Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beautiful Black Hills, and Custer, South Dakota

I remember Mom often saying how pretty the Black Hills of South Dakota were, but I never truly gave it much thought. Having now seen them for myself, I understand her fondness for their beauty. The Sioux Indians declared these hills sacred, and fought and died to keep them is easy to to understand their devotion and respect for this land. Over every knoll is another scene that just makes you say "What a wondrous site!

So we set out to see the lands, and of course, the Landmarks!

Mount Rushmore is the most famous Landmark here; the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved into granite rock. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum completed the 60 foot tall project in 1941, as a tribute to the growth of our country and it's leaders.

The monument to Crazy Horse, proud Sioux Indian warrior, is indeed, a work in progress. Started in 1948 by Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Sioux Indian Chief Henry Standing Bear, the face was completed in 1998. Korczak died in 1982, and seven of his ten children, along with his wife, continue the work on the granite monument.

The carving is not a monument to Crazy Horse, but rather to the spirit of his peoples, and all American Indian tribes. The completed project will be over 563 feet high, and his outstretched arm points, in answer to the question posed by a white man, "Where are your lands now?", and Crazy Horse replied, "My lands are where my dead lie buried."

Interestingly, it is not a Federal project and is financed solely with contributions and admissions to the attraction. Grant money has been turned down, as the Indians wish it to remain a true memorial to their way of life, and endeavors to protect the Black Hills, called Paha Sapa, which were sacred lands to the Sioux and other tribes.

More about the Black Hills....Custer State Park is one of the finest state park we've seen...both in natural beauty and in the parks development and management.
Several hours were spent roaming the park, in search of buffalo, Big Horn Sheep, Pronghorns and more..and we were not dissappointed! Along with magnificent vistas and interesting "Pigtail bridges", wildlife was abundant! Pigtail Bridges, built in the 1930s, allow the road to navigate sharp changes in topography in limited space. The road crosses over itself, in the shape of a pigtail or corkscrew. A most interesting thing to traverse. There are many pigtail bridges in the Black Hills.

OK...the WILDLIFE...was unbelievable!! All of you hunters out there would go crazy here!!! The Mule deer and Whitetail deer are constantly popping across the roads and grazing in the meadows. Many of them with tiny fawns, or sporting still fuzzy antlers, which we saw up close and personal!

We really wanted to see the Mountain Goats and Bighorn sheep and we did....

along with more Buffalo and Pronghorns....

and we even saw pheasants, which we have decided are very dumb, close cousins of turkeys...just a little prettier!! One of them crossed the road, right in front of the motorhome in Kansas, and took his sweet time getting to the other side.

And this wild Burro, who was waiting to poach a snack from the passersby!

And a few more photos of the wildlife that we enjoyed so much in the park....

And some park scenes.....

There is an early morning chill here...temps in the low fifties are refreshing, but require heat for me in the mornings! :) Of course, it warms up to the low 80's by afternoon, still no humidity at all and mostly brilliant blue skies. Blue enough to make a rabbit a pair of britches!

What a busy day in Mother Nature's playground!!

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