Alarm buzzes. Groggy eyes only opened by force. Sunlight creeps in, the time has come.
Bags packed, barely zipped. Awake enough to realize this cycle will repeat in twenty-four hours. Getting up for anything, much less a vacation, is a chore in itself.
Going to a hotel and waiting a whole day before beginning a journey, is rough. As the cool, crisp air struck my nostrils, my lungs rejoiced. Far too long have they had to deal with the extreme moisture of my native East Coast atmosphere.
They were now feeling the effects of freedom, a type of oxygen not known to them; South Dakota Air. From the first step out of the airport, it felt like the first step into Utopia. Silence, gentle breezes, just the right amount of sunlight, and smiles on each passing face; the scene was already set.
This place was like nothing my Mom and I had ever gazed upon. Each turn in our travel vessel (a Nissan Maxima in this case) brought new scenery; new grasses, stores, animals, life. Our first day’s journey was to Wyoming to view Devil’s Tower.
This ‘big rock’ rises out of the ground like an ingrown tooth, protruding the Earth’s surface in an astonishing way. This site is the nation’s first National Monument, designated by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, and what a choice he made! Although Devil’s Tower looks like a tooth, it is actually a core of a dormant volcano. Many Native Americans believe the Tower rose from the Earth to protect three little girls from being attacked by a giant bear, an interesting take of an unexplainable happening of that time.
On the drive to the Tower, my Mom and I encountered something we had only seen on Animal Planet; prairie dogs! Burrows were all along the road. Their entry ways for the intricate underground highways they dig to hide from dangers, such as hawks, were within plain view of the roadside. These tiny creatures took my interest right away.
One of them was chirping a danger call. Me, the giant human figure, being the ‘danger’. This brave soul let me approach him for just enough time to snap a photo that still remains one of the favorites in my collection.
Getting down on your knees and almost being eye level with a wild animal is truly a magical experience. These creatures welcome, some of the time, humans into their home and do not attack. The prairie dogs gave me a chance to experience something not many people will ever get the opportunity to see, and what a phenomenal sight it was. Throughout the Wild Life Loop in Custer State Park, South Dakota, there was another creature I will never forget. An animal so massive in size, it could only be seen as magnificent. This creature, as I have called him, is Aslan. He was sleeping along side the road as our Nissan vessel crept up stealthily. Once we approached him, his head rose as he awoke from his slumber. The clouds slid over the sun, casting a shadow over the valley, and the place in which he rested was illuminated. Through the lens is where this life-changing moment happened. As his head swung up, his eyes met mine, and time stopped. Those eyes told me something I will never be able to understand, only feel within my soul. No matter where I go, I feel as though he is accompanying me; guiding me. Never would I have imagined an animal could change my outlook on everything in just one flash of its eyes. I am thankful for this wise thirteen year-old buffalo. Aslan , we will meet again.
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