Friday we were up at 6 a.m. so we could be at Ft. Hays by 7:30 or so. Ft. Hays is the place where Kevin Costner received his orders in the movie “Dances With Wolves.” They have purchased the buildings and other artifacts to create a western town south of Rapid City though the actual filming was done on private property about 13 miles from here. This is also the house where the major shot himself. The bullet hole is still in the window. First we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet before boarding our bus for a nine hour tour. The driver was great and told us all sorts of stories and facts.
Our first stop was Mt. Rushmore. We were able to view the video about Borglum and the history of the sculpting of the mountain. The viewing terrace is about 1200 feet from the faces. You see lots of pictures of this scene but there’s nothing like seeing it in person. One more thing to cross off the bucket list.
Next the bus traveled the Iron Mountain Road and Needles Hwy. where we went over three pigtail bridges and through three tunnels carved in the rock. The first one frames Mt. Rushmore perfectly as you look through it.
Another is 102” wide and the bus is 96” wide. The driver had fun with the onlookers. He stopped in the middle, flashed his emergency lights, and gunned the motor as if he were stuck. A crowd gathered at the other end to watch. They do this everyday but the visitors don’t know that.
We ran into the roaming burros again. They really are panhandlers. The bus driver had pancakes for everyone and soon we were surrounded. We also came upon a group of antelope. There was a baby standing in the middle of the road and we just had to wait for it to decide to move.
We stopped at the Lodge in Custer State Park but we really weren’t hungry after that big breakfast. Brenda and I split a salad, Ted had coffee and Rick had cherry pie ala mode. Next we stopped for views of the Cathedral Spires, Totem Pole and the Needle.
Our last stop in the park was at Sylvan Lake. There are no natural lakes in the park, only man made ones. This one was created by a miner dynamiting stone to create it. It was beautiful and clear surrounded by rocks and ponderosa pines and another lodge.
Our last stop was at Crazy Horse Memorial. This is so big that all four heads from Mt. Rushmore would fit on just the face of this carving. The sculptor had a dysfunctional creative personality in that he alienated a lot of folks, didn’t have much of a timetable and drank himself to death in the 1980s. His wife was a better business person and knew that she had to show progress on the carving to regain interest in the project. Crazy Horse’s face is now complete and work has started on removing the excess so they can start creating the horse. It will be at least another 30 years before this is done. The grounds and buildings are beautiful with lots of Indian information and artifacts available for viewing.
Our destination was back to Ft. Hays for a chuckwagon dinner and show. The food was great and the show even better. It wasn’t your normal “tumbling tumbleweeds” music but a cross section from the Eagles to Lee Greenwood. We were back home a little after 9 p.m. This building was an actual post office in South Dakota and fits right in with the others.
All in all it was a good decision on our part to leave the driving to them so we could all enjoy the beauty the Black Hills affords.