Temperatures around the United States have absolutely been scorching and the forecast here in Chicago calls for more of the same. Temperature and humidity levels look to be approaching 100 respectively. In honor of the 4th of July, this post features a trip to the iconic Mt. Rushmore, where I visited two founding fathers and two other great U.S. Presidents.
When I visited the rock sculpture in the Black Hills outside of Rapid City, South Dakota the temperature could not have been more drastically different. I drove all night from Chicago to South Dakota for a backpacking trip in the Badlands National Park.
I have a thermometer on my mirror in my car, and I watched in horror as it dipped below zero. I absolutely froze at each gas stop as the wind was whipping up the cold temperatures and making life miserable.
I began to get a little worried. I do not mind cold temperatures and winter backpacking, but sub zero temperatures with chilling winds are no conditions to be outside in.
Although my plan was to backpack in the Badlands, I wanted to go to Rapid City and check out Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills. I was just going to drive around for a day, hike a few trails, and get a hotel in Rapid City for the night. I would then start my backpacking adventure the next day and backtrack back east to the Badlands.
When I arrived at Mt. Rushmore on Thanksgiving Day there was not one car in the parking lot. I had George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt all to myself. If anyone is looking for a travel tip on when it is a good time to visit Mt. Rushmore, then come when it is so cold your hands are freezing to your camera on a holiday.
I took a quick couple of pictures of the four amigos and hustled back to the car. I needed to get out of the freezing wind. Just down the road from Mt. Rushmore was a highway that cuts through the Black Hills to Custer State Park. I found some amazing views of Mt. Rushmore from this road. Instead of going back to Rapid City via Keystone, I turned right on Highway 16A. This highway had some amazing views of Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.
At one point there was a tunnel bridge where you can get the president’s faces lined up in the distance through the tunnel bridge. Unfortunately, the sun was too bright and the tunnel too dark, and I could not get the image of Mt. Rushmore to show as vividly as I was seeing it in real life.
The rest of the day I spent in the warmth of my car and intermittently getting out to walk in the amazing Custer State Park and the Black Hills. The weather warmed up to a balmy 30 degrees. I enjoyed the beauty of the Black Hills so much that I decided to hike three days in the Black Hills and then visit the Badlands for day hikes on the way back instead.
The temperatures stayed pretty cold, but with temperatures nearing the 100s I find myself missing the cool and even cold temperatures. Although I do not miss the sub zero temperatures with the frigid winds that first greeted me in South Dakota. I am not that crazy.
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