Heading out on a Sunday morning to a place I had only heard about from a friend, I didn’t know what to expect or what I may encounter when I finally got to Bear Butte. I saw the mountain off in the distance and knew it was Bear Butte even before I arrived. It stood majestically above the ground, buffalo were grazing around the base and near the entrance. I had to stop the car a moment to catch my breath at the beauty of it all.
Parking the car, I entered the visitor’s center and walked around a bit, reading pamphlets and admiring the various articles on display. I still was not prepared for what I would see when I decided I would take the chance and do the 2-mile hike that ascends 1000 feet to the summit of Bear Butte.
After my short lesson in the visitor’s center, I returned to my car to grab my camera, walking stick, and change into my hiking boots. Taking a deep breath, or as deep as I could since I was sick, I gazed up the trail lined with prayer ties and allowed myself to peer into the bright sunlight at the mountain summit some 4,426 foot above.
The pathway was a bit treacherous in some areas and there were times when I thought I needed to turn back, especially after the last little “hut” that allowed shade and a place to sit and rest. There was one point about half-way up when I was questioning my decision to hike a mountain when I came upon a tree with a low hanging branch lined with various colored prayer ties.
I dropped to the path, sweat beading on my face, breaths coming out short, and allowed the prayer ties to shade me from the sweltering sun. Closing my eyes, I kept repeating to myself that I could make this climb…2 miles wasn’t that far…and I really felt like I needed to reach the top for some reason. Before all these thoughts could tumble through my mind, a slight breeze began to blow….cool, soothing, and indeed a relief.After sitting a few minutes and allowing the breeze to bathe me, I decided to continue my journey. Along the way, I thought about all the prayer ties I saw. It truly was a beautiful site and out of respect for the people who left them and what they symbolize, I refrained from photographing them.
I heard various bugs, a few snakes warning rattle, and birds on my upward trek. The breeze sang through the ties that hung among the mountainside. The path became more treacherous closer to the summit, but I finally reached the top.
Words cannot describe what I felt once I was there. I fell to my knees and cried for what seemed an eternity. I don’t even know why I cried, maybe it was from exhaustion, maybe it was from being sick, maybe it was that I had actually made it, maybe it was the thought of all those who had been before me and those that will come after me, maybe it was the mountain’s power flowing through me…or the Great Spirit’s, maybe it was all of those things. Whatever the reason, I laid back, staring at the cloudless blue above me, and let it flow.
I stayed up on top a while, exploring and just feeling what was around me. I admired the view and tried to make a few photographs of the area without getting the prayer ties in them.
The trip down wasn’t nearly as difficult as the trip up and I had a difficult time leaving. I really wanted to stay atop that mountain for a day or two, or longer.
I am so thankful this mountain is protected and I can certainly understand why Bear Butte is considered a sacred place, a gift from the Creator. I cannot say what all happened during my hike on this mountain. That’s between me and the Creator, but I can say I definitely will go back again before I leave this area.