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Dare to Dream "I see my path, but don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I am going is what inspires me to travel it." Rosalia de Castro

The Black Hills

USA | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [88] | Scholarship Entry

Have you ever had an aha moment so profound that it changed your life?
For me this moment of clarity came atop a climb called “Aging Gracefully” just outside Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I was just 21, and amidst my adrenaline rush from conquering my fear of heights, I knew that my life needed more adventure. I looked out at the forest below, granite peaks jutting up to the cobalt sky and felt a wave of relief and exhilaration that I never felt before.

That summer I climbed and hiked everyday. I ventured up trails that were invisible to the average person, some that only the locals know of and took more risks (climbing Devil’s Tower in Wyoming) than I thought I could. Most people think of the Black Hills as home to Mount Rushmore and make a hasty trip to the sights, take some touristy photos and continue on their road trip.

I was lucky enough to work at Sylvan Lake Lodge for two summers and explore the entirety of Custer State Park. This once sacred area still buzzes with powerful energy that you can not help but notice if you listen to the silence and the wind long enough. From Sylvan Lake, you can access more than a dozen trails and some of the best sport and traditional climbing in the area. Needles Highway is brimming with climbers from July to August, and most routes are easily accessible with a short hike into the area known as the Spires. Routes vary in difficulty but there is something for everyone and views are available everywhere you look.

My favorite hike that requires some bouldering at the end is called Little Devil’s Tower. The breathtaking scene below is amplified by the utter lack of noise so that you literally hear your own breath and heart beat as the wind rushes over you. Sitting atop this small bluff you can see Harney Peak, which is the highest summit east of the Rockies at 7,242 feet. Both offer the most serene views of the entire park and as far west as Wyoming on a clear day.

Time seems to stand still in these hills, and it can be easy to shut out the world as days turns to pastel sunsets. The Lakota regard this land as a sacred space and gave it the name Paha Sapa, which translates to Black Hills, because of its appearance from a distance. The land is said to have healing powers and I felt that with every step I took and every breath I drew, I knew I had found my sacred space.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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