Sunday was one of my favorite days of the entire trip. We left around 11 to make our way down to Mount Rushmore. The 62 mile trek ended up taking us 3 hours with all the stops and the twisty roads, but it was worth every minute.
I find myself on these roads, looking up at these hills and thinking I have never seen country more beautiful. I’m resisting the urge to compare it to the scenery in NM and AZ that blew me away at the time – I guess it’s some combination of the forestry, grassy meadows, sparsely scattered log cabins and mountain homes, canyons, cliffs and tunnels. The whole scene ties together in some kind of Paul Bunyan-esque fairy land.
We stopped midway at the Sugar Shack – which is this burger joint that sits at the intersections of two country roads. It claims to be “The Best Burger in the Black Hills” so I had to try it out. Turns out, they’re right. Cat, the bartender, made me an off-the-menu sauerkraut burger with jalapeños and Swiss cheese. O. M. G. Amazeballs.
About 10 miles from Mount Rushmore we crossed over Pactola Lake. The vistas here were unreal. Crystal blue water surrounded by cliffs on all sides. Apparently back in 1903, Teddy Roosevelt created the Reclamation Project that built dams, lakes and reservoirs all over the West. Today, 17 states depend on this project for water, irrigation and sustainable living conditions. I’m always inspired when I see things like this – it reminds me that when we come together with common purpose we can do more together than on our own. Ironically in today’s political environment, we would never get a project like this out of a conference committee – or perhaps even INTO one. It comes from an era where DOING things was more important that talking about them.
We took the back way through Hill City into Mount Rushmore rather than coming in from Keystone. Cat at the Sugar Shack had given us this suggestion and it was right on the money. Coming around the bend in the road to see Washington’s profile jutting out from the mountainside was truly breathtaking.
One of my favorite movies is North by Northwest – an old Hitchcock classic of mistaken identity. The climactic scenes are shot at Mount Rushmore: both at the base of the monument and finally with the stars actually climbing down the faces of the Presidents. Fabulous film if you haven’t seen it – which you can do for free on Netflix. The pictures I got from the Presidential Trail that goes along the base of the monument are fantastic and I’ll post some up when I get a better signal.
That night, we grilled some burgers and then headed down to the Broken Spoke Saloon for the Black Crowes. The pictures are ridiculous and you’ll see a bunch of them up here once I get back into some functional internet coverage.