Go Take a Hike

There was no playing of the National Anthem that morning. No start gun either. As long as participants were on the 6.2 mile Volksmarch course by one o’clock in the afternoon, they would be allowed to participate—quite a change from previous events at which participants gathered in the predawn darkness for events (walks and runs) scheduled for 6:30 a.m. or thereabouts. 

Arriving at the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota around ten o’clock, we parked in a huge parking lot with hundreds of other vehicles and boarded a bus that took us to the registration area. The entertaining driver turned to the passengers and delivered a special message from the Volksmarch officials: “Go take a hike.” 

Registration was easy, peasy—name, address, phone number. After completing the forms, we walked over to a long table where several people stood ready to take our entry fee: three cans of food from each person. After plunking down the cans of soup, black beans, and corn, we walked to the other side of the registration table and started walking. 

I immediately fell under the spell of the woods. So did my husband. The sun dappled path, the birdsong, and the sight and sound of the walkers in front of me set a magical tone for the entire walk. Despite there being hundreds of people around me at any given time, I could still hear occasional rustlings in and below the trees. The aspens were a spectacular sight—tall and strait with feathery green leaves and white bark. The terrain was rough in some places—and hilly and slippery. We were glad we’d worn sensible shoes.

Our co-walkers were of all shapes and sizes and ages. Some were in family groups. Others, especially those intent on speed, were more likely to go it alone. I wish I could say there were several racial and ethnic groups represented, but that wasn’t the case. I saw only two Native Americans, a father and son, during our two hours on the course; the rest were overwhelmingly Caucasian…alas. I later learned that there’s still a lot of controversy about the monument.  Some Lakota consider it a pollution to the landscape.

My understanding is that some Native Americans were disturbed by the carvings of four white men at Mount Rushmore. Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief, approached Korczak Ziolkowski about creating a Crazy Horse sculpture. “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too,” Henry Standing Bear said. Work on the sculpture began in 1948 and continues today. On June 1, we met one of Ziolkowski’s sons who was eight years old when his father began the project. 

In past walking and running events, an unspoken protocol dictated that participants move to the side if tired—and stay in motion and out of the way of others. The June 1 event was different. People stopped to take pics, climb on rocks, recline on rocks, eat snacks, compare notes, drink water, and laugh and talk. No pressure except to relish the time spent on the beautiful wooded trails leading to and from Chief Crazy Horse’s monument. And speaking of the monument, Crazy Horse’s head is eighty-seven feet high. Pretty impressive. 

As I reflect on the Volksmarch, I think of the beauty of the area (mentioned above) and the people who made the journey with us. 

  • Some seemed eager to share their experiences of past Volksmarches and vowed that it was addictive. Hmmm. We’ll see. 
  • Just about everyone was in high spirits. Once I leaned over to take a reflective photograph in a roadside creek loud with chirping frogs, and a man wearing a red shirt and shorts and sporting a long gray ponytail said, “Watch out for that snake!” as he walked by, laughing as I jumped.
  • We saw a man taking photo of four women, everyone laughing and talking. I volunteered to take a picture of all of them, and he told me that was his harem. Someone told him to get in the photo since it was after all his birthday. Then someone from the group took a photo of us. It’s my fav from the day.

Once we reached the top of the memorial and looked Crazy Horse in the eye, I looked around at the others who’d made the trek with us, and though we’d likely never meet again, we shared some shining moments that morning. The struggle was real but rewarding, too. The people, including Crazy Horse, made the experience awesome.

There’s another Volksmarch in late September…. 

OBX Marathon Weekend

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Thoughts of last year’s OBX Marathon and Half Marathon sent me to my Shutterfly book of photographs and text that I put together afterwards. The above picture was taken at Jockey Ridge, the largest sand dune on the east coast, and is on the cover of the book. I’m lifting the words below from the last page, hoping to get my family and friends energized and motivated for next year.

What an awesome day. I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe November 11, the day of the OBX Half Marathon.

From the moment I heard “God Bless America” at the start until I watched my brother Mike and his wife Lisa dance in Big Als’s afterwards, sights and experiences too many to describe took place. A second cousin, Emily, also participated in the event. Wait, no, she did more than participate. She ran like the wind. John David, my nephew managed to whiz by her at some point, and my brothers weren’t too far behind. Me? I walked along like an automaton, pausing long enough to take some pictures.

Along the way, I saw some interesting sights. There were women of all ages wearing tutus and colorful skirts, and I thought, “Maybe next near for the skirt, not the tutu.” As I reached the top of the bridge leaving Nag’s Head, I passed an older man in a wheelchair giving it all he had. Loved his indomitable spirit! I also saw and appreciated hundreds of people along the route who gave water, Gatorade, and plain old encouragement.

In Manteo, we reconvened for some photo ops, including one inside of a ship in the harbor. We then headed to Big Al’s for lunch, something that’s become a tradition. The sweet potato fires and the ambience keep bringing us back. Mike and Lisa danced on the dance floor, but Chris, Becky, and I confined our dancing to table dancing…or as Chris called it, “Shoulder dancing.” We also sang along to a couple of songs on the juke box before going to back to Big Bird, the house we had rented, for some R & R. Later, four of us walked down to Jennette’s Pier before going to see Argo.

Monday morning we all arose early to have breakfast at The Dunes before parting company, a delicious way to say farewell.

Put November 9, 2014 on your calendars, Y’all (appropriate for a Southerner to say). It’d be great to have more family and friends there next year.