Monday, December 17, 2012

Mount Rushmore - Part II

The information Center and the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center are open from 8 am to 5 pm in winter and until 19 pm in summer; hours vary in spring and fall.  Begin at the information center, where staff and displays will help you plan your visit to the park and the Black Hills region.  From here, go up the walkway toward the sculpture and other facilities.  The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center has exhibits on the carving of Mount Rushmore, a 14-minute film "mount Rushmore--The Shrine," an information desk, restrooms, and a bookstore operated by the Mount Rushmore History Association.  The Sculptor's Studio (closed in winter) displays models and tools used in the carving process.  Programs are conducted here daily in summer.  The concession building, open year-round, has food service and a gift shop.
--from NPS brochure Mount Rushmore
This model included quite a bit of detail from the days when the monument was being carved.  In this view you can see the Hall of Records behind the faces and the trail that led up to it.

In this video of the model you can see many of the structures that comprise the model.  Sadly my camera wouldn't quite focus on the cable car or the Hall of Records entrance.  I'm sorry that I didn't have quite as big of a budget as movie directors and their helicopter-view establishing shots.

Various models were also visible in many different places to show the different visions for the carvings at different points in time.

The interactive blasting video display was a favorite of Amy's.  First you select the image you want to see and then press down on the plunger to start the appropriate video.  She was really enjoying blowing up the mountain!

The Presidential Trail was a neat idea, winding through the woods.  I wouldn't mind taking part in some of the NPS sanctioned tour activities along it and in other areas on a repeat visit some day.
 It is interesting simply how many different versions of the sculptures you can find throughout the area.
Nobody could accuse Gutzon Borglum of too much modesty.
This insight concerns the figure of Washington.  Not only did Borglum's preferences change, but his plans changed due to the rock and due to other factors as well.
 This is a fascinating array of tools utilized to preserve and maintain the carvings.  If you zoom in on the faces you can see cracks and seams that have been repaired.
Some people can't read...
Private funding has always been important to Mount Rushmore.  Since the 1920s, individuals and organizations have contributed to the carving of the memorial, improvements to visitor facilities and preservation of the sculpture.  Although the National Park Service operates the memorial, there is little federal money available for major improvements or special projects.  The Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society's most recent fundraising effort, the Mount Rushmore Preservation Fund 1989 - 1998, raised $56 million to improve many of the facilities within the developed area.  Today, you can help the National Park Service continue its mission at the memorial and assist with additional projects by donating inside this exhibit.
--from exhibit signage

I'm glad many pictures were taken during the construction process.  We're not likely to see a process like this again.  I know that Crazy Horse is being carved nearby (we drove by bud didn't feel like paying the high fee to get in), but will likely take many more decades to finish and doesn't quite look the same as this did.
Can you tell that Gutzon liked the sixteenth president?
It is very interesting to note how much in some ways, and how little in others, rock was removed to make the faces.
Originally explosives were considered too drastic for the project, but then it was realized that they were highly necessary due to the large amounts of rock.  By the end of the project the workers had gotten very good at knowing exactly how much dynamite they would need to remove a given section of rock.

Tune in next time to see the lighting ceremony and evening views of the monument!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mount Rushmore - Part I

Since we were coming from the west and the campground we'd picked was to the east of Mount Rushmore we decided to stop at the monument first.  Our parks pass was not valid for entry since there is no cost to enter Mount Rushmore--but there is a parking fee.  The parking garage was built and is managed by a concessionaire, so I can understand the fee.  It was just $11 and allowed us to come back anytime in the year.  This was useful as we planned to return later in the evening to view the lighting ceremony and see the sculptures at night.  Interestingly my first impression upon seeing the mountain for the first time in many years (I'm not sure how old I was when I visited the site with my parents) was that it seemed smaller than I thought it would be--Amy thought the same thing.  It was still quite impressive, but the shots you usually see on TV or in pictures make it look bigger than it is.

I just found out via the Mount Rushmore NPS site that there is a mobile app for the monument.  I notice that the version history within iTunes indicates that version 1.0 was released June 14, 2012...the day AFTER we were at the monument this summer!  *sigh*  If you have a compatible device it is well worth checking out.
This picture is from slightly later in the day, but early on we did walk through the Avenue of Flags, which was an impressive sight.
I had to find California.  Even though many things are currently wrong with the state, I still do have a fond place in my heart for the state in which I was born and raised.
California has the best state flag in the Union!
After passing through the Avenue of Flags we headed for the Presidential Trail which provides some of the closest views of the monument.

The first face we saw close-up was Washington and actually through a crack in between two large rocks.

All four faces were easier to photograph at different points along the walk.  Sometimes I think they are better appreciated from a distance, as many irregularities are visible when you zoom in.  But on the other hand those make it quite interesting to view also.

The slightly different and interesting views were my favorite.

I also enjoyed zooming in on various features to see how they were constructed.  This is Lincoln's left eye.

Four different plaques explained more about each of the presidents memorialized above.

Jefferson's collar was originally intended to be more extensive, but the nature of the rock canned plans to show more of the torsos of each man.

Jefferson's nose looks a bit difficult to blow out.

Roosevelt's glasses are very interesting, especially when you realize that they are only suggested, without complete rims.

The trail was wonderful to walk, winding through evergreen trees.
 I spotted some of the lights that would be utilized later in the evening to illuminate the mountain.
 There were also a few stairs to climb.

Eventually we came to the studio which contained several exhibits (and a passport stamp!).
There were several different types of models from various stages of the design process.
What's not to love about a fireplace?
This is a model of Borglum's proposed Hall of Records that was supposed to be a great repository of knowledge.  It was eventually "completed" many years after his death with the placement of a plaque and some other items.
This was the side of the studio--the side where you actually entered.
I like plaques.  :-)
An outdoor fireplace?
This was a great framed view of the monuments.

We did look around some inside and took a couple pictures in front of the monument.

Then we headed to our campground to set up everything for the evening.  The next post will cover the inside portions of the various buildings and museum areas and then the third Mount Rushmore post will cover the lighting ceremony and views after dark.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Underground Jewels

As I mentioned previously I scouted out all of the national park sites along our route home.  I found both Wind Cave and Jewel Cave in South Dakota.  We didn't have time to properly visit either site, so I decided to stop by Jewel Cave since there was one tour that would be free with our park pass.

Immerse yourself within the second longest cave in the world. With over 160 miles of mapped and surveyed passages, this underground wilderness appeals to human curiosity. Its splendor is revealed through fragile formations and glimpses of brilliant color. Its maze of passages lure explorers, and its scientific wealth remains a mystery. This resource is truly a jewel in the National Park Service.
--from NPS Website, Jewel Cave main page

We arrived near the end of the afternoon and walked towards the ticket booth at the edge of the parking lot.
We quickly discovered that there was no remaining room on the free tour.  Instead of purchasing any other tickets we walked towards the main visitor center.
This block represents some of the narrowest spots along the Wild Cave Tour.  It is 8 1/2 inches high and 24 inches wide--could you squeeze through?
There were several display cases with various rock specimens.
This was one of the largest pieces of rock and beside it was a sign saying "please touch."  This crystalline piece is Nailhead Spar.  It is discolored due to being touched by many people--so while being something fun to touch and feel it is also a cautionary piece explaining one of the reasons that rocks may not be touched while you are on a cave tour.
A series of signs explained the history of the cave and the various owners who had controlled it until it was acquired by the government and Jewel Cave National Monument was created.  A large map shows most of the known passages in the cave.
Another display explains about the large number of volunteers that help to explore the cave and map its furthest reaches.

The display included both pictures, explanations, and samples of actual equipment.

I'd like to go back to the cave someday and actually take one of the tours.  I've been underground in both Carlsbad Caverns and Mammoth Caves and would enjoy adding several other caves to that list.