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Mt. Rushmore and Indian Charity

November 3, 2013

South Dakota – Thursday, October 24

I was close to Mt. Rushmore since I ended up in Rapid City last night so I decided to backtrack just a little so I could pay a visit. I stopped in the touristy town of Keystone on my way, and Tula and I got out for a short walk. There were all kinds of billboards on the approach to town – Pan for Gold! Cave Tours! Chuckwagon Supper and Show! Gold Mines! Zip-Line! Black Hills Gold! Reptile Gardens! Ice Cream! It’s almost too much to look at. Yet when I got to town it was nearly abandoned since this is the off-season. Only a few of the shops were open on the faux-western boardwalk. Tula and I finished our walk and then drove the rest of the way to Mt. Rushmore. I’ve been there several times before and the first glimpse always kind of takes one’s breath away. The enormity of the sculpture and the choice of presidents makes this such a classic American place to visit – I wouldn’t want to meet the person who didn’t feel patriotic while visiting! I was thankful for the lack of crowds, easy parking, and good views without having to look over the heads of hundreds of people. I walked as much as I could and saw the faces from many different angles. I decided to make a donation here for a couple reasons – the first one was that it’s such an American place to visit. The second reason was because of what I’ve learned and seen of the 4 presidents on my journey. George Washington – I’ve walked in his footsteps in Virginia and Massachusetts and other places – I’ve seen his field tent and mess kit, and seen at least one of the old inns he stayed in, and walked on at least one of the battlefields he fought on. Abraham Lincoln – I’ve walked through the house he lived in before he became president (and touched the same banister he had) and have seen his burial site and the Lincoln Memorial. Thomas Jefferson – he had a vision of national transportation and I’ve driven on part of the old National Highway that he proposed even before there were cars – an old stagecoach “highway”. And Theodore Roosevelt – his love of being outdoors and preserving special lands in national parks. They’ve all been a part of my journey so I made a donation (which will help preserve the monument for future generations) and hope to come back again some day.

I got some buffalo stew from the cafeteria and then headed east toward the Badlands. But I stopped in Wall along the way. I got my free ice water (which they’ve been passing out since the 1930s or so) and took a short walk through the town and into the old shops. The big indoor space is taken up by lots of little shops, and as I was walking along I suddenly noticed a Traveler’s Chapel – a narrow chapel right between 2 souvenir shops. I poked my head in and was surprised to see stained glass windows up over the altar and along the upper side windows. There was room for one row of 10-12 pews and it was just kind of a surprise to see this little peaceful refuge in among all the commercialism. As I was walking out, a medium sized wooden box caught my eye – it said Indian Charity for Needy Children on it. Above the box was a nice thank-you note from a children’s home, and even though I had already made a donation today, I was happy to make another Native American donation.

Then I finished the drive to the Badlands, and got to the visitor center shortly before they closed. But the park itself is open 24 hours a day. I went out on 3 of the shorter walks and admired the amazing, foreign-looking landscape. The colors of the rocks were so varied, and with the setting sun and all the shadows, it was definitely not a place that one would want to get lost in! Tula couldn’t go on any of the trails I was on, so after the sun was down and the light was fading, I thought I would just get her out for a walk along the road in the park – pets were allowed anywhere cars could go, and there was hardly anyone out and about. The evening was beautiful for a walk down the road between all the rock formations. Tula seemed to be enjoying the walk, so we just walked and walked. I was walking west where I could still see a little color in the sky, but it got dark enough that I knew I had to turn back. And what a difference when I turned around. When I was walking west, the rock formations all had crisp, clean black silhouettes against the night sky, and when I turned around and headed east, they were all gray and ghostly and blended in with the night sky. I kept looking back and forth between the 2 different views and wondered if I was in 2 different places. I loved that evening walk in the Badlands, and then just stood for a while gazing at all the stars – the Milky Way was clear as could be. It also got colder by the minute with the sun down.

After 5 miles of walking I was ready to sit in the van for a while, and I drove up to Pierre before stopping for the night.

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