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Ah, our final day in Rapid City. Initially, this was supposed to be the day that we began our voyage home, but we decided to stretch our stay out a little longer. We weren’t quite ready to return to “normal” life yet, and since we didn’t know when we would be in the Black Hills again, we figured we ought to spend another day.
We had spent the previous days in the Southern Black Hills, but on this day we turned toward the North. We planned to start our day at Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary, located about twenty miles North of Rochford and twenty miles South of Lead. This was the only drive on our trip in which we got lost. The GPS gave us a bad route and with no cell reception we had to map it manually on the fly, which I actually enjoyed it. Getting a little turned around provided a valuable lesson; I won’t rely so heavily on my phone for directions anymore. I’m not saying I won’t ever use it, but in this case we’d have been better off with a paper map. In the future, traditional maps are going to play a bigger role in our travels.
The extra challenge ended up adding a little excitement to the drive, and as we went up and down hills on gravel roads, we enjoyed the scenery and laughed at our predicament. Eventually, we figured out where we actually were and made our way to the Pathways entrance.
Pathways is an interesting place; their mission is
To create a quiet, safe, sacred place open to the public free of charge where people can spend time walking, sitting, contemplating, reading, writing, reflecting or healing in the natural landscape of the sacred Black Hills and to preserve and maintain this space for all who visit, without regard to their beliefs, race, religion, culture, personal history or life experiences.
The Sanctuary lives up to its mission; the landscape blends with sculpture and meditative quotes along the path, and Clarissa and I both found ourselves feeling introspective, self-aware, and reflective as we hiked along the trail.
The trail through the Sanctuary is roughly a mile, give or take. It’s an easy walk, but it’s worth taking your time. The scenery is lovely, there is an earthy scent in the air, and the place is laid out to maximize the feeling of space; take your time and enjoy the sights (and sounds when you approach babbling brooks) and you’ll feel like you’ve hiked a lot farther than just a mile.
There are quite a few features that shine at Pathways, but I think the labyrinth might be my favorite.
The labyrinth is not the same thing as a maze. You won’t encounter false turns or dead ends, just a single path that leads steadily toward the center. Twists and turns will seem to draw you away from that goal, but it will always lead back toward the center if you keep moving forward. The labyrinth is used as a prayer or meditation tool, and versions have been found in petroglyphs and art from cultures predating written history. I can’t say why the image of the labyrinth has resonated with humans for millennia, but I can tell you that the archetype resonates with me as well.
The labyrinth at Pathways is patterned after the labyrinth at Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral. I actually visited there while traveling in France in 2001. I didn’t walk the labyrinth then; since Chartres Cathedral is a working place of worship, the nave is usually lined with chairs, and the labyrinth is only available on specific dates. Since I couldn’t take advantage of that particular labyrinth, I decided to take advantage of its younger doppelganger at Pathways.
Since I wasn’t able to get a great shot of the labyrinth, here is the layout.
Of course the Labyrinth is only one of several different features at Pathways. There are plenty of spots to relax, or meditate if you’re so inclined. There are interesting primitive architectural features-
And amazing scenery.
Like I mentioned, take your time; it’s a short walk and it would be easy to fly through it. Don’t make that mistake. Slow down and enjoy this place.
Wanting to spend a little more time in the Northern Black Hills, we left Pathways and headed Northwest toward Roughlock Falls State Park. There, Little Spearfish Creek transforms into beautiful waterfalls before flowing onward to Spearfish Falls and Spearfish Canyon. There are plenty of catwalks and viewing areas available for visitors, and if you can’t make the hike, there is parking at the crest of the waterfall, only a short distance from a viewing station… But I recommend taking the Roughlock Falls Nature Trail.
It’s not a particularly difficult hike, and it’s only a mile long, but the views along the way complement the falls themselves incredibly well. There are beautiful granite and limestone cliffs, lovely skyward views, and incredible greenery.
And that’s all before you even get to the falls.
The sound of the rushing water is sonorous, and I found myself getting lost just watching the water run down the rocks. The sight and the sounds pulled me in, and when I breathed in deeply, I could smell the cool water in the air.
There are a few levels at which you can get a view of the falls, so if you’re making your way up on foot (which I highly recommend), don’t stop when you reach the first sight of the falls. It’s an incredible view, but keep going, and you’ll be treated to a completely different perspective on the falls.
The hike back will find you following your own footsteps; there isn’t a loop, so you’ll have to go back the same way you went up. Don’t worry, it’s just as beautiful the second time. Again, the trail is only a mile, so it won’t take you very long, even if you walk at a leisurely pace, which we did.
We didn’t rack up too much mileage that day; we wanted to explore Rapid City on foot a bit that afternoon, and we knew we’d be in the car for the better part of the next two days, so we were gentle on ourselves. After Roughlock Falls, we headed back to the hotel, dropped off my day pack, and hit the town. It was a beautiful day, and there is amazing street art right around the corner from the Hotel Alex Johnson.
This is Art Alley, where the painting isn’t only legal, it’s encouraged! Behind Main Street, this alley runs a full city block in Downtown Rapid City, where tourists and locals alike can view some incredible art, and street artists can show their craft without worrying about running afoul of the law.
Art Alley is perpetually changing and shifting as artists paint over previous work. Eventually their work will be covered by another artist as well. It’s a community that welcomes new creations, new artists, and creative expression. You can read more about Art Alley here.
Another great attraction you’ll find in Rapid City is the City of Presidents project.
In 2000 the project started in order to honor the American presidency, and the privately funded sculptures are placed in such a manner to avoid political favoritism. Of course, that doesn’t meant that you can’t play favorites.
The evening didn’t end here; we went on to walk a few more miles through Rapid City, eventually ending up at a tattoo parlor where we both got tattoos of our respective home states. After our foray into ink and a little bit of pain, we stopped for a nice dinner and a few drinks before calling it a night. Our time in Rapid City, and the Black Hills, had drawn to a close. We would be leaving early the next day, headed for home with a night’s rest in Sioux Falls along the way. But there were a few stops left on the journey home, which I’ll share with you in the final installment of my Honeymooning posts, coming soon.