Saturday, July 28th marked the 5 year anniversary of my Dad’s passing.
It seemed oddly fitting that I spent most of last week out in the Black Hills. It happened to be that the interns my family sponsors in Dad’s memory were doing their final presentations on Thursday. We made our annual family trip out West to honor Dad by attending the presentations. I always feel a bit awkward about all the attention we receive when we go, but I suppose that’s just a bit of my Dad showing himself in me. He wasn’t ever one for the spotlight really, and even after his diagnosis he just wanted our lives to continue on as normal as possible.
I was partially left to my own devices while I was there, which I secretly sort of love. Anymore, feeling like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of everyday life seems to be a rarity for people, but I think it’s important to be okay being alone. If you’re going to be stuck in a place without a car, I would strongly recommend Lead, SD. I had what amounted to about 24 hours essentially on my own without a car. I was staying with Lil B, but unfortunately she had to work both Thursday and Friday. I spent the time reading, hiking with her Momma, and generally just enjoying the outdoors. I had a wedding and bridesmaid duties in Rapid City on Saturday, in case you were confused as to why my Momma and Sister left me in the Hills. 🙂
Friday morning, while waiting for The Engineer to arrive in town and the start of the wedding activities, I went for a 6 mile jog/hike on a new trail that runs between Lead and Deadwood. The trail is gorgeous and is perched high above both cities with stunning views of the mountains and hills surrounding the towns. Out here on the prairie, we would say the towns are nestled in valleys. Out in the West…they don’t have valleys…they have gulches. They are sharper, more severe, and create a much more nerve racking albeit amazeballs view when you stand on the edge. It really can’t even be described in a way that does it any manner of justice, and my photography skills will never capture the true feeling of standing on the rugged edge of nature.
I’m not much of a runner honestly, but while pounding my way down the pine lined trail, I think I finally began to understand why my Dad liked to run so much. Normally, I consider the thin mountain air to be a major struggle factor when I try and exercise out in the Hills. In fact, Thursday afternoon I tried to jog up a large hill and across Lead to the grocery store…..I didn’t even make it halfway up the hill before I was doubled over and trying to pull all of the oxygen out of air that seemed too thin for my lungs to even hold.
For probably the first time ever, I didn’t feel like I was struggling to get enough oxygen to fuel my legs down the trail. It was cool, breezy, and clear….and I just ran. The air out in the Hills has a specific smell about it. It’s pine, but such a subtle, delicate pine that you’d have a hard time recreating it. Take every Christmas Tree candle you’ve ever smelled and toss it out the window. It isn’t like that at all….not that I don’t enjoy a good pine scented candle during the holidays! There’s a slight sweetness to the air, but I find that I only notice it when I focus on it. It’s something to be discovered and savored, and is probably lost on people who don’t take time to pause and enjoy the surroundings.
Before I’d even realized I had ran almost 2 miles straight…..with brief pauses to carefully traverse down a particularly steep or gravely section of trail. I’m no running expert, and I’m certainly not well versed in trail running. Better safe than sorry….sorry being hands and knees scraped up and full of dirt, gravel, and pine needles.
I RARELY…..EVER…..MOSTLY NEVER RUN MORE THAN A MILE AT A TIME.
It was glorious. Honestly, for how ever brief a time I think I really understood what my Dad always saw in running. It cleared my mind and was just such a nice time to reflect. It was easy…I just ran. I’ve only ever felt that way one other time running, that I can remember. The first Father’s Day after Dad passed I headed to my townhome’s gym and ran a 5K….but it didn’t feel natural, I’m sure it was fueled purely on sadness, anger, and stress. This run felt different, it felt natural….like I was put out there specifically to go on this run, and have this time, and feel a connection to my Dad that I haven’t felt in a while. That’s the thing about being raised by parents who taught me to move forward, even in times of difficulty, and to never quit. I sometimes forget that moving forward doesn’t mean I can’t pause and take time to reflect.
I’m not sure when I’ll have another run that feels comfortable and easy. I might not ever, and I came to terms with the fact that running just isn’t my jam a long time ago. But, I might try again next time I’m out in the Hills on a high up mountain trail. Worst thing that happens is it’s horrible and I end up walking….which out there isn’t all that bad either.
I ended up doing more walking than jogging most of the way back to Lead once I got to the end of the trail in Deadwood. Turns out that the whole trail, even the “flat” parts had an ever so slight downhill trajectory….which suddenly explained why going to Deadwood felt so glorious, and why going back to Lil B’s house felt less than stellar most of the time. Also, about a mile from the end of my run/walk I got distracted and forgot to check where my feet were landing. I took a rather large rock right to the side and/or arch of my left foot and ended up with a rather swollen and bruised foot. Still not the worst thing….I ended up walking back to Lil B’s house and came upon a cute little buck in velvet hanging out on the edge of town.