Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Trail in Nemo

On Friday Josh, myself, and our friend, Matt Kinsey, were able get out for awhile and explore. We ended up, unexpectedly, in Nemo. We headed into the Black Hills National Forest on the lookout for a uninhabited trail.

We found one at the end of Boxelder Forks Road. The road dead ends and a trail begins. The weather forecast said to expect sunshine with a possibility of showers. When we parked the jeep and headed down the trail it was sunny.

The unnamed trail follows Boxelder Creek. The stream meanders back and forth and the trail crosses it at least 5 times. The crossings added an edge of adventure.

Over the course of the next hour the weather changed several times. From sunny, to drizzle and finally to all out downpour. Walking in the rain was nice. Since it so rarely rains here we enjoyed our wet walk until it really threaten to soak us. We sought out shelter and chatted under the canopy of a helpful tree.

The rest of our hike was uneventful- exactly the way we wanted it. We returned to the jeep, wet and content.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Exploring Inside the Outdoor Campus

Yesterday Eli and I found ourselves in Rapid City with a whole afternoon free. One of my favorite places to visit is the Outdoor Campus West and even though Eli is so young, I thought it would be fun for him to see what it had to offer.

There is lots to explore at the Outdoor Campus, especially as a young child. There are four areas dedicated to biomes here in South Dakota. We played our way through the Black Hills, the Badlands, the Prairie and the Wetlands.

The giant aquarium was probably his favorite. It's full of sturgeon, bass, trout, catfish, and fish I didn't recognize. They swam slowly by, taunting us. Eli was completely engaged. He's never seen anything quite like that.

Eli also enjoyed the tunnels, the animal pelts, and the hollow log. Each room offered him something he'd never seen before and he was into it all. I was impressed with his speed moving from one thing to the next. We played with the puppets, touched the beaver dam, and hid out under a tree. The faces he made were priceless and I was so thankful we had stopped in.

We held our play for a few moments to eat a snack and watch short videos of coyotes catching prey and prairie dogs playing. Once we were refueled, we were off again.

After playing for awhile longer and making a few friends, we watched the aquarium one last time and hit the road. I could tell that Eli had a great time and apparently, having that much fun is exhausting because Eli slept the whole way home.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Believe in the Lesson's in Nature

I was tasked earlier in the year with writing a "This I Believe" essay. I heard my first "This I Believe" essay in 2006, with the passing of my friend, Michelle Gardner Quinn and it was one of the last writings she had left behind. It described her reverence in nature and for all living things. It was an incredibly powerful essay, for many reasons, and when I was asked to write one of my own I couldn't help but reflect back. 

My assignment was to relate my relationship with nature to lessons that I have learned from it. Since, it relates to my family, the roots of my love for the woods, and our future as a family, I thought posting it here would suit.. It is purposely short, under 500 words, and here it goes...

 I Believe in the Lesson's in Nature

I believe in the lesson’s in nature. It teaches me that change is constant, peace is found within and that my past and future is intertwined with the natural world.

 When I was young, I walked in the forest behind my home. The woods were filled with oak, maple, poplar and pine trees. They line old two-track roads. They split the rock walls. They stood as tall as my imagination. I thought they had been there forever. I walked these woods in each season: spring, summer, fall and winter. Also through the seasons of my life: child, teen, and adult. Each season gave perspective on my relationship with the natural world.

As a child, I built a treehouse just outside of my mother’s yell. Three knotty pines held up three 2x4s that would be the foundation of the roof. I used old tongue and groove boards to make a ladder. I used the ladder to carry boards up and laid them across the 2x4s. I posted a reclaimed sign at the ladder. It read, “Ski Patrol Only.” Later, when I visited I cleared the pine needles. When I left the pines reclaimed it. Water and moss set into boards and there was nothing I could do. That was how I learned that nothing in nature is ever mine.

As a teenager, I knew the woods from the back of my horse. I raced home after school to saddle up. My horse and those woods were solitude. I concentrated on the leaves, the alders, and the woodpeckers living around me. We usually walked but sometimes we raced against ourselves and the wind. The spaces between the trees offered peace. Each ride was a chance to just be and I returned rejuvenated; closer to who I am.  

As an adult, I walk the woods with my family. I no longer have my horse. My treehouse has been reclaimed by the forest. The trees are still standing and their canopies ever expanding. Woodpeckers still make it their home. My memories rush back. I reflect and feel saddened. My life has changed so much and the forest so little. I realize that this forest is weaved into who I have become. It has offered me a place to create and learn. In moments of solitude, it harnessed a deep respect of the natural world within me.

Soon, I’ll trim the branches of the trees and watch their seedlings grown. I’ll preserve this piece of earth so that my child may build a treehouse and see it from the back of a horse. Maybe one day he’ll walk the spaces between the trees with a family of his own.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Iron Creek Trail

This past weekend offered the perfect opportunity to escape outside. With our good friend and fellow explorer, Matt Kinsey, visiting and sunshine in the forecast, we were set to hit the trail.

On Sunday, Matt, Eli, and myself headed for Spearfish Canyon. We were going find Anderson Ponds, but I realized that there was some great trails just within reach. One of them being Little Spearfish Falls. Instead of driving by, we pulled in and enjoyed what would be the introduction to our outing. I wrote a bit about this at iEscape Outdoors in "The Overlooked Trail." The trail, though short, was beautiful and worth our attention.

Once back in the car, we headed north towards the Iron Creek trailhead. In the parking lot, it was apparent we'd hit the jackpot- the only car in the lot. The camera was grabbed, babies were back-packed, and Wu Bear was released. We were on our way!

The trail winds through a steep walled, creek carved canyon for over two miles. It was easy going with a slight gain in elevation. Previous visitors had left remnants of their adventures: hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

We walked for about an hour, chatting back and forth, and eventually fell silent. Eli fell asleep on my back and it seemed like the time to just breathe and think about how lucky I am. I was finally out on the trail, under the sun, with my happy, asleep son on my back and a good friend to take it all in with.

Eventually, we reached a point where the trail was blocked by boulders, as it was at the trailhead, and it opened up before us. Unsure of where the trail continued to, we decided to head back.

The walking was easy with the elevation change in our favor but the weight of Eli was getting to my back. Our pace was slow as we worked our way towards the car.

I don't think any of us wanted to get off the trail.