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"A needle in a haystack is a figure of speech used to refer  
to something that is difficult to locate in a much larger space."
~ from Wikipedia

(Continued from page 1)

Here are more photos from the Centennial-Lookout Point Loop.


When I went to get into the truck, I realized I didn’t have my keys to the truck and camper. I thought they were in my right shorts pocket.

Pretty shooting stars near the trailhead

Uh, oh.

That pocket has a hole large enough for the bulky key fob to have fallen through! It’s one of those remote clickers that locks/unlocks the doors and can be used in the ignition, the only "clicker" we have for the truck. To replace it would cost about $160.



I felt bad. Jim keeps telling me not to take the keys with me when I'm hiking but I usually do.

Bad Girl.

I was able to get into the truck with a key we keep hidden. If I'd been alone I could have driven the truck home with another key inside that works in the ignition (the hidden one only unlocks the doors). We were able to use Jim's key, however.



Jim finished soon after I got done. He wasn't happy about the lost key fob. We searched in and near the truck for several more minutes before leaving the trailhead to go back to the camper to eat lunch.

The original plan was to shower, do one of the cave tours, then relax the rest of the afternoon.


I was determined to go back out on that loop and hunt for the keys, however. I searched the truck (for about the fourth time) and camper and still couldn’t find them. I was relatively certain they’d been in my pocket – the one with the hole!



Jim was tired and his knee hurt but he was equally determined to come with me as a second pair of eyes.

He wanted to go the opposite direction I'd gone. I talked him into doing the loop clockwise again so I’d better remember where I went off the trail (deliberately and frequently, to see something or take pictures) and we'd have a better chance of retracing my steps. For that reason he walked behind me.



I didn’t have very high hopes of finding those keys but I wanted to try. I don't think Jim thought we had any chance of finding them but he knew the odds were better if there were two of us looking for them.

For 2˝ miles we walked fairly slowly, searching the trail, the nearby grass, the creeks, and everywhere I could remember I went off the trail.

You can imagine my relief when I spotted the keys on the ground at the Highland Creek/Lookout Point juncture, halfway around the loop!


That was where I saw the bison herd in the distance and called Jim. I remember putting my water bottle on the square post at the intersection, and leaning my trekking pole on it. Ironically, I even took a picture of the water bottle my first time around the loop:

I do NOT remember taking out the keys, but they were a few feet farther on the grassy Highland Creek Trail, in the direction I walked to get closer to the bison.

What a relief for both of us.


There are many things that could have happened to those keys on that five-mile loop:

  • They could have fallen into Beaver Creek the dozen or more times I crossed it; we looked into the creek each time we crossed it the second time but the water was running too deep and fast in most of the places to see the bottom.

  • The keys could have fallen into high grass along the trail, or into rocks, and been hard to spot. It's not like we had Cody along to sniff them out!

  • Someone else on the trail could have come along and picked them up (I was going to check at the visitor center in case we didn’t find them).

One of many places I went off-trail to investigate something I saw

  • The keys could have fallen out during any of my little side trips to investigate a rock or flower or waterfall. I know I didn't retrace every off-trail step I took in exactly the same place the second time around.

I climbed up a hillside to photograph these columbines.

Basically, hunting for those keys along a five-mile trail was like looking for a needle in a haystack – and I found them!!!!!

The odds were certainly against me.

Thank goodness it wasn’t raining, there weren’t any other hikers on the trail (at least, that saw the keys), and I insisted on going back out there ASAP.

What did I learn from this?

Either don't take that key fob with me when I'm hiking (Jim's solution) or keep it somewhere it absolutely, positively can't fall out (my preference; I'm more paranoid about someone breaking into my vehicle at trailheads or the hidden, spare key disappearing).


So . . . Jim got about 15 miles of running/walking (closer to his original goal) and I got at least 10 miles of hiking.

It took us only two hours to do the loop the second time because I didn't putz around when Jim was with me or go off-trail after finding the keys; we were totally focused on those keys, then on getting back to the camper.

We both really like the Centennial-Lookout Point loop and highly recommend it if you're visiting the park and have an extra hour or two.

Jim wasn't crazy about the part of the Centennial Trail he hiked where it went north of my loop, however. It wasn't marked well and it was pretty rocky.

Lookout Point Trail

Someday I'd like to hike the entire 111 miles of the Centennial Trail but if I determine it's going to be too difficult to stay on-course, I'm not interested. Jim might consider it for cycling. I'd also like to check out some of the other trails within the park.

Next entry:  Natural Entrance Tour of Wind Cave

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil