Over Memorial Weekend I had the honor of being part of a couple of my favorite peoples life memory. My best friend asked me a couple months back if I could help him with a surprise proposal to his girlfriend. We discussed the ideas he had and what he needed me to help with. Two things he asked for: 1: a beautiful view on top of a mountain. 2: if possible a little off trail away from people. Coincidence he asked his best friend who is a trail runner to help with this part…I think not! 😉
We were meeting in the Black Hills of South Dakota so I already had a spot in mind. My first thought was, Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. Only problem was it’s a 7 mile round trip hike from the south side or 13 miles from the less traveled north side with connector trails. Last year in September I was here and boondocked at the trailhead on the north side. All I could remember was there being a sweet view just a couple miles below the actual lookout tower, which still marks it at roughly 10ish miles. I know what you’re thinking, he asked to be at the top of a mountain so it’s going to take some miles. True true. Quick side note there is also going to be three kids with us (Dane, Kyn, Vail), two of which are adorable little princesses. Adorable little princesses don’t hike 10 miles. Chelsey (my best friends soon to be fiancé if she says yes) made all the arrangements for where we’d be camping. Turns out the campground is literally just down the road from where I was last year! Too perfect and convenient!Off of highway 244 you see a gravel road on the south side that leads to the Norbeck Wilderness and Palmer Creek trailhead. Since Mt. Rushmore is the main destination point when driving down this highway not many people know this dirt road exists. Making it the perfect spot on a busy weekend to fulfill one of his requests.
Early morning of the day we were meeting I set out for a run to scope out the trail. The weather was like any other typical Memorial Day weekend in South Dakota, cold and raining. As I was started to run up the trail the sky became dark with a lite sprinkle. Then after about a mile and half up the lite sprinkle turned to pea sized hail with some thunder. Being electrocuted and looking like a meat grinder hit me in the face was not what I set out for so I took cover under a pine tree just off the trail. Waiting for the storm to pass I noticed a lightly worn trail through some downed trees to a bunch of large rocks. I ventured over to the area as the clouds broke…yep Jeff’s second request was fulfilled!
A quick Dirtbag shower in the trailhead parking lot, a hike with Pup and some catch up on social media it was time to go meet up with Jeff and the family. After getting the the car unloaded Jeff and I went to get “ice and firewood”, code word for talk. Not wanting Chelsey to become suspicious a proposal may happen Jeff let her pick what to do most of the weekend. The plan was to sneak in the hike the next day in between what was picked.
A tour at Jewel Cave National Monument was at the top of Chelsey’s list. Let’s be honest, I was with her all weekend, it was the only thing on her list…haha. Love you Chels! Looking at the weather report for the next day Jeff needed to get super lucky if we did the hour and half tour at 11:30am. It was suppose to rain all day after 1pm.A hearty all you can eat pancake and bacon breakfast started our big day before we headed to Jewel Cave. Tickets were only given in person the day of so we aimed to be an hour early before the 11:30 tour time. As we drove to the cave the suspense was killing me! We should be hiking right now! The sky was blue and the temperature was perfect. This is the moment you insert the lucky golden horse shoe into Jeff’s rear defrost (censored)! The tours were all sold out for the day! Plus the weather forecast changed to dang near perfect all day.
It was time to convince the adorable princesses to go on a short hike. Included in the princess category was now Chelsey since the cave was a no go for the day. Needless to say with a little bribery the kids were all for going on a hike. Chelsey not so much because I think she knew she’d: A: being carrying a princess or B: carrying rocks that the princesses collected. For the sake of a longer story she was right about both.It was only a mile and half up I swear but man did it feel like it took forever. Being a trail runner I didn’t account for just hiking up the climb. The youngest was getting tired but we were so close with just a couple more switchbacks. We all took a break in the shade for a minute when I said “Dane and I are going to trail run a bit.” This was my hopes to entice them to continue. It worked when Dane and I finally got to the spot where he yelled from the top, “OH MAN YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS VIEW!”
Jeff nodded his head in approval as he approached the rock formation and caught a glimpse of the view. He whispered to me that the spot was going to be where Chelsey picked for a family picture. Then I would tell her to turn around because I have a cool picture idea with the kids. She picked a spot and I repeated my said lines. With Chelsey turned around I pulled out four little decorative chalkboards from my bag. You could tell the nerves were setting in as Jeff shook the liquid chalk marker a little to hard causing it run as we wrote the four words he was about to say to the love of his life. To buy time, I was rambling words about the clouds and lighting trying to not let on what was about to happen. My act meant nothing, I could hear the tears she was holding back.With the three kids arranged Jeff asked Chelsey to turn around. With tears in her eyes the four of them stood there holding the nerve drawn chalkboards reading: Will U Marry Me. Then on bending knee, he express his love with what I am sure were rehearsed and unrehearsed words, then asked will you marry me?
You could feel the love overflowing the mountain top when she said yes and Jeff slid the ring on her finger. Some of their friends might say it’s been a long time coming but I say it was the perfect time. The hail storm to point me to the spot. The tour being sold out. These are just a couple of the things I shared that prove the path was meant to happen when it did.
I have been all over this country searching for the meaning of life. Wondering if there’s an answer to true happiness. The one thing I have learned is we never figure life out. We do however have the power to create our own happiness. Who we choose to let into our life’s. How we decided to live our life’s day to day. It’s that simple.Congratulations Jeff and Chelsey! Can’t wait to be a part of the next step in the rest your life’s!