"My lands are where my dead lie buried." -- Crazy Horse
I am now in South Dakota, attending a rally of the Solos, a club affiliated with the Escapees. Weather has not been our friend with most days being cool and cloudy, and even a couple torrential downpours, complete with thunder and hail, have happened. It's the first real rain the area has had in years, so the locals are excited. We just wish it could have happened a week earlier! But despite the need to carry umbrellas, we have enjoyed some bus trips to local attractions. And on Saturday, June 7, we joined the American Volksport Association (AVA) for a walk on Crazy Horse's arm -- normally closed to the public, but opened one weekend a year for this walk, the largest of the many walks sponsored by the AVA.
The Crazy Horse Memorial was begun in 1948 to honor the Lakota Indian leader, and is a private enterprise funded entirely by donations. The face has been completed; the horse's head is now being blocked off, the white outline of the head, eye, and ear visible below and to the right of the head. The official literature is careful not to give an estimated completion date as the blasting and carving is sporadic, done when money is available.
The monument will be 563 feet high when completed; the arm itself is 263 feet long, and the horse's head is 22 stories high. It is really, really, big. By comparison, the faces on Mount Rushmore, 8 miles away, are 60 feet high. It is the world's largest sculpture in the making.
During this weekend event, 14,000 people were expected to participate. We began the 10K hike about 8:15 in the morning, walking through the trees and shrubs that lie at the base of the monument. Once we had rounded the front, we could see heavy equipment sitting idle on the unpaved roads and trails that provide access for the workers. Soon we began the final climb up to the face, coming in from behind the monument. One second we were on the path; the next we were standing next to the biggest head I have ever seen. The arm area was crowded, with everyone taking turns photographing each other in front of the head.
On the way up, we saw fields of bright yellow wildflowers, aspen groves, and a lot of pine and poplar trees. Marmots were running around everywhere, and we even saw three mountain goats perched on the rocks behind the face. As we walked, it occured to me that this project is a sight we don't often see in modern times -- something that was begun with the understanding that it will take multiple generations to complete. The son of the man who began the project, Korczak Ziolkowski, is now the sculptor, his father having died in 1982.
It was a moving experience, and I would do it again without hesitation if I am ever again in this area at the right time. If you are interested in seeing a live view of the Crazy Horse Memorial, a webcam has been set up at the Memorial's website.