In July we managed to squeeze in some time for a family vacation—the reason why I missed posting here at ABM last month. I was going to do it while we were on the road, but the internet didn’t want to cooperate with my computer in the hotel where we stayed for a few days. So, my apologies for being absent.
The hubby and I have been up to the Black Hills in South Dakota several times, but our kids had yet to experience the wonder and beauty the area has to offer. We visited the most often visited spots like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, which the kids marveled at. They were very impressed to see those presidents they’d been studying the past school year up on the side of that mountain. They were amazed to learn each face is 60 feet tall, and each eye is 11 feet wide. And they loved getting a closer look at the sculpture by taking a hike along the Presidential Trail. www.nps.gov/moru
And Crazy Horse. Wow! They’ve made tremendous strides over the past decade. Since completing the face their tourist rate has gone up substantially. This, along with an increase in private donations, has allowed them to move along a little faster with bigger and better equipment. They hope to have the tip of Crazy Horse’s finger complete by the end of 2012. If you’ve never visited Crazy Horse, put it on your bucket list. Just the sheer magnitude of the sculpture blows the mind. When complete it will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. If you think Mount Rushmore is big, Crazy Horse dwarfs the presidents. All four presidents would fit in the spot where Crazy Horse’s flowing hair will be. Amazing. While there, be sure and take the bus tour to the base of the mountain. Well worth the four bucks. And they let you pick up rocks! All the rocks you want! www.crazyhorsememorial.org
We also took a day to venture up to Deadwood. We’d been there several times but it had been quite a few years, and so we wanted to check out a site that was newer and hadn’t been there on our last trip about 12 – 15 years ago. That site was Kevin Costner’s TaTanka. Yes, I said Kevin Costner! If you love Dances With Wolves, love sculpture, or Native American culture, you’ll love and appreciate TaTanka.
I have to tell you, these larger-than-life bronze sculptures depicting a buffalo jump are magnificent. They just took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. Visit TaTanka and you’ll see 14 bison being pursued by three Native American riders and urging them over a cliff in a natural setting. Add in the background of the Black Hills and you’ve got a site to behold. Costner commissioned the sculptures with a local South Dakota artist and she did an amazing job of capturing the moment. It certainly inspired me and I’ve been dying to get back to writing.
During the time of filming Dances With Wolves, Costner fell in love with South Dakota and came to realize the injustices against the Native Americans. It was his goal to heal at least a bit of the bruised land and honor the Native Americans and the majestic Bison by showing the relationship they had. I feel he has accomplished that with both the sculpture and the beautiful educational center. Not only do you learn about the Lakota life from a true Lakota guide, you’ll also see Native American artifacts, and get to see costumes from Dances With Wolves. On the grounds are also several of the TiPis used in the film. Check out the web site, www.storyofthebison.com for more info.
Also at Deadwood we visited Mount Moriah Cemetery. Famous for the graves of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane, Mount Moriah is a quiet, peaceful place that might make you huff and puff a bit as you tour the site. It’s located on a very steep hill high above Main Street! But the city of Deadwood has done a wonderful job of cleaning up the location and giving it the attention and respect it deserves. www.deadwood.com
From Deadwood we visited the beauty of Jewel Cave. www.nps.gov/jeca So cool. Although, I have to admit the idea of going underground close to 300 feet was a bit unsettling for me. But once we got down there I was fine. And the kids loved it. So far they’ve mapped 166.6 miles of the cave and there is a lot more to go. During this tour you hike more than 700 steps, so make sure you have on your walking shoes. And be sure to take along your camera and your own little flashlight. Having your own flashlight will allow you to see some of wonders of the case you’d otherwise miss.
We also took a drive through Custer State Park. www.custerstatepark.com I love this area. I definitely want to go back and actually spend some time there camping and horseback riding. The park has 71,000 acres to traverse. The Wildlife Loop Road will wind you through the park and give you a great taste of the park. The Loop takes you through the prime buffalo range where you’ll see Bison grazing and lounging. Great photo opps here! Along the loop we also saw a lot of White Tail Deer, Pronghorns, Prairie Dogs, Burros, and Big Horn Sheep!
So, there’s just a taste of our summer vacation. I hope I didn’t bore you! It was a great trip and I did a lot of research that I can use in my books. Speaking of books, it’s time to get back to work. School starts August 16th so I’m super anxious to get back to a regular writing schedule. See you all in September! Hopefully, I’ll have some book news to share!
Sherry James www.sherryjames.com