In Black Hills National Forest
Began the day of sightseeing at Crazy Horse Memorial. Amazing that they have been working on this with all private donations. Chief Red Cloud invited Korczak Ziolkowski to come to South Dakota to build a monument/Memorial to the Indian Heroes—cause the white man had Mt. Rushmore. Crazy Horse will be GIGANTIC when it’s finished. They have blasted out much of the surrounding mass, but little is done on the actual monument. Crazy Horse’s face is completed and the 10 story hole between his outstretched arm and the horse’s neck. Maybe our great grandchildren will see the finished product. Korczak is dead, but his wife and 7 of his 10 children carry on the work he began. It was interesting to see this, but not sure it was worth the $25 to get us all in.
Next we were off to Mt. Rushmore. Our first glimpse was Washington’s profile. We now have a one year parking pass—not sure we’ll be back after today! Walked up & saw our new Connecticut friends from day 2. Very patriotic memorial. Walked down the Avenue of Flags that leads out to the viewing platform. Found the Indiana flag—the 19th state! It is simply amazing to gaze out and see the giant faces on the side of the mountain. The kids became Mt. Rushmore Junior Rangers! We saw original tools and swing seats that the men used to hang over the side and jackhammer away at the faces. We learned that the monument’s primary sculptor Gutzon Borglum worked the last 14 years of his life completing the monument. He didn’t see it to completion, but before he died it was mostly done. (The Crazy Horse sculptor interned under Borglum.)
Left Rushmore and headed to Bear Country USA. This is a driving tour through a wildlife preserve. (No windows down, animals have right-of-way, danger signs posted everywhere.) We saw elk, reindeer, big horn sheep, arctic wolves, dall sheep, Rocky mt. goats, buffalo, mountain lions and black bears. We picnicked at Babyland, then saw babies of the animals in the park & a few new varieties—foxes, skunk, coyotes, bobcat, porcupine, lynx & more. Our favorite part of Babyland was when a very nice ranger came out to give a baby black bear talk. The babies were sleeping until she began to throw mini marshmallows into their den & just outside. They jumped to it in collecting them One knocked the closed container from her hands and worked at it until he’d opened it! It was fun to see them frolic in the yard and learn more about black bears—which can be black, brown, reddish or blonde as well.
One of the funniest things of our day happened in the Bear Den gift shop. Upon entering the restrooms, Luke noticed they had his favorite hand dryers. “Oh yeah, the Excellerator”. When Matt joined Rachel & me outside the restrooms, he said “Here it comes.” In seconds we hear the dryer click on & Luke says so that half the store can hear. “Now that’s what I’m talking about! Oh yeah, Feel the Power! WooooHooooo.” He came out of the restroom to half the store laughing about it. Hysterical! (They have these same dryers at the Ram & Casler’s if you want to feel the power yourself.)
Next up was Old MacDonald’s Farm. A tourist trap for certain, but the kids LOVED it. They rode a train & ponies. We fed lots of animals. Daddy made friends with a couple of goats. We watched the pig race—Hamlet won! Mama cheered for Sausageaweea, while everyone else cheered for Hamlet. Maybe next time. This was a fun stop.
The very nice woman at OMF, recommended The Gas Light restaurant and Saloon for dinner. It’s about the only thing in Rockerville, South Dakota. It was great atmosphere—old west & western movie décor. Even a live cowboy singer! Daddy tried the Bison burger & gave it a thumbs up.
On to Keystone for dessert! Enjoyed walking Main street. Bought some touristy souveniers—stuffed bison for the kiddos, freshly made taffy and a silver bracelet for Mama. We skipped the shoot out at the Red Garter Saloon.
Next we headed back to Rushmore for the nighttime activities. While Daddy saved us all seats in the amphitheater, the rest of us hiked the President’s Trail. We got as close to the president’s as one can—sort of looking up their noses! We saw the Sculptor’s Studio, Borglum’s lookout & the historic lookout. The evening program was very patriotic. The Ranger gave a background of Mt. Rushmore and the sacrifices of the armed forces to protect our freedom. He introduced a film which talked about each president & how they modeled patriotism & love for our country. As the film was ending, the lights went up on the faces. Very cool. Thumbs up from Luke.
Late night out & the little people went to bed easily! Tomorrow we head into Wyoming & up to Montana for the night.
Liz & family