Pine Ridge Mission Trip 2015 – The Journey Begins

My daughter Stacey and I were blessed by going on a mission trip to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with about 20 other people from our church during the first week of August. This is the second in a series of blogs about the trip.

Most of the other people going on the trip left Saturday morning from the church. Several flew out to Rapid City, South Dakota to do some sightseeing before our week officially began. I chose to knock out a “bucket list” item by driving to Mingo, Kansas to find the world’s oldest active geocache.

I headed out of my driveway at 7:22 AM on Friday, July 31. The song “We Believe” by the Newsboys was playing on KLOVE. Appropriate, I thought.


GC37, Missouri’s First – Watts Mill

After grabbing a quick cache in town, I headed west on I-74. After grabbing a quick cache in Indianapolis, I headed west on I-70, grabbing two more caches in Illinois and three in Missouri before heading to my first target cache – GC37, Missouri’s First – Watts Mill. This cache is located on the south side of Kansas City along a walking/biking path, and is the oldest cache in Missouri, hidden on 6/20/2000. It was a quick find after a short walk. I was sort of surprised it had lasted as long as it has, since it’s just off the trail in an area where teenagers obviously like sneak off to drink beer.

I again headed west on I-70, grabbed a couple more caches in Kansas before stopping for the night at the Econo Lodge® in Salina, Kansas. Not the best motel I’ve ever stayed at, but not the worst, either. You get what you pay for. I covered 836 miles in 16 hours, 14 minutes, and found 10 geocaches. Long day!

Saturday morning I grabbed breakfast in the motel lobby before heading west on I-70 again. I stopped for a total of 4 caches before getting to GC30, Mingo, around 11:03 AM.

GC30, Mingo

GC30, Mingo

Mingo is the world’s oldest active geocache. It’s believed to have been the seventh geocache ever created; the six older caches are all gone, making Mingo the oldest remaining cache. There’s nothing special about the location, just a hole in some concrete by the side of the road, just off I-70 in western Kansas. Yet, for those of us who are geocaching junkies, it’s the holy grail of geocaching. It’s the oldest. I’ll never find another one older. As of the time of this writing, it has been found 4,305 times, and has a very well-worn path from the side of the road to the corner of the fence line where the cache is hidden. I signed the log, swapped some travel bugs, took a small plastic lion and left some mardi gras beads from the Midwest Geobash. As I was re-hiding the cache, another geocacher arrived. He had traveled from Colorado, and was headed east.


GC31, Arikaree

My next target cache was GC31, Arikaree, about 66 miles northwest (as the crow flies) from Mingo. Arikaree was the most interesting cache I found on my way to Pine Ridge. It’s located in northwest Kansas, about 2 miles south of Nebraska and 14 miles east of Colorado, in an area known as the Arikaree Breaks. The area is made up of hills and canyons that look a bit like the Badlands of South Dakota, only smaller. The ground is composed of loose silt called loess, which easily erodes, leaving nearly vertical cliffs. The cache is located just off a dirt road, near the summit of a ridge between two canyons. The area has many yucca and

Sunflower for Michelle at Arikaree

Sunflower for Michelle at Arikaree

sunflowers. The sunflowers reminded me of a local geocacher named Michelle who passed away about a year ago. Sunflowers were her favorite. I signed the log and didn’t see anything I wanted to trade. I did the nearby Earthcache before heading north on the dirt road into Nebraska.

The rest of the day was spent meandering through Nebraska, stopping occasionally for caches, before meeting up in O’Neill, Nebraska, with Stacey and many of the other people from our church going to Pine Ridge.

After spending the night at the Holiday Inn Express, the group headed west on US-20, then cut north to US-18, and headed into Pine Ridge. No geocaches.

Stacey at the Pow Wow

Stacey at the Pow Wow

After lunch at the Pine Ridge Subway, we met up with others from our group, and went to the annual Pine Ridge Pow Wow. The Pow Wow is a sort of mixture of a county fair and a native dance competition. The Pow Wow grounds is circular in shape, with a small arena in the center, covered seating in a circle around the arena, and a circle of vendors on a midway around the seating circle.

Native dancer

Native dancer

In the arena, various native dance competitions were held. The covered seating areas are painted yellow, red, black, and white – the 4 sacred colors of the Lakota – and form a version of a Lakota medicine wheel. The colors represent both the 4 races of people and the colors of the 4 directions: the east (red), the south (yellow), the west (black), and the north (white). Some Lakota assign the colors differently, but that’s how they were

Lakota Medicine Wheel

Lakota Medicine Wheel

explained to me. Around the outside of the seating area was a sort of circular midway with vendors selling food (both traditional and modern), hand-made jewelry, T-shirts, and assorted non-native souvenirs and carnival knick-knacks.

Stacey on midway

Stacey on the midway.

There were also a couple of information booths for various Lakota organizations and causes. I spent some time talking to the people in the information booth promoting the restoration of the Black Hills to the Lakota people. According to the treaties from the late 1800s, the Black Hills belong to the Lakota, but when gold was discovered in 1874, the U.S. government stole the Black Hills from the Lakota. The Lakota want the Black Hills returned, and I agree with them.

Me at the Pow Wow

Me at the Pow Wow

After the Pow Wow, the group went to the compound north of Wounded Knee where we were to spend the week, and settled in. We met the staff from NextStep Ministries who would be working with us for the week, as well as one of the two other churches that were working with us at Pine Ridge for the week (the third church didn’t arrive until very early the next morning), had a worship service, and then went to bed.

At this point, I wasn’t sure what to expect for the week. I knew we’d be working on rebuilding some people’s houses/trailers, but beyond that, I had no idea what God had in store for us. I felt it was a good beginning.


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