We ended up heading to Mount Rushmore on Flag Day. Whether the holiday contributed to the crowds or if it is just that busy this year we will never know, but we found ourselves standing shoulder to shoulder at several points during our visit and, quite frankly, we were simply not prepared for that. We were also a little taken aback by the $10 parking fee and no discount for having a National Parks pass.
Spending as much time as I have in the Black Hills and learning about the Lakota Nation and their spiritual ties to the Hills, I already have conflicting feelings about Mount Rushmore, so combining that with all the people, I was ready to go as soon as we arrived. I am not sure other visitors appreciated my summation to Bird about the experience: four White men carved into a mountain that has significant spiritual meaning to the Lakota people who were oppressed by the White man even though they were here long before them.
Just to say we were there and make the most of our $10, we did walk along the Presidential Trail that takes you right to the base of the mountain and is really quite a unique perspective. There were lines to get to the coolest views, which we opted not to wait to see. While I have seen them before, I was disappointed it was not something Will experienced, but we were both done before we really began.
Even in our short visit, I learned some valuable lessons.
First, the gift shop and the bookstore are neither affiliated, nor do they have the same things. The gift shop has all the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore trinkets, t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, etc., while the bookstore has the more National Parks Service-oriented souvenirs and books. Naturally, I had no idea of these distinctions and ended up gallivanting all over the place trying to get our standard takeaways: a stamp in Bird’s passport (which was at the ranger station outside the bookstore), a postcard, a sticker, and a token. The people who work there are not necessarily well versed in what is found in the other place, so it was quite an experience.
Second, I am not ready for crowds of that size, especially with Bird. I know many people are ready to jump back in to what normal used to be, but our new normal is exactly my speed. Our experience at Mount Rushmore has seriously made us reconsider our plans for visiting some places this summer and has certainly made us hesitant to visit this monument in the future.
It is great to see so many people out an about enjoying our great country, but it is incredible how crazy people get when they are tourists anywhere. We know Bird may want to visit again when she is older, but she will have to visit on her own. Will and I have been there, done that, and we will continue to celebrate our patriotism while also teaching Bird the full picture of our nation’s history.