Much of the drive to South Dakota was via Wyoming. It turns out that Wyoming might have the greatest Welcome Center ever (interesting dioramas and displays, nice restrooms and helpful staff) and Rest Areas (one had a trail to an observation point, informative signs and great picnic tables (some sheltered, some not).
|Exhibit at Wyoming Welcome Center|
At the state border we stopped for a picture of the car “returning home” to South Dakota. OK, not really but it looked that way because we now have SD license plates. It turns out the Clay County in SD is either the only or one of a few places that will provide a US plate for folks who have no residence in the US. We suspect that it’s a nice source of revenue for Clay County. Strangely enough Steve & Sarah (our friends who split time between FL and CA have found that Clay County FL provides a service that helps them maintain a FL address.)
We decided to visited the Crazy Horse Memorial expecting it to be a commercial variant of Mount Rushmore. We knew that it was the growing statue of Crazy Horse…but it is so much more. It’s a growing statue of Crazy Horse on his horse, along with a Indian Museum & Cultural center, areas where Indians sell their crafts and a University for Indians. We watched the story about constructing the memorial. Impressive. They can insert explosives so accurately that "hammer and chisel” sculpting is more limited than you would think. Mind you, there is a lot of planning required in placing those initial explosives. The sculptor worked on Mount Rushmore so this film was a bit of a spoiler alert for the film there. It’s all a family affair, seven of their 10 children have made this their life’s work also.
|Crazy Horse Memorial in process in background beyond model of the planned final piece.|
|16 of the Original Trade Beads used to purchase Manhattan|
|Lakota Sioux Hoop Dance|
We continued on to Powder House Lodge in Keystone SD. For dinner we had the Elk Medallions and Pheasant with apple brandy sauce. Disappointing as meats go. (Pat’s view). Loved the cherry-rhubarb crisp though. We had an appropriate wine for the area, Murphy-Good “Liar's Dice” Zinfandel. Other diners told us that the quail was great (and that typically quail is better than pheasant).
Wednesday was our day for the Black Hills and Devil’s Tower. We began by visiting Mount Rushmore, noted for its giant busts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln who were chosen because they symbolize the principles of liberty and freedom on which the country was founded. The carving took place 1927–41 under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum who passed away just before the final unveiling. The figures are scaled to a person 465 feet tall. At this scale, the head of the Sphinx would be twice it's size. And for reference, the Statue of Liberty is 161 feet tall.
The drive from Mount Rushmore to Devil’s Tower first passed through the lush green hills treed mainly with pines/ evergreens. Just after Deadwood, noted for several notable characters including Wild Bill Hickok and his famous “Deadman’s Hand” (aces and eights), we got on the highway for the remaining hour plus drive to Devil’s Tower.
The further we drove the more worried we became that the haze or smoke would ruin the view. Then at our first viewpoint, we grew more concerned because the the cameras could not separate the tower from the haze. By now we were close enough that it would be ridiculous to turn back. And it turns out once we arrived, the views were well worth the effort. We took the 1.3 mile hike around the base, taking too many photos but also noting the changes in the rock and that it is not symmetric as you might think (as with many natural monoliths). FYI: The top is the size of a football field. Another note: Geologists seem a bit unsure on the nature of the geologic formation but Indian Legend tells us that some Indian maidens who were being chased by a bear were rescued by a tree that invited them into it’s branches. The tree then grew very tall. The bear tried to climb the tree but kept slipping. The bear’s claws left the deep gouges in the sides.
|Prarie Dogs at Devil's Tower|
We returned to our lodge by way of Rapid City. A cute place. Very clean & quiet. Nice parks. Many well-maintained original buildings. We were especially impressed with the Dahl Fine Arts Center with great changing exhibits but features a Cyclorama Mural (by Bernard Thomas), a 150 foot panoramic painting spanning 200 years of American history.
We also checked out some of the many life-size bronze statues of the US Presidents posed as pedestrians on the street corners of the shopping district.
|Bill & Teddy Roosevelt|
|Pat chatting with John Adams|
Dinner: Bacon Wrapped Trout and Pan fried Walleye. Better than last night, Pat preferred the Walleye, Bill liked both. Great french fries.
Thursday we first visited Custer State Park, noted for it's wildlife and the architectural effort on Iron Mountain Road (the most common access road to the park.) Iron Mountain Road features several Tunnels with provide "frames" for the views of Mt Rushmore. In addition there are the pigtail bridges (bridges so-named to reflect the fact that each bridge is approached by a tight curve and the combination provides 360 degree turns that enable increases in altitude in a short distance). The other side of the mountain is all switchbacks.
|Mount Rushmore in the far background and Pat (closer) framed by a tunnel|
We photographed pronghorn antelope and bison along the roads through Custer State Park and later drove through a herd of buffalo.
|Pronghorn Antelope (females so no horns)|
Our last stop featured a group of burros looking for handouts.
After a short drive through the countryside on an unpaved county road and a short stop at Cabela's (Huge store with hunting, fishing, & outdoor gear), we continued on to the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and Badlands National Park.
The park has more rocks in color (even some in yellow) even some with grass cover. We noted some similarities with Cappadocia some notable differences, is it grass on rock or rock under grass?
At the end of the day we ventured out to Wall Drug, basically a group of small shops within the large Wall Drug facility with many small shops selling treasures and trash. Interestingly, Pat took a Jackalope for a ride.