The beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota surrounded us as we approached Custer.
We visited the National Forest Visitor Center and learned that the major species of the Black Hills is the Ponderosa Pine. The dead trees we saw in patches along the hills are a result of the Pine Beetle. In addition, the elevation of the town of Custer is 5500 feet so we were sleeping above the height of Katahdin!
The second day in The Black Hills included a visit to two awe-inspiring places...Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument.
The average size of the heads is 60 feet, the size of a six story building. The history of the choosing of the site and the figures to be represented is interesting and might be worth a "google". The original idea was to include local western heroes, but the artist wanted his work to represent the growing nation and the ideal of democracy, so Presidents Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln were chosen.
The Rushmore sculptor died before finishing his work but his son completed the project and also sculpted this bust of him.
On the way out of the Mt. Rushmore park we saw this Mountain Goat and her two babies. They ended up on one side of the road and cried until the cars stopped, and we waited for, and watched the happy reunion.
Not far from Mt. Rushmore is the amazing Crazy Horse Memorial. So much history and vision involved with this place that will eventually have at its Center the completed sculpture, the largest rock sculpture in the world. It will also include the Indian Museum of North America, the Indian University of North America and the Medical Training Center.
Chief Standing Bear wrote to a Boston born Polish artist known as Korczak, on behalf of the Lakota elders and asked him to take on the challenge of creating this piece that will show the world that the Native American people have heroes, too.
The head is 87 and 1/2 feet high and is the only completed section so far. It was begun in 1948.
Korczak Ziolkowski and Chief Standing Bear.
A view from outside the Museum.
The scale model of what the final piece will look like, represents the spirit of Crazy Horse. He is pointing in answer to the question by some military person who asked him where were his lands now that the white man had usurped them after broken every treaty formed with his people.
He answered, "My lands are where my dead lie buried."
In the town of Custer each fall there is a a celebration that includes a Buffalo Roundup and an Arts Festival. These life size bisons and smaller ones are auctioned off by the Chamber of Commerce.
We enjoyed seeing them and reading about the artists that created them. Here are only two of the many we saw.
Time to move along toward the Bad Lands National Park going through the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.
Some of the wildlife we saw included Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep and a Prairied Dog Town!
Guess who stepped in some very wet land as she captured these last two wonderful photos on a rainy day!
We ventured on to North Dakota and had a very rainy day of travel so very few chances for photos.
One thing that grabbed our interest were the field and fields of sunflowers, and the many bee hives.
We learned that over half of the bee population in the US lives in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
They love sunflowers and the success of this crop is totally dependent on the bees. Where would we be without them in the world? We learned that University of Minn. is doing a three year study to try to understand the 50% reduction in the bee population since the fifties.
We had read about Tom Brokaw when we drove through SD and now rode along the Lawrence Welk Memorial Highway through ND and took this picture for my stepdad Chick.
The final thing to share is a prayer that we found at Crazy Horse Mountain.