In my last post I mentioned that I would be catching up on some recent trips I have taken. So here goes.......
On June 13th we woke up and decided to go to see Mt. Rushmore with an overnight in Rapid City. It has been a number of years since we had been there and we just needed to get away and drive for awhile. We knew it wouldn't be a long trip but just long enough across the prairie into the Black Hills of South Dakota.
What made it somewhat reminiscent was that in High School (and yes that was a while ago) just before two-a-day football practices started- as a senior a group of friends headed north from Greeley Colorado to see "the Four Heads". At that time in addition to the steps they had long ramps leading from the parking lot to the observation are and not much else other than a cafe. You would walk up -----we did that and walk back......but we didn't. We would skateboard down the ramps to the parking lot then do it all over again..and again...and again. It was a simpler time... but I digress.
We left Denver heading up I-76 by way of Ft. Morgan and Sterling CO. We cut north to Sidney - Alliance and Chadron NE. It was a beautiful drive. The skys were clear - a deep deep blue. The fields were green and lush and are getting ready to produce their bounty. The slight wind sweeping across them in waves...mesmerizing.
As we approached Chadron - we discovered Chadron State Park. It was absolutely breathtaking. There were a lot of wide open spaces and horizons in all directions on the drive but that day the hills and cliffs of the park stood out with the greenery of the pines. Beautiful.
You enter South Dakota on highway 385 and as soon as you cross the border the highway becomes a well maintained four lane freeway - with very light traffic. We flew. I wouldn't recommend that you break the speed limit (but it was fun).
Coming from the southern direction and heading directly for Mt Rushmore we passed through a portion of Custer State Park - it reminded us of the road to Hana in Hawaii or Taos Canyon in NM. It isn't very long but with the foliage, the curves and elevation gains and losses - it took a little longer to get there than we anticipated. Nontheless - it was a gorgeous day albeit a sometimes harrowing drive.
Finally - we saw it. Mt Rushmore.
We first saw it as we excited a single lane car tunnel that had been carved into the mountainside. Had it not been for the traffic - I would have stopped and framed the shot.....but we ventured on to get the up close look.
Coming into Mt. Rushmore - cars pay $10.00 to park. That is the only fee. The parking pass is linked to your license plate and your car and is good for a year. Pretty cool way to try to get people to return.
Mt. Rushmore is the most visited site in South Dakota and that day with the blue sky you understand why.
It is an amazing site but what is more amazing is the story that goes behind it.
The sculptor.....Gutzon Borglum was 58 when he started the design. Unfortunately he died before it was completed although his son finished the project. He started with the idea to create a monument to Western pioneers like Lewis and Clark but decided to honor the four presidents they thought best conveyed a more national interest and who, started, stood for and preserved the American Ideals. The result is Mt. Rushmore. The intent is to remind us of what they represent until "the wind and the rain finally wipe them away". Pretty haughty ideas.
The sculpting itself was fascinating. They have a museum on the auditorium level where you can read and listen to the stories of the men, women and processes they developed and used to undertake this monumental task.
In realizing the design they had to change it nine times to accommodate the rock. They developed drilling and blasting techniques and hung in wooden chairs using "bumping" drills to take the final or finishing pieces off rock away. They were lowered with pulleys and cranks - just hanging on the face. Yet through all of the 14 years it took to carve the mountain - not a single life was lost. The museum has a wonderful collection of artifacts and stories of the times. The story behind the faces.
Mt Rushmore is a wonder. We spent about an hour and half there. Taking a couple of short trails to the base. Visiting the museum - watching the movie about the undertaking. It was just the right amount of time for us.
Final thoughts: At first and still today I question the idea that we should desecrate nature to honor ourselves. It still bothers me to think that we think so highly of who we are that we would turn a beautiful part of nature, disregard the sanctity of the land of our Native American brothers and turn this spot into our personal tribute. But that decision was made in an earlier time and in a different period. Here it stands. So I look not to the monument itself but to the ideals it and the men represent. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. It is not about the monument but their beliefs, ideals and teachings. Reminding us of who we as a country and what we must work diligently for and aspire to be.....as a people......Goodness or Greatness?.......or maybe........Greatness is the result of Goodness..
....and .....I used to skateboard down the ramps too. We are of a complex nature.
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.