Mount Rushmore Disappears But Some Laugh

by: Joanne Meehl

Drove the whole length of the vast state of South Dakota over the Memorial Day weekend...not on my bucket list but curiosity prevailed. What a beautiful, breathtaking state! And to think I used to consider this flyover country: Gently rolling vast green fields, other fields sprouting their new crop, grasslands, swollen rivers (too much rain this year), farms miles in the distance, big sky. Then rising topography the further west we drove. ?The state carries this part of our country from plains to the mountains.

You can't be in westernmost South Dakota without going to see Mount Rushmore and bison. I kind of thought it corny to go see four presidential faces carved in rock. But if you're there, you go, and as you get closer to the viewing area, suspense builds. Especially if it's raining and very foggy the higher you go (it's at over a mile in altitude), the more you want to see it.

So we get there and yes, it's obliterated by fog.? which is about as clear as it was ever going to get in the cold drizzle that was falling. Here's what we saw.

So while disappointed, we couldn't help but notice a group of about a dozen 20-somethings to our right. They were posing for each others' cameras in front of the mountain, oblivious to the rain the way the very young can be. They were horsing around, posing as a group, with exaggerated looks of WOW on their faces, and pointing -- at the fog. They were making everyone laugh, people who'd driven a long way to be there but now didn't care that it was raining. That group managed to take a disappointment and turn it into a fun moment that they -- and others -- will talk about for years.

Now on to the bison: Being an animal lover, I couldn't wait to see them on their own turf. The state has 1,300 of them in the state park and wildlife area near the mountain.?Bison, or buffalo, used to number in the millions across the plains but are now, sadly, only in protected pockets. On this same chilly and drizzly day, we drove the Wildlife Loop eagerly looking for them. This loop takes 45 minutes to drive so it's not small. We saw pronghorn and other animals but no bison. Oh, no! Could this be a two-fer loss?!

We even went to the area visitor center to learn if there was some other place to look. The rangers there sadly shook their heads "no" and said "You can never predict where they'll be", which is true with wild animals, so we went away, dejected. Major disappointment. Bison

But about a mile down the road from that Visitor Center, there, not more than a few feet from the pavement, were two massive and magnificent black bison, grazing about 50 feet apart. All cars were stopping to take photos or videos. Eventually the two darted across the road to get away from us all, and trotted up a hill to graze a little further away from our group of humans. ?In this photo, the second of the two was off to the right, until they moved across the road.

We were delighted! And it made our trip.


Aw, to heck with lessons. We just found it fun to be surprised twice in one day. Surprised in a good, positive way. We took it as being in the moment. A well-needed, vacation moment.

Thanks, South Dakota.


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