Thirty six hours, four states (CO, WY, SD, NE), three national monuments, two and a half tanks of gas, one stiff body, and the endless beauty of God’s creation later, I am home again.
Yesterday morning we discovered that we had stumbled upon one of the only two hotels open in the Mount Rushmore area. So we were lucky to have even found a place to stay. In fact, pretty much EVERYTHING was closed “for the season”. We got up early and were at Mount Rushmore by 8:30. The sun was shining brightly, and although a brutally cold wind was blowing, it was the perfect time to see the monument. We were nearly alone there. Because we arrived so early, the morning sun gave us a nearly shadowless presentation of the faces of these four past presidents. A fascinating fact learned was that the sculptor (Gutzon Borglum) had not planned to use much dynamite in his creation. But his crew got so skilled at blasting, he ended up using dynamite for 90% of the carving!
I imagine that during the summer, the “Avenue of Flags” is crammed with tourists. I had to wait for ONE man to clear the area to take this picture. I’m not saying that the dead of winter is the best time to see Mount Rushmore, but we sure got lucky with this jewel-toned day.
All the park personnel assured us that the weather was unseasonably nice and warm. I don’t know, people. I always envisioned that this part of the world I now live in was buried in snow for half the year. We didn’t even hit any ice on the roads. So, I guess that means we picked just the right weekend. Saturday we only ran into a family of four visiting Devil’s Tower, and yesterday Mount Rushmore was nearly deserted as well. There was something about the desolate nature of these destinations that added to the beauty. I’m not saying the dead of winter is the best time to visit Devil’s Tower and Mount Rushmore, only that it turned out to be the best time for us!
On our way out of the Black Hills, we drove past the new Crazy Horse monument. It hasn’t been completed. The face is recognizable, and the general form of the statue has been roughed in, but they’ve got a long ways to go. And frankly, I don’t have the highest of hopes for a positive outcome! If you are unfamiliar with what they are doing out there, they are carving a humonstrous figure of the Lakota chief, Crazy Horse, into the mountain. So far, they have done the face and roughed out the general shape of him, arm pointing straight out, riding a horse. I am very pessimistic about their ability to get that arm out there without blowing it off, or without the weight of it causing it to break off. Sorry, no pictures. Camera difficulties struck again!
On this trip we got to see herds of prong horn antelope, golden eagles, thousands of scurrying prairie dogs (they are soooo cute!), and white tailed deer. We’d hoped to see “tatanka”, but didn’t.
We crossed over the twisting Belle Fourche river about fifty times. We drove through a dust storm (weird!). We drove through myriad little towns with populations of hundreds or thousands that look like movie sets from many decades ago .
There is still so much more “up there” to see that we are planning a return trip when the weather is a bit warmer. There’s lots of caves, and there’s the badlands, and there’s still those tatanka!
But before I return to the Black Hills, there’s a trip to Amish country in Pennsylvania in my immediate future.