Things have slowed down quite a bit on campus. The Rising Eagle Day Camp culminated and the free lunch program for the community has also came to an end to give our staff a short break before the students return to campus on August 14.
Several students are staying on campus in our Summer Break Home. They recently spent a few days in Omaha, Nebraska. I will make sure to give a report on what they saw and did in my blog next week.
The most popular activity at this year’s summer camp was a slip-n-slide ‘waterslide’! A tarp was placed on a hill with a hose at the top, allowing the kids to slip and slide all the way to the bottom of the hill! Everyone enjoyed it immensely.
About a week or so ago, the Chamberlain Cubs High School varsity basketball team sponsored a clinic to help future NBA prospects perfect their game. Several of the young men from the Break Home took advantage of the opportunity, going to the gym each morning to hone their skills. They seemed to have a lot of fun and we’ll see if the extra training bears fruit when the basketball season opens in November.
We experienced two of South Dakota’s best known mountains today. One must see is, of course, Mount Rushmore, where we took our German exchange students for the essential photo ops. While their command of English is quite good, they were pleased to find a good selection of the monument’s brochures in German, which made it nice for souvenirs for friends and family back home. Besides the famous faces, our students took almost as many pictures of the stray mountain goat that wandered into the parking lot.
I’ve been to Mount Rushmore many many times. Seeing it through the eyes of visitors for the first time helps make it a magical and inspirational place.
In contrast with Mount Rushmore’s huge gifts store, cafeteria and all the amenities, Harney Peak is in the Black Elk wilderness area, accessible only by a long hike. We carried water and snacks in our back packs. Atop the 7,400 foot peak, the highest point east of the Rockies, stands a fire watch tower. It was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Core, and staffed until the early 80’s. From the peak you can see about 50 miles in every direction. Spectacular! The Lakota holy man Black Elk spoke of his vision quest in this very area.
The hike was strenuous, with about a thousand foot climb up 3 miles of trail. For me coming back down was harder in spots than going up. The loop took us about four hours. We staggered our group of 18, and let everyone go at their own pace. We had a bus key at the end in case anyone got tired, but I was most impressed that everyone completed the pilgrimage.
I couldn’t keep up with most of the high school students. When they reached the top some still had energy to burn and explored the rocks and ledges surrounding the peak. I had some time with hiking companions, but more time alone, and that time was prayerful and meditative. When the going got tough, I thought of what it must have been like for Jesus to carry his cross along a rocky road, in far more difficult circumstances. I also remembered the people I’ve climbed the trail with in previous years, and lifted them up in prayer.
When we got back to Rapid City, we finished the evening at a buffet restaurant, where the tired but satisfied group refueled and recounted their adventures along the trail. Tomorrow I’ll head back to Chamberlain, while the group heads further west to experience Devil’s Tower.
Yesterday my family was off to Mitchell, South Dakota to see the World’s Only Corn Palace, a site visitors of our area often stop to visit. I spent a day in the office, with no excitement and lots of paperwork, but such is the life of an administrator.
Today we traveled West to see two of South Dakota’s most memorable sights, the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. Parts of the Badlands look like sand castles built by giants. Abundant moisture has made the fields and mesa tops a brilliant green, further highlighting the layered earth tone colors of the exposed soil. We stopped at many of the scenic pull offs to explore the unique landscape.
At the end of the scenic Badlands Loop is Wall Drug. After seeing literally hundreds of signs along the way, my niece had to experience it for herself. We quenched our thirst with the free ice water and took home the free (one per family) bumper sticker to further spread the word. John climbed up on the same giant jackalope statue he rode on as a kid 34 years ago when we visited as a family, and I sent the picture on to the rest of my brothers and sisters.
I’ve been to Mount Rushmore many times. It’s a joy to be with someone experiencing it for the first time. When I visit National Parks, I’m always impressed by the knowledge of the Rangers. On the tour we took, besides learning a lot about the four presidents, there was a good overview of Lakota (Sioux) culture and the land disputes over the Black Hills that are still unresolved.
With lots of homes on trips this weekend, we had a small crowd in church. Our kids do enjoy getting a different experience of church when they’re on the road. Fr. Anthony had to remind a few of the kids who made first communion last week that it was OK for them to receive again today.
The Ambrose Home (1st – 3rd boys) had more adventure than they bargained for. They went to the Sioux Falls zoo yesterday and while in town had a belt start smoking and melt on the engine. They had an unintended overnight stay in town and one of the other Houseparents had to make the 4 hour round trip to pick them up today. Our own maintenance staff does keep an eye on all the vehicles, but even with the best plans, we have to deal with such problems.
I checked on the Summerlee Home (4th-5th Girls ) and asked them about their favorite part of their trip. I got many different answers – Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave, the water slide at the hotel, shopping at the mall, dinner at the Golden Corral … something for everyone. When they pulled into a truck stop for gas, one of the girls worried that they couldn’t gas up there since they were not in a truck. Our kids learn new things every time they travel.
We gathered in a circle for night prayers, and then they headed off for a good night’s rest for the start of a new school week.