Hardin, Montana to South Dakota–Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monuments

Leaving Flathead Lake, Montana, we head east—we’re off to the last of our national monument visits.  We’re a bit sad, our adventure is winding down…. 

To Hardin, Montana—the home of Little Big Horn and Custer’s Last Stand.

Today we crossed the Continental Divide for the third and final time on THIS  trip..  Most of the almost 400 miles today was spent in glorious Montana—big snow-frosted mountains and huge billowing clouds—and yes, the ever-present showers. 


The rivers east continue to overflow their banks.  This area has been deluged!  Just outside Billings—on the Yellowstone River, no less—the topography flattens and we are now in endless plains where we can see for miles.  We are now in the land of Dances with Wolves–we want to watch that movie again!


We arrive with huge cumulous clouds—San Antonio version, if you’ve ever had an opportunity to visit that part of Texas.  Hardin, Montana is near the Little Big Horn.  Big beautiful clouds and brilliant emerald green landscapes along the way with a big thunderstorm after we hit our campground   For the first time this whole trip—a RAINBOW. 


Not just a part of a rainbow but a full 180.  I kept waiting for a leprechaun to jump out.  After all the rain we’ve been through, we kept searching for a rainbow with no luck.  I’m so excited Mother Nature finally came thru!  And gave us a beautiful sunset, to boot!


Tomorrow we’re off for another long day to Rapid City, SD with Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse near our camp site at Hill City, past the Big Horn Mountains.


We were close enough to see Devil’s Tower in the distance (remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind?) We didn’t have time to stop so this is on my list of places to hit on a return trip.


As we near the Black Hills–land of the pink Black Hills gold–even the roads were pink.


We arrived at a camp/ranch with wide open spaces in Hill City.  And, just to be consistent, we had another evening thunder storm.  Locals said they are quite common this time of year. 


Our drive wasn’t too long, so we considered going to the evening lighting at Mount Rushmore.  With the storm, we passed hoping for a better weather tomorrow. Instead we headed to the Crazy Horse Memorial first thing the next morning.  What an amazing place.  I wasn’t prepared for this.



It’s a whole mountain! Twenty-two stories and it’s still only half blocked out.  (A few more decades of work to go)  The placement of his horse’s head is painted on the mountain to give some perspective.  The whole Mt Rushmore carving would fit on the small area behind his head! 


You can get an idea of the size of the project when you see the tiny tractors on the side of the mountain…


It’s all privately supported—no state or federal funding is accepted–with cooperation of the Lakota Sioux.  (Crazy Horse was born in Rapid City and defended his people during a period of broken treaties and the ravaging of his people and their way of life.  He led the Sioux at the battle of Little Big Horn.) 

The creator, Korezak Ziolkowski, was a prize-winning Boston sculptor who was approached by Chief Standing Bear to create this project so “the white man will know the red man has great heros, also.”  Ziolkowski and his family have worked the site since 1948.  Since his death in 1982, his wife and children have carried on the project.  This is one of those time warps when grandkids can go back to pictures of us standing in front of the rough cut mountain many years from now after it’s [hopefully] completed. 


That evening we headed for Mount Rushmore.  

 Created in 14 years by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, it was finished in 1941.  Every night they offer a presentation on the creation of the monument followed by the lighting of the mountain.  We arrived in another storm but this time we were treated to a DOUBLE rainbow.  Quite a site. 


We were able to view the monument in the gentle dusk then we had a great show as night fell.


We toured more of the area the next day heading for Custer State Park.  This was another gem with beautiful wide open expanses, pronghorns and roaming bison herds on the roads. 


Two adolescents decided to scuffle.


We came across one of the oddest signs we’d seen as we left the park.


From Rapid City we continue east, past the Badlands, the plains of Minnesota—flatter than Kansas—and on to Wisconsin. 

Join us for our next adventure—cheering for Danika Patrick at the Milwaukee Mile!




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