A major portion of my 2nd book will be events that took place five years ago this month. I did blog about it somewhat when I spoke of the time I hit a horse with my car. Anyway, part of the chapter is the fact that I, the day before I hit the horse, did the Sunday Gulch Trial hike at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
When I did that hike five years ago I was compelled to because my dad and I did it in 1998 and I wanted to revisit history, in a way. That was my only reason to do it. Lost in the fact of that was the beauty of my surroundings which meant nothing to me. Then, I hit the horse and several days later I did the hike again and realized just how amazing the world is, and beyond that, my life.
Now it's been five years since the horse incident and I don't want to give away everything from that chapter of my 2nd book (hopefully that chapter avoids the cutting room floor) but it was on that hike that I felt like life was worth living. I had way too many close counters with things that could have ended much worse and I kept asking, "Why am I still here; why am I still alive?" but it was on that hike that I felt as if I were destined for something. Remember, at that point in time my book wasn't published, I wasn't a national flagman, and I had never given a presentation.
So yes, it's been five years and since I'm visiting my mom I wanted to go on that trail hike so two days ago we went up, we being my mom, sister, nephew and I, and Sylvan Lake was just as I remembered. In fact, it was as if 1998, 2008, and today was the same day.
At the start of my hike my sister and nephew joined me on the walk around the lake which leads to the Sunday Gulch trail head. During this time my sister snapped this photo of me which normally I despise having my photo taken but with such a perfect background I decided to bear the task of having my photo taken.
We continued on and my sister wanted to see the backside of the lake so we navigated the rocks and got back down there and eventually made it to the steep rocks. This was where my sister was going to go back and sit with my mom at the lake as was my nephew, or so we all thought. Out of nowhere my 13 year old nephew said, "Can I go?" I was expecting a hike of solitude but I wasn't going to rob my nephew of such an amazing experience and I think my sister's reaction was, "Wait, you're serious? Okay. Be safe."
It was an odd feeling; this hiking with my nephew. I was just about his age when I first did that hike so I was hoping he would have the same experience as I had when I did it. I was concerned though because he, like myself at that age, wasn't the most physically active and jumping into this hike is like jumping straight to a professional level without practice.
The best part of the hike is the first 25% which is all downhill and criss-crosses a small stream. My nephew and I talked the entire time and a wide array of topics as discussed video games past, present and future as well as NASA and the Apollo program and we wondered what it would have been like to have been Michael Collins who was the 3rd member of the Apollo 11 mission and the only member to not walk on the moon and just how lonely it would have been to have remained in the CSM.
We continued walking down and eventually we made the turn which is where the hike begins to get physically difficult as walking uphill is rather tiresome. Our conversation slowed as we concentrated more on our steps on the uneven terrain as well as not wanting to waste oxygen by speaking. However, we both at random intervals would make a statement on just how awesome this being in nature completely cut off from all electronics was (unless of course there was an emergency.)
About 90 minutes in and we were both now getting rather winded but then we turned a corner and had this most amazing of views. There are a couple other points where you can see further, and a couple other places that have amazing rock formations, but after 45 minutes of walking uphill and focusing on the ground you all of a sudden of a hunch to look up and then you're greeted with this. It was here, five years ago, that I had my revelation about life, living, and that I wanted to be more. I didn't know what that meant at the time, but I knew that I wasn't going to give up.
My experience at this point was almost the same this time. I've been feeling all sorts of emotions these past six months and have driven myself to exhaustion several times and each time I think that I wonder, "is it all worth it?" As I looked upon the Black Hills and breathed in the crisp air and looked around me I was able to go back five years ago to a person who had no direction, little hope, and a mangled car with no real means to get it repaired (thank you horse.) When we took a breather just a few steps past where I took that photo I smiled a smile thinking to myself that there would've been no way to describe to myself five years all that I am now.
In life we can so easily fall into a routine and I think I'm guilty of that as well. We get up, we do our work, we go home, we travel, we work, we eat, and lost in it all is what we're actually doing. There aren't many people out there blessed to have a job like mine and when it gets busy I can fall into that routine forgetting the fact that my words could quite possibly make a profound impact on a life. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but I'm out there and I'm given the stage to do so. I often forget this, but as I looked out at the landscape, and then at my nephew who was having an amazing time, I realized that the potential for tomorrow is infinite so long as we make the attempt at bettering whatever it is we're doing in life.
140 minutes after we began we saw people once again who obviously weren't on a hike and we knew we were close to the end. We went up stone staircase, made a corner, and there it was, Sylvan Lake. Victory! We made good time and we walked the shore of the lake to the gift shop where my mom and sister were waiting. They were glad to see we made it back alive (they did have some doubts on our ability. I can't blame them) and that's a moment that, for me, will stay with me for a long time. Honestly, I wanted to cry. I was able to go back and relive who I was five years ago as well as the fact that I got to give my nephew the experience of the hike. I didn't think he'd enjoy it, but he did. It was an amazing time all around; so much so that we're off once again to take on the three mile trek and I'm sure that once again, my soul will be rejuvenated.