Today I’m talking about a place that holds a special spot in my heart… and also happens to be a 12-hour-car-ride away.
Can you guess it? No, you cannot. You cannot guess it because you’ve never heard of it. You’ve never heard of it because the town’s last census recorded a population of 19. Yep, that’s right. NINETEEN.
The name of the town is Crocker, and it’s located in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota. South Dakota, you ask? Yes, South Dakota. Home to the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and my father’s birth place of Crocker. Dad (along with his whole side of our family) was born and raised in this tiny farm town, located in the foothills of South Dakota. Most of his relatives still live out there, and we grew up making the 12-hour drive to visit them frequently. Now that I’m an adult (well, sort of) I look back and think, “What the heck were my parents thinking?!” I can barely make that drive in one piece, and they managed to do it with two little kids!
But I also get it. This place is special. There aren’t words to describe it. We don’t make the trip just to see family – though that’s a huge part of our connection there. We also make the trip because it’s a chance to tap into an entirely different world. One where the air is so clear it hurts your nostrils. Where the stars are so bright you think the world is ending. Where the quiet is so intense, it’s deafening.
Growing up in the city I came to appreciate tapping into this place from a young age. It gave me a unique perspective amongst all my city-kid friends. I knew what vast amounts of land looked like. I knew how to navigate by “miles north” instead of “blocks right.” I knew how to ride a horse, and feed a cow, and clean a pheasant.
As children, we begged our dad each night to tell us stories from his life on the farm. I think we loved them so much because they were so drastically different from our life growing up in the city. Listening to them felt like an adventure, and we’ll still ask him to tell them from time to time. I like remembering where I come from, the long line of ancestors who came before me. I enjoy picturing them working the land, raising crops and livestock to make a living. It makes me feel grateful for where I am today.
Crocker is genuinely in the middle of nowhere. The closest grocery store is an hour away. There are no street lights, or stop signs, or road names. It’s main attractions are a bar and a church. And it takes 12 hours to get there by car. People think we are insane for making that drive. And it is insanity. But it’s also so worth it.
It’s hard to explain, but I feel connected to the land there. Visiting this place always seems to ignite some part of my soul that went dormant since my last visit. The air, the quiet, the sky, the vastness all seem to settle around me, like a warm blanket. It feels sort of like the end of the earth. It clears my mind and reminds me what truly matters. Life feels simple and beautiful in South Dakota.
(SIDE NOTE: These photos were shot shortly after our 12-hour drive there, hence why I’m rocking the no make-up look. The sunset was just so beautiful Dad and I had to rush to capture some shots of it. Photos don’t do it justice!)
Do you have a special place you love to visit? Or a place that holds special meaning for you? I’d love to hear if you do!