Day 5 of the trip was my day to visit the Black Hills. Once again, I had the opportunity to see a part of this country I’ve never seen from the ground. What beauty! I visited the Black Hills during the end of September. It was early fall and most of the trees were in various stages the autumn color change.
It was easy to see, as I drove through the Black Hills, that this is a seasonal tourist region. Many of the tourist businesses in the small towns of Keystone and Hill Town were closed or in the process of closing until next spring as were many of the lodges, motels and resorts. I noticed many mountain roads had gates that are used to close them during extreme snow events. Of course, this is true of other places in the U.S. including Skyline Drive in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and extending to western North Carolina.
Once again, on these preliminary trips I’ve been taking, I’ve not allowed enough time to stop, spend adequate time to experience and explore all there is to see and learn about all the places I’m going through. So, this is more like an appetizer rather then the real entrée.
After I passed through the small touristy town of Keystone, it was just a short distance through the gorgeous Black Hills winding roads until I came around a bend and there they were, the “four chiefs,” George, Tom, Teddy and Abe. It was quite an amazing sight. The likenesses are amazing. It is hard to image how the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum had the vision to actually see those faces that were scaled as if each man were 465 feet tall. The project took 14 years until Borglum’s death in 1941 and has never been touched since his blasting charge and chisel touched the mountain. I can only say that it is awe-inspiring.
My only minor (very minor) disappointment was that the image I had of the mountain gave me the impression that the four heads were much larger. But, that is simply because the pictures I’ve seen in the past of Mt. Rushmore are close-up shots of the heads and carefully cropped. They are still a magnificent work of art and a true monument to those four leaders of our nation. There is a visitor center with exhibits and what is described as a spectacular program every night when they light up the mountain. Unfortunately, on this trip, I didn’t allow for adequate time to experience either. But, I will be back in the future to add that to my collection of life experiences and memories.
Moving on from Mt. Rushmore and winding further through the majestic Black Hills, about 17 miles further down the road I came to a monument of another chief. This is the Crazy Horse Monument to memorialize Chief Crazy Horse and the Native American peoples who inhabited this continent before the influx of migration from Europe and then other parts of the world began. Once again, I wish I had allowed a lot more time to spend and explore and learn at the Crazy Horse Monument, but alas, that time was just not available. I will return.
The mountain carving began in 1948. Polish American sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski was commissioned by the Lakota Nation to create the Memorial. There was and still is much controversy within the Sioux and Lakota peoples about the monument. Many believe it is a sacrilege to carve the mountain in the sacred area of the Black Hills. Ziółkowski, the sculptor (who had worked on Mt. Rushmore under Borglum) died in 1982, however, his family has stayed involved in the project that is completely funded by private contributions. The face of Crazy Horse was completed and dedicated in 1998. The site will not only commemorate Chief Crazy Horse and the great leaders of the Native American peoples, but will also be a cultural center and University of Native American Medicine and knowledge. The cultural center is already open and includes art and crafts displays as well as artisan displays where American Indian artisans work. The university opened this year with an initial enrollment of 21 students. There is no completion date set for this monumental project. I’ve heard said it will take a hundred years and will be the largest, man-made sculpture in the world.
Since I have some Native American blood running in my veins, of which I’m very proud, I must go back to this place and learn as much as I can about the proud race of people, I am part of and ignorant about.
Well, it was getting later in the afternoon and I needed to make my way back to Rapid City. I had to bypass a visit to Custer State Park, but that is definitely on my “to do” list for my next visit to the Black Hills of South Dakota. As I headed back to Rapid City, I made a stop in the small town of Hill Town where Found the Subway shop to be open for business. I stopped and had half a foot long sandwich, saving the other half for dinner that night in Rapid City. It would be my last night in my new “home-base” and I was planning to walk around downtown a bit. The drive back was just as pleasant as the drive out into the Black Hills and didn’t take more then a half hour from the time I left Hill Town.
Day 5 will conclude in the next posting with my downtown walk around.