Today I thought it would be nice to take a look at the surrounding area a little. I have been on the road so much recently that I have neglected to experience the areas I have been passing through.
The Black Hills are famous for a few things but the most obvious is Mount Rushmore. This sculpture has to be one of the most impressive carvings I have ever seen, a true piece of art and skill. Just taking the walk around the base of this masterpiece is exhausting, I can’t imagine how hard the workers must have toiled over the 14years it took to carve the four heads from a mountain of granite.
As part of my project I wanted to experience what people crossing the USA would have been up against back in the days before interstates, automobiles and trains. A great portion of my journey is following the route of Lewis and Clark who were sent west to chart a route across the country after the Louisiana purchase back in 1803. This journey was, funny enough, ordered by Thomas Jefferson, who is one of the men whose face has been immortalised in the carvings at Mount Rushmore.
I had arranged to go out on a trail on horseback as I thought this was apt. I had found an outfitters based in the Custer National Park, another amazing, wild and beautiful place filled with wildlife. Anyone who knows me well will vouch for the fact that on the back of a horse is not my native environment. Although I was really looking forward to this opportunity and glad that it was a ‘walk only ride’ i.e. the horse should know what to do and I wouldn’t be left holding on for dear life as it gallops off into the sunset!
The one thing that really struck me whilst out on the horse was how long it takes to cover such a short distance in this rugged terrain, and that’s without hauling all your worldly goods along with you. Every incline, river and fallen tree is an obstacle to overcome. Fun when out on a leisure ride but I’m certain these obstacles would become laborious and heartbreaking after hundreds of miles of the same.
Fortunately I stayed on the horse and didn’t end up raw from the saddle, these western style saddles are great (even with the risky looking pommel on the front).
Lesson learned… everything needs to be tough over here to cope with the abuse of the terrain and the demands placed upon them. Carts and wagons would have to be dependable to the absolute extreme and that shows through the basic and rugged designs I have witnessed so far.
Next stop Buffalo Bill Centre of the West…