The Black Hills of South Dakota are known for Mt. Rushmore, the famous mountain carving of four influential presidents. However, there is another sculpture in progress located just down the road from Mt. Rushmore. This nearby mountain is being carved into the likeness of the legendary Lakota leader Crazy Horse. When completed, Crazy Horse will be the largest sculpture in the world and will dwarf Mt. Rushmore in size.
A model of the finished sculpture
However, work has been slow to progress. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work on the Crazy Horse Memorial on June 3, 1948. Blasting work continued intermittently through the years. Ziolkowski died on October 20, 1982, his dream unfinished. Korczak's wife Ruth and seven of their ten children picked up where he left off, and continued working on the sculpture. The carving continues today, and the memorial and its surrounding campus have become a popular tourist attraction in the Black Hills. The campus is a very interesting place to visit, and besides observing the mountain, guests can tour the Indian Museum of North America (which is very well done) and Korczak's studio. The campus also provides conference facilities, a Native American Education and Cultural Center, a restaurant and, of course, a gift shop.
My family at the starting point, ready to hike!
Once a year on the first weekend of June, the memorial sponsors a volksmarch and invites visitors to hike to the top of the mountain. This is the only time the public is allowed access on Crazy Horse Mountain to view the sculpture-in-progress up close. Since it's inception, my parents have participated in the volksmarch almost every year. I've always wanted to do the volksmarch, but my trips to South Dakota never seemed to coincide with this weekend.
So myself, my parents, my sister and two of her girls, and two of my brothers, all piled into our cars, and headed for the mountain. We got there fairly early (9:00) and there was already a large crowd. We headed to the starting point, checked in and got our cards. Since this was my first-ever volksmarch, I learned that most volksmarches have checkpoints along the way, and you present a card that gets stamped at each checkpoint. Apparently the card gets turned in at the finish point. I think that's how the organizers keep track of the participants and make sure there's no one left on the trail at the end of the day.
There were four checkpoints on the trail to the top. At each checkpoint there was water, and the always-necessary port-a-potties. Boy Scout troops set up concessions and sold snacks.
The weather that morning started out cloudy and cool. I was kind of disappointed, as I was hoping for sunny blue skies for great photos. But I walked along, clicking photos as I went, and then ran to catch up with my family. My folks commented that it was good I was wearing a bright yellow shirt, so they could find me in the crowd.
We reached checkpoint 4, and were greeted with an amazing view of the mountain! You could see the trail snaking up to the very top. There was a steady line of people, trudging up the hill. I could see the viewing area was already getting crowded. My family and I joined the mass of humanity and made the final push to the summit.
And then just as we were almost at the top, the sun came out. Hooray! I got my blue sky just in time! The sunlight was at a perfect angle to light up the face. Photographic conditions couldn't have been better.
After getting our fill of views, we headed back down the trail. The trail wound past the "armpit" of Crazy Horse. It is now a large tunnel through the mountain. For many years as I was growing up in SD, this was the only sign of progress on the carving.
People were posing for photos in front of this tunnel. So of course we all took turns getting our pictures taken. You don't realize how large the "armpit" is until you're almost right next to it.
Then we all headed, down, down, down the trail. A lot easier hiking now!
Susan's girls were hungry, so we took a quick break on a large rock that faced the mountain. We had snacks with a view!
We hiked back down via another path, which gave us a different views of the sculpture. This photo shows the sheer volume of rock that's been blasted away. Look at the amount of crushed rock that surrounds the lower portion of the mountain.