October 14, 2012

Trail of the Spirits

Entrance to Sica Hollow, State Park
It's that time of year again...if we were still living in South Dakota we would be making our annual family pilgrimage to Sica Hollow, located in the northeastern part of the state near the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Reservation.  Every year my parents would round up all the siblings and our families and caravan to this spirit-filled state park for an October family reunion.  We'd bring a picnic of fried chicken and hike the trails, ending with a beautiful fall drive to a nearby apple orchard where Mother and Dad would buy all of us bushels of apples.  I always had pie dough waiting in the refrigerator at home so we could have a fresh apple pie that evening!  

We would hike along the Trail of the Spirits, so named because of the eerie legends of the place.  The Native Americans named the hollow 'sica' (evil) because of the horrific stories that were passed down about its dark and damp ravines.  Even today, natural occurrences like glowing swamp gasses and tree stumps fuel the mysterious atmosphere.  The Dakota Sioux told a creation and vengeance story about this area, and claimed mythical figures fought here, which explained the red-tinged water.  The fears of the supernatural quickly spread to the early white settlers as well, and the area has never been settled, becoming a state park instead.  For those that have been brave enough to stay overnight in the park, many have reported hearing voices and chanting, the sounds of cries and war whoops and a few have even reported sighting ghostly braves.

What better place for a spooky, fun-filled pre-Halloween adventure?  I must admit though, we never felt anything supernatural--for our family it was just another wonderful place where we could admire the beautiful South Dakota outdoors and celebrate coming together with our extended families.  It was memory-building time, and to this day there is always a Sunday this time of year where I think how much I'd love to be with everyone again, eating chicken and hiking the trails of Sica Hollow.


Trail of the Spirits, Sica Hollow

I hope you enjoy this lovely Native American prayer, translated by Chief Yellow Lark of the Sioux tribe in 1887:

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds
Whose breath gives life to the world, hear me
I come to you as one of your many children
I am small and weak
I need your strength and wisdom
May I walk in beauty
Make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
And my ears sharp to your voice.
Make me wise so that I may know the things you have taught your children.
The lessons you have written in every leaf and rock
Make me strong--------!
Not to be superior to my brothers, but to fight my greatest enemy....myself
Make me ever ready to come to you with straight eyes,
So that when life fades as the fading sunset,
May my spirit come to you without shame.

At the entrance to the Trail of the Spirits, @ 15 years ago.  We won't talk about the matching wind suits, okay?!

1 comment:

  1. Loving the matching wind suits, Martha! Oh, we all have those photos hidden away somewhere.

    This place you've described sounds absolutely beautiful.