Friday, November 19, 2010

Mount Rushmore–exclusive access


Snow! The campsite we stayed at was near Hill City, SD. This is the old west country and the stomping ground of Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, etc. It’s not so grand now, and Hill City is fairly deserted this time of year.


We stayed in a nearby national forest campsite. It might well have been closed, but we were too tired to care and we camped among the snow and the deer. We woke to ice coating the glass on the inside.




Today is Mount Rushmore day, so we set off about 8. Not a warm day, the temperature gauge on the right here reads 14. That’s Fs not Cs!

We drove the few miles to the monument and discovered that to park in their bunker of a concrete car park was $10! This was not an acceptable amount of money to pay so we did some sneaky photos from down the road which you’re not meant to do, according to the posted signs instead

The photos were a bit distant, so on finding a parking spot half a mile down the road, I figured that if we climbed up a rocky and very steep hillside, there would probably be a view of the monument and parking was free, lovely.


We scrambled up the hillside, up the rock and found this view. The car is just visible, as is the side of Washington's face.

I still figured we could get closer, so we carried on through the woodland until we unexpectedly found ourselves on the ‘presidential trail’ This is a roughly circular path made of wooden decking with the faces at 12 o’clock and the visitors centre and grand viewing platform at 6.


We strolled around like we owned the place, appreciating but not fully understanding why it was so quiet and why the other visitors were only hanging out at viewing area rather than getting close on this trail. 

We had plenty of time and space to get this shot by balancing the camera on wallet and phone.



Onwards to the visitors centre down a still conspicuously deserted path, past the empty sculptor’s centre, down the empty path, stepped over the ‘trail closed’ sign and on to the grand viewing platform. That’s why!




We figured it was best to play it cool rather than admit we’d been basically trespassing, so we wandered in to the visitors centre, crushed a penny, chatted to the lady at the counter and bailed

We took the much less strenuous walk down the main road back to the car, got in and noticed with interest the large red and white ‘federally closed area – do not enter’ signs posted on the trees we’d past but not noticed an hour ago. Time to go!




Crazy Horse mountain next. This is a huge, huge sculpture of native American leader that has been carved in a nearby mountain. We learned that it was $10 each to go have a closer look which was, of course, unacceptable.

We turned round. The best shot I got was in the wing-mirror!



Time to get to the plane museum! Steff loves planes.

Here’s where they used to keep the Minuteman nuclear missiles and a have an exhibition to prove it. There’s a silo there that’s tour-able in the summer so we missed that, shame.


Anyway, South Dakota is where they still keep these nuclear weapons and they can get them aimed, armed, the lid off their launch-tube and into the big blue quicker than Steff can get the car started – hence ‘minuteman’

Now it was time to camp. We found a campsite in a state park that had no running water, no showers and was covered with ice and charged $17! No… time for plan B: Wal-Mart.


Wal-Mart usually allows overnight staying in their carparks. It’s not universal as it depends on the local laws, but this one was cool. We installed the cardboard blinds in the windows and slept. It was more restful than the previous night. something about the presence of other campers and people in general made it more peaceful. The only disadvantage is the lack of bathroom facilities, but one adapts.

The blinds make the car noticeably warmer, too. It was only –1C (30F) inside the car this morning instead of –7C (19F) the night before.

Now to McDonalds for internet and cheap coffee, then off towards Yellowstone.

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