After staying for two nights in the small town of Medora, North Dakota, we made the 5-hour drive to Keystone, SD for a few hours. We focused our attention on getting to Mount Rushmore before the light ceremony which starts at 8pm, almost every day. To our dismay, the weather was not really cooperating with us, as it was rainy and foggy. Nonetheless we made the trek through the Black Hills and made it to the Mount Rushmore National Monument, not knowing at all what to expect other than the $11 parking charge. We were very pleased to see a few small grey deer with antlers as we were driving up to the site. As we continued to drive up further, we noticed the large gate at the entrance to the area that reminded us somewhat of a border crossing. After speaking to the lady at the booth, we decided to get the pass, which was good until the end of the year.
Upon entrance to the park, we were surprised to find numerous cars already parked in the area. Immediately after getting out of the truck, we were struck by the brisk windy air that hit us from all different angles. We walked a bit further to find a pathway which was decorated with all the state flags and fun facts about them. Because we were so cold, we spotted a gift shop that was open and went inside to search for our South Dakota magnet.
Success! We found one that we liked, and I got myself a Mount Rushmore mug that was on clearance, score! I had brought one travel mug with us for coffee and needed one for tea because the taste and smell of coffee lingers a bit more than tea, so having another mug strictly for tea drinking was essential in my book.
Visibility was poor as the fog hindered our view of the monument. However, we realized there were patches of fog that were less in abundance and were grateful we could catch a few glimpses of the structure. Michael took some pictures of me and then I took some of him. Then we took the elevator down to the Lincoln Borglum Museum, which was the enclosed area leading to the exterior amphitheater area. Here we had a chance to read through the history behind the structure with a strong focus on the artist who had a vision to “carve” a significant piece of history. We watched a video and saw relics used for the construction of the structure. It really made us realize how much work went behind building this meaningfully everlasting monument.
Michael and I decided to check out the bookstore and then got ready to weather the cold in the outdoors amphitheater for the lighting ceremony. The female park ranger gave us some background information about the program about ten minutes before 8pm, and informed us the program was to be about 30 to 45 minutes in length. It kicked off with her giving us a formal introduction and extensive historical and patriotic information about the significance of the monument. The four presidents represented on the structure are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. They all represent different presidents with various backgrounds, coming from different regions in the U.S. and also from different points in history. She emphasized liberty and how each and every one of us should carry out this sense of spirit and understanding to all Americans as our forefathers did in the past in time of tumult. I found her speech to be one of such passion and filled with such knowledge. I was quite impressed with her ability to memorize a 10-15 minute speech that included her reciting various quotes from all four presidents as well as definitions from dictionaries and also from a movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939).
Shortly after, we were presented with a movie that went through each of the four individual presidents in detail. Because it was so cold outside, the video (to us) seemed to really drag on. It was very interesting, but it was just so funny because as they started to introduce George Washington, we thought “uh…they’re only on Washington”. We were shivering, and we thought, Man! We should have been more prepared…as we saw many people who brought blankets, wore hats, gloves, scarves, and more. I at least thought to wear my winter boots, and Michael did have on his waterproof hiking shoes, but it was rough out. During this entire time Michael kept looking over at me saying: “I am going to be so mad if we can’t even see it when they light it up”. I totally agreed. It felt like an eternity before they lit the structure, and before that the ranger called past and present military personnel to come on stage to help with the retiring of the American flag. We also sang the National Anthem with everyone. This program was packed with patriotism.
It was really touching to see all the heroes introduce themselves on stage, and throughout this process, we began to see the monument amidst the fog! It was a miracle and it was so powerful…definitely a special moment. At that point, we were all so proud to be given this opportunity in the States, founded on the belief of freedom for all.
We stayed to take some selfies, and really were considering staying at a hotel for the night because it was so cold. After searching around the area we decided to complete our cache for South Dakota. It took us two tries to find one in the middle of the night. But we did it! We were so happy to have completed it, and now we were off to Wyoming. In the next post, I will be going into detail about our frigid journey to and through the state of WY.