Tuesday, 2 September 2014

South Dakota, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and lots of animals

Jackie at Sioux Falls
We left Luverne bright and early having played with the waffle maker in the breakfast room, not sure I wanted a waffle and maple syrup, but I wanted to see how the machine worked, so we shared one! Only to stop less than an hour later at Sioux Falls, not to see the town, but to see the falls which were very pretty it has to be said. We thought so as did the many other people who had also stopped for a look, all before 10.00! Off again, looking at the many roadside hoardings advertising coming attractions, some of them 100’s of miles away. So we decide to stop at the corn palace, which wasn’t quite as impressive as it sounds, it wasn’t all made of corn, but the huge decorative panels are made of corn/maize in a variety of naturally occurring colours and are impressive.

Sioux Falls is on the Minnesota/South Dakota border and is a town virtually in the 'middle of nowhere', settled due to the falls ability to generate power and grind flour
The Corn Palace, not built of corn, but decorated in corn
Inside it's used as a basketball stadium for national and school teams
The wide Missouri river at Chamberlain that cuts S. Dakota in half
The little prarie dogs at Badlands
Next stop and lunch was a bridge over I can’t remember what river, though I’m sure to be corrected. Bought some bread and made yummy sandwiches with the left over roast beef and prime rib (how tender was that?) from last nights dinner! Perhaps eating out isn’t too expensive if it provides lunch too!

Bit of a drive before our next stop, a little place that sold a bag of peanuts in their shells for 50c to feed to the prairie dogs! The cutest fattest little things imaginable, AND we could feed and stroke them. Then our final detour into the Badlands, quite amazing scenery and they just went on and on, the thought of trying to find a route through with a horse and cart would be quite horrendous. A couple of short hikes before the big black cloud appeared and the thunder and lightning started. Off to the Black Hills then, assuming we might be able to see them. 

This one had eaten too many peanuts and just wanted to sunbathe!
He's not too sure about taking peanuts from strangers...

But they seem to taste OK
It had stopped raining by the time we hit Rapid City and headed into the hills, though they had had some rain, we could see. We are staying in a cabin on a campsite which is lovely, though feels quite strange to not be in a ‘little van’. We don’t have the cooking facilities and food items for one thing. So seeing that we were obviously slightly phased after the drive, the guys in the reception did mention that the pizza place in Hill City (about 5 miles away) would deliver, right up to our cabin! Wow! Seemed quite cheap at $14.99 till you add on tax, and tip $25 is what the reception guy normally gives them! Still with the addition of potato salad and some greens, we do have dinner for tonight as well! Along with the first glass out of the case of wine we bought while with F&S! It doesn’t taste quite the same out of a Samuel Adams tasting glass compared with the huge beautiful wine glass I’m used to drinking it out of, but very easy drinking none the less!

He's not sure about this stroking business either, but it doesn't seem to hurt!
Badlands, such a strange place and a huge area. Originally named by French settlers as a bad land in which to travel. It's millions of years of sediment from a shallow sea
Apparently complete with rattlesnakes, but we didn't see any, only chipmunks
Our cabin
We moved cabins today, just to be a little closer to the loo! The new one is bigger, and has better heating, which we actually need, I’m sitting typing outside, in micro-fleeces, and my new little down jacket (thank-you Costco), while Brian is hiding indoors, but it doesn’t have a table inside (hence why I’m outside) but does have a lovely swing chair on the verandah!

Jackie found 'Crazy Cat' at Crazy Horse

This stagecoach was a very popular design used, amongst others as the 'Deadwood Stage'. It would hold 21 people, 9 inside and 12 on the roof. The leather suspension was supposed to make it very luxurious, doesn't sound like it to us!
Wolves in the drive-through wildlife park (not under the bed!)
 So today we were tourists, first the Crazy Horse Monument, which we weren’t actually going to go into, but by the time you’ve turned off the freeway, it’s too late, you are going in! I’ll let him talk about that, as the next attraction was ‘mine’ Bearcountry USA! A drive through attraction of native wildlife, elk, longhorn sheep, reindeer, and then onto wolves cougars and bears, all just waiting to be photographed. No we never wound down the windows!

The reindeer didn't want to be photographed!
And the bears just wanted to observe us
Just finishing the drive through when the heavens opened, lightening, thunder, rain and hail. But could we leave? NO we hadn’t been through ‘Babyland’ yet! (or got our free hotdog from some leaflet I’d picked up!) Once the rain finally stopped out we got. Grizzly bear, badgers (but not as we know them), skunks (including an all white one), lynx, bobcats, raccoon, coyote, red foxes, arctic fox cubs, and lots of baby black bear! The camera went into overdrive, and that wasn’t me, but they were gorgeous.

And roam about
This one's a Grizzly Bear, the one you don't want to meet in the wild
South Dakota is home to the Mount Rushmore monument and the Crazy Horse monument, both America’s largest stone, or mountain carvings. The original, Mount Rushmore monument is second only to the Statue of Liberty as a globally recognised symbol of American ideals, depicting in sixty foot high rock images, four of America’s greatest presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. They were created by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, started in 1927 and took fourteen years to complete, Borglum dying just months before its final dedication. Half a million tons of rock were removed, mainly by dynamite, the fine detail being done with drills and chisels.

Playful little bear cubs
We visited the Mount Rushmore monument after we had visited the Crazy Horse monument and, as a result, we were a little disappointed in the Mount Rushmore monument, mainly because of its size. The Crazy Horse monument is still in construction and will be for at least another twenty or thirty years and is awesome in its size, standing 563 ft high and 641 ft long. The head alone stands 87.5 ft high and the Mount Rushmore monument would fit into the top left hand corner occupied by Crazy Horse’s head and headdress. It is a massive undertaking, but its story is also fascinating and an emotional commitment of, so far, two generations of a family dedicated to recognising the American Indians.

This climbing tree business seems like fun...
It all started in 1939 when Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear wrote to Korczak Ziolkowski, an orphaned Polish descendent who had won first prize for his sculpture ‘Study of an Immortal’: “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also”. History has shown that the treatment of the American Indians by the white settlers was pretty bad, the massacre at Wounded Knee, where on December 29th 1890 the US 7th Cavalry gunned down several hundred unarmed Sioux men, women and children (in their defence, as a result of a misunderstanding of ghost dancing as a war dance), is one example and the final bloody encounter of over half a century, so some kind of memorial was long overdue. Lakota Chief Red Cloud’s poignant words of 1891 are written in the museum: "They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they kept but one--They promised to take our land...and they took it.”

Right to the very top
But hadn't thought in advance about getting down1
The Lakota chiefs selected Crazy Horse as the symbol not only of their tribe, but for all American Indian tribes. He would be pictured with his left hand pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man “where are your lands now?” He replied “My lands are where my dead lie buried”. Crazy Horse died in 1877 aged 35 after being stabbed in the back by an American soldier, while carrying a flag of truce.

Mount Rushmore monument
Korczak Ziolkowski took up the challenge and in 1947, aged 40, dynamited the first rocks to start the sculpture. He, with his wife, dedicated their lives to it, they had ten children and they now continue his work after he died in 1984. Only this year in May 2014, his wife died, leaving the work to the children and, more than likely, their children. It is funded privately, by the family and the money they make from the entrance fees, no government funding is received, nor wanted. The foundation created also funds a Native American Educational and Cultural Centre and operates the Indian University of North America and a medical training centre for American Indians.

From a distance
And George Washington in profile
So far, only the head of Crazy Horse is complete, but millions of tons of rock have been blasted away to create the rough top of his arm and a tunnel to start the gap under his arm. The outline of the horses head is painted on the rock, but one person there estimated it would be twenty years before they have blasted enough rock away to sculpt the outline. It’s a labour of love and generations and you can’t help but feel touched by it.

Crazy Horse monument and, in front, the 1/34 scale model
An amazing and varied day out, with even an amazing thunderstorm thrown in for good measure!

The mountain before work commenced in 1947

Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear's letter to Korczak Ziolkowski in 1939

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