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July 01, 2017

South Dakota - Great Faces and Great Places

Great Faces and Great Places is the motto as displayed on the South Dakota License plate.

Great Faces
Not a large area Mount Rushmore National Monument attracts a heck of a lot of visitors!  The concessionaire providing the parking $10 ($5 with geezer pass) is well organized.  RV parking is the right most entrance booth.  The large visitor center offers a movie on the history and construction of the monument.
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Outside of the VC the Presidential Trail is the only trail within the monument.  This easy trail with 422 stairs should be done in a clockwise direction going down the staircases.  From the trail each of the faces can be seen.

George Washington - Washington led the colonists in the American Revolutionary War to win independence from Great Britain. He was the father of the new country and laid the foundation of American democracy. Because of his importance, Borglum chose Washington to be the most prominent figure on the mountain to represent the birth of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln - Lincoln held the nation together during its greatest trial, the Civil War. Lincoln believed his most sacred duty was the preservation of the union. It was his firm conviction that slavery must be abolished.
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Thomas Jefferson - Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, a document which inspires democracies around the world. He also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 which doubled the size of our country, adding all or part of fifteen present-day states.

Theodore Roosevelt - Roosevelt provided leadership when America experienced rapid economic growth as it entered the 20th Century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, linking the east and the west. He was known as the "trust buster" for his work to end large corporate monopolies and ensure the rights of the common working man.
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The monument remains unfinished, the original design included the jackets and the rough-out, but funding and a world war put a halt to the project.  The scale models can be seen in the Sculpture's Studio at the end of the Presidential Trail.
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The Crazy Horse Memorial will dwarf Mount Rushmore, which will fit completely within the head of Crazy Horse Monument.  Crazy Horse was chosen by the Lakota as a symbol of the tribe's loyalty to their land and freedom.   His hand will outstretch with finger pointing to visualize his quote “My land is where my dead lie buried“.  Altho I like “Hokahey! Today is a good day to die”, but that may not be as appropriate.  No public money has been used in the construction, which helps explain the $11/person entrance fee.  The Korczak Ziolkowski (died 1982) and his family are constructing the monument very much on their own, with an agreement from Chief Standing Bear.
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Great Places
The Black Hills are not made of coal, nor obsidian, nor any dark soil.   It is the dark trunks of the Ponderosa Pine that give the hills their dark color. 

The Prairie Berry Winery has fliers in every rest stop and like Wall Drug, its share of billboards.  Hill City is not far out of the way with several wineries and micro-brews, we stop at only one.  The testing room allows for 5 tastes FREE!  I was surprised they do have a decent dry red, but at $40 it is so not that good.  The goal is to taste their signature Red Ass Rhubarb that’s seen on the billboards.  Tastes like a rhubarb soda without the fizz – we pass.
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Custer State Park has the largest buffalo herd in US and is a beautiful drive.  If you wish to stop and hike, there is a entrance fee.  We were just driving through on the way to the Wind Cave and were allowed passage without paying the fee.
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We arrived too late to explore Wind Cave National Park, but at least one critter was out to welcome us.  I know, skip the crappy wine and enjoy the Wind Cave …
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Pactola Reservoir is a beautiful body of water within the Black Hills and offers a nice break along the route to Hot Springs, SD.
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We seem to use KOA, and although not my favorite campgrounds, they seem to be where we need to stop and are quite predictable in what they offer.  Our Hot Springs KOA site was not level, but the campground offers large blocks and a spotter while we leveled.  A nice touch.  We’ll do laundry in the morning and then check out Wind Cave and/or the ancient elephants.

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We chose not to backtrack to Wind Cave (40 mi R/T) but did want to backtrack to the Mammoth Site.  This is a working paleontology site with over 60 separate mammoths discovered along with short-faced bear and other prehistoric animals.
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The bones are not petrified, but more accurately described as dehydrated, the moisture has been absorbed as the sink hole dried making them very fragile.  The pieces on display have been treated with a preservative.  Those in the ground are contained within the excavation room and will remain insitue.
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Definately worth a stop.

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