I could have stayed in the Badlands, exploring, for days, but on the morning of August 29th I set out on the scenic route to the Black Hills National Forest, home to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Wind Cave.
Two hours later I arrived at my first stop. Mount Rushmore was put on the agenda as a “Well, I should see it because it’s Mount Rushmore.” It was worth the stop, and I may have pleaded to the presidents on the mountain to help fix the political nightmare we’re in these days. The jury is still out on whether or not they heard me.
A short 30-minute drive from Mount Rushmore is the unfinished Crazy Horse memorial. Currently the world’s largest Mountain Carving in progress, the first rock was blasted in 1948. The memorial does not accept federal or state funding, so the project is financed by admissions to the memorial and contributions.
A letter was written by Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor selected to design the memorial in 1949, explaining why Crazy Horse was chosen to be memorialized.
“In the minds of the Indians today, the life and death of Crazy Horse parallels the tragic history of the redman since the whiteman invaded their homes and lands. One of the many great and patriotic Indian heroes, Crazy Horse’s tenacity of purpose, his modest life, his unfailing courage, his tragic death sets him apart and above all others.”
After visiting Crazy Horse, it was time for lunch. I chose the Buglin Bull Restaurant and Sports Bar in Custer. I ordered the South Dakota Pheasant Flatbread and an Elk burger (When in South Dakota…). Elk is a bit drier than I like, but I can say now I’ve had it. I enjoyed one of their in-house craft beers. With a full belly, I headed on to Wind Cave – a strong recommendation from a camper I met in Mitchell. I’m glad I listened to him. Wind Cave was a treat.
I chose the intermediate tour, which takes you 200 feet below ground. The tour guide told several great stories, including how the Lakota believe the Wind Caves are the birthplace of civilization, and another involving a young man who explored much of the caves in the late 1800s.
I ended the day at the Blue Bell Campground in Custer. It’s a lovely, hilly, campground. This was the first campground that had elevated tent sites which is nice because they’re flat. However, the downside is I had to carry my gear up a hill to the elevated site. But the view was worth it.
The camp host came around to warn me that buffalo often roam the campground, so be mindful of food storage and do not approach the buffalo (did you know a buffalo can run 40 mph and weigh over 2 tons?). However, it wasn’t the buffalo that got me at this campsite. I was relaxing, reading my book when all of the sudden a large flying creature smacked me on the side of the face. I shrieked and started knocking everything over. It was a large flying cockroach looking thing. I hate large flying cockroach looking things. I wasn’t afraid of buffalos, but that gave me the heebee-jeebees. Go figure.
The next day I would start my journey to Thermopolis, Wyoming. See you there!