6/6 – 6/10 – Much nicer!! Green, evergreens, pine and cedar mostly, looks a little black from a distance, especially next to lush green prairies. Stopped by the visitor center in Grand Rapids for campground info, no trouble finding a campsite. Oreville Campground in the Forest. A sweet small campground, shady spot, plenty of room. Only drawback a little close to a road that’s busy mostly during the day. Got here in time to talk to the host, secure my spot and go into Custer only 6 miles away and get those camper tires from someone the host recommended. Pricey but good to have it done and to have made it this far without any trouble since there was nothing before now. While I waited I found a wonderful place for an ice cream. Purple Pie Place, should have been Purple Pig Pie (and ice cream) Place :).
This area is full of things to see. Campground was also just 5 miles from Crazy Horse Mountain. Was kinda smitten with Crazy Horse. It’s a non-profit foundation, not a national monument and gets no funding from feds or state. Nor would they accept any. This is Sioux country. As with all the US, it was stolen from the Indians, then the gov. “gave” (wasn’t that sweet of them) them a tiny by comparison, piece of land to live on, where it was impossible for them to live their nomadic lifestyle, especially since the whites had also killed all the buffalo they depended on for not only food, but clothes, housing, tools and weapons. Then gold was discovered on the Sioux land, the gov. offered to buy it back which the Indians refused – “Our land is not for sale”! So naturally the white gov. stole it too and the gold diggers and traders moved the Sioux out with the gov. blessings. The US gov is still trying to buy that land, and they still refuse. Therefore Crazy Horse Foundation refuses too. It’s beautiful! Very unfinished. Was started in 1947, 70 yrs, and much is left to do. The children and grandchildren of the sculptor who did the design, sculpted model and started the carving, are the primary ones working on it now. What a contrast with Rushmore, with all the gov. funding it needed was completely finished in 17 yrs! With lavish visitor center, programs, etc. Crazy Horse also put money into a wonderful visitor center, museum, programs, native music and dancing entertainment, but overall you can tell much lower budget. It is also much larger than Rushmore, and much more intricate, will take a long time to finish. I saw a great film, took a guided bus tour to the base, heard a wonderful musician, who had such a bitter-sweet life story of being taken from reservation and adopted to white parents then finding out the truth after they died and returning “home” to welcoming arms. Also saw Indian hoop dancing. Nothing about it is as slick as neighbor Rushmore, but I took it into my heart and just loved it. The idea was from a native leader, who hired the sculptor. In it’s purpose statement it is to honor all native people, not just Sioux. Natives serve on the board and are included in all aspects, many were working in the facility.
I also drove in Custer State Park, more buffalo, prairie dogs, Pronghorns, and went to Wind Cave. Wanted to go to Hot Springs and some falls, but not enough time.
I did go to Rushmore the next day, basically did an obligatory drive-by-shooting (pictures). It’s impressive, yes, the massiveness, an amazing feat. Way too slick, too many people for me (lots were at Crazy Horse too), and way too rah-rah-wearing-the-flag patriotic. Not a mention that it was carved on sacred native space, and the faces are those responsible for theft and genocide, Indian, slaves and others. And a few good things, I know, like National Parks and monuments. I am immersed in everything Native American, Rushmore felt like a slap in the face. 😦
To get to Rushmore I drove the Needles Highway, such beautiful natural sculptures, why mess with them, a wonderful drive tho I was constantly aware of the intrusion and destruction the making and driving of the drive itself did/does to the natural setting. Especially the tunnels, several of which “frame” Rushmore from various viewpoints and distances. I enjoyed it, it is delightful, I guess I’ll always be disappointed at our impact on nature, and here I am, part of it.
A woman I’d met at Theodore Roosevelt NP, Meggie, who I’d kept in contact with, joined me here. We had a great time catching each other up on our travels, enjoying supper and next morning breakfast together. We went together to the Crazy Horse Light Show (at 10 PM!!! – that’s when it gets dark here!). We went early so she could see some of the other stuff, lucky for me the movie was different. The next day we went to another cave(I forgot the name and don’t have notes with me) and 5 Mile Ghost Town. I didn’t get any pictures because they had chickens and rabbits running around loose and I had Xena on a leash!!! Bad combination, would have enjoyed more without her but was glad they let her in since it was very sunny and no shade. Meggie got lots of pictures, if she sends me some, I’ll show you. On the way back, stopped for pie at The Purple Pie Place. 🙂
I pulled out the next day early, went to Deadwood, of wild west, gold rush, Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane fame. I was really surprised it was so large, both then and now. The Old Town doesn’t really look too old, it’s been kept up and modernized and made into lots of touristy hype.
Also went to Devil’s Tower , another amazing natural phenomenon, held sacred by Native Americans with ceremonies and rights of passage held here even today.
Both Deadwood and Devil’s Tower were on the way to my next destination, Bighorn Canyon and Little Big Horn Battleground National Parks. Which is where I am now and will be for next post.
Loving our life of travel,
Lynn and Xena