I don’t do this too often, but yesterday I treated a day off like a day off. After writing my blog, I went back to bed and slept in. (OK I was up and dressed by 7, but for me that’s sleeping in.) After breakfast and a few household chores we went for a drive up to the northern hills. There are so many beautiful places in the hills and the temperatures rose with the altitude. It was a good ten degrees warmer in Spearfish canyon than it had been at home.
Spearfish falls is a short walk down to the creek from Latchstring Inn and enough hikers had made the trip since the last snowfall that there was a well-packed path to walk on. You did have to stay on the path. Otherwise you’d sink into the less compacted snow. The thawing and refreezing on the surface of the snow made for some ice and we joked about my leading Susan down a slippery slope.
It wasn’t the first time.
The events of the day were a bit of an early celebration of her birthday, as we’ll be engaged in work as usual tomorrow, which is the actual birthday. While we enjoy birthdays, we don’t get too carried away with parties and other celebrations in our family. We prefer some quiet time together to reminisce and enjoy each other’s presence.
Susan’s birthday this year is another palindrome birthday: when her age reads the same backwards as forwards. It isn’t a complex concept: 11, 22, 33, etc. However, it is worth noting as it is a little quirk of mathematics that makes it a bit different than other years. Since palindrome birthdays only come every 11 years they are worthy of a bit of notice.
Since we were married in a palindrome year for Susan - she was 22 - that means that this is a palindrome anniversary year for us as well. I remember well attending a 50th wedding anniversary the year we got married and thinking that it would be such a long time before we would be in that situation. Now, at 44 years, it doesn’t seem so far off.
Susan’s palindrome years have been good years for us. I wasn’t around at the time, but the year she turned 11, her family moved into a new home - the home where her parents lived for the rest of her mother’s life. She got her own bedroom.
When she was 22 we were married.
The year she turned 33 was a bit less dramatic. We were established in our careers and our family was complete with two children.
She was 44 the year we moved to Rapid City and purchased the home where both of us have lived more years than any other home in our lives.
The year she turned 55, we had a wonderfully exciting sabbatical, fund in part by a grant from the Lily Endowment, that enabled us to travel to Australia with our whole family.
66 is looking like it will be a great year.
A short winter hike was just the right thing for yesterday. The winds were not bad, with occasional gusts. The weather was warm. And the scenery was magnificent.
I guess the official name of the falls is Little Spearfish Falls. Little Spearfish Creek plunges about 100 feet to join Spearfish Creek in the bottom of the canyon. Waterfalls are glorious in the winter as the spray freezes and builds up fantastic ice sculptures on either side of the waterfall. Some areas look like a frozen waterfall. Other areas are built up with intricate crystalline structures caused by the freezing mist. The snow sticks to the surround areas and builds up cornices with water flowing underneath.
The falls retain the musical sound of rushing water, but sound carries in a different way in the winter. Other than meeting a small group descending the trail as we were hiking back up, we had the area all to ourselves.
Whenever I am hiking in the hills, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. We are so fortunate to have so many truly beautiful places that are so easily accessible. There are hundreds of short hikes that take one to incredible vistas. We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.
This winter there has been plenty of talk about Spearfish Canyon all around the state. The Governor has proposed a series of land purchases and swaps that would result in forming a new State Park around the Canyon. There has been considerable resistance to the idea. Some people fear that despite promises, something that is now accessible without a fee might become a place where fees are charged. Some fear that increased publicity will result in crowds and a decrease in privacy. Private campground owners oppose the state competing with their operations. Some people wonder whether or not the state is a better steward of the lands than the current arrangement. This evening there is a meeting at the Journey Museum hosted by a group that opposes the proposal. Although I have some interest in the conversations, I won’t be attending the meeting.
I’m no expert in the management of public lands. I do appreciate the other State Parks that we have in South Dakota, find the fees to be very reasonable, and enjoy visiting them frequently. Clearly the State has done a good job with balancing preservation and access in Custer State Park.
Yesterday, however, wasn’t a day for politics. It was a day to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in the company of my partner and wife. It was a day to celebrate that despite the strangeness of human interactions and uses and abuses of power, the beauty and glory of the natural world is worth experiencing first hand. Even though we sometimes spend too much time indoors in the winter, it is good for our spirits to get out and experience beauty first hand.
Indeed the land upon which we stand is holy ground.