It Was a “Crazy” Kind of Day

It rained our plans out on the day we went to Mount Rushmore (see previous post). We were also going to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial that day. Because of the rain, we didn’t go. Yesterday provided us with another opportunity.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills of Custer County, South Dakota. When finished, it will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

The memorial was commissioned by Lakota elder, Henry Standing Bear. In November of 1939, Standing Bear wrote to a Polish-American sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, who had been working on Mount Rushmore under Gutzon Borglum (the man in charge of sculpting the four presidents on Mount Rushmore). In his letter, Standing Bear informed Ziolkowski “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes,too.”

Standing Bear also wrote to the Department of the Interior offering all of his fertile 900 acres of land in exchange for the barren mountain for the purpose of honoring Crazy Horse. The government agreed to issue a permit for the use of the land with a commission to oversee the project. Standing Bear did not want the government to have any say so over the project, so he chose not to seek government funds. He, instead, relied upon influential Americans interested in the welfare of the American Indian to privately fund it.

Korczak Ziolkowski, a well-known sculptor, started work on the monument in 1948. After 71 years, it is still not completed. There are many project unknowns that affect its completion: lightning storms, blizzards, and the mountain’s high iron content which makes the rock harder to carve to name a few.

Another factor is funding. The Crazy Horse sculpture is a nonprofit project which is funded entirely on admission fees and donations. There have been offers of state and federal funding over the years, but Ziolkowski turned them down. He did not believe the government would complete the carving.

Ziolkowski died in 1982 and was buried at the foot of the mountain. At that time, his wife, Ruth, took over the project as director of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Ruth died in 2014 at age 87. All ten of their children and two of their grandchildren have continued the carving of the monument or are active in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

Ziolkowski had plans for more than just a mountain sculpture. There is the Indian Museum of North America, The Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and the Indian University of North America. There are also plans for a medical center.

There is so much to see and do here, so plan to stay at least half a day, or, better yet, all day.

Yes! Those are people on top of the mountain. Five years ago when I was here with my dad, I don’t think they were letting people go to the top.

This model of the sculpture is 1/34th the size that the completed memorial will be (see the mountain in the background).

We decided to take a different route home than the one we took going to Crazy Horse. Everyone had told us about the beauty of the drive on Needles Highway (actually it’s Highway 87). We were excited to take that drive until ….. it started raining. We stopped at the Custer State Park entrance to ask one of the workers about taking the road in the rain. They said the road would be fine, so we headed down Needles Highway. Words cannot describe the beauty of the rock formations the higher up we got. I’m sure my photos would have been prettier had the sun been out, but you can’t change the weather.

After we finished traveling along Needles Highway, we headed home. The highways we had to take went through the middle of Custer State Park. This is a beautiful park that I hope we get to go through another day, and at a more leisurely pace.

However, there are some big horn sheep that seem to think they “own” the Highway. They were in the middle of the road in the morning, and they were (still???) there that afternoon (you can see the road is wet from the rain).

I wish I knew what was so “tasty” on that road.

It was a great day!

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


Mount Rushmore National Memorial

We left Wall yesterday and made our way west to Rapid City. Then we turned south to head a little way down Highway 79 to a small town called Hermosa, SD. We found an RV park called Heartland RV Park & Cabins. It is right along Hwy. 79.

The park is only 5 years old. There are 165 camping sites with 120 of those sites with 50 amp, full hookups. However, they are working on adding A LOT MORE sites! I don’t know how many more, but it’s a lot. Because it is such a new campground, the trees are small, so there isn’t much shade. All the facilities are, also, very nice!

This morning we got up early because we decided to go see Mount Rushmore. I brought my dad to see Mount Rushmore exactly five years ago, and it was the exact same date! The sun was shining and it was going to be a great day.

As we got near the mountain, we got some “sneak peeks” of the four presidents. There’s nothing like seeing the carvings on the mountain for the first time! Even though it was second time here, the sight of that mountain is still exhilarating.

We arrived at the memorial around 10:00 a.m. They had a snowstorm here last week (the news said 14-16 inches of snow!), so there were still piles of snow in various places.

We parked the car and walked to the entrance. Walking through the entrance and down the “honor guard” of pillars with flags representing all 50 states is inspirational. Add to those flags Mount Rushmore in the background, and, well, people just halt right where they are, looking up and gawking for several minutes.

Looking at the mountain from the edge of the viewing area, which is at the back of the amphitheater, is fantastic (it’s the view you see in textbooks and other publications). I could sit there for hours and just stare at those four presidents.

There is a hiking trail that goes to the base of the mountain where you will see some unusual and special views of Mount Rushmore. We decided to walk the trail and went to our left from the main viewing platform to start it (you can also go to the right; it’s the same trail).

The sun was still shining, but we could see some clouds building. We didn’t think much about it. However, it did start to lightly sprinkle about the time we were directly below the presidents. Then the rain drops got bigger and the temperatures had dropped. Needless to say, we began walking faster, so we wouldn’t get too wet. Before long, we arrived at a building called the Sculptor Studio, so we went inside and looked around for a while during the heaviest part of the rain. When the rain almost stopped, we finished the hiking trail and ended up on the right side of the viewing platform.

Before we left, we had to go in the Gift Shop (of course!). It is large gift shop, and I had been in there with my dad five years ago. However, today was a special day at the gift shop. They had a special guest: Mr. Don “Nick” Clifford. Mr. Clifford was one of the original Mount Rushmore drillers from 1938-1940, and he is the only person who worked on the mountain who is still living today. He was 17 when he started working on Mount Rushmore, and he is 97 years old now. He goes to the gift shop 2-3 days a week, signs copies of his book, and answers questions. If you buy his book, you get to have your picture taken with him. He was such a sweet man and his wife was there with him helping with the people.

When we left Mount Rushmore, we decided to take a different route back to the RV. We had heard about two scenic drives that many people take. One was called Iron Mountain Road and the other one was Needles Highway. We knew both of these roads were very curvy and had some tunnels. We chose Iron Mountain Road which is Highway 16A. You won’t believe the curves, tunnels, and scenic views!

We will be up on that bridge in a minute. The road makes a 360 degree turn here. There were several of these 360 turns along Highway 16A.

Zoom in and you will see Mount Rushmore from another far away angle.

When we got back to the RV, we rested a little while, did some chores, and ate some supper. Our plan was to go back to Mount Rushmore at night. The mountain looks SO different and beautiful at night! Did you know there is no admission charge to enter the park?! Also, the memorial is open from 5:00 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., and your parking receipt gets you back in for the nighttime lighting program at 9 p.m. Actually, when you pay for the parking, it is good for one full year!!

We haven’t totally decided where we are going tomorrow yet. I guess you will just have to come back to our travel blog and check it out.

Thanks for stopping by and reading about our adventures around the good ‘ole USA.

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


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