Sunday, July 6, 2014

I see faces in the rocks - Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse

Yesterday and today we've been taking a break from all the sightseeing we have been doing.  It is nice to just sit around in the shade of our campsite.  It's about 90+ degrees, so a good time to rest a bit and catch up with laundry and groceries.  This also lets me give you a recap of the things we have been seeing.  We had some nice neighbors, two families from Gillette Wy, next to us.  We shared some pulled pork for lunch and then s'mores in the evening.  We all stayed up way late last night around the fire, till 1:30pm, talking about everything.  They left this morning to head back home and work tomorrow.

I really did see faces in the rocks this week, but so did Fred, so I am not going crazy. Thursday (July3) we headed towards the town  of Keystone, just outside of Mt. Rushmore.  There is a pretty good museum, Borglum History Museum, worth stopping to visit.  Gutzon Borglum is the man who had the vision for carving the four presidents in the granite mountain from 1927 to 1941.  He died before the project was completed and his son finished the project.  Borglum was quiet an artist and produced drawings, paintings and sculptures ( a student of Rodin) of many statues around the world.  One of his pieces often cited is of Lincoln seated on a bench, located in Newark, New Jersey, my home town.  The Borglum Museum is well worth the stop before heading out to see the presidents.
Borglum Museum in Keystone SD
Lincoln statue Newark, NJ


Jefferson doing a meet and greet

Mt Rushmore is about 2 miles outside of Keystone.  Entrance to the National Memorial is free, however, the parking is controlled by a concessionaire who charges $11 to park, but your fee allows you to come back as many times as you want during the year.  It does have your license number on it, so not transferable. No, your park pass, senior pass or any pass won't work here...everyone pays the fee.  That really surprised us and we did see others quickly moving out of the entrance lanes.  You can see all 4 presidents from the road.   Go into the park, it is worth the money and effort.  The walkway to the viewing area is lined with flags of all the states, so offers a grand view of the heads.
Our first impression was that they were so small.  Then you start to realize that you are really still quite away from the heads.They are actually each 60 feet tall.  Lower level of the visiting center is another great museum worth checking out. Lots of info about why Burglum chose these 4 presidents to carve.  Also pictures, video of work (with lots of explosions!) and video interviews of the actual carvers.  In addition, there are character actors representing Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Washington.  We attended a 45 minute talk given by "Roosevelt".  Quite entertaining and it included a question and answer time.  You can spend lots of time here, so don't try to do much of anything else that day.  This turned out to be one whole day for us, including the drive which was about 130 miles round trip.

Mt. Rushmore, National Memorial

Friday July 4th we decided to go see a different face carved in mountain - Crazy Horse Memorial. This was a carving commissioned by Lakota Chief Standing Bear, a survivor of Little Big Horn, to show white men that "the red man has great heroes also".  The entrance fee was quite steep here, $22 for the two of us, but do not let that stop you.  This is a private project, so no passes work here.  Carving was begun by Korczak Ziolkowski, Boston born of Polish parents, a student of Borglum .  He was specifically chosen by Chief Standing Bear when he learned that Korczak won first prize by popular vote at the 1939 NY World's Fair for his work " Study of an Immortal". The project started in 1948 and is a work in progress.  Korczak died in 1982, but his wife and children continue to do the carvings.  Once again there is so much to see in the museum here.  We barely had time to see just a bit of it since we had reservations  to ride a train.  Do plan on spending time here if you come.  They were doing a carving blast that afternoon, so you might want to check before hand and include that in your visit.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Fourth of July tribal parade as we drive into Crazy Horse

current view

what it will be eventually; current in background

The train whistle was blowing so we headed back to Hill City, about 10 miles away, to jump on an 1880 steam train.  This is a three hour round trip thru the Black Hills National Forest from Hill City to Keystone.  It is pretty popular, so be sure to make reservations.  Fee is just $28 per person. As you ride along you get both oral and pre-recorded history of the area.  If you like old trains, you will enjoy this ride. Next to the station in Hill City is the South Dakota State Railroad Museum.  We did not have enough time to visit it since it was the Fourth and we really wanted to visit another museum in town before it closed.

1880 Steam Train, Hill City SD

We went to see Stan T.rex in the Museum @Black Hills Institute In Hill City.  Lots and lots of dinosaurs are crammed into a small room aka museum.  It is so packed that you are standing right next to lots of stuff and looking up towards the ceiling to view even more stuff.  It's everywhere you look....most of it pretty local, the Dakotas, Montana, a bit of Wyoming, a bit from Canada and then some small pieces in display cabinets from around the world.  Quite fun for dinosaur hounds, so don't miss it.

Stan the T.rex in Hill City SD

We did hope to have dinner in Hill City, but things were closing down early due to the Holiday.  Oh well, we ended driving back to Spearfish and having another good dinner based on RV park manager suggestions.  Spearfish has turned out to be a good spot to stay, since not only is it fairly centrally located to all the sites we want to see, but it has some really good restaurants and a Safeway for groceries.

The RV park has been packed with families coming from surrounding small towns to see fireworks and other Fourth activities in town and also in Belle Fourche which is nearby. Our two neighbors are from Gillette Wy. and have come for the local celebrations.  They have even decorated their site, with kids help and are having a good time.  One of the fellows had grandparents living in Divine, TX, just down the road from us.  Small world.  Some families have already left and we imagine that more will tomorrow.

We will be leaving on Monday morning, heading to Pierre SD, the capitol of the state.  Looks to have some state park camping in the area.   After that we will head towards Bismark and Fargo ND.