Hello and welcome! If you’re new to the story, we began in Galveston three days ago! My sister and I (and her two kiddos) have now arrived safely in Hill City, South Dakota. The room reservations were made in advance and thankfully everything was in order! We’ve been looking forward to exploring this area because it holds much more than Mount Rushmore!
Spring Creek Inn, in Hill City
Comfortably tucked into the quiet hills of South Dakota, we lodged at a locally owned place called Spring Creek Inn. All of the rooms are at ground level, and each room had a parking spot directly in front of its door. They are close to “everything” including Custer State Park, the Crazy Horse exhibit, Deadwood, and of course Mt. Rushmore.
Grill & Chill at Spring Creek Inn
Bring your own food and cook it on their gas grill. And then chill at the fire pit after sunset! Optionally, bring your binoculars for bird watching and stargazing!
Making Hotel Reservations
We found Hill City to be centrally located to the sights we wanted to see. But there are several areas with clusters of hotels. And if you don’t know about Booking.com, let me introduce you! They will help you find the best rates on the best rooms (or cottages!). So check it out!
Mount Rushmore National Monument is completely accessible by foot, bicycle, wheelchair, or stroller. An ADA walkway escorted us from the parking garage directly into the pavilion.
As you look down the sidewalk lined with flags, raise your chin a little, and there it is! Four Presidential Faces engraved into the side of the mountain: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Mount Rushmore was a quick stop. But that’s okay because this area has way more than Mount Rushmore!
Drive Wildlife Loop Road Counter-Clockwise
There is a driving loop around Custer State Park, called Wildlife Loop Road. When you take this drive, I recommend traveling in a counter-clockwise direction. The reason is that there are several narrow tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore. This means that you can see Mt. Rushmore at the end of the tunnel, providing photo opportunities!
There is No Horse at Crazy Horse. Yet.
As I may have mentioned, this area has a lot to see: Way more than just Mount Rushmore! Take, for example, Crazy Horse. This isn’t actually a National Monument but a non-profit organization.
A Work in Progress
After our trip, once we arrived back home, my parents shared some pictures from their last trip in 1996. That was when they were allowed to walk all the way up to his face! Wow! Great shots! Thanks for sharing these, Mom!
Crazy Horse in 1997 is Fatter
Shaving down the rough edges of this mountain is arduous work! And progress is very slow. For example, in the photo above, look at all of the rock near the base. And in the photo below, notice how the sides of the monument are smoother; more slender!
Crazy Horse in 2021 is Slimmer
See what I mean? They have carved away all of the unnecessary parts, and they are beginning to define the horse in Crazy Horse!
A Full Scale Model
This statue is the full-scale model from which they are working. They are using this as an example. Eventually, everything that is not part of the finished product will be removed, leaving only Chief Crazy Horse and his horse.
It’s not clear to me how they will add his headpiece. Nor is it clear if they intend to include the copyright logo on his right hip. (Humor.) But overall, I’d say they’ve got quite a project going!
The Needles Eye at Custer State Park
This unusual rock formation is called The Needles Eye. The site has a small parking area so you can get out of your vehicle and take a good look at this rock and the surrounding terrain.
When you get back in your car, you must drive through a single-lane tunnel bearing the same name: Needles Eye Tunnel.
Wild Donkeys at Custer State Park
While we were driving around Custer State Park, we saw wild donkeys walking near the roadside. Several cars had pulled over to take pictures, causing a bit of a traffic jam, but nobody was complaining! Besides, the donkeys seem to be enjoying the attention.
Patriot Rallies on the 4th
While we were here, we saw more than Mount Rushmore. In fact, as I may have mentioned in a prior post, there was a specific reason for visiting during the 4th of July holiday. Two patriots that I follow on social media were planning events during that time. I find their messages hopeful and inspiring, so I wanted to support their efforts.
At Watson Park in Keystone
Robert David Steele was one of those people. He hosted an event on the morning of the 4th at Watson Park in Keystone. A gazebo provided a place for the sound stage. Several people did presentations: actors, musicians, and political speakers. And all of them were making valid points about election fraud and forced vaccines.
At the Buffalo Chip in Sturgis
The other rally was hosted by Scott McKay. He too exposes election fraud and has a low tolerance for bullshit. This event was held in Sturgis at The Buffalo Chip in the heat of the afternoon.
A Party on the Fourth of July
The tour bus made a nice backdrop behind the stage because it was decorated in patriotic colors. Sasha Stone was mingling in the crowd, posing for pictures and making friends.
Music was playing, and patriots were setting up chairs in the sunshine. I didn’t stay for the entire event, but it was great seeing the support.
More than Mount Rushmore: This is Historic Deadwood
Having spent three glorious non-traveling days in Spring Hill, seeing more than Mount Rushmore, it was time to move on. Historic Deadwood is just an hour north of here, and it’s on our way to Devils Tower which is the next destination.
Have You Seen the Series?
It was the Gold Rush in the late 1800s that put this little town on the map. Both my sister and I had seen the Deadwood series on TV and we were excited to poke around this little town to see if any of it aligned with the show!
Underwhelmed and Overrated
Well, for all the hype, Deadwood was decidedly underwhelming. The main street was lined with dozens of crowded shops, and the map they provided was difficult to read. All of the sights we wanted to see were either closed, closed for the day, or too expensive for our tastes.
Sisters Will Argue
Pushed to our limits, with the crowds and crappy service, we finally had a huge argument, right there on the streets of Deadwood. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it rained.
The argument, like the rain, put a big grey cloud over everything and caused us to question our travel plans! This is only day six! Is it possible to spend three weeks together?
Both of us agreed it was the EXPECTATIONS that did us in: we expected Deadwood to be something it wasn’t. And then we were disappointed when it didn’t meet or exceed our expectations.
Additionally, because of the pandemic, businesses were having trouble finding and keeping employees. Nobody wanted to work because they were getting more money being on pandemic unemployment! So the service was really bad throughout the entire trip. Not just Deadwood.
Once we got it all sorted out, we had a good laugh, and the phrase Deadwood came to mean drama. For example, “Let’s not go all Deadwood on this.” Regroup, shake it off! And map out the next stop: Devils Tower.