Tuesday, June 7, 2016
I have returned from a trip out to the far end of South Dakota with my good friend, J. It's a mighty long drive, and I've got my "driving arm sunburn," but we had a great time, saw (some of - there's just too much to do and see in one trip) the sights and learned a bit too. (You can't go on trips with me and not go to at least one edumacational place...)
Along the way we stopped at a couple of those "cheesy" tourist spots. They're not much, but they break up the hours of driving. The first was the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota. J. thought he'd be jollier. A few hours later we stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota for dinner, and to see the "world famous" Corn Palace. It's not actually either, but it's a neat place. We happened to visit during a street party and had the opportunity to listen to a local rock band playing "The Letter", to watch a toothless old man dancing in the street, and little kids laughing in a bicycle race.
Our campground is situated near Rapid City, South Dakota, right along Rapid Creek, and is a beautiful place in the shadow of steep granite cliffs. We slept in tents next to the rippling creek, listening to the wind in the pine trees.
At Mount Rushmore, under the shadow of George Washington's cavernous nostril, we listened to Park Ranger D. Redcloud tell stories of how Gutzon Borglum, the artist responsible for the Rushmore carvings, helped the starving native people living near the monument. "We always had good relations with him," our ranger said. But I wondered if this was bit of National Monument whitewashing. Other sources that I've read suggest that Borglum was a "nativist" and sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan - and his work on the monument to Confederate leaders at Stone Mountain, Georgia would seem to give support to those claims. This isn't to say that the stories D. Redcloud told us weren't true (several of them involved his grandfather), but those stories may not represent the entire truth.
Redcloud from jeff carter on Vimeo.
We visited Wind Cave National Park - which has over 145 miles of explored caves (and many times that still unexplored), located next to Custer State Park, and learned about Boxwork formations within the cave, as well as the Lakota emergence story. Park Ranger Shena told us the story. Afterwards J. and I discussed the places of similarity between the Lakota story of Iktomi (the spider), Anog-Ite (the double faced woman), the Creator and the first people and the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It may be tricky to make cross cultural comparisons like that, but there is some overlap in the stories.
At the Crazy Horse Monument we watched a group of young Pueblo Hoop Dancers. We missed the opportunity to actually walk out along Crazy Horse's arm by a few hours - an opportunity that only happens a couple of times a year.
On our way home we drove through the Badlands loop - a little out of the way, but worth it for the incredible landscape. We might have stayed longer, but we were hungry, and there was still so much driving to do to get home.