Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota

Back when I wrote about the carving on Stone Mountain, Ga. I introduced you to mountain artist and sculpture, Gutzon Borglum. At that time I said we would meet up with Mr. Borglum again in a later post in South Dakota. Well, that time is now.

Gutzon Borglum is the man who made Mount Rushmore possible. Borgum explored mountains and spires through out the Needles and Black Hills before he spotted Mount Rushmore.

Once the mountain of granite was chosen, Borglum had to decide who would be on it. Borglum explained his choices this way: Washington because he is the father of our country, Jefferson because he expressed our beliefs in the Declaration of independence and expanded our territory with the Louisiana Purchase. Lincoln was chosen for preserving the union and Teddy Roosevelt because he fulfilled the expansionist’s dream by linking the oceans with the Panama Canal”

Periodically there are suggestions to add a 5th head but that can’t happen. The area of usable granite is taken up entirely by the existing 4 heads. The original vision was for the men to be full body but money was always an issue.

Go to the auditorium at Mount Rushmore and watch the film about the carving of the mountain. It is fascinating and educational.

When we arrived at Mount Rushmore we found a modern parking garage and visitor centers with cafeteria, auditorium and gift shops. It was cold and rainy and I believe I even saw a tiny snow flake or two. It certainly felt like it was cold enough.

I loved the Avenue of the States, the walkway lined with granite pillars. Each Pillar was carved with 4 states and the date they joined the union. Each State’s flag flies from the pillar. The view was just what you see in the Movie National Treasure, Book of Secrets with Nicolas Cage.

We followed the trail to the Native American village but it was closed. Still we took a moment to get some pictures. Then we followed the board walk up the mountain to get a bit closer to the monument itself. At one point there was a small side spur that led into a cave. You could see the carving through a crack in the cave ceiling. I met a couple of young men in the cave and we walked with them for a bit. When we came to the stairs up the face of the monument, Sandy and I decided to pass on the climb but our young escorts went on.

We went back down the boardwalk to have dinner in the cafeteria and warm up before we went to sit outside for the lighting of the Monument.


Somehow, somewhere one of us had heard that this was quite spectacular . We still had time to spare and since it was quite cold outside we explored the book store and souvenir shops.

Washington's Head from inside the cave

 We finally ended up on the upper level of the visitor center. There were benches facing a large window through which you could see the carving. We could stay in here and be warm for the lighting but we wouldn’t be able to hear the ranger’s speech. I took advantage of the seating and sat down. As I looked up at the carving I thought I saw a flash of light like a camera flash. I kept watching the area and pretty soon I thought I saw someone step out in the open and then duck back behind a tree. This happened a couple of times so I spoke up and asked if anyone else had seen this. At first everyone told me it was my imagination but when it happened again I pointed it out.

By now everyone around me was watching the rubble under the faces where the “action”: was taking place. Once we saw this a couple of more times and it was confirmed that there was someone up there, one of the others watching went to the Ranger and asked him about it. He said they were aware of the climbers and that it was illegal to leave the path and climb out like that. A “retrieval” team was on it’s way to apprehend the trespassers. The Ranger said that fines for this violation start at $250.00. We learned the description of the 2 interlopers and it sounded suspiciously like our two young escorts! They will have a nice fine to remember their little adventure.

The rain was coming down harder now so I asked the ranger what to expect from the Lighting. He said it was a brief ceremony and then they turned on the lights so the monument could be seen in the dark. No fireworks, no lasers, just a few spotlights.

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I carried this information back to Sandy and we decided not to hang around any longer. It was a long drive back to Rapid City and the weather was turning very nasty. It turned out to be a very wet and rainy drive .

I’m glad we didn’t stay any later than we did.

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