Mount Rushmore Mileage: 1,182.62 Miles Altitude: 4,340 ft.

Mount Rushmore Mileage: 1,1 82.62 Miles Altitude: 4,340 ft.

I woke up to the sound of rattlesnakes. Several signs had warned us about poisonous snakes in the area and admonished tourists to stay on the paths. The first rattle slipped peacefully through my dreams like the morning hawk overhead. The second rattle shook me wide awake. I jostled Molly. She said, “Yes, but they’re out there [outside of the tent].” A definite turning point in life, when the daughter comforts the mother and turns over to go to sleep. Later, I realized the rattles really emanated from some rodents high in the trees, probably chipmunks, unzipping morning salutation to the sun.

The day took the right turn with all-you-can-eat pancakes. Then, we headed up to presidents, early enough to avoid the crowds. Check mark off my dreams-to-do list. Initially, the idea man, Doane Robinson, had wanted Lewis & Clark, Red Cloud and Wild Bill Hickcock. That surprised me. Also, the carver had a much grander vision than was completed, he wanted more of the presidents’ bodies and suits, a flat inscribed panel in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase down the mountain with significant events, and a cavern inside the mountain with a description for generations to read, like hieroglyphics, into the eons. Dissatisfied with the first Jefferson head, he blew it off the mountain, and that left no room for the panel. However, some panels were placed into the cavern, the entrance of which he had carved.

The heat ripped through the mountains, so we returned to our camp. Molly napped. I caught up with All My Children, swam and afterward capped the afternoon with a dark ale.

In the evening we hiked near Rushmore. The rocky, horse trail was not good for pedestrians. I fell hard, and cut my hands and elbows and scraped my knees like a six year old. Quite a jolt, a snake in the grass after all.

We viewed the evening Rushmore show, a somewhat saccharine spectacle, allowing Americans to bathe in patriotism, which seems like the right place to do so. However, I thought the issues of slavery and extermination of the Indians were whitewashed. For example, the words “dramatic reduction of the native population” seems to be a rather generic phrase for genocide. Funny that the little show was the only rather garish display.

The monument itself is dignified and beautiful, including the memorial walkway leading up to it with the flag of every state attached to a pillar marking it year of statehood. Lovely to watch the clouds overhead, the shadow of a hawk crossing George Washington’s forehead, and a tear of sunlight reflecting off the check of the president in the afternoon or the glowing four faces in the evening.

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