Well, I actually made it back from Glacier National Park. The trip was filled with all kinds of unexpected moments – and with lots of memories and experiences I will carry with me for this (and hopefully other) lifetimes.
On the second day of travel, it was decided to take a trip to Wounded Knee in South Dakota. It was only a slight way off the proposed travel direction, and the second day was a light day of travel to begin with. On our way through Nebraska, we were passed by two State Troopers headed north on the highway, moving at an extremely high rate of speed (we were going 70mph – and they passed us like we were doing 25). When we made it to the town of Whiteclay, we found where they had been headed. There were cars, police vehicles and people EVERYWHERE – including the street. Most of them were massed up on the South Dakota side. The tension in the air was easily felt inside the Forester – and we were all uneasy. It felt like a powderkeg that was waiting for a spark to ignite it. Driving slowly we made it through the crowd – and continued on through Pine Ridge to our destination of Wounded Knee. Later that evening, I hit the internet to see what had happened in Whiteclay, and found this YouTube video of the incident, which was a protest against the town of Whiteclay selling alcohol just feet away from the dry Pine Ridge Reservation line.
Our arrival at Wounded Knee was a bit confusing. There is only a two-sided sign marking the site – and even then its a little unclear if it marks the actual location. On the street opposite the sign is a small, rather “touristy” looking building describing itself as a “holocaust museum”. There was also a dirt road, which we drove down for about two miles before discovering that it is a county road that allows access to ranch homes in the area. Later on, when we made it to our cabin in Hill City, South Dakota — we found out that the actual museum for both of the Wounded Knee events is located in Wall, South Dakota. There are already plans being drawn up for a future visit to the museum. Interestingly enough, opening one’s self up to the Spirit of the land here — I could feel how quiet this area is. It has a very similar feel to many of the Civil War battlefields that I have been to. The land continues to grow, but there’s that deep, quiet, serene feel.
The next two days were spent traveling around the Hill City, South Dakota area. A trip to Mount Rushmore was made. While an interesting scene, its becoming a remarkably tourist-oriented area. Views of the monument are effectively blocked by the massive parking structure that has been erected there – and the parking fees are completely out of this world. We found several spots to grab photos from the road up to the monument, and eschewed the idea of paying elaborate parking fees in order to struggle with the teaming masses for a decent photograph. The traffic approaching the site was unbelievable – I could nearly describe it as being similar to rush-hour on a normal week-day here in the Dallas area. In the end, Rushmore can be considered as a “bucket-list” item. If you need to see it – do so. Otherwise, its not nearly as impressive as one would think. The same can be held true for the continuing building of the Crazy Horse monument. Interestingly enough, it is situated in a manner that does not allow it to be viewed from anywhere on the road. While the price is somewhat more understandable than that of Rushmore, we simply ran out of time to spend there. I understand that there is an excellent Native American museum on the grounds as well – so a future trip will be in the works for that as well. During our time in the area, we spent the majority of it in the Wind Cave National Park, which was spectacular. We were super close to some buffalo (less then five feet away), and visited the Wind Cave itself. The cave is not well lit on the inside, so pictures of it did not come out that well at all. Furthermore, the guide was not that knowledgeable of the formations located within the cave – providing answers that might placate a seven-year old child.
While many of the stores had a tourist-trap feel to them – and the main drag through Hill City had the feel of being a wanna-be Sturgis — we did find two unexpected great places. The first was in Custer, South Dakota, and is called the Purple Pie Place (I wish they had a web site!). The pie here was just awesome! I have no idea what they put in their pie crust — but it must be similar to crack cocaine, because I could have eaten that stuff for days on end! If you ever go to the area – be sure to stop in and try the Blackberry pie or the Chicken pot pie. The second place, is on the main drag in Hill City – and is just a place we wandered into. Its called Just Dandy — and its a Metaphysical shop. And a rather cute one at that. I could not find a website for them either…but it was a pleasant surprise to walk up on a shop with a “Co-Exist” sticker in the main window.
The next day provided the longest drive of the trip – going from Hill City, South Dakota to Whitefish, Montana – on the OTHER side of Montana. The last part of the drive (going north from the interstate) was done in a rainstorm, shortly after midnight. Visibility was poor – and with an unfamiliarity with the roads, the pace was rather slow. It made for the most exhausting drive of the trip. The next day would be spent trying to wind-down and relax from that particular part of the drive – and readying for the trip into Glacier Park.