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I first travelled to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore in August of 1998 with my wife and our then seven and five-year-old sons. We stopped off at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines for a few days before taking the long drive west to Mount Rushmore. Other attractins along the way included the Corn Palace, a small museum specializing in Native American cultures of the 19th and 18th century, Wall Drug and the Bad Lands National Park.

Fast forward to 2015 when I am traveling with my wife, sister-in-law, two tween-aged grand nephews and a niece. The sister Lenore and her three grands flew to Minneapolis from New York while my wife flew from Florida. I drove a rented mini van up from Cedar Rapids and we all took off Friday morning under the direction of Horace Greely; we went west.

This trip we did not stop at the Corn Palace nor any of the other attractions along the route but we did start laughing at the bill boards hawking the world’s most hyped tourist spot, Wall Drug. We finished our day at Wall but the highlight was our stop at the Bad Lands National Park.

There is a driving tour loop of the park that we took but the drive, while very lovely, is about as touching as watching television; not very. We got out of the car and hiked some of the difficult trails that are available. The excursion transformed our long bucolic drive followed by a long grasslands one concluding in a breath-taking rocky drive into a short and wondrous climb and hike. Seeing may be believing but doing is life transforming.

Our hike in the park started with a strenuous uphill over rock and through some loose gravel climbs. We were all huffing and puffing pretty hard after less than two hundred yards but based on our excited comments and lack of complaints each of us found the climb difficult, challenging, yet highly rewarding- a perfect metaphor for a wondrous life.

Our youngest trooper, ten-year old Owen was in high spirits and put great energy into our climbs. His twelve-year-old brother Mark is taciturn by nature but he and twin sister Nina were smiling, enjoying the view and the exertion and away we scrambled, walked, clawed and slid on our little trek.

The scramble over the rocks and up the peaks of the short pinnacles was great fun and we followed this with a leisurely mile and a half stroll along a trail that cut through the grass lands. Nina stayed with me the whole way and only lagged behind as we circled back, retracing our path along the rocky section where we had began our sojourn. She is a scrappy kid whose refusal to quit reminded me a lot of my then five-year-old son Sean’s great pleasure in scrambling over the same rocks sixteen years ago.

Seems like a lot of things go round in circles and sometimes that’s just fine.20150807_152605