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Published: August 20th 2015
…and on the To-Do List is the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore.
First up…Crazy Horse Memorial…it’s huge. It’s a publicly funded project—entrance fees, donations and proceeds from souvenir and food sales all help to make the work on the memorial happen. There are no federal, state, county or city funds involved.
The parking lot is really big and RV friendly. As you enter the main building you are encouraged to watch a short film about the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, how the memorial came about and the first 50 or so years of the project. It’s quite informative and, for my Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing friends out there, captioned. From there you can tour the Native American museum which is pretty big, go outside and see a 1/34th
scale model of the memorial as well as the real deal. Even with the cameras on our cheap phones we were able to get some good shots.
You can also tour Korczak’s workshop and the family’s home. The home was rather small for the couple and their ten…yes ten…children. The kids all grew up helping dad with the memorial in one way or another. All are still involved either carving the
memorial or active in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. His wife was a huge sports fan…any sport. She amassed an eclectic array of sports memorabilia from Shaq’s shoe to Richard Petty’s tires.
If you want to get a little closer to the memorial and get some pictures from a slightly different angle there is a shuttle bus that will take you to the base. It runs about every 20 minutes and is just $4 per person. The driver, who looked like a mountain man himself, was very good and polished in his patter and even included a Kardashian joke. He took us just past the sculpture-in-progress so we could see the other side, turned the bus around and drove part way back to the museum. He stopped just on the museum side of the mountain and we were allowed to get out for a few minutes to take more pictures, ask him questions and wander around the designated area. He explained that all the rock that is blasted away from the mountain is used in one way or another. Some is crushed and used to make the roads around the property, others were used in the foundations of the
buildings. The trees that were cleared became the family’s home, the workshop, museum, restaurant and other buildings.
If you want to get really up close and personal with Crazy Horse’s face you can pay a minimum of $124 and they’ll take you up on what will become the arm and you can walk around up there. Your $124 will only get one person up there once. I’m not sure how well the pictures will come out. You may need a fisheye lens in order to get anything more than a pupil or facial crease.
Korczak began the project with no formal art, sculpture or rock blasting training. He had natural art skills that were honed over the years. His only training came from working just eight months under Gutzon Borglum. You’re probably scratching your head, wondering why that name sounds so familiar. He’s the guy (along with his son, Lincoln) who created Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Now you’re nodding your head in recollection, aren’t you?
They didn’t do any blasting while we were there…bummer, that would have been cool…and loud…and cool. We did see and hear a bucket loader or bulldozer working up on one of the
lower parts of the access road. Our bus driver/tour guide said in the next ten years the horse’s head will begin to take shape. I’m excited to see what it will look like.
They have a restaurant and snack bar there if you get hungry. There was a 45 minute wait at the restaurant and nothing caught our eye in the snack shop so we waited until after our visit and ate something in town.
After lunch we drove to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The drive up there was full of beautiful rock formations. Once you arrive, you have to decide if you want to park in one of the few, small free lots along the road or pay at the bigger, closer garage. The garage does have RV parking, but it didn’t look very big. I guess they figure most people will be smart (like we’ve become) and leave the house at the bottom of the mountain at one of the many campgrounds. If you decided to forego the free lots down the road, your America the Beautiful Pass is no good at Mount Rushmore because the parking facility is a private lot and there’s no entrance
fee to the museum or viewing area. Oh well, it was worth a shot.
Navigating the parking lot is a bit confusing. You can’t get from one “level” to the next. Each has its own entrance and exit. We found out as we left that you actually have to exit the parking area and circle back around (bypassing the toll booths) to try a different lot. They don’t make that clear when you’re in there circling like vultures. We do-se-doed three times in lot 2 before we lucked into a spot where we could easily park the truck.
The walkway to the viewing platform was flanked by pillars with flags (4 per pillar) of each of the 50 states. I wasn’t paying attention so I don’t know if the last two spots were blank or had some other flags in the holders making everything balanced and aesthetically pleasing. We passed a couple of people posing for pictures in front of their state’s flag. Actually, they posed in front of the name of their state because the flag was too high up to get it in the frame.
We walked straight ahead to the wall at the edge
of the viewing area and took several pictures. As I looked at the faces of the four presidents I remembered what was told to us at Crazy Horse: the actual carved portion of the Mount Rushmore Memorial (length x width) can fit inside the head and what will be hair (length x width) portion of the Crazy Horse Memorial.
After taking a few (okay, several) pictures we wandered through the museum. It was quite interesting as well. For instance, did you know the memorial was originally designed to show the presidents from the waist up? Also, President Jefferson was supposed to be on the far left but there wasn’t enough rock there to complete the carving so they blasted away his unfinished face and started over on George’s left side.
The museum also housed rough carvings of features of each of the presidents, some of the tools and equipment used in the sculpting process and the giant flag used in the dedication. There was also a short documentary of the carving of the memorial, however we didn’t watch it.
There was an ice cream shop at the memorial and of course we had to have some. Among
the flavors was Thomas Jefferson's original vanilla recipe. Neither of us ordered the vanilla. We found an empty table outside at which to sit and enjoy our frozen treat. About halfway through our cups of ice cream a family sat at the table next to us. Actually, the mom and one of the sons sat at the table, the other son, daughter and dad sat on the rock wall nearby. A park ranger struck up a conversation with the couple's sons. I eavesdropped on the conversation...they weren't trying to keep it private. One of the sons was a huge Seahawks fan. Somehow the conversation turned to places in Washington and the ranger commented that the place they were discussing was in his back yard. I had to interrupt. I excused myself for interrupting their conversation and asked the ranger where he was from...Bainbridge Island. I told him where we lived. Instead of a high five or fist bump we tapped elbows because his blue-gloved hands were holding trash. We joined the conversation about places to go in Washington. Eventually the family finished their ice cream and moved on. The ranger joined us at our table, took a short break and
1/300th Scale Model For the Mountain Carving
Korczak Ziolkowski, Sculptor
Tennessee Marble Carved 1946
(c) KORCZAK, Sc.
Crazy Horse Memorial is to be carved not so much as a lineal likeness, but as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse--to his people. With his left hand thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man, "Where are your lands now?" he replied, "My lands are where my dead lie buried."
--Korczak, Sc. (1908 - 1982)
we continued our chat about our home state and his life as a Park Ranger. It's always been nice to cross paths with people from the PNW.
The day was getting late and we were getting tired, so we headed back down the mountain to our home on wheels.
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