By: Nathan Hunnicutt
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is the wilderness or the small towns and cities or the scenery we have seen on the road worth? So many things could be said about the past week, so many great memories that I will never forget. I have learned more in the last week about national parks and the Lakota People than I have ever learned in my life time. I mean what is there to say… This has been labelled as our transition week, the time between our NOLS experience and our Service Projects. During this time we have received our syllabus, visited and seen several views, sights, and monuments. I have met interesting people that I would have never imagined meeting in my entire life.
One of the most memorable events for me, this past week has got to be Bear Butte. It is not just a state park and a mountain that sits in South Dakota, it is a sacred place to the Lakota People. On top of the mountain, the Lakota People will spend 4 days and 4 nights without food nor water as a part of their religious practice. It is a place of prayer, a place to connect with Mother Nature. As we began hiking the trail I decided that I wanted to get to the highest peak because the place that makes me feel the most at home is the wilderness. Ascending and descending mountains is where I feel most at ease, I grew up climbing mountains with my family. It is as though the wilderness is my home and I am about to step in to a whole new world of adventure that I have never seen before. As I got farther and farther up the mountain every step had more emotion driven into it. My breath got heavier and my determination began to kick in. At the same time, there was a sense of urgency due to the time restraint we had. Higher and higher I went, and as the end was in sight I started to run. I don’t know why, I just did. It was as though something inside me switched on and told me to “finish this”, to complete what I started. Why push yourself so far and not finish it? At the top of the mountain, I picked my head up and turned around. I could retrace my steps all the way back to the start, back to my family, back to my house, my childhood, my home. And as I did so I fell to my knees.