I have always valued my friendships and felt that quality is much more important than quantity. Having friends that really know me, really care about me and really support me is invaluable. These friendships remain even while we are on the road, but trying to develop new relationships, while living a nomadic lifestyle, can be very difficult or next to impossible. As we all know, relationships take time to develop. I knew this going into our journey and felt that my current friendships would provide the support and companionship that we as humans crave. We are very lucky to have each other and Mira, but having interaction with others is important too.
During our first few months on the road we were moving rather quickly from place to place but had the pleasure of seeing many friends and family along the way. We then pulled into Emporia, Kansas and were fortunate to have met some amazing people that we now call friends and these relationships are the kind that will last a lifetime. From there we landed in Cody, Wyoming, where we also met some great people who will be lifelong friends. As we were on our way to South Dakota, I wondered if we would have that type of experience again.
As we drive off to our next destination, I sit here reflecting on our time in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a month of racing, exploring, adventuring, family time and making new lifelong friends. It was such a special time in a region that has so much history and beauty. When we arrived on June 20th we had a plan to stay one month, time to really explore the region, get to know the area and the people that call the Black Hills their home. As we pulled into town the first thing we did was join the Black Hills Runners Club Community on Facebook. Finding the local running club and community allows us to meet like- minded people who love running as much as we do. It allows us to meet locals who can provide us with all the best places to run, hike and explore. The group meets on Thursday evenings for a group run, so we joined for the run and the gathering at Thirsty’s for some post run food. It was there that we met so many people that we now call friends, Kyle, Desi, Chris R., Heather, Tami, Shauna, Marge, Billie, Jeremy, Laren, Roger, Dan B., Chris G., Kassy, Alfred, Chris S. and Tom (hope I didn’t forget anyone, but if I did I apologize); just a few of the many folks that welcomed us into the community, provided us with invaluable information about the region, invited us to run with them on a regular basis, invited us into their homes and into their lives. This didn’t happen overnight and if we decided to stay for only a few days or a week, we would have never developed these special friendships.
Along with these relationships came so many amazing experiences in the Black Hills. We heard about the Black Hills 100 trail run and thought it would be a great way to kick off our time in the region. Unfortunately, the 30K distance was sold out. So we contacted the race directors (Chris S. and Ryan) and not only did they let us into the race but after explaining our situation they allowed us to sign up for half off the registration fee. This race was epic, single track trail on the Centennial Trail (trail number 89) in some of the most beautiful areas of the Black Hills. If you are looking to do a truly memorable trail race, this one should be on your list.
We had not planned on racing so much but we loved hanging out with all our new runner friends so we competed in several other races while in the Black Hills- Belle Fouche Rodeo Run 10K, Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, Heart of the Hills 10 miler, Pure Pactola 2.4 mile open water swim and the High Thrive Classic Trail Run-24 hour race.
While in Belle Fouche for the Rodeo Run 10K, we decided to stay for the biggest July 4th parade in the state. David and I happen to set our chairs next to Blake and his family. Blake and his daughter Sara ran the 10K as well, so of course we started to chat. Blake is a down to earth guy who loves to train and race but who also is dedicated to his family. His 3 girls are all extremely active with running and swimming and his oldest just started crossfit. He proceeded to tell us about his upcoming goal of running the entire length of the Mickelson Trail, 109 miles from Edgemont to Deadwood, in 24 hours. This will be a solo running, with support along the way, to help raise money for his sister, Jacci. Jacci is a double, below-the-knee amputee from a degenerative bone disorder. She is a runner and really wants to get back to running to her ability and in order to do this she need “blades”. So, Blake had this idea to run the trail to help raise $10,000 for his sister to purchase “blades”. With the support of his wife, kids and sister he is well on his way to raising the funds and his training is going well. He will be running in September 2018. If you want more information or to donate: Blades for Jacci.
In addition to all the races, we did some great hikes and trail runs. We hiked to the highest peak east of the Rockies, Black Elk Peak. Black Elk Peak (aka Harney Peak) sits at 7,242 feet and from the historic lookout tower you have views of 4 states- South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. It has historical, geological and spiritual significance and well worth the hike, a bucket list place for those that love the outdoors. We explored Devil’s Bathtub, Buzzard’s Roost, Cathedral Spires, Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, Badlands NP, Centennial Trail, Mickleson Trail and Spearfish Canyon just to name a few. David was also able to take a day and ride the entire length of the Mickleson Trail.
Half way through our month, my parents came to visit and to explore this region with us. Since we had been here for a few weeks already, David and I played tour guide. We explored Custer State Park, hiked around Sylvan Lake and had a unbelievable encounter with a herd of Bison. We went to Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands NP, Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood and Lead. We had several days full of adventure and family time. We had a ton of laughs, it was a very special visit and we made memories that will last a lifetime.
In addition to all of our running friends, we met 2 other local couples who happen to live blocks away from each other but didn’t know each other. We were introduced to Zuzana and Vance through a mutual friend in Washington. They are a very nice couple who transplanted to Rapid City about 4 years ago. They opened their home to us when it was 100 degrees outside, made us dinner, shared stories and poetry with us and even allowed Mira to invade their space. Dave and Rhonda have been in Rapid City for over 30 years, they were genuine and generous. Rhonda shared her homemade jam and vinegars with us, they allowed us to fill our water tank, shared stories about traveling in a van and shared a really special place with us, Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary. We were able to all meet for lunch and David and I can only hope that they will develop a friendship.
Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary is a very special place. It is a place to reflect, to meditate, to write, to draw, to laugh, to cry or just enjoy nature. David and I went a few days before leaving the Black Hills and we are grateful to Dave and Rhonda for encouraging us to visit. There was no one else around at the time of our visit, making it quiet, peaceful and reflective for us. I would encourage anyone visiting the Black Hills to make a stop at the sanctuary.
Our time in the Black Hills has been extremely fulfilling physically, emotionally and spiritually. We made so many new friendships, explored a new region, had much needed family time and lots and lots of training and racing. Thank you to the people of Rapid City and the Black Hills as we leave with full hearts and the desire to return.
“Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget”-unknown