Monday, August 26, 2013

Mt. Rushmore

Saturday, August 24, started out with a wonderful long bike ride on the Mickleson Trail.  While I had ridden back toward Custer the day before, this morning Trisha and I went toward Hill City.  This part of the trail continued the downhill grade that I had experienced the day before and took us into Hill City.  Here there is a wonderful old railroad museum and lots of old rail cars on display on the grounds.  We rode a little past Hill City and then back to the campground.  This was a bit more challenging, as it was all an uphill grade.  It's not like it's a steep hill, but just miles of steady climbing, and the day was getting warmer as we were longer on the trail.  But it was a great ride and we were so happy we did it.

Then it was off to do the drive through the Black Hills to see the Needles, and then to Mt. Rushmore.  We were stymied several times by the size of the RV, as there are a series of tunnels along the road and several of them were either too narrow or too low for the RV to make it through.  So we had to turn around and backtrack in several places.  We weren't able to see all of the Needles we had hoped, but got to see some of them.  We stopped at the Hole in the Wall picnic area where we talked to a couple of Harley riders about where we might be able to turn around before getting to the next tunnel that would accommodate our RV and they showed us some pictures of the rock formations around the tunnels that make this section a favorite ride for motorcycles.  Of course, we're close to Sturgis, mecca for anyone who owns a motorcycle!

Then we made it to Mt. Rushmore, and let me tell you folks, it is an impressive sight!  Though in one sense it is a relatively small area, a smaller park than many, but in its majesty and grandeur, the place is just hard to describe.  Though I've seen pictures of this place all my life, there's just no way to prepare yourself for the massiveness of this carving.  And when you read about Borglum and how he conceived of this monument, and how he went about doing it, it's just mind boggling.  He made a plaster model in his studio from which they worked using a huge protractor to take measurements from different points on each face and then transferred that to an even bigger protractor on the mountain face to mark where they needed to blast.  Many of you may know that he is the original sculptor who started the carving on Stone Mountain, but, in a fit of pique over a disagreement with the DAR, he ended up not finishing that, and, indeed, blasted away what he had started!  I didn't know that part until Jack Bearden who for many years oversaw Stone Mountain Park, told us when we were in Boise.  Anyway, the story was fascinating to read how the workers, many of them out of work miners and others, started out this project as just a way to get a paycheck, but the longer they worked on the project, the more imbued they became with a sense of how important this monument would be to the nation.  And they had some footage shot during the construction, showing how they would sit on the bosun seats and swing off the top of the mountain onto various parts of the sculpture, placing dynamite charges and then doing fine detail work with compressed air powered chisels and drills and then some hand chisel work. We toured his studio where the plaster model still stands, and it's got much more to it than appears on the mountain--more of the bodies of the presidents, hands and coats, etc., but since he died before it was completed, these were not added.  But it was truly an amazing thing to behold!

Beautiful church as we came into Hill City on our bikes
 The train cars on display

 A chainsaw carver working on a project at a resort along the trail

 Looking up the Mickleson Trail
The Black Hills of South Dakota

 The sculptor
Never knew this until we saw this story board, but Jefferson apparently came up with the first ice cream recipe in America!!  So they hawk ice cream cones in his memory.  There was a time when I could not have waited to dig into one of these, but not too sure this fits on our new eating plan, so we passed--LOL!

 Looking out through the windows of the visitor center

 Interesting rock formation as we started on the walk down to the studio
 Look at this tree growing out of the rock!

Shot through the window of the studio
 The plaster model

 Cool profile of Washington as you drive down the mountain
 Some of the Needles

 Happy Times Two, smiling as she's nestled down among the aspens!!


  1. Another great tour. We have been to Mount Rushmore a number of times and still hope to get back again someday:)

    1. Thanks,Chuck; it is truly an amazing place!

  2. Wonderful post and pictures. You folks are so blessed.