Sunday, August 24, 2014

sweet south dakota: day 1 (mount rushmore)

Two weekends ago, Steve and I joined my family in beautiful South Dakota for my family reunion.  It was my first trip to South Dakota and I am pleased to say that all of my expectations of the state were blown out of the water.  The lodge where we stayed was nestled in beautiful Spearfish Canyon, where the topography is stunning and the cell phone service, non-existent.  It was perfect.

{This is a very picture-heavy post - I wanted to make sure I savored and memorialized every moment of our trip!  Thanks for bearing with me and all of the pictures :) }

On our first day in SD, we hit the road to Custer State Park along the Needles Highway.  The highway was full of twists and turns, along with some stunning views.  We took a break to hike around some large rock formations about halfway through the trip.

Next up was Custer State Park.  The park is renowned for two things: its rock formations (particularly the Cathedral Spires) and its buffalo.  Luckily, we saw a little bit of both.

After our buffalo sighting, we ate lunch at the State Game Lodge, aka the "Summer White House."  President Calvin Coolidge spent a summer during his presidency at the lodge, as well as Dwight Eisenhower.  The history of the lodge was pretty fascinating.

After lunch, we continued our tour of Custer with a visit to the resident donkeys.  They were one hungry bunch and ate all of the tortilla chips we brought with us.  One donkey even ate straight from the bag that my mom offered!

After Custer, we had dinner in Keystone, SD before heading to the big sightseeing designation of the day...

...Mount Rushmore!

We learned several interesting facts about Mount Rushmore while waiting for the lighting ceremony.  Did you know, for example, that the original concept for the monument incorporated the full torsos and arms of each president?  When they began construction on the mountain, however, they discovered that the rock halfway down George Washington's torso was bad rock so the plan was changed to only carve the presidents' faces.  

We also learned that Thomas Jefferson was originally supposed to be on the other side of Washington, but was moved because of bad rock.  Similarly, Teddy Roosevelt's face is set so far back into the mountain because the workers had to blow through 100 ft of rock before finding rock that they could work with.  

We stayed at Mount Rushmore through the evening so we could witness the lighting ceremony.  If you visit Mount Rushmore anytime in the future, I highly recommend going in the early evening.  The crowds weren't too big and we got to see the monument both in the daylight and nighttime.  It was the best of both worlds.

Our first day in South Dakota was a great start to our family reunion.  Look for a post on Day 2 this week!


  1. looks like so much fun! this is one of my top places that i want to visit so badly!!! how cute are those donkeys?!

  2. They were so sweet! They came right up to us when we parked our car. I'm guessing that was partially because they knew we had brought them food :)
    If you get the chance to go to SD you should definitely do it! It far surpassed all my expectations!

  3. These photos are gorgeous!! I've always wanted to see South Dakota! :)

  4. Thank you! I've been trying to work on my photography skills (or lack thereof) a little bit, and SD was a great place to do it. It is a really beautiful state - and pretty affordable to visit, which was a big plus!