Next we travelled the Iron Mountain Road, designed by Peter Norbek in 1870 who later became a senator and Governor of the state. He said the road to Mt Rushmore should be slow and scenic. He was the bright spark that decided these pigtail bridges and tunnels on the already narrowing and winding road. Note: the bikers were not happy as we manoeuvred around one of the bends! It’s a tour bus people! I’m sorry.
Check out these tiny roads, it is just wide enough for the bus.
From up on the road we get a good view to the Badlands. Then we come to the last tunnel, Scovel Johnson Tunnel where you can see back through to Mt Rushmore.
The Black Hills National Park has elk, white tail and mule deer, bighorn sheep, turkeys and mountain lions. There are no grizzly or black bear though, they were all eliminated during the 1800’s, more than likely miners took them for their meat and fur. Custer had his picture taken with a big bear he had shot here.
Now we are into Custer State Park all 71,000 acres of it and keeping our eye out for buffalo! There are 1300-1500 head of buffalo throughout the park. Towards the end of September they round them all up and push them down to the south end of the park. They then have the ‘running of the buffalo’ where they push them into the corrals and pregnancy test them, brand them and sort out the ones they want to keep and will auction some off during November.
The game lodge was built in 1920, 70 days after it was finished it burnt to the ground. The lodge was rebuilt on the original foundations. President Calvin Coolidge used to stay here for his summer White House. Dwight Eisenhower also stayed at the lodge in 1953. This is where our lunch stop is. Buffalo Burger anyone? The buffet was superb.
We made a rather exciting roadside stop along the mountain to view the needle spires known as The Cathedral.
The last tunnel, aptly named ‘The Needles Eye’! Can you see why!? 8ft 4″ wide. We crept through the mirrors barely missing the rock face. Dan has a wicked sense of humour, not only does he have a student driver sign in the window but he stopped in the middle of the tunnel and decided to put the flashers on! Hilarious!
The crowd cheered and clapped when we got out the other side. Then we could briefly see the needles eye rock.
A quick stop at Sylvan Lake, how beautiful! Rocks into the water, popular for fishing and boating. This area was used for the movie National Treasure.
Next it was down through Custer and on to Crazy Horse.
Custer was founded in 1875 and the first in the Black Hills, so named after General Custer. Custer kept very accurate records of his expedition and brought the Black Hills out of isolation. He was only there for 3 weeks of that summer. Miners soon came thick and fast after Custer’s men reported finding gold.
Gen. Custer is mostly known for the Battle of Little Bighorn. Custer and two hundred of his men lost their lives in this great battle which actually took place North of the Black Hills and into Montana. One horse named Commanche survived from a bullet wound, moved to Kansas for rehab and when he passed away was stuffed and mounted, residing in the Univerity of Kansas.
The Crazy Horse monument was to be dedicated to the ‘red man’. Chief Standing Bear wrote and asked to create the monument Crazy Horse was started in 1948.
When finished, the comparison of size? The four presidents heads of the Mt Rushmore Memorial would fit into Crazy Horses head with room to spare.
The face of crazy horse was unveiled in 1988.
For those interested in blasting the world standard (which may have changed, not sure the last review of their information video was) for vibration in a blast is/was 8″ per foot. Their blasting for this monument is 3″ per foot. Very precise! You can’t put back what you take off. Would be a bit late then.
Back through Hill City, the heart of the black hills and is the second oldest town in the hills.
Right about now we are all trying to stay awake and soon we will arrive back at Ft. Hays. A full 9hr day and have the Chuckwagon dinner show tonight.
Dinner was superb, fast and then the Wranglers came on to play. Music and comedy – different from a previous chuckwagon dinner – western, country, and a little bit of Elvis. Very, very good and the fiddle player who was a trained classical violinist was amazing! Miss Lizzie Knowles! One of the guys in the band was her music teacher back in school and they played a superb rendition of Devil Went Down To Georgia!
A good finish to a great day!
Night! Kat xo
July 28th, 2015