MEMORIES & SNAPSHOTS
We hopped in the car and headed off to hike the Sunday Gulch Trail today in Custer State Park. Although a short 3.8 miles, this trail covers a lot of altitude and took 2 hours. The trail starts at the visitor center at Sylvan Lake and quickly turns into steep switchbacks, winding up and down hills, across streams and up a rocky waterfall. The trail is peppered with shiny flecks of mica and looks brilliant in the afternoon sun. All in all, this trail was a great leg and butt workout and such an endorphin high.
You will need to pay an entrance fee to get here and note that the access road is closed in winters.
Heading west towards the Black Hills National Forest, the scenery quickly changes to thick forests and mountains. Today was a “rebuild” day as I have mentioned before that a super-cell storm in the Badlands ripped our tent and flooded our gear. We stayed the night in a hotel and showered for the first time in five days! I should note that getting a hotel was extremely difficult because it was the 75th annual Sturgis and a million bikers descended on this little corner of South Dakota for the week. We shared our hotel with a Latin biker club haha.
We spent the morning at the laundry mat, Cabelas and Walmart before driving on to our home for the next couple nights, Oreville Campground. It was the most beautiful day of sunshine and a cool breeze. It felt very autumnal and a welcome change from the oven-like conditions of the Badlands. Our new camp site is nestled into a shaded cove of pine and birch trees. We napped in the sun, read our books and like all good basic girls, sipped on pumpkin spice cappuccinos. (Made from the mix I bought at Heini’s Cheese Factory).
Our campground is an eight minute drive to Hill City, a pocket-sized town with bars, Native American crafts, souvenirs, and burger joints. We spent a good bit of time in this one Native American store, perusing animal pelts, dream catchers, leather pony tail holders, medicinal herbs, sage, and stunning portraits of tribes. This little main street has so much charm and we enjoyed killing an afternoon here. Not to mention all the great Sturgis people watching! We never planned to coincide our time here with Sturgis, but it has been so hilarious and fascinating to witness. Everywhere we go has been dominated by bikers and they’re a rowdy group. You’ll see a lot of drunken partying, both fun and not so fun, but you’ll also quickly learn that bikers are a loyal and hospitable type. They’ll be the first to help you with a campsite chore or invite you over to theirs for a campfire and venison sausage they hunted and processed themselves. We met so many Sturgis characters along our way and listened to their tales of the open road and love for the Wild West American spirit. In the words of a family friend, “That’s a slice of America right there.”
The Badlands kicked us out with a bang, ripping our tent and flooding our gear in a supercell storm. We packed up our muddy and wet gear and headed an hour and 15 minutes to Rapid City, SD, racing to keep ahead of the ominous storms. It was stressful to say the least.
I’m a bit of a paradox in that I love adventure and living outside my comfort zone and throwing myself at situations, but I am also a big-time worrier… and I mean big time! On one hand, I can take on anything. No showering for 5 days? Ok with me. Going to the bathroom in nature and packing out my toilet paper? No biggie. Sleeping in a tent for a couple of months? Can’t wait. 10 hour strenuous hike? Bring it! But you better believe I’m going to be thinking about those bears, fearing those rattlesnakes, stressing about getting injured. I’m going to toss and turn and have nightmares about being killed by a bear. I’m going to picture myself falling off of that 60 foot ladder. I have a vivid imagination and a very, very active mind. It’s what gets me into such life-changing and wonderful adventures like these, but also what can turn my stomach and grind my nerves. 95% of the time I am blissfully happy and soaking in the view and the exhileration of pushing my body to the limit and the heart soaring feeling that is sharing this with friends both new and old. Then there is that other 5% where I can become crippled with fear and question what on earth I have gotten myself into.
And yet, I’m here! I showed up, and I’ll continue to keep showing up and pushing through the fear because it’s always worth it! I have loved every second of all of my life travels and experiences. I have loved every second of all new endeavors and friends and schools and homes. I may worry at times (and cry!) but never once have I backed down, because it’s just not an option for me. I refuse to do anything but live my life and see the world… and I think there’s a lot of us in that same boat, and maybe a lot on the dock who haven’t pushed past their fears and discomfort and just gone for it. I urge you to.
And now let me tell you about a time when I had a very large freak out over a menacing…cow?
Night four of camping and I’m awoken at 2 am by an animal noise. My heart starts beating fast and I hold my breath waiting for the next sound. Did I really hear a noise or was that in my dream? It comes again and my mind and heart start racing. It’s a weird sound but it sounds a whole lot like a baby bear. (Side note: before this trip I became obsessed with this baby grizzly bear named Eva on instagram. She was so cute my heart could break. And through following her I learned a lot about grizzly bears, including the sounds baby grizzlies make…). Danger Will Robinson! I wake up Kiera and Lauren and as the noise gets closer I make a dash for the car. Let me tell you fear loves company and pretty soon Kiera and Lauren are in the car with me and we’re going for a drive. I have got to get out of here! The initial freak out subsides and we drive back to the campground and spend the rest of the night in the car. It was a rough and sleepless night of me questioning how on earth I was going to make it through the next few months and if I could do this. I knew I wasn’t going to quit but I also knew I couldn’t go on like this. But minute by minute and deep breath after deep breath, I made it through the night. And in the morning we learned the noise was from a calf. That’s right folks, a calf!! Boy did I feel ridiculous, but in the end it’s one of the funniest memories. And do you know what else? There were countless other nights where we woke up to bear and animal noises in the night and heard a mountain lion purring outside our tent and I kept it together. Worried yes, but together.
This time last year I had made the decision to quit my job in NYC and take off on an open ended road trip across America, camping and hiking in the National and State parks. It was the most incredible and exhilerating trip and rewatching this video gives me all the feels!
My dad had roadtripped across America twice and backpacked across Europe twice during his college years and he talks about those trips with such awe and spirit to this day. Listening to those stories since I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to do it too. Needed to do it too! But life takes over and the dream always becomes an “if only” or “someday.” There’s a great quote that goes…
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
It’s never going to feel like the perfect time financially, in your career, so on and so forth. Take the plunge! Go! And you’ll find that you make it the perfect time.
This very amateur video has been a labor of love and is kicking off a series of travel posts in the coming weeks about each of the towns and National/State parks we visited along the way.