Another leisurely morning of camping for us today. We pulled out of our campsite around 11:30 and made a beeline for the Crazy Horse Memorial. We visited last night for a short period of time to see the laser light show, and today we hoped to spend some quality time in the museum.
We pulled up to the gate at 11:55 and noticed the sign taped to the hut that said “Blast at 12:00 Today”. How great is that? We sped through the parking lot to find a spot and joined the throng of spectators who had already settled in.
We had only just got our place when we heard a siren. I raised my camera and was ready. I looked around and there were a hundred other cameras in position also. Mallory overhears somebody say that they sound the siren one minute before the blast. We wait.
The siren sounds again. A few moments later we see the blast. A plume of smoke appears. At least a full second later, maybe two seconds, we hear the blast. BOOM! It didn’t appear to be that big of a blast, but I am sure that it moved many tons of rock.
What is this Crazy Horse Memorial? It is going to be the world’s largest mountain carving and it is to honor the North American Indian. Crazy Horse was chosen because he was a great and patriotic hero. He never signed a treaty and was a fierce warrior.
Furthermore, the Crazy Horse Memorial accepts no funds from the government. The man behind the memorial, Korczak Ziolkowski, firmly believed in the free enterprise system and consistently turned down government money.
The size of the memorial is massive. There is a tunnel that has been created through the mountain. They say that a ten story building can fit in that hole. The visitor center and parking lot is a full mile from the mountain so getting a sense of perspective is difficult.
The carving was begun in 1948 and while progress is being made, it is slow. There is no telling when the project will be complete.
Miles and Mallory both acquired a rock that had been blasted from the mountain. These kids have Rock Fever!
Our next stop of the day – and one that Mallory has been fervently looking forward to – was the Alpine President’s Slide in Keystone. On this attraction, you ride up on a ski lift and ride down on a board on wheels.
Stephanie and I rode it once, and the kids each rode it three times. They had a blast and we spent several hours there.
In addition, it was extremely hot and sunny. Stephanie and I sat down in some chairs at the top of the lift and soaked up some rays while the kids rode the alpine slide down.
We ended the day at one of our favorite places – Mt. Rushmore. One of the things I was curious about before we got there was how it got the name of Mt. Rushmore. The answer is that it has nothing to do with the memorial carving. That was the name of the mountain peak before it was ever decided the presidents would be carved in it.
We arrived at Mt. Rushmore in the late afternoon. We watched a mountain goat on the rocks and spent some time in the museum while waiting for the next Ranger tour.
Our tour was led by Ranger Steph. Stephanie gave her an A+ rating and not just because of the name. Ranger Steph had a sense of humor, told bad jokes, and gave us a lot of great information. She quizzed the tour group before we started on the home state of the four presidents carved in rock, and Miles got the correct answer for the group on three of them. The hardest one Miles answered was what state Lincoln born in. Hint: it is not Illinois.
A funny story told by Ranger Steph involved Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wanted to expand the country and the French owned a lot of land. Napoleon was involved in a war with Britain and needed money. He was willing to sell the Louisiana Purchase to the U.S. for three cents an acre, but the sum was $15 million dollars. How would the U.S. come up with 15 million dollars? They borrowed it. From British banks!!
The last time we visited Mt. Rushmore, six years ago, there was a tremendous fireworks display at the lighting ceremony that evening. We asked about fireworks when we entered the park and were told the fireworks are not done anymore. We were disappointed in that, but we did still want to attend the ceremony.
But first, we hit the gift shop. I am confident we can kill time in a gift shop like nobody else. Marissa bought a bag of colorful rocks. This meant that all three kids bought rocks today. That doesn’t happen very often.
By the time we arrived in the amphitheatre, it was packed. We had not been in a hurry to arrive because we did not recall it being full last time. We had to walk down and get seats very close to the stage.
A Park Ranger led us in the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem. There was also a video that talked about each of the four presidents and why they were chosen for the memorial. At the conclusion of the Park Ranger’s program, she sang to us: “This Is My Country”. I thought she did a great job and for sure I give her points for singing. That is very unusual from a Park Ranger.
Following all the singing, the Park Ranger invited all of the veterans down onto the stage. The crowd rose to their feet and gave them an ovation as they streamed down the stairs to the stage. There were a LOT of veterans there.
Including our own Stephanie – 8 year veteran of the Air National Guard. We are so proud of her!
The flag was lowered while all veterans were at attention.
As each veteran left the stage, they were given the opportunity to touch the flag, and provide their name, branch of service, and battle. There was only one WWII veteran present and of course he received the loudest ovation.
Following the end of the program, we left the memorial along with the other thousands of people. We got back to our campsite late, but there was no rain and the day had been hot and sunny.
Mt. Rushmore is a must-see memorial for every American. If you have not been, make plans to change that. I am thrilled that we have been able to bring our kids here twice.