to the Black Hills, the Black Hills of Dakota! Or are you too young to remember that song well enough to hum along?
This morning, we were heading for the Black Hills and you know, that could have been us, singing along…
We drove through some fairly flat farmland before turning towards the hills and driving through the most beautiful wooded countryside, taking the Iron Mountain Scenic Route
Who knew South Dakota was as lovely as this? Oh, and can you see our destination there between the trees?
Before long, those glimpses between the trees opened up and we found a parking spot where we could take proper photographs. I felt so excited about being here; somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time and was thrilled to see those figures in the cliff.
Arriving at Mount Rushmore itself, however, we were not only amazed by the huge viewing facility but we were also a little disappointed by the sheer numbers of people who were here. Somehow, we had simply not imagined that a place in what we’ve thought of as a “remote” state could be so popular!
When we first arrived, we thought that perhaps we ought to have settled for the distant view through the trees, for the peace of the remote spot and the space to look and see this remarkable sight without the company of the world and his wife.
The approach to the viewing platform is via a walkway of flags: 56 of them, representing the states and dependent territories of the USA. Eventually, the way opens up to a wide viewing area, from where the rockface can be seen perfectly.
Once we were there ourselves, we felt glad we’d come right into the park, that we’d braved the crowds and the noise, because really, this is a fantastic sight.
Of course, the clear blue skies set it off beautifully too, although the temperature was beginning to soar.
In the Visitor Centre, we learned a little of how the original design had been changed, mainly due to the natural faultlines in the rock. Sadly, the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, died before it was complete, so apart from the slight hint of George Washington’s lapel, the shoulders of the Presidents aren’t there.
After an ice cream and a mooch in the gift shop for journal bling, we’d had enough. We returned to the car and drove away, stopping for one very special last look, just around the corner.
A little further along the road, we saw the next great rock sculpture, that of Crazy Horse, who will eventually rival Mount Rushmore in size and spectacle, but who for now, remains mostly at the planning stage.
Our next stop was the small town of Custer,
where not much was happening. We moved swiftly on.
The Custer State Park was bustling however, particularly at these pinchpoints on the Needles Highway where the road took a narrow and somewhat uncomfortable route through a rock. The crowd had just dissipated from this one, having cheered as a coach had squeezed through, but with people all over the place – taking photos, climbing rocks and generally standing in the most precarious places, getting through was no picnic. (Our guidebook tells us that coaches have 2” either side to spare)
The views were splendid, though and we decided we’d continue on these scenic byways by driving the Wildlife Loop, too.
The wildlife was pretty interesting, too, though some of it came a little close for comfort
No carrots in the car, though and we had no intention of sharing our sack of Peanut M&Ms!
From there, it was back to Rapid City. The thermometer in the car was hovering around 98F and we were getting hungry.
We enjoyed a tasty supper in the brewpub in Rapid City before returning to our hotel. As we walked back to the car, we noted it was 104F. No wonder we felt a little warm!