10K hikers attend Volksmarch
Published: Thursday, June 6th, 2013
Despite chilly temperatures on Saturday, over 10,000 people flocked to Crazy Horse Memorial for the 28th annual Volksmarch. The first day saw 4,473 checking in while blue skies and sunshine brought in 5,621 hikers on Sunday—a grand total of 10,094 over the weekend. While the turnout was down from 11,662 last year, organizers were pleased with the weekend turnout and regretted having to turn away many people who arrived too late to take the walk.
The 6.2 mile (10K) hike, which takes about three hours to complete, is sponsored by the Black Hills Volkssport Association and is co-chaired by Bonnie Miller, who has been involved with the association for over 25 years.
“Sunday was a better day for us; it was very steady,” she said. “We never know what the weekend will hold.”
Miller said she and her team of 50 plus volunteers can see nearly 1,000 hikers an hour, all ranging from children in strollers to people in their 80s.
“I love that a range of people can attend this event,” she said. “From young to old, nation-wide and international, it’s always fun to see who turns out.”
From family reunions, bucket list fulfillers and first time hikers, a wide variety of people made their way up the trail. Most of the U.S. was represented, as were parts of Canada and the countries of Holland, New Zealand, Germany and England.
Throughout the two-day event, there were three successful marriage proposals, a family group with some members making the trek for their 20th time and a group of sisters reconnecting on the trail.
“This was the first time for some of us and we really enjoyed it,” said Kathy Sarchett of Tennessee, who was one of the sisters on the trip. “We will definitely do this again.”
Before reaching the top, hikers checked into four checkpoints, which were operated by the Custer volleyball, soccer and wrestling teams as well as the Custer Boy Scouts. At the checkpoints, hikers could rest, catch their breath and load up on water before continuing the hike. Once on top of the carving, a breathtaking view waited.
“I liked when I was on the arm,” said Greyson Green, 9, from Sanibel Island, Fla. “It was a gorgeous view. I could have spent the whole day up there.”
This year, part of the space on top of the carving was blocked off, giving mountain carvers and their equipment room to maneuver as they begin to work to create the extended left hand. The space is outlined and the fence, previously near the fingertip, was pulled back toward the face by 70-80 feet. There is no deadline for completing the hand.
The carving phase marks the next area that will undergo the kind of finishing work that created the carved face, which was dedicated 15 years ago. Since the extended left hand rests atop the horse’s mane, starting there and working downward will begin the effort to complete the artistic details of the 219-foot high horse’s head, which is the largest feature of the sculpture. Once completed, it will measure 641 feet across and 563 feet down.
“I love this whole place. It’s very inspiring,” said Jack Marsh, member of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s board of directors. “What’s great about the Volksmarch is that it allows people to get a whole new perspective of the monument—something not many people have. I hope they will catch the spirit.”
Marsh volunteered both days of the Volksmarch, where his smiling face and encouraging voice could be found at the finish line. He congratulated hikers for finishing the race with a high five and encouraged other to finish strong by cheering out their names.
“I’ve probably given over 1,000 high fives,” he said. “I didn’t do the hike so I have plenty of energy!”
The first people to reach the top of the mountain on day one were Thomas Nimick of Hill City and Jordan Collins of Watertown, making their goal in about 50 minutes. Collins, who lost 175 pounds over the year, said he was energetic to reach the top. The first female to reach the top was Melanie Braido of Littleton, Colo., who came to the Black Hills on a family reunion and didn’t even plan on participating in the march.
Custer County residents led the way on the second day, with Chanelle Alcott, recent graduate of Custer High School, originally from Tuba City, Ariz., completing the course in 64 minutes. The first male to finish was Mike Stohl, also of Custer, who was also the hike’s top male finisher on opening day in 2011.
The second day also saw Bobby Garrett of Grenada, Miss., become the 10,000th hiker. For being the milestone entrant, the Crazy Horse Volksmarch sponsors with the Black Hills Volkssport Association presented the first-time Crazy Horse hiker with a commemorative medal, walking stick and Crazy Horse medallion.
“This whole event has been a great experience,” said Bob Green from Sanibel Island, Fla., who is driving across the country from Florida to Glacier National Park. “We came to visit the monument on Saturday and saw the hike, so we came back Sunday to register and participate in the Volksmarch. It was so much fun.”
For the first time ever, Crazy Horse Memorial will host a fall Volksmarch on Sept. 29-30, which was developed in response to the dates for the annual Buffalo Roundup being changed. Spreading the word about the fall hike has created a lot of excitement in the area, according to Crazy Horse executive vice president Jadwiga Ziolkowski.
“Because our June hike to the mountain is becoming so popular, our second Volksmarch is causing a lot of interest, too,” she said. “There’s nothing like the fall colors around here. The Hills are beautiful.”
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