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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Memorials and Lakes

Our short visit to the Black Hills of South Dakota has been interesting, informative, beautiful, and tiring :-), We have spent every day since arriving visiting and taking in as many of the sights we can. I still haven't gotten into that delightful state of mind known as "taking it easy"....it may happen one day, but don't count on it :-).

This area is so steeped in history that it is hard to take it all in. I have picked up a couple of books to read, hopefully I will be able to get to them after our next three months of work are done. I know we went over all this history back in high school, but it doesn't really sink in what a travesty our country took part in with our dealings with the tribes of Native Americans..

We went to see the Crazy Horse Memorial here in Custer. This is the world's largest mountain carving, memorializing one of the Native Americans' most famous warriors and heroes. He was chosen not only for his skill in battle, but for his character and loyalty to his people. Henry Standing Bear explained the choice in 1939, saying "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, also.”

This is the original sculpture by Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski , and the mountain carving in the distance behind it.

This is the actual mountain carving as it looks today. It was officially started in 1948, and the face was completed and unveiled in 1998. The head alone is 87 feet 6 inches tall. The horse's head is the current focus of work, and will be 219 feet tall, or more than 22 stories high. the entire sculpture, when done, is expected to be 641 feet long by 563 feet high. Korczak depicted Crazy Horse with his left hand pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man, “Where are your lands now?” Crazy Horse replied, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.” 

There is a whole complex developed at the site now, and a very interesting video is shown about the life and work of the sculpturer, Korczak Ziolkowski. There's many exhibits in the hall devoted to Native American life, The Native American Educational and Cultural center, as well as your normal souvenir shop and restaurant. No tax dollars are used whatsoever in this monument, it is solely supported by visitors and donations. 

Next up on the itinerary was a visit to Mount Rushmore National Monument.
The entrance to the Memorial is quite grand and patriotic, with the flags of every state and territory of the United States flying over the walkway. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers created the carving, working for 14 years before it was completed. 

We took the audio tour that is available, and enjoyed it very much. For $5.00 each we had the use of a handset and followed a trail throughout the park, making 29 stops to listen to videotaped discussion about the sculpture, the workers, the presidents, and the carving of the mountain. 

Washington and Jefferson up close

Roosevelt and Lincoln up close. It was so interesting to walk the Presidential Trail and listen to the tape. I would say it took us a good two hours to complete the tour, visit the exhibit halls and watch the movie presentation.

The original scale sculpture in the Sculpture's Studio. This is the model the workers use to carve the mountain of granite. We found it amazing how they could blast away the exact amount of rock needed to without destroying all the previous work. I mean, can you imagine getting almost to the end, and an errant blast wiping out Washington's face or something??

Now, to clear up any questions....there are no backsides carved into the mountain behind the figures :-). Underneath Lincoln, however, is the beginning of what was intended to be a Hall of Records containing documents relating to the Memorial. It was never completed, although the Borglum family continues to try and raise money for its completion. It is not open for public viewing.

While here in the Black Hills, we returned one morning to walk around Sylvan Lake. It is such a beautiful area, if we were working here this would be my favorite walk. The lake is beautiful from every angle.
The view from the start of the trail

The aspens are changing rapidly to gold now. It is beautiful, but I do miss the myriad of colors during leaf-peeping season in the Northeast.

The far end of the lake. The trail goes behind the rock walls, and below the dam that was put up in 1881 across Sunday Gulch.

The view from the other side of the lake. I could spend hours here! It was so quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately, I'm sure in peak season that plenty of other folks like to enjoy this area as well. I'm glad we were here in the off season :-).

For our last night here we decided to drive the Wildlife Loop one more time, as the sun was setting hoping we might see more animals moving around. We did find a large herd of buffalo, and for some reason they were stampeding down the side of the road and up over a hill. The pictures aren't so great as it was getting dark, but you get the idea.

A beautiful sunset ended our stay in the beautiful Black Hills!


  1. Beautiful sunset! Black Hills are on our list of places to visit. Of course, most anywhere and everywhere are on it!

  2. Once again great pictures,Karen. Don't you just love the western part of our country? I found SD to be spectacular. Love, love, love Mt. Rushmore in all its glory. And the Needle Hwy. was unbelievable to say the least. I felt sorrow when we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial in Custer. And the sunsets are just breathtaking as depicted in your photo. Unfortunately we missed Sylvan Lake. A good reason to return, hopefully soon. Thanks again for sharing your visits.

  3. That is such a beautiful area. Can't wait to visit again.

  4. You will have lots of time to read while you are waiting in line with your sugar beet truck--at least the ones I've been around--it takes some time to dump the trucks and there always seemed to be a line.

  5. Not sure even now history classes in HS at least are talking honestly about the travesty. When I was in school they never mentioned the down side of our "Manifest Destiny" policy and the government's declaration of genocide against the Indians. Despite much that is great about this wonderful land, Greed seems to be at the bottom of all of our shameful actions. I'm sure glad Andrew Jackson isn't up there on Mt. Rushmore. I'm not certain I like having our mountains carved up with human likenesses but if it's going to be then I'm happy the original Black Hills residents have one there as well.

  6. Great tour, these are all some of our favorite places:)

  7. Great Post...Beautiful Area...Thanks for the tour!!!

  8. We really loved South Dakota, and can't wait until we can spend more time there.