Monday, September 23, 2013

Wild Life of Another Kind

Not all who live the wild life have four legs.  Some are free spirits who have only two!  On Sunday afternoon we took a drive through another of our favorite areas of Custer State Park, the Needles Highway. 

The road winds through lush forests, past formations like the "Needle's Eye," and navigates narrow tunnels.

It travels along the high ridges with spectacular views of the “needles” and the rock formations known as Cathedral Spires.  These are magnificent formations, and the area is as rugged as you will find almost anywhere on the Continent.

Along with the other tourists, we were enjoying the drive and the spectacular scenery.  I confess, though, I don’t know what kind of photos you can get with a tiny camera while flying by on the back of a motorcycle!  

A short way down the road, we came around a hairpin curve and saw a group of technical climbers scaling some of the rock formations beside the road.  Although what they do looks scary to the uninitiated, it is both an art and a very precise science.  Nevertheless, no matter what their experience level, there is an element of danger involved.

I know my son, Brian, will relate to what we were seeing.  He is an accomplished technical climber, and has scaled more peaks and spires than I care to know about!  I don’t think he has climbed these “needles,” but probably many like them.

We pulled off and began watching the climbers ascend the sheer granite “fingers.”  This fellow had made it to the top and was photographing the scenery and his fellow climbers. 

He was also assisting the woman below him who was still working hr way to the top.

Then, I noticed another climber on top of a spire just to their left.  She was straddling the pillar, and it was apparent that she had not finished what she had come to do.  

I raced back to the car for the bigger camera, and with my heart in my throat, was just in time to capture her triumph as she rose to stand on the top of the spire, arms raised in a victory salute!

Even though she was hundreds of feet in the air, the acoustics of the canyon were such that we could hear her every word.  She quickly thanked her comrades for “letting me do this,” and said it was “really fun and very scary.”

We were very fortunate to be there at just that moment.  I just wish I knew her name so I could share my photos with her.  

We watched for a while longer as several other climbers worked their way up and down the spires.  

It was a distinct privilege to share this experience and we are very grateful.

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