My Favorite Parks and Monuments
2016 is the National Park Services Centennial Anniversary, and the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. To get myself into a celebratory mood, I would like to share my top four local monuments and parks that I have been lucky enough to grow up with in my backyard.
The pale granite monument of Mount Rushmore has stood guard over the Black Hills National Forest for over 75 years. It’s hosted presidents, celebrities, and my family. The mountain has been a prominent fixture in my life for the following reasons: both my brothers graduated in the amphitheater; one became a ranger at the monument; and my Grandparents volunteered driving disabled visitors from the parking lot to the visitor’s center. Mount Rushmore is very much in my blood. And I dare say, once you see it and understand what went into creating it, it will be in yours too.
For me, the magic of the Crazy Horse Memorial is the fact that it is incomplete. Getting to watch the great Chief emerge from the mountain is an almost spiritual experience. I stood on the deck outside the visitor center and watched as a blast was triggered at the base of the monument. From the time I saw the debris fly, until I heard the explosion was almost 3 seconds, and it took my breath away. It is equal parts exhilarating, and humbling to watch history being made.
The wildlife loop in Custer State Park is an adventure all on its own! If you have never been caught in a “Buffalo jam”, or fed the begging burros, you haven’t lived. After visiting a friend’s cabin in the park, I was stunned when I turned the corner on a one-way trail and was met by a very large bull buffalo. He looked at me through the window of my Jeep, rubbed a little on the side, and meandered up the trail behind me. Apparently, I was on his road. To say that was an amazing experience would be downplaying it a bit. I think I forgot to breathe for a minute.
Jewel Cave National Monument is the third longest cave in the world, and growing. I visited the cave for the first time during a school field trip and fell in love with it. The interior was dazzling with calcite crystals and rock formations so wondrous, I thought it was a shame they were hidden underground, and that I couldn’t take a large chunk home. Now I visit them in their natural habitat and appreciate them for the wonder they are.
I’m so excited to celebrate with Mount Rushmore and the National Parks this year, and I can’t wait for more people to discover the attractions I already know and love! I plan to visit each of my favorites this summer, and hopefully I’ll find you standing in line next to me!