Last night it rained and at times it felt as though the wind might win its contest against my tent. Transitioning from a hotel bed to a tent and sleeping bag is never easy but at least the skeeviness component of budget lodging disappears. I didn’t sleep so great and I was ready for daybreak by the time midnight rolled around. This morning, the wind was gone and the chill in the air reminded me that I was camped at over six thousand feet in elevation. What a gorgeous view! All around me as I scanned my campsite I could see stately Ponderosa Pines, Spruce, and Aspens, the latter’s yellow leaves trembling in the breeze. Granite towers and jumbled masses of rock poked out of open forests ever so seductively.
The West is a mind fuck. As I made my way along the Black Elk trail I came to the realization that putting my camera away was pointless. Every bend in the trail, every nook and cranny begged to be photographed and savored. The soil shimmered with metallic like flakes of Mica and as I hiked, I thought about the gold that exists in these mountains. The “color” as the old, feverish miners called it. The sacred nature of these hills also came to mind. This was heavily contested land. White settlers lusted over its precious minerals but to the Lakota, this land was known as He Sapa, the Black Mountains, a place for prayer and worship.
It started to rain and the temperature hovered in the mid forties. Perfect conditions for hypothermia. I broke down before deciding to end the hike on account of the weather. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of intense loneliness. The rain, grey skies, and solitude all conspired against me along with my thoughts. Tears flowed and I came to terms with the necessity of human interaction and bonds as I peered around the hauntingly beautiful landscape around me. It’s amazing how you can feel so down yet so awe inspired at the same time. On top of my mood, I had to make the decision to cut my trip short. Yellowstone is out of the picture. Blizzard like conditions, dangerously low temperatures, heavy snow, and terrible driving conditions are visiting the northern Rockies this weekend. And it looks like overall shitty weather will prevail into the middle of next week. I refuse to experience wonderland under these conditions. Besides, it wouldn’t be safe. Seems like I picked the worst possible time to embark on this journey. Most of the country is experiencing intense, unseasonable weather. But its okay. Mother Nature always has the last word and my fate, I will not tempt.
I’ll stick around these gorgeous Black Hills through the weekend and then turn the car east for the long drive back home. Black Elk Peak, the highest mountain east of the Rockies, will be my objective if it blesses me with the right weather. I surrender to what will be. Hearing from a familiar person today was a great relief. There’s no use in denying emotions and feelings. Let them flow, let them flow, let them flow. Two Mountain Goats watched me as I headed back on the trail to Sylvan Lake today. Mountain Goats. Precariously perched on a rock tower, they watched me, without a care in the world as they chewed their cud? Do Mountain Goats chew their cud? I think I’ll pay a visit to Deadwood tomorrow. I am a bit of a fiend for anything western related and this town was a notoriously scandalous and dangerous mining outpost, once upon a time….