Taking a rest out west

in Columnist: Samuel Krueger/Opinion by
The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Clarion, its staff or the institution. If you would like to submit a response or an opinion piece of your own, please contact clarion@bethel.edu.

Bethel is a full-time job for students. Let’s take a break.

By Samuel Krueger

What is the first thing that goes through your head when someone says “North Dakota”? Probably flat, boring plains; definitely not trees. If this is you, I have excellent news. South Dakota is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole country.

Several weeks ago, under the guise of a work trip, I went on an expedition to the Black Hills, located in southwestern South Dakota. After nine hours of driving I was fairly disenchanted with what I saw – flat grasslands for hundreds of miles in every direction. As soon as we crossed the great Missouri River, massive rolling hills tumbled across the landscape. However, that kept me entertained for all of 15 minutes. Eventually that got as boring as the flat plains of western Minnesota.

As we sailed down I-90 I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I was driving away from school. Attending Bethel is basically a full-time job. After working 40+ hours a week during the summer I couldn’t really say that I felt that well-rested going into the year. My anxiety slowly melted away as Rapid City came into view on the horizon.

20170903_131017After stopping for lunch in Rapid City and meandering through a local book fair, we decided to head into the Black Hills National Forest.

Rapid City is built on an incline that juts unexpectedly out of the flat, uniform terrain of the rest of the state. After climbing to the top of the incline, a steep decline brought us into the Black Hills. A smooth road wound around the massive granite outcroppings and the ponderosa pines, white spruce and dark mountains that give the Black Hills its name.

One can hardly call the Black Hills “hills”. In reality, they are mountains. Mount Rushmore stands proudly overlooking the small towns that dot the national forest. After arriving in Hill City, a small town in the heart of the hills, we boarded the 1880 steam train which took us on an hour long trip through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. Dozens of small deer moseyed just feet from the tracks, drinking from the crystal clear mountain streams that flow through the area. I felt like had been transported to the 1800s. Many of the old homesteads remain standing and old mineshafts are still scattered throughout the mountains.

The following day, we took horses through some of the more difficult terrain. The entire forest was tinted gold by the morning sun, and the haze made it look like it was all on fire. The trail led us through meadows that sit coddled between the enormous gray peaks. About midday we transitioned to a side-by-side four wheeler. For more than 70 miles we barreled through the trails, stopping occasionally to take a picture here and there. Trophy rainbow trout could be seen in small ponds along the trail, taunting me, as if they knew I did not bring my fishing pole on the journey. Grouse and pheasants flew overhead as we explored the hidden valleys and gulleys that web across the forest.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. We stopped for dinner at Mount Rushmore and laughed as the mountain goats blocked tourists from entering the parking garage. After making a few jokes about how the government doesn’t know how to make decent buffalo stew, I saw the sun begin to set beyond the crest of the monument. Looking at the faces of four of my favorite presidents, I wondered why I ever thought South Dakota was boring.

When I decided to go on the trip, I felt a little guilty for needing a vacation only one week into classes. After the first day I was already anxious for my Latin final. However, the break reminded me of a very important lesson that I often forget. Making time for yourself – whether it is to be with friends, to engage with your adventurous side or to just stay present – is necessary for success. Even though spending a few days in the Black Hills may have been physically exhausting, I came back with a rested soul.

So as the semester ramps up, quizzes get more difficult and midterms approach, make sure to take some time to enjoy life as it stands before you miss it altogether.

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