Supplemental Thoughts on Camping

I made it. From summers of staying home to work to a summer full of camping. Not that summer is over, but I feel triumphant because I made it past the 17-day long stint. It was hard some days—mentally hard, that is—but it was worth it. I’m glad it’s over, but I’m glad I did it.

Bismark Lake, South Dakota
Bismark Lake, South Dakota

We spent 15 days at a primitive Forest Service campground at Bismarck (aka Bismark) Lake in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Signs around the place have the word spelled both ways so I’m not sure which is correct. Someone should research that and find out, then correct the incorrect signs. Anyway, it’s lovely there and the camp sites are large and spaced out. We lived in Hubby’s folks’ motorhome so that his mother could come along with us. For 41 years, my in-laws camped at Bismarck Lake in the summer. This year was 42 for her. We weren’t sure if it would be hard for her because it would bring back too many memories, but she really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the place. I’m so glad she went along. The campfires were a little lonely at nights without my father-in-law there, but we had visitors that helped make for a jolly time.

Bison on the prairie in Custer State Park
Bison on the prairie in Custer State Park

Bismarck Lake is only a few miles from Custer, South Dakota, where we lived for 8 years so we have friends and family in the area. Several of them stopped by and shared our campfire for some good visits and a few s’mores. There’s something about sitting around a campfire that brings families and friends together. Laughter is easy and stories flow. Maybe we are drawn closer by the light of the fire that shows our faces and the darkness behind us hides everything else out in the world. For just a little while, we live in our own little sphere, protected from our other troubles by the golden glow of firelight. We watched the fire as it burned into embers that writhed and squirmed like they were living. You can see different shapes and image stories while staring into fire embers as they flicker on and off and change. It’s mesmerizing.

Museum at Crazy Horse Memorial
Museum at Crazy Horse Memorial

We didn’t spend every minute at the campsite. Too many restaurants, stores, and beautiful scenery were nearby to stay in camp all the time. We drove on the wildlife loop road and saw bison, antelope, deer, and wild burros. We went to the Crazy Horse mountain carving and enjoyed Indian tacos. They have a fabulous art museum, history museum, and gift shop. Hubby and I also visited the Journey museum in Rapid City. We took the Needles Highway Scenic Loop and saw the Needles Eye and Cathedral rock formations. So many trees have been killed by mountain pine beetle that it was shocking, but the views have improved. With the trees gone, you can clearly see the rocks and hills. Hubby and I bicycled on the Mickelson Trail a couple of days and my mother-in-law picked us up. So nice to bicycle one-way (especially downhill) and know that you have a ride back. We spent one evening celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of Hubby’s aunt and uncle. His uncle wore a shirt that said “The first 50 years of marriage are the hardest.” The aunt bought it for him so it wasn’t clear who the quote was from.

Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills of South Dakota
Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills of South Dakota

The best part of primitive camping is the night sky. There is no electricity so there is little light pollution. The countless stars shone across the sky and the Milky Way. What a beautiful sight! It had been a long time since I’d seen so many stars. And falling stars. I saw a few of those too. One night there was supposed to be a meteor shower, but there must have been a meteor drought because I only saw two.

Standing under the star-filled night sky, you realize how small you are in the universe. A pinprick. If that. It makes me think of how in Psalms, the question is asked “Who is man? That Thou art mindful of him?” And I have to ask, who am I, that God is mindful of me? I open my arms to the heavens and say “Thank you!”

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