September 7, 2017

South Dakota

by Rosemary

Of course, we took the standard pictures at Mt. Rushmore, and then walked along the Presidential Trail, snapping photos from various angles. This massive sculpture of four U.S. presidents took about 14 years to construct, and was completed in 1941. What many people don't realize is that these granite faces, which are exposed to the weather and subject to extreme temperatures, must be constantly monitored for cracks. The damage is repaired by expert workers who rappel down from the top with their caulking guns. Without their help, George Washington would eventually look like Dorian Gray. No one was working on the faces the day we were there, but my zoom lens revealed that a small black dot on the side of Lincoln's nose was actually a piece of equipment.

Over the years, there have been many suggestions, some facetious, some at least partly serious, to add more faces to this monument. Naturally, we thought about whose face we would like to see included.

I think I know that guy.

From Mt. Rushmore, we drove to Custer State Park. This beautiful park is a wildlife reserve, home to a freely-roaming herd of about 1,300 bison (sometimes called buffalo). We drove along the scenic Wildlife Loop Road. Almost immediately, we spotted a huge bull just relaxing beside the road.

Good advice

A handsome beast

Later, we saw a large group grazing and resting.

We saw our first prairie dogs here. (Later, driving across Colorado and Nebraska, we would see prairie dog towns right next to the highway.) In the same area were burros and pronghorns, grazing in between the prairie dog burrows. The burros, although technically wild, were very friendly, and welcomed being petted and fed by humans who had come prepared with carrots.

Watch your step.

We stayed in the city of Custer, just a few miles from the park. The main street was decorated with large, painted sculptures of buffalo, part of an annual event known as the Custer Stampede.

An unlikely endorsement.

Next stop: Denver.

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