The next tribe along the Great Plains Trail is the Cheyenne. I would like to relate a personal story about a place the Cheyenne believe is sacred.
This past summer I had the opportunity to hike Bear Butte in South Dakota. Bear Butte is a solitary mountain, and the main feature in Bear Butte State Park. It sits on the northern end of the Black Hills like an island sits off the coast of a continent. It is one of my favorite spots in all of the Great Plains, and it is also a sacred spot for the Cheyenne.
This was only the second time I had actually hiked the mountain. The first time being some 17 years earlier on a solo trip to a friend’s wedding in Aberdeen, SD. This time, I was again on the road, and I was racing west as the sun lowered in the sky. I wanted to have enough daylight to hike the mountain, but I knew I was going to be cutting it close.
I parked the car, quickly filled a water bottle, and began hiking up the trail. Almost immediately I was energized, and felt as though I was 17 years younger. As the sun approached the western horizon, I hustled up the mountain, almost running at times. I was feeling as good as I ever have while hiking. There is something about this place that gives, rather than saps energy.
The sun set while I was on the summit which provides an outstanding view of some of the most interesting topography the Great Plains has to offer. As I looked to the North and to the South from the summit, I began to really imagine a trail linking the two distant horizons and beyond. It was the first time that I began to really think of the Great Plains Trail as a reality, and not just an idea.
This vision has spurred me on since that day, and the more progress is made on the trail, the more the vision comes true. Just like the Cheyenne, I believe Bear Butte really is a sacred place. On the Great Plains Trail, I will include the trail to the summit as a spur trail off the main trail. It’s important to see from the top just where you’ve been, as well as to get a sense of where you’re going.