Scores of people participated in the Crazy Horse Volksmarch last weekend, June 1-2.
On Saturday, participants enjoyed warm — but not too warm — conditions coupled with sunny skies and muddy trails, thanks to a wet week.
For many participants, the Crazy Horse Volksmarch is a Black Hills bucket list item, especially for Nathan Johnson of Rapid City.
Johnson said he will leave the Black Hills soon and he wanted to make sure he did the Volksmarch before he left.
“This is my first time doing it,” he said. “It is just so amazing to see God’s nature all around us. It was something I’ve always wanted to do since moving here, and I am just so happy I’m able to do this.”
This year marked the 34th rendition of the famed volksmarch, which is organized by the Black Hills Volksport Association and hosted by Crazy Horse Memorial. It is the most popular organized hike in the United States with 15,000 participants in a record year.
During the march, participants traveled 10 kilometers — or 6.2-miles — through woodlands to see the world’s largest mountain-carving-in-progress. Participants start near the visitor’s center at the museum. The first part of the hike is through the woods, where participants then walk up the road used for work on the memorial, which takes participants to the arm of Crazy Horse. Participants then make their way down the road for the remainder of the walk, where they end near the visitor’s center.
Admission to Crazy Horse Memorial was waived, but canned food donations were welcomed and the cost to walk it was $3 a person.
The volksmarch is non-competitive and people walk it at their own pace. Most of the walks are 10k, but a number of events also have a 5k or 3k option. When events are completed, people have books of events and distances they have walked. As soon as one is filled out, the person has made it into the American Volkssports Association, the national organization for volkssporting.
The Crazy Horse Volksmarch, though, is not just a way to see Crazy Horse up close and personal. For many organizations it is a fundraising opportunity.
Along the way are four stops where youth check cards to prove the participant did the entire walk, as well as sell refreshments.
The second stop along the way found Michelle Fischer with Custer Youth Wrestling. Fischer, who said she has been selling items such as Gatorades and water along the way for nearly a decade, said they are there fundraising for the organization and, on a good day, can raise $1,000.
“It depends on the weather,” she said. “And this year seems busier than normal.”
People interviewed along the way said they were brought out by the warm weather after a long winter.
Another organization looking to capitalize on the people enjoying the day was Custer Boy Scout Troop 25.
Dalton Rice, a star Scout and assistant senior patrol leader for the troop, said they were out on that day — also selling nourishments to those participating in the volksmarch — to raise money for summer camp. To him, the year didn’t seem any busier than normal. He has been doing it for a couple of years, he said.
“We normally make $200 to $300 through this,” he said.
Participants tackle the march in different ways. Some saunter through the woods, taking pictures at overlooks, talking with people along the way. Some brave souls decide to jog the entire way up to the arm.
But all agree the view from the top is a driving factor for why they do it.
Dennis Kenoston of Colorado Springs, Colo., was on Crazy Horse’s arm taking pictures.
The view was hazier than normal, thanks to wildfires in Canada, but that didn’t stop the six-time participant from carrying his camera equipment to the top.
“We used to live here,” he said. “We always come up for the volksmarch. It’s pretty cool up here. It’s pretty interesting.”