We've really enjoyed having a day off from driving east and spent the day in our favorite tourist mode, recharging our batteries. The Black Hills have so much to offer, you could stay here a month and not do it all. The scenery is fabulous, an oasis from the surrounding arid grasslands and badlands further east. The carvings of four of our best presidents on Mount Rushmore have lead to many other exhibits and museums with a patriotic theme. We're in the Wild West here and you can go to chuck wagon dinners, ride horses, witness gun fights at the OK corral. Outdoor enthusiasts can go rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking. There's a strong Native American cultural presence. There are many places where you can buy their art, beadwork, pottery. Tribes gather here to put on pow wows. A dramatic memorial to their culture is the Crazy Horse Memorial, which we revisited today.
Sculptor Korczak Ziolowski, learned how to sculpt on the super large scale when he assisted in the creation of the monument at Mount Rushmore. When local Lakota Indians saw one of his more modestly sized sculptures at the Worlds' Fair, they commissioned him to make a similar massive monument to the one on Rushmore, honoring all the native Americans. They chose Crazy Horse to represent them, because he was a great chief who never surrendered and was stabbed in the back by an American solider during peace time. A wonderful metaphor for how we treated the first residents of our land. He began working in 1948 with a budget of $174. The whole mountain is the sculpture and for years Ziolowski worked all alone removing the rock to reveal his vision of the ultimate figure of Crazy Horse on horseback. We were here 25 years ago and must admit that when we got here today, it didn't look all that different. No government funds are being used to make the memorial and their are also plans to create a university and medical school. None of this will be completed in our life times, but I guess it's good to have dreams.
We spent the rest of the day at Custer State Park, the second largest state park in the US. It has three driving routes. The first featured wildlife - buffalo, wild donkeys, and prairie dogs. It we had been there at dawn or dusk we would have seen much more. The buffalo were shedding their winter coats and looked other ragged and it was fun to see their babies cavorting and nursing. The second route took us through three tunnels that pierced the rolling hills. As we drove through each one, we could see the monument at Mt. Rushmore in the distance. The third drive was called the Needles Highway and also had tunnels, but its claim to fame was the rock formations that gave it its name. In the park we saw a number of young families, something we aren't used to. A reminder that it is time for us to get off the road and leave the recreational opportunities to the young.
In the evening our friends took us to Mt. Rushmore for a patriotic ceremony which gave a brief history of the honored presidents and climaxed with an illumination of the monument. The arena where the ceremony was held was huge and filled with views. All of this was new to us; it's been so long since we were here.
Tomorrow, back to the driving with renewed energy.