Spring Again

Another spring is here – for real, this time. We may get some more snow (likely, actually), but when the pasques are out, spring is really, really here.
IMG_8177eI found these on a little trail in Rapid City just before a piano lesson last week. What a lovely find! There are a few other wildflowers I really get excited about, but pasques are particularly special. They mark the end of a long winter, and the beginning of beautiful weather and the promise of more living, blooming things, and of vivid, rambunctious color coming back to the landscape!


Footsore and Fancy Free

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”

~Robert Louis Stevenson

Two parts of an adventure are the best. The beginning, when I’m fresh and excited. And the end, when I’m exhausted and delighted. There’s all the good stuff in the middle, too, of course. But the anticipation and reflection are the really, really good stuff.IMG_8553eThere’s almost nothing I love better than setting out on an old two-track or faded foot path, or leaving the trail altogether and just wandering. I love the mystery of what lies around that next bend, or over that next hill, or through that stand of trees. So much of our life is mechanically predictable, or we attempt to make it that way. Society tells us to make it that way. We try to set our routine, to know what we’re doing and where we’re going. We like being in control, being efficient, being safe. We like predictable. And that’s good for the functioning of society, and good for making the most efficient use of one’s time. But sometimes it drives me absolutely crazy. Because sometimes I just want to not know what will happen.

Because there is that part of the heart that longs for adventure, newness, and a little bit of risk. There is that hunger for not knowing, for the thrill of the unknown delight. When a person sets out on an adventure, as much as we might think we know how it will go and what will happen, we don’t know. We are taking a risk, however small, in that beyond that next bend, what is there is utterly unknown to us.

Ah, yes. Those first steps of an adventure are glorious. IMG_8716eAnd then there’s the end of the trail. All the beauty and exhilaration still rings in my mind. I’m sweat-soaked, tired, and footsore. I’ve seen what was around that corner, I’ve looked over that hilltop, I’ve gazed into the valley, stared hard at wildflowers, and watched the sunlight filter through the trees. I’ve felt the heat, breathed deep of the clean air, and basked in the cool damp under the trees. I’ve tasted of the goodness of Creation.   IMG_8630eI’ve listened to the quiet, which is the hush and song of nothing…and everything. The untouched landscape is matchless in beauty. And sometimes it is those tiny delights that are the best: the reflection of the sunlit trees in a puddle, or a glowing flower, or the lights and shadows in that certain place where the hills meet just so, or where the trail bends out of sight. IMG_8583eI’m forever thankful to live in a place where God’s beauty and glory and creative might are so evident, and so easily evident. I don’t have to hunt for them. His marvels aren’t covered over with concrete, or constantly interrupted by power lines and apartments and shopping centers. All I have to do is to look, to gaze with eyes desiring to see.  When I see so much beauty and my heart is stirred, it is as if Jesus is saying softly, “Remember me, I’m here.” May my heart never harden to His attributes seen so clearly in His Creation. May they never become commonplace, but always mysterious and wonderful.IMG_8693eThe new trail, the new peak, or something as small as that new wildflower….or the familiar trail, familiar peak, or familiar wildflower….those are delights that speak to my soul. I want to feel deeply, to ache with the beauty of God’s Creation. I want to sweat, to be sore and tired and renewed.

In short, there’s nothing quite like being footsore and fancy free.







Hiking | Bear Mountain

Bear Mountain is the third highest point in the Black Hills, at an elevation of 7166 feet, boasting a manned fire lookout tower and lovely views of the Hills. Hiking distance is roughly 5 miles round trip – I think we clocked in just a little under 5 miles, and about 2 1/2 hours: an hour and a half up, and an hour back down. And yes, it is up the entire way, with very little on the level, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, be forewarned. That said, until the last half mile or mile, it is mostly a pretty easy grade, just enough to make a relatively short hike a good workout.
IMG_8555eIMG_8562eThe trail winds through pine and birch forest, through a few gorgeous open meadows, and exposed hillsides allowed for wonderful views of the northern Hills. Everything was lushly adorned with summer flowers. Wood lilies, wild roses, lupine, blanket flower, harebells, and showy deathcamas were only a few of the jewels to be found on the mountain. Definitely a great area for wildflower hunting and identification.IMG_8601eIMG_8607eIMG_8590eAll the moisture we’ve had made for some muddy hiking, and a little ephemeral spring turned part of the trail into a trickling creek. Absolutely beautiful.IMG_8558eThe forest was dense and heavily shaded but without the sickly feeling of certain other areas in the Hills – it felt vibrant and alive, like a forest out of Narnia or Middle Earth. The rich understory grew greenly beneath the heavy canopy. The moisture in the air felt good, and I reveled in the satisfying feeling of sweat trickling from my forehead. We certainly worked up a sweat on this hike. And then the views from the top! I had hoped there’d be a ranger on duty so we could go up into the tower, but we didn’t get to the top until about 7pm, and there is only someone there to meet visitors until 4pm. I will make sure to consider that next time we hike to the top. Either way, though, the views were breathtaking. IMG_8641eIMG_8663The slant of the light as we neared and came into golden hour made for some wonderful wildflower and landscape photographs. I’ve officially changed my stance on when during the day the hiking should begin. I used to think it was a good idea to get an early start to enjoy some cool weather while hiking. I’ve recanted on that position. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best plan for a hike is starting in the afternoon during the heat of the day and finishing as the sun goes down. Not only are the temperatures cooling, but the light is absolutely delicious, and gets better as the day wears on, rather than the other way around. Starting early, unless you start really early, you may never have particularly good light, and it will only get worse as the day wears on. Golden hour is magical. IMG_8620eBear Mountain is officially on my list of favorite hikes, and given the number of aspen trees, it would be glorious in the fall! I’m already looking forward to going back!


Botanicals | Stiffstem Flax

Linum rigidum, or yellow or stiffstem flax, took its rank as a new favorite. Flowers that I rarely see often are the ones to qualify as favorites. It is clearly a relative of its more prolific cousin, wild blue flax, which has long been a favorite of mine – I love how the sunlight lights up the petals along the roadways, turning each blossom into a little blue glimmer on a sunny day. Yellow flax is not nearly as showy, almost disappearing among the array of other bolder yellow flowers this time of year, which is part of what made it so fun to find.
IMG_7582eCreation is so beautifully marked by patterns of similarity and differences. Evidence of a Creative Design behind all of this world.

Botanicals | Breadroot Scurfpea

Pediomelum escelentum, or breadroot scurfpea, is one of those understated and overlooked flowers. The drab green-grey petals and the drab lilac-colored petals are sure easy to miss. But even with its drabness, there is a beauty about it.
IMG_7595eNot all of God’s creation is stunning in its aesthetic. But the uniqueness alone points to a creative God.

Botanicals | Sego Lily

This was a delightful find. I haven’t seen a sego lily in two years, I believe, and was thrilled a couple of afternoons ago to find that one of our meadows was scattered with them. I went back this afternoon to get pictures of these beautiful, strange flowers. Calochorus nuttallii, the sego lily, is one of two very similar species of lily, the other being the Gunnison’s mariposa lily, calochortus gunnissonii.    “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Matthew 6:27-29