When we left Custer State Park we followed Iron Mountain Road because you are suppose to be able to see Mt. Rushmore from a distance, and you can. The road is a narrow 2 lane scenic byway with hairpin turns twisting and spiraling through the Black Hills. You eventually end up at an overlook where you can not only enjoy the spectacular view but can see Mt. Rushmore some 10 miles away. Mornings in the Black Hills are cool and crisp this time of year but as the sun gets higher so do the temperatures. By 9 AM we had the top down on the car with the wind blowing through our hair and chapping my lips.
We Stopped for breakfast in a little place called the Sugar Shack. Man, this place had the best food we'd had since we left Mississippi. The food was good the coffee was good and the people that work there were very nice, friendly and made us feel very welcome. The atmosphere is comfortable as well. The other customers seemed to be mostly local folks but they seemed very pleased with their food too. They chatted with the 2 employees, Daryl Kunzi and Hope Prostrollo, as if they had known them for years. They may have but they talked to us the same way. It was a very home like place in a foreign place.
Mt. Rushmore is one of our nations symbols of democracy and is located in Keystone, South Dakota. The 4 faces are: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln and were carved out of granite They can be seen for miles as they gaze out over the valley and the Black Hills. The monument is quite large with each head being taller than a 6 story building. This monument is truly inspirational and a site to see. There is a very nice visitors center a museum and sculptors studio where original models can be viewed. It is easily accessed from Rapid City and from Custer State Park. If you get a chance to see Mt. Rushmore...go, you won't be disappointed.
Our next destination was Deadwood. I have been watching cowboy movies all my life and Deadwood has frequently been the town these movies were about or made in. Legends were made there and lie there today...at Mt. Moriah Cemetery...aka...Boot Hill. We did a walking tour of the graveyard and I got so many photos I lost count. The best ones were of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. They are buried side by side, together for eternity. People leave all kinds of things on Wild Bills Grave: whiskey bottles, rocks,pennies,casino chips, cigars. It really is kind of weird seeing graves of people that legends are made of.
There were a lot of other graves there, as well. There was a mass grave for some 13 people who had died in a fire and an area where victims of small pox, I think, are buried. Only 1/3 of the graves are marked. The terrain is very steep and I kept thinking about how difficult it must have been 100 years ago to bury someone up there, but, the graveyard overlooks Deadwood and a beautiful valley and is peaceful, shaded and well cared for.
Devils Tower, Wyoming is only about 60 miles from Deadwood. We arrived there in time to see mountain climbers attempting to reach the summit. This monolith is more than 1200 feet tall and more than just a big rock. It is a spiritual place. There is magic there. It looms over you and makes you feel so small. You can't get to the top unless you climb so that leaves me out. The eagles, hawks and vultures fly around the top ...around and around and around. One of the park rangers said they seem to especially fly around when there are climbers up there. Wonder why ? We sat there in amazement with binoculars and camera in hand and watched as 3 climbers slowly made their way closer to the top. They still had a long way to go when we left.
We drove on to a small town, Moorcroft, Wyo. to spend the night.