Have you ever had a dream to see something "in person", one that you had for many, many years? I have, and it was to see Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials in person. I've read about them, seen special television presentations on them, and seen other people's pictures of them. I wondered, more than once, if I would ever get there.
So, when Jack and I started planning our year and the places that were "a must" on our list, I said that these two places in South Dakota were ones that we just had to visit! As we left California, we headed "towards the sun", so the route started in Arizona and just kept going towards Texas, Florida, etc. It was only logical to head on up the East Coast through the summer, so routing ourselves back down towards South Dakota was going to have to wait until the Fall. As we stayed longer and longer in some areas, it cut our timing to get back to the West. Entering South Dakota we were watching the weather like hawks. Right on our heels, appearing to come our way, was quite a bad winter storm, one we didn't want to get caught in!
As with this whole trip, we were blessed with good weather, giving us just enough time to head to Keystone, and have at least one full day to see my two special monuments. The day greeted us with sunshine with cool temperatures, so we headed up the mountain as early as we could. Driving up the Black Hills mountain road was a joy in of itself. Absolutely beautiful. We even came across a section where rose quartz was exposed through the surrounding sandstone, granite boulders, shale and gypsum beds. Trees growing out of the boulders. Color everywhere...
But nothing compared to seeing the monument for the first time! We were advised by our camp hosts to go up the mountain the longer, more scenic way than the signs send you, and that as we drive through the first tunnel we will see the monument as we exit. My heart really started beating excitedly as we entered this first tunnel, knowing that I was going to get my first glimpse of the monument. The little kid in me came out as I had Jack pull over to the side so I could jump out, camera in hand, and just stand there for a moment to take it in. Pictures taken, now I was anxious to get up to the Visitor Center and see it closer, and in all it's glory!
As we drove closer and closer, I couldn't take my eyes off of it...so magnificent. When we arrived at the Visitor Center, I was amazed at how big, how beautiful, how large it was! I had this image in my mind that it would just be a big carved out area where people stood to see the monument. I thought there would be some gift shops and snack shops, but nothing in compared to what greeted us that day! Once you park, and head towards the center, you are greeted with wide steps that lead you up to, and through the "Avenue of Flags" to enter the Information Center and Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. Flags of each state hang overhead as you walk through, creating goose bumps for all that they stand for. We made a brief stop at the Ranger Station, but enough of all that, I wanted to get as close as I could to see the monument! As I stood there and viewed the monument, I realized I was holding my breath; there's really nothing to compare to having your dream come true.
Afterward, we spent hours going through all the various exhibits & movies, with a stop for lunch. Even as we ate, our view was of the monument...pure bliss.
We knew that we really only had this one day, so we needed to head to the Crazy Horse Memorial before the day got completely away from us. Again, I expected something very simple - not the many, many rooms of exhibits, art, stories and memorabilia they share. But before we went through all that, we "upgraded" our ticket to take a small bus ride up the mountain to get to the actual base of the sculpture. Wow, what a great treat! We could see and hear men actually working on the mountain as we stood there. Cool, really cool.
I thought the sculpture would be further along than it was, but after learning that for the first 8 years the Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski worked on it all by himself! Even now, they only have 8 workers (6 from his family). Ziolkowski was so committed to what this sculpture is all about, that he (and the Indians) don't want any government monies. Every bit has come from donations and ticket sales. At this rate, it won't be completed until my great-grandchildren come to visit! One thing in their favor, is now there are more advanced ways to work through the rock, than in the early 1940's. It was really interesting to walk through his studios, their family home and all the various memorabilia. I learned a lot. A truly wonderful visit.
Dreams do come true.
If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my
Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/
One the road, Marie