New Podcast Episode: The Black Hills – Mt Rushmore, Black Elk Peak, and Crazy Horse Memorial

The Disneyfied, Las-Vegased Main Street of Deadwood.

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Journal: Horsethief Campground North, Black Hills National Forest, Saturday evening, July 22nd, 2017

It’s a little before 10 pm, the last vestige of the sun’s light has left the sky. The starlight is somewhat obscured by the slight haze and the ambient light from this bustling, heavily populated campground. The children’s shouting and crying are finally quieting down but the teens and adults are still chatting, and some are partying. I chose this site, one, because it was available (it was the last one) and two, because of its proximity to the hike I have planned for early tomorrow, I’ll tell you about that after it happens. My tent is pitched for the night, my clothes are ready for the morning. I’ll be glad when the night is over and I can leave this campsite. … Read the written version here

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My Great Year for National Parks, Monuments, and Forests

A Joshua tree in bloom at Joshua Tree National Park

June 2016 through August 2017 has been an incredible one year and three months for me for visiting United States’ National Parks, Monuments, and Forests. The National Parks and Monuments are managed by the National Park System, the National Forests by the United States Department of Agriculture. They are all among our nation’s national treasures and I am so grateful that we decided, as a nation, that there are some things too beautiful and rare to be despoiled for short-term material gain.

I’ve also been to many National Historic Sites over the course of this same period, but the journeys I’m focusing on here have been all about enjoying my country’s spectacular and incredibly varied natural beauty in just these few of the greatest of our natural preserves…

1 – Zion National Park, Utah. Panoramic view from Observation Point which overlooks the Virgin River canyon from 6,507 feet, June 2016

The Narrows, Zion National Park, is a slot canyon formed by the North Fork of the Virgin River. Most of the hike through this amazing formation is done by wading through the river. It’s wonderfully refreshing on a hot day but it’s also hard on your feet, hiking on and among slippery rocks while your feet are continuously soaked

Enjoying cold milk (it’s a very good thermos) and salty bacon at after the hot, steep hike to Observation Point, Zion National Park

2 – Bryce Canyon, Utah, a panoramic view, June 2016

A windy day at Bryce Canyon. The evening before we were to return home from that trip to Zion and Bryce, my companion and I heard that it was going to be a clear night. So we packed up our Zion campsite that evening and returned to stargaze from above and among the rock turrets and canyons at Bryce, a prime place for viewing the night sky nearly free from light pollution. We ran into a trio of night sky photographers, and they let us look through their cameras and see the starlight they had captured throughout the night.

3, first visit – Yosemite National Park, California. Tenaya Lake from Tioga Pass, June 2016

Yosemite Falls from Yosemite Valley, still gushing in June. When I return later that year, it will look very different

4 – Grand Canyon, Arizona. View from South Kaibob Trail, August 2016

On the South Kaibob Trail on the way to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. This was a whirlwind trip: I had just been in Southern California to visit family and had only a few days off work. I took the last two days of this precious time off to go to the Grand Canyon because I’d never been, an unacceptable state of affairs. I woke up very, very early in the morning, drove from Southern California to the Grand Canyon. I arrived about 3 pm, and chose this quicker, steeper hike to the canyon floor, which I reached not long after sunset. After a scolding from a fox, whose den I had stumbled into while exploring in the half-light, I spent a rather hot, buggy, restless night with just a ground tarp and sleeping bag, arose very early, and hiked out of the canyon via Bright Angel Trail. It was gorgeous, and fortunately, the first third or so of the trip followed the course of a creek where I was able to bathe my hot head, arms, and legs from time to time. I arrived at the rim around noon, and once the bus returned me to the car, I began the drive straight back to Oakland, with one break at a truck stop to take a shower. I arrived home very early in the morning, took a nap, and reported to work as usual at quarter to eight, stiff, sore, and glowing with adventure. By the way, in ordinary circumstances, I don’t recommend a hike into and back out of the Grand Canyon immediately succeeded by a twelve-hour, straight-through drive. Straightening and moving my limbs became far more difficult each time I got out of the car, and by the time I got to work, I could hardly manage a hobble. But we had been understaffed at work for a long time and I needed to break away and do something fantastic, so it was well worth it.

View of Grand Canyon walls from Bright Angel Trail, September 2016 Amy Cools

View of Grand Canyon walls from Bright Angel Trail

3, second visit – Yosemite National Park, California, a view featuring Half Dome from the Yosemite Falls – El Capitan Trail, September 2016

At Yosemite Falls overlook. The Falls had dried up by this time.

Panoramic view from the El Capitan Trail, September 2016. What a beautiful hike! Long and steep in places, but great places to rest. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a filter in case you need more, there’s none to be had up here. I was pretty thirsty by the time I finished.

5) Canyonlands National Park, Utah, December 2016

A view of Canyonlands National Park, December 2016 Cools

A view of Canyonlands National Park

6 – Colorado National Monument, Colorado, panoramic view, December 2016

At Colorado National Monument, December 2016

Bighorn sheep at Colorado National Monument, December 2016

7, first visit – Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, Idaho. Lochsa Lodge on the day of my arrival, January 2017. I was on a literary retreat and had decided to keep my camera put away and enjoy nature thus undistracted this time. It was beautiful here, covered in snow, and the natural hot springs by Warm Springs Creek were glorious

8, first visit – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. At the north gate’s Roosevelt Arch, Montana, January 2017

Canary Spring with Mount Everts in the distance and bison near the lake below, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Bison at Yellowstone National Park. During my visit, despite the cold and deep snow, I saw plenty of wildlife, including elk, many species of birds, deer, and a red fox

9 – Joshua Tree National Park, California, panoramic view of Hidden Valley, March 2017. This park is especially dear to my heart

Joshua Tree, pencil cholla, yucca, and blue blue sky, in the Mohave Desert portion of Joshua Tree National Park.

A natural sphinx among the sun’s rays and above the yucca plants

10 – Pinnacles National Park, California. I was here this year in March 2017, but I didn’t take any pictures during that visit. I was on another one of those literary retreats, and I decided to repeat my no-cameras-in-nature policy from last retreat. My companions and I saw many more California condors on this trip than I had seen during my earlier visits here, and since it was early in the year before the heat of the summer, there were many wildflowers. I took this photo and the next during one of my earlier visits, in July 2013.

At Pinnacles National Park, July 2013

11 – Olympic National Park, Washington. A view of its stunning mountain peaks, May 2017. Excuse the shadow in the corner, I keep my mini tablet in a sturdy case since I carry it hiking and just about everywhere else with me; I can take great photos with it as well as write on it comfortably. The case offers better protection than any other I’ve found, but its camera opening is a little misplaced, requiring I nudge the tablet over before I take a photo. I forgot this time, as I all too often do

At another overlook in Olympic National Park, May 2017

Panoramic view of Olympic National Park from Hurricane Hill. You can see the ocean near Point Angeles in the distance to the left

7, second visit – Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, Idaho, in the Bitterroot Mountains. A view from a trail not far from Wendover Creek’s West Fork, July 2017. This time, I camped near Lochsa Lodge at Powell Campground, then hiked, or attempted to hike, the Wendover Ridge trail that the Lewis and Clark expedition trekked over this mountain. I got in a very hood hike indeed, but lost the trail. It’s not often used and I had no guide who is familiar with it, so I ended up off-trail quite a bit. I was not disappointed, however: it was a glorious adventure.

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, a view from near Wendover Ridge, July 2017

8, second visit – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming, July 2017

At the summit of Mt Washburn, Yellowstone National Park. My elation is pretty evident in this photo

12 – Custer-Gallatin National Forest, view from the high point of Beartooth Highway near the Wyoming/Montana border, July 2017. They closed the high point of the pass late night through early morning, and since I was driving through a little after midnight, I pulled off to sleep. So glad they closed the road. I saw the most incredible array of stars before I went to sleep, and I woke up to this view.

Custer-Gallatin National Forest, view from Rock Creek Vista, Montana, off Beartooth Highway

13 – Black Hills National Forest, entering Black Elk Wilderness on the Black Elk (formerly know as Harley Peak) Trail, July 2017

View of the Black Hills with a Rocky Mountain goat from Black Elk Peak, July 2017

14 – Badlands National Park, South Dakota, July 2017. I passed through this park on a long drive and didn’t get to spend much time, but admired what I did see greatly. I will be back!

Passing from the Badlands into the Pine Ridge Reservation, July 2017

15 – Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, overview of Kabetogama Lake from Blind Ash Bay Trail, August 2017

On some very ancient rocks at Voyageurs National Park. The exposed rocks at this park date as far back as 2.8 billion years, over half the age of the Earth itself.  Such ancient rocks are exposed here because the park contains the edge of the Canadian Shield, an ancient volcanic bedrock that’s been exposed in places by glaciers that passed through here then disappeared around 11,000 years ago. The rocks I visited are not that old, but they are very old indeed. Grace, a geology enthusiast and employee of the National Park Service, was excited at my inquiry about the geology of the park (her fellow National Park Service employee watched our interaction with an ‘oh no, here we go again! look), and she took me on a tour of some nearby ancient formations. The one I’m sitting on is one of those.

A garter snake sticks out its red tongue on an ancient rock at Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

16 – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, panoramic view of Painted Canyon, August 2017

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, another view of Painted Canyon. Unfortunately, I also got to spend only a very little time in this park since I needed to hurry on to my next destination, but I had to get myself over here for at least a peek and to pay tribute to this man who did so much for conservation efforts in the United States. Thanks, Theodore Roosevelt!

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The Black Hills – Mt Rushmore, Black Elk Peak, and Crazy Horse Memorial

The Disneyfied, Las-Vegased Main Street of Deadwood.

Journal: Horsethief Campground North, Black Hills National Forest, Saturday evening, July 22nd, 2017

It’s a little before 10 pm, the last vestige of the sun’s light has left the sky. The starlight is somewhat obscured by the slight haze and the ambient light from this bustling, heavily populated campground. The children’s shouting and crying are finally quieting down but the teens and adults are still chatting, and some are partying. I chose this site, one, because it was available (it was the last one) and two, because of its proximity to the hike I have planned for early tomorrow, I’ll tell you about that after it happens. My tent is pitched for the night, my clothes are ready for the morning. I’ll be glad when the night is over and I can leave this campsite. I’m rather regretting choosing this spot because all the hubbub is breaking the peace and disturbing the beauty that this forest could bring, and worsens the disappointed surprise I’ve been feeling since I entered the Black Hills.

The first attraction (as a street sign identified it) that I came across after entering the Black Hills from the north is Deadwood. This Old West town has been converted to a sort of quaint Disneyland of themey cutesy old-timey trinket-mall combined with Las Vegas excess. I’m sure that if I expected to arrive at Disneyland-LasVegas, I’d think nothing of it, or take it all in with the sense of humor that usually keeps me from turning curmudgeon. But for the last few days I’ve been immersed in national parks, monuments, memorials, forests, and other spaces that move one to wonder and contemplation and even enlightenment. They’re managed so as to showcase, and to protect, and to educate about the natural wonders or important historical occurrences that caused them to be instituted. When I saw that ‘Black Hills National Forest’ sign among the lovely pines across from a glowing red clay hillside, I was happily anticipating more of that since that’s primarily what I was here for.

But here on Deadwood’s Main Street, the greed for gold, which drove our theft and rape of this natural treasure from those who treated it with the leave-no-trace care that did much better justice to its grandeur, is celebrated without any apparent self-consciousness. The signs proclaim ‘Black Hills Gold!’ and ‘Celebrity Hotel!’ and ‘Gaming!Gaming!Gaming!’ I would not presume to speak for any Native American of the Great Plains, but I can imagine that seeing this screamingly cartoon take on the gold rush, for the sake of which countless numbers of their people suffered, died, and were dispossessed of the homes and ways that gave life its meaning, as a result of greed for that ultimately useless soft yellow metal… I imagine that if I saw this while remembering what happened to my ancestors, I would want to vomit or set it all on fire.

Billboards off the highway through the Black Hills, 2017 Amy Cools

Billboards off the highway through the Black Hills. ‘Buy booze!’ they shout.

As I continued my drive, I passed tacky billboard after tacky billboard, loud recreational vehicles roaring by painted in garish colors, each casino and resort and gimmicky attraction following on each other’s heels with tedious regularity, and my mood continued to slump.

As there was a just enough light left to get a look at one of my destinations, I followed the signs to Mt Rushmore. I arrived not long after sunset. It was crowded and it cost $10 to park in the massive parking garage across from the monumental sculpture carved out of the rock of the cliff side (unfortunately, my magic annual National Park pass didn’t work to waive the concession parking charge, as the signs refer to it). The parking garage is actually well-designed for its purpose: it accommodates a huge number of vehicles while not interfering with the view of the sculpture and directs the considerable traffic very efficiently.

Mt Rushmore in Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota, shortly after sunset

Bust of Gutzon Borglum by Lincoln Borglum, Mt Rushmore viewing platform, Black Hills, SD

Mt Rushmore is an impressive, beautifully executed sculpture. There’s an excellent telling of the creation of the Mt Rushmore sculpture by PBS’s American Experience, I very much recommend it.

I don’t care so much for the bust of the Mt. Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum that I passed on the walkway to the viewing platform. The bust is the work of Borglum’s son Lincoln, who helped sculpt Mt Rushmore especially in the finishing stages after his father’s death in 1941. It’s technically good but rather stiff. Except for the semewhat redeeming little smile on the lips, the portrait bears an unfortunate resemblance to those forbidding Lenin busts and sculptures so omnipresent in parts of midcentury Europe. Gutzon Borglum had talent and perseverance and sculpted many of the most important figures in American history, and I’ve encountered his work many times throughout my historical travels. However, I’m not an admirer of him personally; perhaps that contributes to my impression of his portrait bust. He was a rather unscrupulous character and an unabashed white supremacist. I’ve no doubt he was aware of the incongruousness, even insult inherent in carving U.S.-presidential portraits into this U.S.-stolen mountain.

Walkway to the viewing platform at Mt Rushmore

It was sort of a carnival atmosphere when I approached the viewing platform. Patriotic music started blaring over the loudspeakers, and I heard talk of a light show. I was struck by the lack of diversity in the large crowd: I could count non-white people there on two hands. Born and raised in Southern California and having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for fifteen years, I always find a lack of diversity discomfiting. I am used to being around a wide ethnic variety of people and I love it.

I thought about which of the four presidents would approve of their 60-foot-tall likenesses here. Washington and Jefferson: no, surely. Both were wary of the power of power to corrupt one’s character, and neither believed in deifying other human beings, especially themselves, in the way that this extraordinary sculpture seems to do. I’m a little less sure that Lincoln would wholly disapprove: he did believe in the unifying power of symbols, and he was an extremely ambitious man, though I think he was one of those rare characters whose ambition did little to erode his integrity. On the whole, I still think he would disapprove. Of the four, I think Theodore Roosevelt would most likely to approve if it, with his outsize personality, love of power, and ‘great man’ theory of history. He was a committed conservationist and was instrumental in creating the National Park system, but I still think he might approve of this particular exception to the rule of forbearance when it comes to altering natural wonders.

View of Horsethief Campground from my tent

After a rather short time on the viewing platform, I left. I was in no mood for a light show. The sculpture is impressive and looks lovely in the low soft light of the evening, but it just doesn’t belong here in the Black Hills.

Journal: On Black Elk Peak, Black Hills National Forest, Sunday afternoon, July 23rd, 2017

I woke up refreshed and cheerful this morning. The campers, cabin vacationers, and partiers of last night are getting ready for the day. Their evident satisfaction with this beautiful morning after a day and night of fun made me feel more kindly disposed towards them, and I chatted with several of them while waiting for a shower stall to open up, including the hospitable couple from the campsite next to mine who loaned me their camp light last night to set up my tent by.

Black Elk prays to the Six Grandfathers on Black Elk Peak, formerly known as Harney Peak, in 1931, when he ascends this peak for the first time in the flesh. He’s accompanied by his son, and by the poet and author John Neihardt with his daughters. Black Elk had been on this mountaintop in a vision when he was very young, a vision that guided him for the rest of this life. ‘He’d prepared in advance for this address to the gods. In his Vision, he’d been naked except for his breechclout, his body painted red, the color of the right road. But the girls were there and he didn’t want to embarrass them [what a gentleman! – AC], so he stepped behind an outcrop and a few minutes later emerged wearing a bright red union suit commonly called long johns. Over that he wore a black or dark blue breechclout, trimmed in green, and on his feet high stockings and beaded moccasins’ – Joe Jackson, Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary

I packed up my tent and drove to the Sylvan Lake recreation center, where there’s a hotel, cabins, and structures for boating and water sports, and where I’ve been recommended by a few people to start my Black Elk Peak hike from. The young woman at the front desk looked and sounded quite a bit like Winona Ryder, but taller, leaner, more what’s often called ‘girl-next-door’. She looked to me like a local and a hiker so I approached her; my guess turned out to be right. I asked her about the hiking trails to Black Elk Peak, and she hesitated. I assured her that I’m a sturdy hiker and was looking for the best hike, not necessarily the most popular one. Her smile broadened, and she directed me to ascend via Trail #9, the Black Elk / Harney Peak Trail, from the Willow Creek trailhead rather than the Sylvan Lake one. The former is longer and more strenuous, but, she said, much more spectacular. ‘That’s the one, then!’ I said. After all, I’ve gone all this way to do this, so best do it right.

She was the first person in the Black Hills that didn’t react negatively to my calling it Black Elk Peak. It was finally renamed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names last year after years and years of protest. Until last year, it was named Harney Peak after General William S. Harney, whose forces massacred Native American women and children in the wars for the Plains. When I had asked various people for directions and advice or just mentioned my plans in conversation, the response was invariably a rather sour look and something like ‘Oh, you mean Harney Peak. It’ll always be Harney Peak around here.’ I realize people like familiar things to remain familiar, but I’m still disappointed by this ungenerous reaction. I mean, c’mon. We’ve taken these hills by force and trickery and are milking them for cash to this day, and we’ll never give them back. Let a little something of their sacred history be memorialized here, too.

Trailhead to Black Elk Peak / Harney Peak from Willow Creek, Black Hills, SD, via Trail #9 by way of Trail #8

A view from Trail #9 in the Black Elk Wilderness

Returning to my story, the woman at Sylvan Lake Hotel was right. I’m so very grateful that she sent me here. This 9 ½-mile out-and-back hike is glorious, from gently winding sandy horse trails through pines and voluminous wildflowers to steeper, narrower climbs between fantastic rock formations….

…. Continued later the same day: I stopped writing just there because I of a happy interruption.

As I was writing what you just read, I was perched on a rock near the edge of the peak with a very long, nearly sheer drop under my feet. At overlooks like this one, I like to reverse-Spiderman towards the edge, creeping face-up along on all fours so I can’t slip as I near it, until I find a hollow I can sit in. The depression needs to be deep enough so I can tuck my rear well into it and feel that there’s no way I can fall unless I really tried (this tactic allowed me to fully enjoy the grandest view possible of the Virgin River canyon at Zion National Park from Observation Point not too long ago). I took photos of the amazing scenery from my perch and then was inspired to write. I was so absorbed in my writing that I was unaware of what was happening right next to me until I heard the tinkle of a bell and someone say, ‘Whoa!’ I swung my head around in the direction of these sounds and I saw a couple with their medium-size dog (the bell was on its collar) well behind me on the rocks. I swung my head back around again towards the white shape they were looking at rather near to me on my right, also near the edge like I was.

Perched on a rocky ledge on Black Elk Peak

It was a female Rocky Mountain goat, a mature one, with curved pointed horns. She was perhaps twenty-five or thirty feet away from me. I was surprised that such a large animal could come so close without my noticing, but I think the people who know me best would not be surprised. When I’m reading or writing, generally, I’m pretty oblivious to what’s going on around me. I carefully gathered up my things that I had tucked into another crevice next to me, buckled my pack around my waist again, and backed up a little farther from the edge, moving slowly all the while. I wasn’t afraid of her since she was very clearly not afraid of me so long as I didn’t approach or make any sudden sounds or movements. She kept half an eye on the dog which was carefully restrained by its owners; it was quiet, tensed in riveted attention. After apparently satisfying herself that the dog was no threat, she turned her attention to me, sniffing energetically and edging herself in my direction, chewing her cud all the while. At a certain point, she turned and walked purposefully towards me, coming to a stop about 8-10 feet away. I was only a little nervous, but not as a result of her behavior: she was still at ease. I was just aware that she’s a wild animal, very large, her efficient tools for ridding herself of enemies, and I’m near the edge of a cliff. It’s her natural habitat, but not one I could navigate gracefully if I needed to beat a quick retreat.

A Rocky Mountain goat approaches me on Black Elk Peak

We observed each other for quite a while at these close quarters. She continued to sniff: at my scent? at the snacks in my bag? and to watch me, sometimes looking at my straw-colored hat flopping in the wind. I could almost reach out and touch her: she was only about two steps and an arm’s length away. At one point, however, I coughed, and she shied away about ten feet.

A panoramic view from Black Elk Peak with a Rocky Mountain goat

A broken rock reveals its inner shine, set on a fallen log

After quite awhile, I decided it was time to go. I was thirsty, and I noticed my legs were getting sunburned. I still had a long trek ahead of me, mostly downhill, but steep and very hot. I rose slowly to my feet, and the goat ambled a few more feet away. I looked back at her at the edge of the rocks as I left. She looked grand standing there, ageless.

I wound my way back down, and the sandy trail sparkled under my feet. It’s as if the passing stars, in their slightly changed positions in each night sky, left a pinpoint of their glow behind, except where spilled moonlight stuck to the ground in the form of shining rocks and large luminescent pieces of mica. The trail is beflaked liberally in many places by thin little sheets of this translucent and opalescent mineral.

The trail was also bounded by exuberant sprays and stands of wildflowers. The wild raspberries were bursting with fruit along most of my course up and down. The ripe berries fell off their stems with very little encouragement and were as effortless to eat too. They were so tender that chewing and swallowing were almost unnecessary: you could just roll them on your tongue then press gently in your mouth and they would just dissolve away. I must have eaten one or two pounds of them on the round trip.

Wild raspberries grow plentifully along Black Peak Trail

A view near the top of Black Peak Trail

Flowers and fruits along the Black Peak Trail

Another view from the Black Elk Peak Trail

When I reached the end of my hike, I rested a bit, then headed to the nearest KOA center for some ice. I was soaked in sweat and covered in dust, the latter stuck firmly to me from the former. First I poured several pints of water over the ice, drank all that down, then poured a warm bottle of beer from the car over the rest to enjoy that when I reached my next destination. I headed east on 244, then south on 385.

Portrait of Korczak Ziolkowski at the Crazy Horse Memorial Visitor Center. The unfinished frame is purposeful: by direction of the artist, the rest of it will be put in place when the Crazy Horse sculpture is finished

In the early 1930’s, Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear approached Gutzon Borglum with a proposal to create another monument carved into the Black Hills. This one would immortalize his cousin, the great warrior Crazy Horse, a leader of the victorious Native American forces at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Not surprisingly, Borglum turned him down. Standing Bear persevered in his search for another sculptor willing to undertake this massive project, and he found one: Korczak Ziolkowski, who had assisted with the carving of Mt Rushmore for a time. Standing Bear discovered him in a 1939 article about his prize-winning sculpture of the Polish pianist, politician, and independence activist Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Ziolkowski thought the project sounded like a worthy endeavor. He worked on this massive sculpture, which already dwarfs the Mt Rushmore sculpture, with determination and single-mindedness for the rest of his life. He did preliminary work on the Crazy Horse Memorial throughout the early 1940’s when he wasn’t serving in the military, then arrived in the Black Hills in 1947 to begin creating the actual sculpture. He married and had 10 children during this time as well, and died 35 years later on October 20, 1982. His wife and now many of his children carry on his work. It won’t be fully finished for another several decades at least. By the way, it’s fully funded by private donations and the proceeds from entry ticket sales, so if you believe it’s a worthy project too, you can donate here.

The Crazy Horse Memorial sculpture by Korczak Ziolkowski rises from the pines of the Black Hills

Inside the shabby but sturdy old school bus that takes us closer to the Crazy Horse Memorial. I particularly liked our tour guide and driver: a funny and warm sweetheart.

After I arrived at the Visitor Center, I looked at a few of the several thousand interesting and beautiful artifacts and artworks throughout, and then made my way back outside to get a better view of the memorial itself. At the bus stop, I rested, waiting with the other tourists for our ride closer to the sculpture, which is not generally accessible by foot since it’s an active work site. I sipped my cold and watery beer, ate my beef jerky, and chatted with other travelers.

Working model of Crazy Horse Memorial at the Visitor Center

Profile view of George Washington’s sculpted head from the side of Mt Rushmore

When I returned from viewing the sculpture, I lingered at the visitor center and museum for awhile, I set off on my journey north and east to my next destination. On my way out from the Black Hills, I returned to Mt Rushmore, which was pretty much on my way, to see if I felt differently about it. The beauty of Black Elk Peak, seeing the Black Hills there as I had longed to see them, and then seeing the more noble and fitting endeavor of the Crazy Horse Memorial had left me feeling uplifted and inspired. Perhaps I could appreciate this work of art more fully and positively in my now very different frame of mind.

But, it was no good. I still felt the same about Mt Rushmore as I did the day before.

To be continued….

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Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!


Sources and inspiration:

Battle of Ash Hollow‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970

Crazy Horse Memorial, website by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation

Howard, Brian Clark. ‘Highest Point East of Rockies Renamed for Native American.’ National Geographic online, Aug 12, 2016

Jackson, Joe. Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016

Mountain Goat‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Mount Rushmore‘. Season 14 Episode 4 of American Experience, PBS

Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks, 1932

Shaer, Matthew. ‘The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore: The sculptor behind the American landmark had some unseemly ties to white supremacy groups‘. Smithsonian Magazine, Oct 2016

Taylor, Alan. ‘Statue or Bust: Around the World in Lenins‘. The Atlantic, Oct 9, 2014