The visiting experience at Mount Rushmore has improved greatly - there are wonderful interpretive displays in the museum, everything from explaining how measurements were transferred from the scale model to the mountain to explanations on who the presidents depicted were and why they were chosen (remember, there are people from all over the world visiting, so not everyone knows who Teddy Roosevelt is). I enjoyed people watching those visitors, too.
Custer State Park is very beautiful - similar terrain to Wind Cave National Park, which is directly south of it, except it also has a section in its northern part called the Pinnacles, which is similar to Badlands NP. I went hiking near Sylvan Lake on a loop trail called Sunday Gulch - the description said it was around 3 miles and rated strenuous, so I thought how hard could 3 miles be? Famous last words. It was a down and up hike, meaning hiking down into a canyon and then back up. The beginning of the trail was stairs alongside a waterfall - very beautiful - except that at quite a few places, the waterfall actually went down the stairs (see the photo below). Luckily there were railings in the really hard spots. I was glad I started the loop going down the stairs instead of having to go *up* the staircase at the end.
Jewel Cave NM is the 3rd longest cave system in the world (it was just beat out for the 2nd place by a cave system in Mexico - lots of rivalry in the cave world!). Our tour guide was this sweet young lady who had just started a month earlier, so she was pretty nervous about remembering her shpiel. But it was a beautiful cave, with different types of formations than Wind Cave. And it was nice to be in a 49degF cave in the middle of summer.
Crazy Horse Memorial is a privately financed venture similar to Mount Rushmore. A Native American chief hired another sculptor to carve a mountain into the form of Chief Crazy Horse, saying he wanted "the white man to know that the red man had heroes too." They've been working on it for 60 years and personally, I doubt that it will ever be finished (they blast rock only a couple times a year, versus Mount Rushmore blasting twice a day for 14 years). But they have a very nice cultural center and museum and there were tons of people visiting, so I guess his purpose is being served anyway.
Hope you enjoy these photos - I'll have one more post soon to finish up my travelog. Enjoy!
Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln
|Comparison of on of the plaster models to the final version through the window.|
|Many visitors at the viewing plaza.|
|They're here, too!|
|Along Iron Mountain Road in Custer State Park. It's famous for|
these Pig Tail bridges that allow travelers to gain or drop altitude quickly.
|And also for its one-lane tunnels.|
|The begging burros.|
|Framed view in the Pinnacles.|
|Blue skies over the Pinnacles.|
|The staircase and waterfall at the beginning of the Sunday Gulch loop trail.|
|View of Sunday Gulch.|
|Walking down into Jewel Cave|
(we took an elevator down around 300 ft first).
|Is that a fish I see lurking in the shadows?|
|Plaster model of Crazy Horse Memorial in front of the carved mountain in the distance.|
|Sculpture models in the cultural center.|