When I heard I was going to Rapid City, I was thrilled. I visited when I was young. I don’t remember much to be honest. Just the faces of our countries leaders, boldly molded into the side of that rock. I couldn’t wait to see it again, I knew this could be an inspiring spot.
Rapid City is settled in at the banks of the Blacks Hills. I arrived at night, so my drive was dark from the airport to the hotel. I wondered what was out there as I drove. When I woke up, I flung the hotel curtains open, expecting to see the Black Hills. What I saw was about as mountainous as Texas Hill Country.
To be truthful I was disappointed, Rapid City was flat and barren. After work, I started my thirty-minute drive up to see the monument. The road to Rushmore seemed to be polluted with billboards of mountain roller coasters and NFL Christmas shops. As I got closer though, the terrain changed. Pine trees over the horizon, I started to climb in elevation.
I looked to my right and see an expanded shoulder off the road. “Black Forrest National Park” the sign reads. I pulled off the highway, looped around, and pulled off the side. I got out of the car and gazed over a beautiful valley of pine trees and towering rock formations. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, this felt just like home.
“This is going to be good.” I said out loud.
Like a child, I rushed to the car to head up the hill. Higher and higher I went. As I got closer to the top, I could see the face of President Washington. Nowhere to pull over, so I just stopped right there in the middle of the road. I got out and took a picture. Luckily there wasn’t anyone out there, I don’t think I’d care if there was, they were going to wait.
I got to the Monument and saw signs to park, but no one was attending the little booth. This was weird, a couple cars scattered the parking lot in no particular order. No one around. Silent.
I got out the car and saw two mountain goats grazing at the entrance. A few people off in the distance closer to the monument. When you approach Rushmore, there are flags
coming out of vertical square stones lining the walkway with the Presidents faces looking over in approval. Really a beautiful sight, I found the Texas State flag and felt a grin on my face.
Completely different then it was 20 years ago. You used to walk to this landing, pay your quarter and look through scratched telescopes. It was beautiful and inspiring, but nothing like it is now. Yes, those telescopes are still there, but you sure don’t need them. Now there is a trail, you can walk all the way around the lower part of the hill, and look up at the sculpture. If you haven’t gone you need to. It is amazing.
It was so peaceful, like I was supposed to be there, like it was for me.
I took my time, walked slow, prayed. Something special started to happen. I stopped looking up at Rushmore and started looking around at where I am. Absolute beauty. I’ve been so busy lately with adjusting to a new work life, the kids, my wife, that God has taken a back seat.
Most of the trail is lower on the hill, but there is a landing that puts you close to the faces. I remember thinking how amazing it is. Look at what man can do, I thought. The leaders of our country etched in stone, for generations to see. The pinnacle of the American dream represented. It wasn’t enough though, something was missing.
Then I turned around. True inspiration set in, like a punch to the chest. From that landing, you can see for miles and miles. You can see over the hills and over the whole valley. Just when I turned around, the sun broke out and shined over everything. Like the light is running free. I stood there thinking, I came to see what man can do, but here I am, reminded at what God can do.
No one is around, it’s just me, and God.
I noticed one little tree next to me. It was growing straight out the side of a rock, defiantly standing as tall at could. Almost like the tree knew where it was, wanting to stand proud like our forefathers. I stood there for what felt like a very long time. Taking it all in.
We spend too much time focused on what we can accomplish alone. Rushmore is hands down, one of the great accomplishments of American history. A true tourist attraction, millions of people poor into South Dakota to see. If you go, and I urge you to go, walk up to that landing and turn around. What you’ll see is far more impressive then what we can do on our own.
I reluctantly headed back to the car, knowing I should get back to the hotel before it gets too dark. Going about fifteen miles per hour down the Mountain, I enjoyed the view as long as I could. I called a good friend of mine. I told him about what I saw, what it’s like on that landing. He laughs and replies, “Well yeah, that’s probably why they’re looking that way”
I like to think he’s right. The trailblazing leaders of our country, looking to God for inspiration.