You will not see any pictures of me standing in front of Mount Rushmore in this post. I’ll tell you why in a minute.
On the morning of Day 3, I woke up at about 6 am, got freshened up, and prepared for the 30 minute drive up the Black Hills to Mount Rushmore. This was to be the high point of the first leg of my journey west, and I was excited to be finally getting there. I packed the car, got some tea and coffee from the Starbucks connected to the hotel, and prepared to set out.
Before leaving my room, I heard a TV weather report that said a winter storm warning was in effect for the area, and that snow accumulation of up to 12 inches would begin later in the day. That’s another reason why I was anxious to get out and up to the monument, so I could get on the road headed south before the snow rolled in. The date is May 9, though – what the heck is this about a winter storm warning?
I set out for Mount Rushmore at about 7:30 am. I gassed up the car and started driving route 16 toward the monument. Before I could even get out of Rapid City, the snow began. No worries though – the temperature had been 70 degrees just a day or two ago, and the snow didn’t appear to be sticking. By the time I reached the Black Hills, the snow was coming down much harder, and it was starting to stick. To make matters worse, the sky was covered in pea soup fog – you couldn’t see for more than a few hundred feet.
I reached the Mount Rushmore National Monument at a little after 8. I saw only a few other cars in the area, but was undaunted. At the entrance ticket booth, I asked the agent if the monument was open, and if it would be possible to see the famous presidential heads today. To my surprise and disappointment, he said, “The park is open – you can go in and get coffee and food, and you can go to the gift shop. The monument is about 1000 feet up, so you won’t be able to see anything, but who knows? This could all blow away in a few hours and you could have a perfect view.” That seemed unreasonably optimistic to me.
Now the snow was really coming down, and it was sticking. I didn’t have the time or inclination to hang around Mount Rushmore all day hoping for a weather change, and I knew that if I didn’t get out of there right away, I might have not choice in the matter. After paying my park entrance fee, I immediately exited and drove back down the hills. The snow was beginning to pile up on the roads. I saw two cars, one of them a Jeep, in the ditch. I’m confident I made the right decision.
Disappointed, I took a picture of the sky in the direction of the monument. Nothing but pea soup. Oh well, guess I’ll have to return on another day, this time in July or August.