A hike up M Hill
I have a beautiful painting of plumeria flowers I picked up while “baby-mooning” (taking one last vacation before the arrival of a baby) in Hawaii. When I got home, I hung it in a prominent place in the living room. The first week or two, I would stop and admire. However, as time went by, the painting started to fade away from my notice until I hardly “saw” it at all.
This phenomena of something “disappearing” before the eyes, was illustrated again to me when I encountered a man and his daughter on the top of “M Hill” in the midst of Rapid City. He looked to be about 50-years-old and he told me this was the first time he had been to the top, even though he had grown up right in the city. How did that happen? Did he not “see” the mountain and the promise it offered after driving by it countless times in his life? Perhaps he was awed by it as a child and then the “M” just gradually faded away.
“M Hill” is a peak within the Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park complex in the heart of Rapid City. You can see the concrete “M” from many areas of Rapid due to its 300’ perch above the city streets. The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology constructed the site in 1912. Also called Cowboy Hill on area maps, the peak is surrounded by many trails within private lands donated by the late rancher Eddie Larsen in honor of her parents, Ed Larsen and Etta Hanson-Larsen.
On the day I encountered this first-time ascender, I had started the hike at Founder’s Park with my three sons. We crossed the walking bridge over Rapid Creek, and hung a left. I didn’t ask him, why he finally decided to climb now. None-the-less, I came up with my own conclusions on why “M Hill,” or any peak, should be explored.
There is something very spiritual about climbing a mountain based on our history as a people. Within the Bible, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus climbed the mountains to pray and be close to God. For many Native Americans, high summits are sacred areas where their ancestors have seen visions, created thriving cultures, and established holy burial grounds. It’s natural to climb.
But most importantly, the climb allows me and my family to truly behold the wonders of our own backyard. After that climb, we see the hill with fresh eyes. My 4-year-old often calls out, “M Hill!” like it’s the name of an old friend. I still wonder—despite my good intentions—what else may have disappeared from before my eyes—just like my plumerias.
Written by Kate Hoffmeyer