Pathways Sanctuary a world away from strife

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Holding a Buffalo Skull to the heavens, the larger-than-life bronze sculpture, “The Invocation,” greets guests at the Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary.

ROCHFORD | In the last 10 days alone, we’ve witnessed carnage at an Orlando nightclub, the heart-breaking tragedy of a little boy dragged off by an alligator at the happiest place on Earth and a contentious presidential campaign marked by an ongoing dialogue so divisive it threatens to turn millions away from participating in the electoral process at all.

Cairns flank the trail as it weaves through an aspen grove at the Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary.

But down the trail less traveled, in the shady, well-watered heart of the Black Hills, is a refuge a world away from your regular day.

Six years ago, Dave Snyder, a retired pig farmer who spent four years as executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority when the Sanford Lab in Lead was in its infancy, established the Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary as a far-away respite from the modern world.

Here, on an 80-acre preserve, stands of aspen replace 24/7 news cycles, a gurgling brook overpowers breathless political pundits and alpine meadows help slow the heart rate and restore the soul.

Sun and clouds and towering pines are reflected in a small pond at the headwaters of Elk Creek at Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary off Rochford Road

“I have long felt that we have a lot of conflict in the world and that we live in a time too often dominated by separateness, a separateness that results in human conflict and contentious interactions,” Snyder says during a pause in building fence on his property last week. “I’ve always been open to the fact that what I believe may be different than someone else’s beliefs, but it doesn’t necessarily make me right or wrong.

“Pathways Sanctuary is about tolerance,” he explains. “When we look beyond our differences, we as humans are all the same. I wanted to create a place that embraced that concept.”

And he did.

Down a quiet lane off Rochford Road, surrounded by the wondrous woodlands of Black Hills National Forest, a large wooden gate signals arrival at Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary and opens to another world.

A series of bronze sculptures and plaques bearing thoughtful quotataions are found along the 1.2-mile trail at Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary.

Just inside the gate, visitors discover walking sticks and umbrellas to aid their journey down the path of compassion, forgiveness and healing. Soon, a heroic statue called “The Invocation,” soars heavenward, depicting a Native American man atop his steed holding a buffalo skull to the sky.

Along the meandering 1.2-mile trail, visitors find other artwork and circle a large meadow and traipse through the trees, discovering hand-hewn benches for solitary introspection and notepads on which to record their thoughts.

“I love the world,” 4-year-old Jenna wrote in one notebook.

“The Invocation,” a heroic bronze sculpture by artist Buck McCain, greets guests at the Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary off Rochford Road.

“I am a skeptic to the core,” an unnamed visitor penned in another. “If I can’t see it or touch it, it does not exist. But there is something in this place that I cannot explain. I feel joy, sorrow, peace, beauty, and a whole range of human emotions, all at the same time.”

At the headwaters of Elk Creek, a small pond reflects the pines and billowy clouds overhead. Along the route, whitetail deer bound through a grassy meadow while a jackrabbit, stirred to action by an approaching hiker, hops away into the darkened forest.

Inspirational plaques scattered along the route tout quotations from the history’s great philosophers and religious leaders, allowing visitors to contemplate life on a larger scale, as well as the gentle breezes which tend to carry away the accumulated stresses of the day.

When Snyder, now 71, created this special place, he says he had no idea if anyone would ever visit. To date, he’s relied solely on word-of-mouth and a website to attract prospective visitors. But today, a half-dozen years after he opened the gate at the Juso Ranch homestead he had acquired in 1993, he notices some visitors stay for two or three hours, meditating and taking in the natural world around them in an attempt to break-away from the stresses of the modern day.

“As it turned out, it’s really created a space that seems to be needed,” Snyder says. “No matter who you are or what you believe, you can come out here and be who you are.

“It’s probably the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.”

If you go

Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary, located at 21793 Juso Ranch Road, is open 8 a.m. to dusk through October. Additional information may be found at

From Lead

Take Highway 85 (not 385) southwest of Lead. Near top of hill (3 miles) there is highway sign that says “Rochford 15 miles.” Turn left onto blacktop road to Rochford. Travel 6 miles until you see the Mickelson Trail Dumont Trailhead. Turn left onto Juso Ranch Road and follow blue signage 1.3 miles to the Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary parking lot.

From Rapid City and Southern Hills

Take Scenic Highway 44 to Highway 385. Turn right and travel 12 miles north past Roubaix Lake sign.Turn left onto Custer Crossing gravel road No. 256. Drive 6 miles to Rochford Road. Turn right onto Rochford Road and travel 3 miles north to the Mickelson Trail Dumont Trailhead. Turn right onto Juso Ranch Road and follow blue signage 1.3 miles to Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary parking lot.

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Life on the Road: Beef Jerky, Swimming, and a Search for Spiritual Relief

Deborah Fallows
The Atlantic StaffArticle Source

We’ve been on the road for 2 weeks. Or more accurately, we’ve been in the air. That means we have flown well over 1500 miles, slept in 7 different places, eaten several ounces apiece of jerky (beef, elk, and next up buffalo), drunk many local microbrews, swum in 4 pools or lakes, ridden a dozen miles of bike trails, washed 4 small loads of laundry, debugged one malfunctioning internet connection and one toilet, given up on countless failed T-Mobile connections, and celebrated the clear flying conditions and perfect performance of our small Cirrus airplane.

Personally, we have not performed so perfectly. I would say that my husband and I are a bit road weary right now. We have learned we’re pushing too hard. The best news is that there is so much we’ve already seen of American towns that we end the day saying, much as we did every day of living 3 years in China: You’ll never believe what I learned today! and This is a really big, diverse country! The worst news is that we’ve barely had time to write up notes, look at our many hundreds of photos, or record first impressions, let along try to form any “big picture”. We need to learn to pace ourselves better.

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FAVORITE PLACES: Sanctuary offers 80 acres of silence, solitude

By Mary Garrigan
Rapid City Journal Staff
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One of the first benches to sit and reflect at Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary outside of Lead is "The Invocation" by sculptor Buck McCain. It was chosen to honor the Lakota and their ancestors.

One of the first benches to sit and reflect at Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary outside of Lead is “The Invocation” by sculptor Buck McCain. It was chosen to honor the Lakota and their ancestors.

It’s not hard to put the Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary on a list of my favorite places in the Black Hills.

What’s much harder to do is to pick my favorite time of year to visit the 80-acre oasis of silence and solitude that landowner Dave Snyder has created just south of Lead near his home on Juso Ranch Road.

I’ve visited Pathways in every season: on a misty spring morning when fog shrouded the surrounding forest; on a warm mid-summer day when shade cast by pine trees along the mile-long walking path was much appreciated; on a fall afternoon when quaking aspens dropped their yellow leaves on that same path; and on a snowy winter day that turned the sanctuary’s open meadow into a cross-country ski trail. Choosing the best time to see Pathways is nearly impossible. Each visit offers a different lens through which to experience the beauty and tranquility of the spot.

Snyder would probably smile at my dilemma, since part of his vision in establishing Pathways back in 2010 was to eliminate differences and divisions. The sanctuary has a spiritual focus, but it is also “beyond belief” in its attempt to emphasize the connections that all major world religions and belief systems share. The place speaks of love and compassion and forgiveness and healing — literally and figuratively — through art, literature, prayer and nature.

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Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary walk welcomes all

By: Mary Garrigan
Rapid City Journal staff

Even though the land speaks loudly to him, Dave Snyder hopes Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary will be a place of quiet solitude for others.

On Saturday, July 17, Snyder will realize the dream of a spiritual sanctuary that he has harbored ever since he bought an L-shaped tract of 200 acres in the northern Black Hills in 1993. Pathways, which will be open daily through Oct. 15 free of charge, was created as a place for people to find solace, silence and spiritual renewal.

“The land speaks very loudly to me,” Snyder said this week, while working to finish the mile-long path that meanders through 80 acres of spruce forest, grassy meadow and quaking aspen trees that’s located south of Lead and north of Rochford, just off Rochford Road.

The land speaks to him with its beauty, of course. But it also commands him to honor things that are “beyond belief,” by which Snyder means beyond religions and cultural systems, beyond dogma and divisions, beyond separations and differences.

“The interesting thing about all the major religions… is that they’re really all saying the same thing,” Snyder said. “That commonality is what I hope to embrace here.”

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