June 14 – 18
I’m driving again for this short leg back to the Black Hills, and its my first time behind the wheel in real mountains. We just love the area and can’t wait to get back. This is our chance to mouse around for me to see some of the sights the rest of the family has already visited. Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park are two bucket list stops for this location.
This has got to be one of the most iconic places in America. I didn’t think I’d be as impressed with Mount Rushmore since it’s a man-made wonder, but learning about how it was carved changed my point of view. Gutzon Borglum was the artist mastermind behind the carvings and supposedly had nine different versions as work progressed. He had to flex his design as the mountain dictated. Jefferson has an upward gaze, which wasn’t the original pose. A flaw in the rock would have resulted in a crack through his nose if not for that tilt.
Mr. Borglum studied art in Europe and learned how to use dynamite in his work from a visiting Belgian artist. 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite and then the final carving techniques left the rock as smooth as a concrete sidewalk. The glasses on Theodore Roosevelt were a particularly clever design.
Washington from the small cave opening on the Presidential Trail.
The profile overlook is just a short drive around the mountain from the Memorial. Washington gets all the glory from this vantage point. Carving was started in 1927 and was finally completed on October 31, 1941 despite WWI, the Great Depression, and the death of Borglum himself.
And the “look back” view of the Black Hills from the Presidential Trail at the memorial.
“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.” Gutzon Borglum
Custer State Park & Needles Highway
After our Mount Rushmore visit, we set out on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop and Needles Highway for the spectacular views we’d read about. We were able to catch sight of Mount Rushmore from a distance.
I wanted to see the Needles of the Black Hills and we saw plenty. The rocks are eroded pillars of granite. View of Cathedral Spires on the Needles Highway.
This is a twisting and turning highway with one-lane tunnels, way too narrow and low for Lucy. I was really glad to be in Bitsy, too. Even the pick-up trucks looked too big in some spots.
It was a grand drive with beautiful Black Hills views.
Deadwood With New Friends
After we left Utah and were on our way to Cheyenne, Jackie on a Facebook RV group asked for route advice. Since we had just done this very same drive from Moab to Cheyenne, I suggested our route and provided a few details. Well it turns out that Jackie & Basil from North Carolina were also on their way to the Black Hills. So, we gave them the details on that part of our drive, too. In the end, they were in Spearfish for a few days and we were in Hill City, so we made a date to finally meet.
It was great fun getting to know Jackie and Basil and they even treated us to lunch at Mustang Sally’s. After lunch, we decided to trek up the very steep hill to visit Mt. Moriah Cemetery, better known as “Boot Hill”. Turns out you really can’t go to Deadwood without visiting Wild Bill Hickok’s final resting place.
James Butler Hickok, or “Wild Bill” came to Deadwood for the gold and loved to gamble. He was shot dead with the “deadman’s hand” in Deadwood back in 1876. That’s a lotta dead. Of course the town was here before Wild Bill and was named for, you guessed it, dead trees in the area. Everyone seemed fascinated by the “offerings” on Wild Bill’s headstone – money, bullets, whisky and even a painted rock.
Calamity Jane is buried here, too, right beside Wild Bill.
On the way back down the hill, we found a piece of history from the USS Maine. This battleship was blown up in Cuba’s Havana Harbor in 1898 leading to the Spanish-American War. “Remember the Maine” became a rallying cry and we wondered how Deadwood came to have one of her artillery shells. Well, it seems you just had to ask for one, which the city of Deadwood did. This memorial was set up in their city park as a result. There was no one on the ship or associated with it from South Dakota as far as we could tell.
A few other favs from the day. Pat rocking that bikini and boots. And the “Warning – Strange Dog” sign on the way to the cemetery. I really wanted to see this “strange” dog, but alas, it wasn’t out and about. Finally, a painting of Wild Bill from the original saloon where he was shot. And for you curious sorts, saloons are drinking establishments that are larger venues. Bigger than a bar or a pub, short for Public House. These are the sorts of things that you Google on random sightseeing days.
In the end, a really fun day with our new RV friends Jackie & Basil. We joked that we made a true bond since our first outing was to a cemetery and we talked about underwear.
I’ll leave you with one more shot of the gorgeous Black Hills from Mt. Moriah. Deadwood is down below. It was a rainy, 50ish day which we much preferred to the 96 degree day when we first arrived in Hill City. This day would be the start of the four days of straight rain beginning with a very soggy Father’s Day.
Next Up – Sturgis and Pat’s family gathering. See you on the way!