Day 200 Keystone SD Bad Lands & Mt Rushmore
Oct 29, 2008
|Day 200 Wednesday 29th October Keystone Page 93 E3
Badlands + Mt Rushmore SD
Last nite was another cold nite. At the moment the days are beautiful, say mid 70’s but the night temperatures sure do drop down. We heard a bit of traffic last nite, but it wasn’t too bad considering how close we were to an Interstate Highway.
Driving down the I90 after breakfast, we soon found ourselves at the turn off to the Badlands National Park. We were going to have a look at one of the first homesteads in the area, however the gates were closed so we had to be content with look at the small old timber dwelling from the road side. Calling into the Ben Reifel information centre first, we watched a 20min film on the park, most interesting. The NP covers some 244,000 acres and is a geologist’s heaven. French fur traders explored the West during the early 1800’s and called this area “bad lands” and the name stuck.
Some of the terrain looks almost “moonscape” in appearance, and looking closer the outcrops look like a rough elephant hide to me, but whatever you see when you look at it, the rough jagged peaks just seem to go on and on forever, and I imagine it would be very unforgiving if you got lost in this area. Steve read in a brochure that this area gets approx 16 inches of rain per year.
We took a walk up the side of one of these peaks – this included lots of steps, I was stuffed by the end, but it was nice to be out in the fresh air, cool as it was. The path took us up 300 feet for a panoramic view.
We saw a few animals in the National Park; one was a Prairie Dog. It’s a small ‘chubby’ little animal, (bearing no resemblance to a dog) and looks like a fat little rabbit, popping its head up in the air from its burrow, and then scampering off to the next burrow. We also saw a small herd of Antelope, at first from the distance we thought they were deer. It wasn’t until we down loaded the photos from the camera this evening, we saw a brown and while strips around their necks and big white bums. Do you know they also have black footed ferrets in the park, but we didn’t see any – the only ferret I saw today was driving the RV.
Following one of the drives from our “Most Scenic Drives in America” book we were going to take the drive along the Sage Creek Rim Road which was 25 miles in length. Upon arriving at the turnoff we discovered it was not sealed, which didn’t bother us too much until we hit heavy corrugation in the surface. We lasted about 2-3miles and then Steve turned around and we took another route out of the park. We want the RV to last another 4 weeks.
We called into the town of Wall to refuel both ourselves with lunch and the RV with gas. We took a short walk around the town, there is a huge store called Wall Drug. We saw many advertisements along the highway for miles leading up to the town for this store. It took up most of Main Street on one side. Apparently the guy who started it back in 1930 was a Pharmacist and noticed that not many visitors would come into his Pharmacy, so he decided to offer tourists free iced water – for some reason this did the trick. He still has a pharmacy, but then there is an adjoining store which sells shoes, then the next adjoining store sells clothing and hats etc. It’s almost as if there is one big long shop with all these doorways leading from one store to the next.
From here we headed to the Mt Rushmore National Memorial. As we approached Mt Rushmore we saw the four presidential faces peeking thru the trees just south of Keystone. We both made the comment that we thought they would have been bigger. This thought was soon erased because the closer we got the more awe inspiring they became. The immortalised Presidents are: Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln. Each face measures a full 60 feet from brow to chin. The eyes for example are the height of a man. Each pupil is designed in such as way they catch the light and appear to twinkle.
Speaking of design – credit for this triumph artistry and engineering belongs to Gutzon Borglum, an Idaho born sculptor. Work started in 1927 and was completed in 1941 using a crew of unemployed miners, who during the 14 year period blasted, drilled and hammered away some 800 million tons of rock from the granite mountainside.
Unfortunately Gutzon died before the completion of his vision, but his son, who had worked alongside his father for many years, completed his father’s dream later on in the same year.
It truly is an awesome sight looking up at these carved masterpieces, and yes, they are very big when you stand on the viewing platform and gaze up at them. We ate some dinner in the van whilst waiting for the sun to set and see the statues lit up at night – they look just as amazing as they did in the afternoon.
We are camped in the town of Keystone, at the foot of Mt Rushmore. It was dark when we drove down off the mountain and pulled into the first car park we saw, we’ve actually parked behind a museum – let’s hope we don’t get asked to move along this evening by security or anything.