Mount Baldy is behind Mount Rushmore. Old Baldy is near Spearfish. However, some maps have Mount Baldy labeled as Old Baldy. And the register box at the top of Mount Baldy says “Old Baldy.” Someone got their wires crossed, somewhere along the line. Anyway, it was a beautiful day for a hike, and to Mount Baldy we went. We had a group of thirteen, I think, trekking cheerily through the springing afternoon. The trails and sights in the Mount Rushmore area are truly stunning. The granite spires pierce from the ground towards the sky. Large boulders perch precariously on top of larger boulders, which is essentially what Mount Baldy is. A very, very large boulder pile.Moss and kinnikinnick provided lush ground cover, and stands of stately aspen caught the sunlight in their white branches. They, too, will be green soon. Cairns were stacked carefully at intervals along the less-visible part of the trail. They were few enough that not seeing them didn’t mean we weren’t on the right trail, but seeing them suggested that we were. I’m not going to attempt to provide any sense of direction for this hike, or what trails to take, other than to say that the trailhead is at the Wrinkled Rock climbing area, the segment of the trail we did was only about 3.5 or 4 miles round trip, and the right direction is up. If you can go higher, you’re not there yet. It is an exhilarating chore to get to the top. A fair amount of elevation gain is packed into a relatively short hike. The last 20 or so minutes to the top is nothing short of a rough scramble, finding foot and hand holds on steep rock faces, squirming up narrow and deep crevasses. I’ve never been much for scrambling. Perhaps I’ve taken too many falls on level ground, and had one too many close calls on the ladder up to our loft bedroom. Clumsiness creates some paranoia. But I have to say, it was great fun. And the views from the top were unbelievably beautiful.
We didn’t linger at the top, since a freezing gale was blowing up there and we’d left the warmth a few levels down. We admired the views, signed the register, snapped some pictures, and scrambled and slid back down the way we had come. The sun was just getting low when we got back to the trailhead. A great afternoon hike. The perfect hike to kick off the spring hiking season!
Just behind our cabin and against an old gate grows a stand of slender aspen trees. No one knows why Grandpa planted them against the gate, but that’s where he planted them, and that’s where they’re flourishing. They’re placed just so, so that when seen from the cabin in the morning hours in the summer, the leaves glow and flicker and glint like little green flames. And in the spring when their catkins are blooming, when the morning sunlight catches in the little hairs in just the right way, the aspens and their grey and pink catkins become a pale cloud of silvery, shimmering lights. The effect is breathtaking, startling, and a slightest change in the light breaks the spell.
How often that is the case! Something of exquisite beauty cuts us to the soul, and fades as quickly as it appeared. I think that is part of God’s goodness, to show us glimpses of breathtaking beauty, but then, as if to remind us that we aren’t meant for this world, He leaves us with the only memory of it and a desire for more. Perhaps that is one reason I love photography – I can try to capture that memory and hold it dear a little longer, a little nearer, and remember it a little clearer. What delight!
During and after the Legion Lake Fire, a lot of tears were shed (figuratively and literally) over the devastation wreaked upon the beautiful landscape of Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. Of course wildfire is devastating, and it is terrible and terrifying when it threatens human habitation, but it is a natural process necessary to the health of the wilderness ecosystem. No, the landscape will not be the same. Yes, it will be changed. Yes, the land will bear the scars of that devastation for years to come. And this picture is glorious proof of the renewal that comes from that same devastation, mere months after the fact.
It is a uniquely human desire for things to “never change.” What is there in this life that “never changes?” Nothing. Change is a good thing. Yet we cling to the familiar, and instinctively react to change as if it was an evil, when in reality that change, though painful, may be God’s way of strengthening us, renewing us, shaping us, and making us more like His Son.
The black is greening up. And one thing is certain…the buffalo and other critters eating that tender, young grass are definitely not complaining. So drive through the Parks and make mental note, and then drive them again later this spring, and summer, and next year. God has equipped them to be renewed. So in a strange, haunting way, even the burned areas are beautiful.
It is that time of year again! I love the hunt for wildflowers, seeing my “old friends” and meeting new ones. Desert biscuitroot is an old acquaintance. We weren’t quite friends, since I had to look him up in my field guide.
Check out my new gallery of pasqueflower photos!
I’ve been taking pictures of pasques for a few years now, so I decided it was a good time (with a winter storm flurrying outside) to compile a gallery of my favorites from over the years. Enjoy!