Saturday, 5 August 2017

Mount Rushmore, the Deadwood Stage and wildlife at last!

They do warn you that Mount Rushmore is popular and to expect it to be busy. And they are not wrong! Admission is free, but there is a charge for parking. Once you've got through the fee barrier - it took us about half an hour from the time we joined the "line", there are attendants at the various car parks and level entrances to help you find a space. And there is plenty of space as well.

It's pretty amazing and you can see on Washington how the intention had been to create busts rather than just the heads. My first thought was I was expecting it to be bigger, but then you are viewing from quite a distance and the size can be judged from the trees below.

Also on the same site is an exhibition of the Civilian Conservation Corps - an idea developed in the 1930s to overcome unemployment during the depression by creating work for those who had no work - and no chance of finding any, see The Grapes of Wrath to understand why - by building numerous public works such as trails and buildings in the National Parks being established. What a brilliant idea!

You'll spend maybe half a day at Mount Rushmore if you don't rush. The restaurant was full to the seams, so we headed off to Hill City to find a bite to eat. A nice little place, but busy. Buffalo burgers later, we headed to the Crazy Horse Monument.

This time you have to pay and rather like attractions at home, there are "begging signs" everywhere: "we get no funding"; "your donations fund all this work", etc. A big visitor centre full of stalls selling genuine native American artefacts (maybe) and a viewing platform to see Crazy Horse emerging from the mountain:

A good degree of imagination is required t see what will eventually emerge from the mountain

The size of what they are creating can be seen from the machines

Here's a model of what will eventually emerge

 Somewhat underwhelmed, we took ourselves off to Custer State Park. A HUGE park with proper scenery. We took one of the scenic drives that took us through several low and narrow tunnels:

Rocks, Mountains, Trees

The road comes to an abrupt halt, it seems. But it continues to the left through a narrow tunnel

It's tight for a SUV - there is no way in this world that we would have fitted our RV through here! This is Needle's Eye Tunnel.

And here's the rock formation that gives the tunnel its name.
We'd planned to drive around the Wildlife Loop, but there wasn't really time, so back to the RV and the Wildlife Loop could wait for another day.

The Deadwood Stage is a rollin' on over the plain...

Taking the scenic route, we headed off to Deadwood, not really knowing what to expect and with our knowledge of the story of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hicock formed entirely from watching Howard Keel and Doris Day.

There's plenty of trees and lakes along the route. Very different to two weeks or so earlier when we were in the desert

How much of Deadwood is genuine? we couldn't really tell. It is still mostly a gaming town with all the hotels and saloons being full of gambling machines and tables, rather like Las Vegas, but on a smaller scale. We couldn't find Henry Miller or the Golden Garter and suspect that both were just Hollywood artistic licence!

A trip in a proper old school bus took us to "Boot Hill" to see the graves of Wild Bill Hicock and Calamity Jane:

Wild Bill's grave

And Martha "Calamity" Jane Burke's grave 
Lunch today was in a newly opened saloon offering pizza for lunch, either by the slice or a whole pizza. We had a "small", which turned out to be enough for dinner as well. Thank goodness for "Doggy Boxes"!


Having spectacularly failed to see any bears in the wild, we took ourselves to a drive through wildlife park just south of Rapid City. A slow drive around enabled us to have a few close encounters with the residents. The windows on the car have to be kept closed, so this does have an effect on the quality of the pictures:

Fancy walking around with that on top of your head...

The nearest that we got to a fully grown bear. I wouldn't want to be any closer... 

The resident Grizzly bear

Some of the animals were kept in a traditional zoo environment:

A Lynx. There are thoughts of reintroducing these into the UK. Not exactly your friendly pussy cat...

Bobcat. Just a little larger than a decent sized moggy, but not quite so cuddly.

Cubs playing in the trees. They separate the cubs from their parents to prevent them being killed. Unlike Yogi looking after his nephew Boo-Boo, then.
On the 4th of July, we finally managed our circuit of the Wildlife Loop. We forgot to take into account that it is a National Holiday and therefore all the wildlife had the day off! All we saw were a few donkeys, or burros as they are called in the US. We were hoping for spectacular fireworks, but that was not to be; a combination of being in a sparsely populated area and a ban being in place due to the high fire risk.

We now have two days to get ourselves back to Denver to fly home. That will be in the next and final section of this story. Watch this space....

If you have enjoyed looking at these pictures and others in this blog, they are available in higher quality and resolution at my gallery where you can purchase prints, artwork and gift items.

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