Walk it your way at Crazy Horse Volksmarch
There’s a start, and there’s a finish line, but when you arrive at either one isn’t really the point if you are a volksmarcher. And that relaxed approach is most likely part of why more than 10,000 people will participate this weekend in the 27th annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch.
In fact, you don’t even have to be an official volksmarcher to walk the 6.2 mile round trip. Every year on the first weekend in June, everyone – from Boy Scouts, to church groups, to grandparents, to families with toddlers and even babies in backpacks – can experience the wonder of walking up and down the outstretched arm-in-progress or standing right next to the massive 90-foot face of Crazy Horse.
The event begins at 8 a.m. Hikers must register before 1 p.m. and be off the trail by 4 p.m. each day. The cost is $3 per hiker.
The trail – rising about 500 feet to a high point of about 6,500 feet above sea level – is a little tough off and on, but all ages participate and usually complete the trip anywhere between two and four hours. Sturdy shoes and a water bottle are good ideas. No pets are allowed on the trail. There are four checkpoints where participants can purchase refreshments, and water stations and portable toilets are also available.
Back in 1985, when the Black Hills Chapter of the American Volksport Association organized the first event, about 400 folks made the trek to see what was then the unfinished face, which wasn’t completed until 1998.
Founded in 1982, the Black Hills AVA chapter is only three years older than the most popular event on its roster. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many other exceptional walks open to every local and vacationing walker throughout the year.
If this weekend found you too relaxed to get to Crazy Horse Memorial, you can participate in the Custer Expedition Memory Walk next weekend on Saturday. The walk begins along Hwy. 585 south of Sundance, Wyo., with start time anywhere between 8 a.m. and noon. It’s mostly on private land, which allows participants to see some country normally unavailable to the public. Some Custer Expedition gravesites are the destination, and volksmarchers will receive a handout on the history at the registration table. As with most AVA events, cost is $3 per walker.
A great July walk is the annual Silver City event that winds through the Pactola Reservoir recreation area and crosses Rapid Creek several times. Set this year for July 8, it’s a popular walk through gorgeous scenery, with a final destination that greatly enhances its appeal. Silver City ties its annual Pie and Ice Cream Social to the event – a benefit for its fire department that generally manages to waylay most of the volksmarching crowd at some point during the day. The fourth annual Plein Air art competition is also part of the Silver City Social weekend.
Volksmarching isn’t just about wilderness walks. Several events take place in urban landscapes, including the June 30 Presidential Walk around downtown Rapid City and the Sept. 8 Holy Terror Days walk in Keystone.
In addition to specific Black Hills area events, there are a number of year-round and seasonal volksmarches that people can walk at times of their own choosing.
The goal of all volksmarching associations is “to promote physical fitness and good health by providing fun-filled, safe exercises in a stress-free environment.” A look at the Black Hills chapter’s event list shows that it certainly fulfills that goal for anyone who is interested in this inexpensive and fun family activity.