I found the Black Hills intriguing mostly for its historical imprint and its natural beauty. The name Black comes from the dark Ponderosa pine-covered slopes, which have been always considered sacred, spiritual and an ancestral home.
We spent a chunk of time exploring the mountainous region through back-road drives, visits to caves, a hike in the Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments.
Mt. Rushmore was what I expected – large and spectacular but also overcrowded with numerous overweight Americans eating ice cream cones.
The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt stood 60 feet high. Carved in the granite of a Black Hills outcrop, the effort was completed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum in 1941, taking 14 years to complete all four faces.
You have to pass through the Wild Western-like town of Keystone, which was once a mining town. Touted as the world’s largest monument, Crazy Horse Memorial is not far from Mt. Rushmore, a mere four miles north of the town of Custer. Still in progress, the monument of the Sioux leader astride his horse sits 563 feet high, pointing to the horizon saying “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”
We didn’t spend much time in Custer since I wanted to get back into the land of the barren roads and wide open spaces where there was not a soul in sight for miles and the only thing on the horizon was a run down petrol station, a kitsch motel or diner…..the land where WalMart and McDonalds signs would hopefully never be found and cell phone coverage always unavailable.