Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Black Hills

I was awake at 5:30 and feigned sleep until six so the dogs wouldn’t get up and I would not have to crawl out of the tent too soon on this chilly morning. In that I had decided to visit Mount Rushmore today I was glad that we could get an early start as I would have to leave the dogs in the car and had no idea if there was any shade and what the days temps would be later on. Well I did not need to worry about that. Much to my dismay and I must admit disgust there was a parking garage and a ten dollar parking fee. Actually there were four good sized three story garages. So I was relieved to be able to leave the car in the lower story and not have to worry about the sun and heat. But somehow this commercial enterprise bothers me . There was no other place anywhere near to park so everyone gets stuck if they want to see this magnificent monument. Never-the-less I am truly inspired by this sculpture commemorating the grandeur of the monumental legacy of four great American Presidents: Washington, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln. I certainly have no idea what the monument was like before the introduction of the garage, terraces, Avenue of Flags, amphitheater, and light show but somehow with so much development around I find it detracts from the sculpture itself. In my mind it could stand alone as the attraction. It was certainly good to reflect up the contributions of these great men to our democracy, equality and preservation of our land.

Right across the street I found a wonderful dog friendly trail. The Blackberry Trail took us down into a wooded canyon and connected up with the Centennial Trail. Since there was not another human out there (with the throngs of humans a stones throw across the road) I let the dogs run free. Happy, happy dogs. It was quite the treat for them since they have had to put up with hours and days worth of my not very dog friendly activities. I had planned to do couple miles on the Centennial Trail, a hiking trail that runs north to south through the Black Forest, but after the wild wind storm and rain the previous night it was a wet muddy mess that did not appeal to me, nor were the dogs too keen on slugging through mud and tall grass. Were I a through hiker, yes I would have slogged through it but NOT today! So we headed back to the parking garage after 2.5 miles. I knew I was on the ground level of parking garage building 2 but someone misplaced it after I left I think. I passed building 4 and 3 and then the next building was number 1. Two was not before or after it. So we did a half mile hiking around under the parking garage before we found 2 . It was behind 1 and only accessible by going up a level and ignoring the no dogs beyond here sign. It really felt strange hiking around garages with dogs in tow but we did ad a half mile! We got a lot of strange looks since signs everywhere said NO DOGS. I did check it out with a ranger that I could walk them through the garage without being afraid that some do good park employee would pull my Golden Age Passport.

Since it still was just passed noon I thought I would tour on to Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. But before I knew it “Pretty Priss” (my cars name) was turning into the Crazy Horse Memorial. I think the spirit of Crazy Horse it what drew me here. It seems fitting to me to have a memorial to a Native American hero as well in this area. Since I am now “tight” with his descendants, I also figured it was a necessary visit. Somehow it never occurred to me that there would be yet another parking and admission fee. I paid the $11.00 dollars only after I checked their policy on bringing dogs in. Since dogs were allowed to be on the walks and the terrace, I thought I would join in the memorialization of Crazy Horse. It is such a massive undertaking as it is to be the worlds largest sculpture but remains a work in progress, since work commenced in1948. It more than likely will not be finished in my lifetime but I do hope my grandchildren will know the whole history that is personified in their area of the great American Presidents as well as Native American heroes and history.

Soon I was traveling on as dogs were not permitted in most building and it was way to hot to leave them in the car. As it was later in the afternoon both Wind Cave and Jewel Cave tours were sold out. I must admit, cave tours are not high on my bucket list of things to do on vacation so I was not terribly disappointed. It was quite enjoyable winding through the rolling grassland, pine-spruce forests, mountains, pinnacles of granite, ravines and spotting an occasional bison in the grasslands of Wind Cave NP. What a thrill it is to see those massive bison roaming free in the grassland of the national parks when not that many years ago thy were almost extinct. So it was back to our National Forest Campsite.

This campsite was right off of Highway 16A, an icon road in South Dakota that was an engineering marvel at the time and is still quite the thrill to drive up Iron Mountain with its hairpin turns, one lane bridges and tunnels. I can’t think of many people who would be drawn to want to stay at a campground named Grizzly Creek in Hells Canyon. The name certainly drew my attention and I made the reservation. Just had a thought. I hiked Blackberry Trail today and found NO blackberries. Bummer! Then I returned to Grizzly Creek and found NO grizzlies. Ecstatic. This was a delightful small primitive campground with no electric or showers. Good old aromatic vault toilets and spigots for water. I love it because I don’t have to shower for a change. I can just be au naturel. But the dozen site were occupied with mostly families and it was joyful to be able to see the young families (and often 3 generations together) in tents and hiking. Makes me yearn even more to be closer to my adult children and grandchildren. I then followed out usual camp routine of simple food on the Colemen stove, and a wonderful campfire. It is great how the smell of smoke on everything from the fires now covered a lot of what would be showered off!


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