a positive acronym for:
First
Action
In
Learning 

I like that, it’s empowering.  It helps us to recognize that sometimes failing to do something the first few times–or the first few hundred times–we try it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.  It pushes us beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone.  We can use it to make ourselves better.  Oftentimes, I find failing at something, and thereby having to work hard and be resourceful to achieve it, actually benefits me more in the end than if I had just, easily, succeeded on the first try.  Those difficult experiences are how we learn!

 Regarding skiing, I just have A LOT of learning to do!  😉

What experiences do you have with cross-country skiing?  Tell me about them in the comments!

 

Did you enjoy reading this post?  Pin it!

Have you ever wanted to try cross-country skiing? Read on for my experience with this sport that is harder to learn than some suggest!

 

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

 

Hiking the Robber’s Roost Trail, Custer State Park

I review two adventures where we learned the value in seeking out the “boring” locales, even on “less-than-ideal” days.

The Trekkers originally hiked the Robber’s Roost Trail in Custer State Park on a foggy, mild, January day.  Many of the pictures below are from that trip.  We have since returned in warmer weather and found it to be equally enjoyable so I’ve added a few more pictures! 

Is it cold out, or windy, or really hot, or raining…then it’s not a good day to spend outside, right?…or is it?

One thing anyone who lives near mountainous terrain can tell you is the weather can change at a moment’s notice–which can be both good and bad–and it can vary greatly between nearby locations.  The Trekker’s have experienced this frequently. 

One particular January day our local area was socked in with heavy, freezing fog.  It was a damp, 30ish-degrees so it wasn’t exactly ideal for being out (though the hoarfrost on the trees was beautiful!)  Previous experience has shown us how variable our local weather can be, dependent on terrain.  Due to this, we knew the weather in the Black Hills could be far different than what we were currently experiencing in town (being married to a meteorologist who can look up conditions in certain areas helps too 😉).  So, we decided to try out the Robber’s Roost Trail in Custer State Park.  We knew, at the worst, we would be able to enjoy a pretty drive and could get some nice hiking in, while at the best the weather could be FAR different as we climbed in elevation.  Boy, was it!

A Foggy Drive through Custer State Park

As we headed for the park, Mr. Trekker made the prediction that we’d emerge from the fog shortly after passing the entrance sign (where the road begins to gain in elevation)…he was right on the money! (I’m gonna channel Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Caribbean and state, “there’ll be no living with him now.” 😝)  As we headed toward our trailhead, we made several stops for photo opportunities of the gorgeous hoarfrost the freezing fog had left behind.  I can’t quite explain why, but that natural occurrence utterly fascinates me.  The way the frozen crystals cling to the local flora can cause a smooth piece of bark to look almost furry.  It reminds me of the tiny hairs on a spider’s legs.  

Isn’t this incredible?

img_3692

img_3694

Hiking the Robber’s Roost Trail

When we arrived at our trailhead, the sun was shining brightly and continued to do so…for the remainder of the afternoon.  We had many opportunities for viewing the fog bank below us, in the lower elevations, but it never reached our altitude until the very end of our trek.  By then, we had returned to the car and were wandering about, seeking out prime picture opportunities.  😁

img_3772
The fog is coming!

img_3804

img_3806
It was incredible, watching the fog slowly rise from the lower elevations.

img_3811

The trail wasn’t anything exciting, it was just an old fire road that winds through prairie land, around and over hills throughout the park, but we had a great time!  The scenery used to be more picturesque, but after the large, Legion Lake Fire that swept through this area in December 2017, this portion of the park now consists, mainly, of a burn scar.  For this reason, be aware, in the warmer months, there is very little shade.  You should be prepared for hot conditions.   

If you’re looking for some additional fun activities to check out in Custer State Park, click here!

Where is the Robber’s Roost Trailhead?

The trailhead is located in the southern portion of Custer State Park, off of Oak Draw Road (just to the east of the Prairie Trail trailhead).  You can reach that road from the southern arm of the Wildlife Loop Road (Route 16A).  The hike just follows an old, forest road, out-and-back, though it can be combined with other old roads, in the local area.  These would make for a great hike, horseback, or mountain bike ride. (We’re planning to try this route on our bikes soon!) 

Puppers enjoying the hike!
You can see the burn scar in the distance

Below is a short video I took, at the end of the hike, of the coyotes’ haunting song that seemed to welcome the fog as it silently slipped back up the mountainside…(turn the sound up for this one!):

Below are a few more pictures of our trek, more are available on the Tranquil Trekker Facebook and Instagram sites.  (If you haven’t followed these yet, please click the links at the upper right-hand corner of the page, and do so!)  Thanks, as usual, to Mr. Trekker, for several of the pictures in this post and on the other sites!

img_3679

img_3744
To me, this picture feels otherworldly, like smoke rising from a scorched landscape (it is just fog).
Fogbow!
Did I mention this trail can get a “bit” muddy? 😳😁

In Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to seek out the “boring” or “go-nowhere” treks, they can sometimes offer some surprises of their own.  We enjoyed a great–albeit INCREDIBLY muddy–hike (basically in shirt sleeves)…in mid-January…in SOUTH DAKOTA!  Whereas, if we had stayed at home, we may have felt depressed by the cold, damp, foggy day.  So don’t be afraid to Get Out While the Gettin’s…Bad!

Have you had a positive experience where you ventured outdoors when the weather was less than perfect?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

You can enjoy the outdoors regardless of the weather! Check out the Robber's Roost Trail, in Custer State Park, that makes a nice hike in any condition.

 

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Hike the Sunday Gulch Trail in Custer State Park

I review the Sunday Gulch Trail, in Custer State Park, near Sylvan Lake.

As part of the incredible trail system offered by Custer State Park, the Sunday Gulch Trail is a must-hike!  You will find the trailhead  located behind the large rocks at the back of Sylvan Lake,  off the Sylvan Lake Shore Trail.  

Note:  this trail is closed in the winter months due to ice buildup from the nearby creek.  

Hiking the Sunday Gulch Trail

This loop trail is around three miles long and can be completed in either direction.  I suggest taking the right fork at the trailhead.  This way, you’ll complete the most difficult portion of the hike first, and you’ll be doing it heading downhill.  You will still end your trek with an uphill climb, but it will be far less strenuous than the alternate option.  Traveling this direction, the early portion of the trail is comprised of steps and large boulders that must be navigated—there is a handrail—as you make your way down the ravine.  Once you reach the bottom, the path is relatively easy and flat while you traverse a canyon; until the final climb back to Sylvan Lake at the top.

In the hotter months, be prepared for a hot hike!  Due to the gulch-like nature of the terrain, cool summer breezes often miss this area. Fortunately, the surrounding foliage provides significant shade opportunities (except when the sun is high, in the middle of the day).  As you continue down the canyon, your trek will eventually begin to wind uphill when you commence the final, LONG ascent back to the lake.  The path is well-trodden and fairly smooth/free of debris, but it’s a long hill back to Sylvan Lake.  You will hear more road noise on this portion of the trail as it parallels Route 87.  

img_0458
A view of the surrounding peaks from the top/end of the trail

Things you will see on the Sunday Gulch Trail

The trail is beautiful.  As you descend into the ravine, granite cliffs tower far above you on both sides, while a bubbling brook accompanies you the entire way.  Once you reach the bottom of the gully, continue following the creek as it winds its way through the canyon.  This area is very peaceful as there is little road noise–the only main route, nearby, is Route 87, and that snakes along the edge of the ridge far above you.    

img_0454
Yours truly, navigating the steep, boulder section of the trail, through the ravine

Use caution when the path is wet, due to rain or snowmelt, as the creek often gushes across it when the water level is high.  Even in late spring, be prepared for the possibility of ice where the route traverses the deep ravine, as it doesn’t get sufficient sunlight throughout much of the day. Traction devices, such as Yaktrax, are highly recommended unless you are hiking this trail at the height of summer. (Click here for more information on these awesome traction devices!)      

This trek can be managed by smaller children and pets, but they may require assistance with the really rocky portions of the trail.  As it combines bouldering with a relaxing jaunt through the forest, this fun hike contains a wide selection of scenery and is a must-see for those wanting a bit more adventure.  If you’re looking for a challenging and fun hiking trail on your visit to Custer State Park, check out the Sunday Gulch Trail near Sylvan Lake!  

Have you hiked this awesome trail?  Tell me about your experience in the comments!

 

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Click here for detailed info on this beautiful hike at Custer State Park, in the Black Hills!

 

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

 

†As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

 

An Amazing Southeastern US Road Trip

I review our Thanksgiving road trip to Florida, and discuss thoughts I often have on the open road, and why I enjoy lengthy road trips so much!

On an amazing, southeastern road trip over Thanksgiving 2018, the Trekkers experienced 9 days, 13 states, 4,433 miles, 1 snowstorm, 3 seasons and numerous ecosystems.  We were invited to spend the holiday in Florida, with family.  Neither Mr. Trekker, nor I, had been there in the last decade, and we realized we’d never visited together.  We also figured out a route that allowed us, both, to check off another item on both of our “bucket lists”…after this trip, both Mr. Trekker and I have visited all 48 of the continental US states!  {Note: the Trekkers are currently accepting donations to fund trips to States #49 and #50…} 😉

Oil Refineries, Route 66 and the Ozarks!

We enjoyed some unique experiences on this trip:

–We saw oil refineries that twinkle across the bays as they hug the coast.  I prefer green energy, but, there’s a certain beauty connected with these structures (at least at night).  They remind me of the old, steel factories you see in Gary, Indiana, near where I grew up.  There, an eerie, orange glow emanates from them and the reflection glitters on nearby Lake Michigan.  In Louisiana, the bays of the Gulf of Mexico proffer a similar effect.

IMG_2161

IMG_2159
Some of the refineries are HUGE!

IMG_2158


–We drove another portion of Route 66!  I had forgotten it runs through Missouri until we stumbled on it while surveying the map.  We had last seen that route on a trip through New Mexico in 2017.

IMG_2154

IMG_2153


–I was also able to experience the beauty of the Ozarks for the first time (Mr. Trekker had been there before.)  I had no idea how lovely the majority of Missouri and western Arkansas are with their rolling farmlands and forested hills.  Fall also runs a little later in those states, so we got to enjoy the foliage as well! (Note to the Missouri Department of Transportation, your snow management on your highways could use some work. 😝)

–We experienced multiple seasons on this trip.  When we left South Dakota it was 15 degrees out!  We enjoyed fall colors in the Ozarks and through beautiful, northern Georgia.  Then, at the end of the weekend, we fast-tracked it back to South Dakota to outrun the impending, winter storm that was bearing down on the lower midwest.  😳

THIS is why we drive rather than fly (this, the TSA and the fact that I hate those cramped machines! 😉) 

I’m not afraid of flying, per se, it’s the crashing-to-a-fiery-death-in-a-cramped-metal-tube-from-30,000-feet-up that scares me. 😝

Cross-country travel in a car also allows you to truly experience the varying landscapes and cultures that are present throughout our wonderful country. In addition to the US being a “melting-pot” of various people and religious identities, it showcases a cornucopia of landscapes as well.  On every road trip we take I’m always amazed at the various scenes and inhabitants we encounter.  

Things you’ll notice when you visit the “Lower 48”: 

The South

This region is characterized by cotton fields, salt marshes and flat, coastal plains.  Comprising a portion of the “Bible Belt”, folks here are friendly, though they’re often quick to spot that, “ya’ll ain’t from around here are ya?” 😉

The Northeast/New England

Highlighted by rolling, hilly, farmland, heavily forested mountains and flat, coastal plain; many think of this region as sporting “city-folk” with fast-paced lifestyles.  There’s plenty of “country folk” outside the urban centers who may disagree with that assessment, though.

The Midwest and Great Plains

This area is comprised mostly of flat farmland.  Many think of it as boring, flyover country.  It may not be as exciting as other regions, but this area has a unique beauty of its own.  Being that I grew up there, its charmingly simple way of life will always hold a piece of my heart.  And you can’t beat their sunsets over the “amber waves of grain” (and cornfields). 😉  The folks who live here, residing fully in the ‘Bible Belt”, are known for their friendliness (and tornadoes!  It’s THE place to be, in the country, for storm chasing! 🌪) 

The West

I would define the borders of this area as the country west of the Missouri River (excluding the West Coast) and north of the Desert Southwest.  In my personal opinion, you can’t beat the beauty of the craggy mountains that are found here.  They don’t call this area “God’s Country” for nothing.  

In my experience, some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered live in the rural West.  This is an interesting contrast to, what can be, a difficult life. Living in the West is a whole other ballgame.  The land is rugged, the weather is harsh, and its residents have to be tough.  It’s a place that, even in the 21st Century, has to be survived.  Maybe this fosters kinship among those who choose to brave its challenges?  Here, the weather and nature–both flora and fauna, can, quite literally, kill you.  But the people who call this, immensely beautiful and often desolate place, “home”, won’t make you regret a visit.

The West Coast (ie: the western halves of the West Coast states)

It’s amazing how different the various sides of these states can be!  The eastern halves of Washington, Oregon, and California are comprised of more rural, scrub and farmland, and the people trend toward a more conservative ideology.  The western halves of these states are flatter, far wetter, coastal plains; sometimes ranging to a temperate, rainforest climate.  The people who reside there are usually categorized as metropolitan.  I was, pleasantly surprised, though, by the light-hearted lifestyle of the LA area.  

Texas/the Desert Southwest

This is the one area I can’t speak much to, as we haven’t spent enough time there for me to get a feel of it (a problem we’re hoping to correct). 🤞  I do know it’s hot and dry, though.  😅

The statements above are just generalizations, of course.  As we’ve traveled around the country, I’m always amazed how cultures vary within these local regions, as well.   As you traverse the states, rural areas are usually more conservative, and the larger cities tend to trend more liberal.  The change from urban to rural can be stark and often occurs quite quickly.  Many living in the rural areas of Illinois, Virginia or New York may not feel they have much in common with their counterparts living in the DC suburbs, Chicago or New York City.  “Transplants”, people who move from places like NYC to more conservative states, like North Carolina (and others), make those places a melting pot of cultures and ideologies within their own right.  One place we visited several years ago was the small town of Willits, in northern California.  It was one of the first places we’d visited in the state, and I was surprised how charming and “Midwestern” it felt.  

Let’s embrace our similarities!

What am I trying to get at here?  The bottom line is, none of that sh*t really matters.  I think we often forget that we’re all in this together.  We all vary, but we all share similarities as well.  Often times, those similarities aren’t categorized by skin color, religion, politics, etc.  Regardless of where we live, what church–or synagogue, or mosque, or temple–we attend (or don’t); who we vote for, or who our favorite sports team is, we’re all human. We all live in the same, magnificent country.  I firmly believe, we’re all, for the most part, good people (one generalization we all share).  As our country remains divided on numerous issues politically, religiously, racially, culturally, I think it’s important to keep this fact in mind.   THIS is what makes road trips so enjoyable!  I LOVE traveling the country, and experiencing how much we all have in common!

The late chef and world-traveler, Anthony Bordain, felt food bonded us, that our connection with it could bridge divides between cultures, religions, politics, etc.  I think we need to seek out other “bridges” like this as well.   Whether that be a common love (or hatred? 😳) for a specific sports team, a love of the outdoors, whatever.  I don’t care if you voted for Trump or Hillary (or neither); if you cheer for the Yankees or Red Sox; if you say “pop” or “soda”.  

I. DON’T. CARE.  

Those things aren’t important in the long run.  What is important, and what we need to focus on, are the commonalities we all share.  We need to seek out the things that unite us, not those that divide us.  During this season of Thankfulness we need to realize how blessed we ALL are to live in this incredible, messy, complicated place.  We’re all stuck on this big, beautiful, blue ball, hurtling through the dark, cold, emptiness of space.  We’re all in this together, so let’s make the most of it, be kind and try to get along, yeah?  🤠  


See below for some more pics from our cross-country adventure! (Thanks, as usual, to Mr. Trekker for some of these):

IMG_2194
Drawbridge!
IMG_2183
Is it just me…
IMG_2182
…or does this bird look like Bernie Sanders?  😳
IMG_2181
I love the moss!
IMG_2164
State #48 for the Trekkers!
img_2210.jpg
The lowest altitude we reached on the trip. You can see my foot is in the Gulf of Mexico if you look in the lower left corner…
img_1642.jpg
…contrast that with the highest altitude we reached on our road trip this summer, at the top of Independence Pass, in Colorado!
IMG_3461
Seashells!
IMG_3463
“I got my toes in the water…”

 

Florida Beaches:

IMG_3473
IMG_3474IMG_3476IMG_3509IMG_3520

IMG_3523
Beach Trekkers!

IMG_3527

Goodnight Florida!

IMG_3531IMG_3533IMG_3538IMG_3542IMG_3543IMG_3551

What have you learned from traveling around the country (or world)?  Let me know in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you love road trips? In this post I review our Thanksgiving 2018 trip to Florida, and what I've learned traveling around all of the Lower 48 states!

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

A Trekker’s Manifesto

In this post I discuss my motivations for writing this blog.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”        

― John Muir

Some may wonder why I write this blog…

One of my favorite songs is “Noise”, by Kenny Chesney.  For me, it’s a rallying cry, of sorts, as it well expresses my growing disillusionment with the rat race that is the modern lifestyle.  I firmly believe one of the central problems with modern society is that we are constantly overstimulated with busy lives, busy minds and busy spirits.  The song demonstrates how this “noise” that continuously engulfs us makes us miserable.  It is unescapable and unending.  My personal belief is this overstimulation contributes to the anxiety so many feel.  I know, for myself, the anxious symptoms I experience peak when my life feels the most hectic. 

Some lyrics from the song state:

“…Yeah we scream, yeah we shout ’til we don’t have a voice.  In the streets, in the crowds, it ain’t nothing but noise…”

We’re constantly pulled in multiple directions at once:  relationships, chores, work and school, hobbies, attempting-to-find-some-time-to-just-relax! 

“Twenty-four hour television, gets so loud that no one listens…”

In addition, we’re persistently bombarded by 24-hour news cycles, streaming music, and video, our sources of stimulation continue on ad-nauseum…. I can feel my blood pressure rising just THINKING about all of this! 🤯  

Articles are written about the burnout people feel.  How they are striving to “unplug”, to have a better work-life balance, to take back control of their lives.  But then, they’re told to “lean in” and live “well-rounded” lives…

 “There really ain’t no conversation, ain’t nothing left to the imagination…”

From an early age, we’re exposed to so much technology that our creativity is squashed.  Children used to spend hours playing outside, now their days are filled with activities structured by others and devices that tell them what a game is and how to play it.  We don’t think for ourselves anymore or take a step back and critically examine situations.  Instead, we allow ourselves to be influenced and pressured by what our friends are “liking” on social media, or what our trusted news source is telling us is a fact. 

“…trapped in our phones and we can’t make it stop…”

We’re all adrenaline junkies running around constantly stimulated by the technology that continuously surrounds us.  This stimulation is so persistent that when we have to go more than 30 minutes without the dopamine hits it provides we get anxious and think we’re bored—even though that’s what life is supposed to normally feel like—we just aren’t used to it.  Our phones chirp mercilessly, constantly giving us the recognition we’ve come to crave as it means that someone “liked” our post or tweet, or is trying to contact us so we don’t feel so small and alone…

*This may seem contradictory for a blogger; whose job is dependent on the use of technology.  To be clear, I’m not anti-technology, I’m pro the purposeful and controlled use of it.  It’s a tool that should be used deliberately and within limits, without allowing it to control our lives.*


I write for my love of the outdoors…

“Sometimes I wonder, how did we get here?  …we didn’t turn it on, but we can’t turn it off…

IMG_2472(1)

We’re constantly surrounded by all this “noise” but we haven’t yet evolved to handle it, and I don’t think we are meant to.  We weren’t designed for the modern-day lifestyle.  Evolution didn’t prepare us for this craziness, because it isn’t a natural thing.  We’re meant to be surrounded by the peace and tranquility that nature brings: the perfectly formed snowflake; the sound of chirping birds and the whistling wind; the silent clamor of snow falling in the woods; the pitter-patter of rain against the window and the “CRASH!” of thunder outside.  We’re meant to feel the sun warm our skin as the wind caresses our face and to smell the fresh, earthy aroma of wet dirt that a fresh rain brings. 

I’m an avid Nature Girl.  I enjoy pretty much any activity that gives me an excuse to be outside.  I’m also high energy (in case that isn’t obvious). 😉  I like the outdoors, active hobbies and I find walls induce claustrophobia.  I grew up as a country-girl, playing in the dirt and fresh air, so, outdoor recreation is a perfect hobby for me. 

This love of nature brings me peace by enjoying the beauty and simplicity of the environment that surrounds us.  Many people find comfort in these things and I think there’s a reason for that, it’s our intended habitat.  It’s where we’re supposed to be, so, we connect with it on a basic, transcendent level.  The most instinctual part of our being longs for it.  I feel my spirit is renewed by nature, so I want to use this blog to encourage others to enjoy this incredible experience, as well.  

For me, this peace is also spiritual, in a sense.  Not everyone agrees with this, and that’s ok, religion is a very personal journey, and everyone has to choose what’s best for them.  I feel my life is richer and I find hope in despairing situations when I embrace the spiritual side of life.  Experiencing nature aids my spiritual journey as it helps me to form a tangible connection to the Creator, by communing with the extraordinary creation.

I’ve enjoyed being out in nature since I was a kid, I especially love the mountains.  I still remember the instant I fell in love with them.  Mr. Trekker and I were enjoying our first road trip together, in 2005, shortly after we both graduated college.  We were at Mesa Verde National Park, standing at one of the lookouts on top of the mesa, with the whole of Colorado stretching before us (maybe THAT’s why I love the state so much?!) 😉  I remember thinking, “I could live here”, and feeling a connection to the mountains, on a visceral level.  At the time, the Trekkers were preparing to move to North Carolina.  Until then, I had only ever lived in Indiana, this was my first time experiencing the Rockies.  I had visited the Appalachians throughout Pennsylvania and New England on numerous family vacations and had always enjoyed the mountain scenery, but this time, something struck a chord within me… 

It would be six years before we returned to the mountain west, this time to stay.  We’d had enough of the big city, and after numerous adventures in the mountains of western North Carolina, we were hooked on our outdoor activities.  The Black Hills aren’t quite the Rockies, but the smaller towns and simpler way of life—not to mention the frequently beautiful weather—suit me just fine.


I write to describe my struggle with anxiety and (hopefully) to help others who are struggling…

When we moved to South Dakota, I started experiencing frequent symptoms of anxiety.  To make matters worse, I also began noticing depressive symptoms due to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), thanks to the minimal hours of sunlight–and the resulting Vitamin D deficiency—present in the Northern Plains during the winter.  I set out on a mission to learn methods to alleviate the symptoms I was experiencing, so I began working with a therapist. 

For some, anti-anxiety medications work wonders.  For myself, I hated the woozy, detached feeling I experienced as a side-effect, so I sought out natural and behavior-based methods as an alternative. I have found that by taking a step back from the continuous “noise” of our modern lifestyle, through pursuing outdoor adventures, and by employing intentional methods such as mindfulness, I am able to effectively manage the condition. 

Besides the obvious benefit of a flood of endorphins brought on by physical exercise, I think experiencing nature helps to decrease anxiety symptoms because it has a tendency to test our resolve.  It’s an incredibly humbling–and somewhat frightening—experience when you find yourself at a different location on the trail than you originally thought, and you realize how far you still have to go as the sun sinks ever lower towards the horizon.  Your concern is heightened as the cold wind intensifies, and dark clouds close in.  You come to the very sobering realization that you are at the mercy of Mother Nature and her elements. 

This is a moment where anxiety is truly warranted!  But, it’s also an incredibly empowering moment.  You realize that you’re reliant on your own devices, that your ability to get home rests squarely on your own shoulders…and you CAN do this!  It’s liberating when you do, eventually, make it home safely.  The feat raises your confidence level as you now know that you are capable, and you can handle the challenges life throws at your feet.  It helps you to realize how powerful your inner strength really is!  

I think we often forget that anxiety can be a useful tool.  It’s a natural, beneficial response to an element in our environment that’s posing a risk to us.  But it should be reserved for situations where our safety is actually at risk. Unfortunately, these aren’t the situations that often cause anxiety in modern times.  Oftentimes, “modern” stress stems from situations that are, frequently, not threatening at all.  As I had a therapist once explain it, “your body doesn’t know the difference between being called into a meeting in your boss’ office and being chased by a saber-toothed tiger!  It responds the same.”  “Good” stress situations (such as finding yourself lost on a trail) help to keep anxious feelings in perspective.  They help us to realize that some circumstances unnecessarily induce anxiety within us.

Beyond personal empowerment, basking in the awesome power of nature helps to remind us that we aren’t the center of the universe. It’s humbling (and relieving) to experience that power overshadow many of our worries, and it helps us to realize that many of them aren’t as unique or catastrophic as we think they are. What is an impending root canal in comparison to the immense “ROAR!” created as millions of gallons of water pour over a waterfall every day?  Or when you observe the natural forces required to create locations such as the Grand Canyon?


I write for my quest for a more tranquil lifestyle…

“Every room, every house, every shade of noise.  All the floors, all the walls, they all shake with noise.  We can’t sleep, we can’t think, can’t escape the noise, we can’t take the noise so we just make noise!”  

IMG_0276

We were all dropped into this technological soup that we aren’t equipped to handle.  To mitigate the stress brought on by our modern lifestyles, we seek out more stimulation (or noise), when what we really need is rest!  We get worked up from the constant information and news, we worry about our friends and family, about the state of the world. Then, due to all this, we struggle to sleep at night which just leads to exhaustion, more stress, more anxiety and depression…WE NEED A BREAK!  We need to be able to take time to just STOP!…relax…take a breath…and enjoy the natural beauty and peace that constantly surround us.

I write this blog because I want to help people find their break.  Through my struggle with anxiety, I’ve found that one of the best ways to control the condition is to actively seek out activities and lengthy amounts of time where I remove the craziness of the modern world from my life and get back to what matters most.  The Bible says, “no man can serve two masters”, and that’s true in life as well.  We seem to know that we need to take control of our lives, but we don’t know how to do so.  This blog is about my search for a more tranquil lifestyle.  I write to help others with a similar desire. 

I find I’m able to mitigate my anxiety symptoms by employing a more tranquil existence.  I strive to maintain a purposeful mindset where I utilize deliberate techniques to control my symptoms, such as mindfulness, meditation and journaling.  Mindfulness helps us to focus on the present, not an upcoming meeting with the boss or an argument we had with our spouse that morning.  It also helps us to fully enjoy whatever we’re engaging in at that current moment and to make the most of it.  Journaling allows me to relieve the thoughts that are bouncing around in my head in a productive way.  It helps me to view my concerns objectively, and either devise solutions to them or realize they aren’t as concerning as I first thought.   

A peaceful lifestyle helps to lessen anxiety.  This is because the more stressed we become, the lower our tolerance is to handle stressful situations, which increases the likelihood that we’ll feel anxiety regarding them.  In contrast, the calmer we feel, the higher our tolerance to handle stressful situations, and the better adept we’ll be at using coping methods to alleviate any anxiety that results from them.

For myself, tranquility means not constantly feeling hyped up, not constantly dwelling about things to come or constantly replaying previous conversations in my head.  It means focusing solely on aspects of my life and the world at large that I actually have control over (such as how I respond to circumstances).  For elements of life that we can’t control, worrying about them doesn’t help anyway, so why bother? (To be clear, this is easy to say, but NEVER easy to accomplish in practice.  This is one of those skills I toil with on a daily basis.)

 These practices have lead me to a more fulfilling life, a decrease in symptoms of anxiety, and greater control over the disorder.  Writing this blog also helps me return my focus to nature and on the things I enjoy.  It helps me focus on positive things and reminds me of the empowering effect of the activities we pursue; how they stretch the bounds of my comfort zone and show me how capable I really am.  I hope by sharing these experiences with others it can be a vehicle to help lead them to a more tranquil, thoughtful, less anxious experience, as well.


I writ
e the blog as a guidebook of sorts…

IMG_1705

I also write this blog as a type of guidebook, to share the adventures we’ve had and to assist others who may want to follow in our footsteps (so to speak).  I truly enjoy traveling, the sites we see, the random hodgepodge of people we meet. 

Since we live in the Black Hills of South Dakota, my posts primarily focus on activities in that area.  However, Mr. Trekker and I are also avid travelers, so I also outline the various journeys we embark on around the country.  The Trekkers engage in an eclectic mix of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, canoeing, exploring 4-wheel-drive roads, car camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and road trips, among others.  

I want to encourage others to try activities that are outside their comfort zone, while at the same time give them practical, useful tips to help make that experience as painless as possible. I want to spark their interest for new activities, but also give them an awareness of what hurdles may lie in their path so that they can embark on their adventures well prepared.  For those who may be unable to partake of some of these sites, I hope to bring the experience to them, in a sense, through my writing.


To Conclude:

IMG_2030

The techniques listed above have empowered me to take more control of my anxiety.  I don’t put my issues out there to garner pity from others.  Rather, I seek to relate my personal struggles with the disorder, as well as the methods I’ve learned to help control it.  I want this blog to be a place where others can come to acquire these tools for themselves.  I’ve accepted the fact that my anxiety is a part of me, that it’s something I will, likely, live with the rest of my life.  But, that doesn’t mean I have to allow it control over my life.  I strive, every day, to reign in those worrisome thoughts and emotions and use them to improve myself.  There will be some tough days.  Sometimes, the anxiety will win.  But that’s just one day.   Life is a marathon, not a sprint!  The sun WILL rise again tomorrow!  So, when we have a bad day, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and press on!

Part of what I love about the outdoors is that nature cuts out the BS.  It takes away our technology and gets us back to basics.  It humbles us as it forces us to acknowledge there are some things in life we can’t control.  Along with that, though, it helps us to understand that some of the things that cause us anxiety aren’t really as threatening as we might first think.  Nature gets us back to our intrinsic roots.  I find that one of the rare times I can truly put my mind and spirit at peace is when I’m engaging with and appreciating the natural world, in all its glory.  I want to share that with others. 

So, some may ask, “why do I write this blog and spend so much time outside?”  To that I answer, “to escape the noise!”

*Ya’ll, I’m telling you, this song is awesome.  If you aren’t familiar with it, I BEG you, go listen to it.  This is three-and-a-half minutes that IS worth your time (the video is pretty cool, too).  For your convenience, I’ve linked to it here.  Pay careful attention to the last couple of shots near the end, see if you notice a common theme…*

Norbeck Trail in Custer State Park

I review the Norbeck Trail, a low-use trail in the higher elevations of the Black Hills, near Custer State Park.

The Norbeck Trail is located within the Black Elk Wilderness.  This is situated within the boundaries of Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. 

How do you get to the Norbeck Trail in Custer State Park?

To reach the trail, take Route 87 to Forest Road 345 (Camp Remington Road), then take Iron Creek Horse Camp Road (which will be on your left).  Watch for signs for the Iron Creek Horse Camp and the Iron Creek Centennial Trailhead as they’re both, also, found on this road.  You will actually park at the horse camp, or just outside of it if the gates are closed (when we were there in mid-April the campground was still closed for the winter.)

What you will see on the Norbeck Trail, in the Black Hills

The trail is comprised of picturesque, rolling terrain.  It’s well-marked and wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side in some places.  There are several water crossings that are small enough that they’re easy to cross but big enough to offer relief and respite on a hot day.  The ecology found along the length of the trail varies greatly from moist, almost temperate rainforest near the base, to dry, alpine forest near the top.  As you trek through these various ecosystems take note of the abundance of spruce trees in certain areas–usually on the northern slopes–that denote a wetter climate (you usually only see this variety in wetter locations in the Hills.)  

What is the difficulty level of the Norbeck Trail?

The route is steep in parts, but the elevation changes are fairly moderate until you near the end of the trail.  Here, it joins with the Little Devil’s Tower Trail and gets rather steep.  This more difficult area is beautiful, though, as it snakes through a canyon complete with rocky, craggy overhangs and caves.  You’ll see the backside of the Cathedral Spires towering over you to your left, and if you turn around you will be treated to beautiful views of the Southern Hills and plains to the south.

A word of advice: never let your focus on completing a trail keep you from looking around–and behind you!  You never know what incredible views you may be missing if you’re solely focusing on the trail in front of you.

The rear view of the Cathedral Spires.

This trail doesn’t really “go” anywhere, per se, it’s more of a connector to other notable trails.   It can be combined with different routes to form various loops depending on how long you wish to spend in the wilderness.   From the trailhead to the junction with the Little Devil’s Tower Trail, the route is a little over five miles (one way), so plan for a full day’s hike when considering this option. 

We really enjoyed the hike as it was not too strenuous (with the exception of the last mile or so) and the ever-changing scenery was beautiful.  There were some gorgeous vantage points and numerous opportunities for wildlife sightings.  This trail is less well-known and, therefore, more secluded.  We did not see another person throughout our 10-mile hike, though a portion of the trek runs near Route 87, for a time, so the summer months may be busier.  Certain areas of the trail also traverse old burn scars so, if traveling in the summer, be prepared for lack of shade and a hot hike in some parts.

You can see the sparseness of the shade in some areas.

As with many other areas in the Black Hills, be watchful for deadfall as well as dead trees that remain, precipitously, standing (and their hanging, broken branches).  These are remnants of the recent pine beetle infestation, and they can fall at any time, even on not-so-windy days.    

IMG_1903
Damage from the recent pine beetle infestation

If you’re looking for a fairly easy day-hike, with nice views and few people, consider the Norbeck Trail!  

Have you ever hiked this more lighter-use trail?  If so, tell me about your experience in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Looking for a quieter day hike near Custer State Park? Check out the Norbeck Trail, which is located in the Black Elk Wilderness.

 

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Rimrock Trail Black Hills

I review Rimrock Trail, that traverses the canyon walls, floor and crest of Spearfish Canyon.

Located along the crest and walls of Spearfish Canyon, in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota, is Rimrock Trail–Trail #79. (This route also now offers access to the recently organized Tinton Trail that traverses this area, as well.)  

Where is Rimrock Trail?

You can access the route via several different trailheads.  The easiest is to use Forest Road 222 from the tiny hamlet of Savoy, at the junction of Spearfish and Little Spearfish Canyons.  From the Spearfish Canyon Byway turn at the Spearfish Canyon Lodge.  Once you drive past the final pullout for Roughlock Falls, start looking for parking areas–there are several. (If you reach the T-intersection with Tinton Road you’ve gone too far.)  The parking areas are near the Rod & Gun and Timon Campgrounds, on the right-hand side of the road.  Be watchful as they are VERY small–they only fit about two vehicles each.  Also, some of the trailhead signs are recessed into the woods a bit, so they’re easy to miss.  

Your’s truly, traversing an “Aspen Tunnel”!

There is easy, trail access from the Rod & Gun and Timon Campgrounds, as well, though there are technically no “official” trailheads here.  If you want to avoid the crowds near Savoy, you can also take Tinton Road north from US 85 as it heads west out of Lead (towards Wyoming) and turn right onto Roughlock Falls Road, heading towards the falls (in this case the trailheads will be on your left before you reach the falls).  

There is another access point to this route from a spur trail that begins at the Old Baldy trailhead and parking area, which is found further along Tinton Road.  From here you will actually approach the canyon from the top.  This portion of the trail is relatively flat.

What is the Rimrock Trail like? 

The trail is comprised of two loops, the Upper Loop is 4.7 miles long and the Lower Loop is  3.2 miles.  We enjoyed both, and doing so means you’ll experience around a 700-foot total elevation change (the trail is fairly flat, the entire elevation change is mostly contained within an area of 1/2 mile or so, twice, throughout the hike–once descending and once ascending the canyon wall).  This area is open for hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and mountain biking.  The trails can be enjoyed year-round with proper equipment, though be aware, Route 222 is closed in the winter to all vehicles other than snowmobiles.

Tinton Road is not usually maintained in this area during the winter either, so, its accessibility varies depending on current conditions.  In addition to the weather, these include the vehicle you’re driving, the recovery gear you’ve got at your disposal, and your experience level with 4×4 driving.  We’ve traversed it successfully, but we’ve also gotten stuck, to the point where we would have had to be rescued had we not had proper recovery gear with us.   

What you will see on the Rimrock Trail

The trail offers GORGEOUS aspen groves that are especially lovely in Fall (take note, this area is one of the higher elevations in the Hills and trees usually change earlier here.)  The trek also features canyons and open meadows that are perfect for a stop for lunch. 

This area used to be fairly well-shaded.  Unfortunately, it has been hit by multiple tornadoes in recent years so now there are several bare spots where the trees once stood 😕 .

We started from the eastern, Lower Loop, trailhead (the first one you come to when traveling from Savoy.)  Beginning the hike from here, the climb isn’t as steep, whereas if you start from the western trailhead the trek gets VERY steep almost immediately.  Due to the grade of that climb, that area would be very difficult and potentially risky if it was muddy.  

IMG_1782

From where we began, it was amazing how quickly the ecosystems changed from a cool, damp, almost rainforest-type environment to the dryer, warmer, ponderosa pine forest and meadows common to the rest of western South Dakota.  The trail also offers expansive views of the canyon and surrounding countryside once you reach the crest. 

Going this direction, the final stretch of the route is easy and almost flat (which is nice when your energy is running low) as it traverses the floor of the canyon.  The babbling Little Spearfish Creek accompanies you the entire way.  Feel free to stop for a spell and soak your tired feet in the cool water, or watch minnows dart in and out of the sun-dappled shallows.  You’ll pass a filming site from the movie Dances with Wolves (from the final scene in the film).  The origin of the 1997 White House Christmas Tree and the remains of an abandoned ranger station/homestead can be seen in this area, as well.

IMG_1791

This really is a great trail!  It’s one of the better options to experience the various ecosystems western South Dakota has to offer and it’s also very pretty.  The canyon portions remind me of those I’ve mentioned previously on the Deerfield Trail.  In the fall, you can enjoy some of the best leaf viewing the Black Hills has to offer without having to negotiate all the traffic and visitors to the main portion of Spearfish Canyon.  During the autumn months, the yellow of the aspen contrasted with the dark ever-green of the pine trees; the brown bark of fallen logs; the incredible South Dakota blue sky, and the white puffy clouds (with red creekside plants speckled throughout in the canyon areas) truly creates an iconic scene.  

I would rate the entirety of the trail as moderate (though several of the flatter portions are actually easy).  The climb up and down the canyon wall is relatively short but it’s steep enough for a strenuous rating, especially in less-than-superb conditions.  Because the trail can be divided into shorter sections, it is appropriate for smaller children, though they may need some assistance negotiating the steeper portions.  

The view as you’re descending to the creek (creekside areas seem to be about the only place to reliably see red color in the Hills in the fall)

If you’re seeking a less well-known hike in the Hills, check out Rimrock Trail!

Have you ever hiked in this area?  What did you think?  Tell me about your experience in the comments!

Did you enjoy reading this post?  Pin it!

Looking for a great place to view fall colors in the Black Hills? Check out Rimrock Trail, that traverses quieter parts of Spearfish Canyon!

 

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!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest