Friday, September 14, 2012

Black Hills National Forest

By Claire
Another gorgeous day in beautiful South Dakota.  We're staying in Rapid City, a good base for the things we wanted to see.  I was excited about our drive through the Black Hills and my first sighting of Mt. Rushmore.  I've always felt it was one of those things you have to see before you die.  We were so lucky to have perfect weather and I was happy to find out in my research that mornings are the best time to arrive since the memorial faces east.  Not only that, arriving at 8:30, we beat most of the crowds.  Except there really aren't any crowds at this time of year.  That has been one of the nicest things about this trip.

On the road to Mt. Rushmore

First sighting from the road
At the entrance 

It's everywhere

We started with a fascinating video about the construction of Mt. Rushmore and information about Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of the memorial.  It took years of planning and building models plus dynamiting to create this masterpiece.  He changed the design nine times.  Men were hoisted down in wooden seats with pulleys; there was no protection for their ears from the blasts or their lungs from the dust.  Years later when they started wearing dust masks, the men would cut a hole in them so they could smoke.  The good news is, there were no fatalities.


We walked the trail to the Sculpture Workshop and found the best view of all.  We also met a Dutch couple who took our picture and then proceeded to chat with them for about 15 minutes. 

This one is almost my favorite, taken as we were leaving, driving on to our next site.

But wait!  Here's the rear of Mt. Rushmore!

We drove through the Black Hills noticing a sign that warned "Danger! Large Wildlife on Road."  He isn't that large and didn't look too dangerous but I didn't get out of the car to take this photo of a mountain goat.

In South Dakota, they are referred to as Buffalo.  We saw too many to photograph them all.

Next on our agenda was the Crazy Horse Memorial.  I knew nothing about it and therefore had no expectations. I didn't even know it was another carving out of rock.  What a surprise!  

The sculpture was created by Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish American from Boston who had been an assistant on Mt. Rushmore.  Work was begun in 1948 and continues to this day.  He was completely self-taught and never took a formal lesson in art, sculpture, architecture or engineering.  Since Korczak's death in 1982, his wife, with seven of their children, working in concert with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation Board of Directors, has directed the work which continues to see exciting progress being made with each passing year.  We saw one of the daughters on the deck of the restaurant complex dead-heading flowers, checking on things and generally being useful.  The future of the Crazy Horse Visitor Complex is an Indian Museum of North America (well on its way), Indian University of North America (they have had two classes of students), and a Medical Training Center.  The project is financed primarily from an admission fee and donations. They decline to accept any government funding, partly out of concern that the project would later be dropped.

This  is the model of what the finished work will look like. To give an idea of the scale of this monumental work, the entire Mount Rushmore project--that's 4 giant Presidential busts--would fit within the completed head of Chief Crazy Horse!

There is no documented photograph of Crazy Horse.  This model is a composite likeness created by Korczak from "word pictures" given in the 1940s by old Indians who had known Crazy Horse in the few years that he lived from 1843-1877.

Leaving Crazy Horse, we  continued our scenic drive, enjoying the wildlife around us, especially one that gracefully walked across the road in front of us.

 Pronghorn Antelope

These adorable prairie dogs were popping up all over the place.

No wildlife, just a nice view.

Chuck's final plan for the day was a visit to Wind Cave National Park and a tour of some of the cave.  We picnicked along the way and made it just in time for the 2:30 tour.  Our tour guide, Tiffany, is from north eastern Nebraska.  She studies meteorology and told me that Nebraska has 90-100% humidity.  No, we didn't crawl down that hole.

This is one of the World's largest cave complexes, having 95% of the world's boxwork--a feature created from limestone cracks filling with gypsum and then having (naturally forming) carbolic acid eat away the softer limestone, leaving a honeycomb-like structure: boxwork. The wind coming out of the cave can reach 70mph. Wind studies have allowed scientists to determine that only about 5-10% of the cave has been discovered/explored so far. Chuck was impressed--and a little nervous--that we walked over and looked up along one of the area's geological faults.

An exciting day, especially when you spot signs like "Reptile Garden. This ain't no petting zoo."

My lands are where my dead lie buried. ~ Crazy Horse

My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too. ~ Chief Henry Standing Bear (in his 1939 invitation to Korczak to carve Crazy Horse Memorial)