This weekend was the 23rd Annual Volksmarch, a 10K hike up to the surface of the Crazy Horse Monument in Custer, South Dakota. The Crazy Horse monument is a bit like Mount Rushmore, except that whereas the latter consists of four sixty-foot-tall faces of past presidents, the former consists of one ninety-foot tall face of a Lakota warrior. More to the point, Crazy Horse is an active work-in-progress, and the eventual completed sculpture will depict the entire body of the warrior riding is horse, his arm outstretched to the horizon. Normally, the public is only allowed to view the monument — or rather, its right-side profile — at a distance from the visitor’s center, like so:
Once a year, however, the monument is open to the public, who are permitted to hike out to it, up to the face and even out on the rock shelf that will eventually be the outstretched arm. Here are some stories from this year’s hike.
I have never regretted choosing to specialize in CR analysis in mathematics, except possibly for the half hour I spent trying to untangle my fricking MP3 player’s earbuds, when I wished I’d studied knot theory instead.
During the third portion of the hike, the steep ascent into the blast zone, I bumped into B, a retired middle-school teacher I knew. We paused, partly to exchange salutations and updates about our families, but mostly because each of us was looking for any excuse to stop and catch our breath.
“This is kinda cool,” B said. “I’ve never done the Volksmarch before.”
I agreed. “Yeah, I like it. I went two years ago and thought it was awesome. It’s something else when you finally get up there and you can stand by the giant face and get a sense of just how massive this thing is going to be.”
B nodded his head. “Yep. In another hundred years when this thing gets finished, folks like you and me probably won’t get to walk out to it anymore.”
“Actually,” I added gravely, “in another hundred years when this thing gets finished, folks like you and me probably will be dead.”
Arriving to the top of Crazy Horse is an awe-inspiring experience. To stand upon his outstretched arm and gaze upon the stern face of the Lakota warrior, etched almost one hundred feet into the sky above, fills you with a tempest of emotions. Standing a mere spec, a mote of dirt, compared to sculpture, you feel tiny and insignificant in a universe of unbelievable size and expanse. Seeing the sheer grandiose scope of the project, you are amazed at the audacity of vision of the sculptor. It is simultaneously frightening and encouraging.
It is no surprise, then, that the only way most people seem to cope with the maelstrom of emotions they feel upon seeing the face of Crazy Horse is to have a friend photograph them pretending to pick his nose.
Atop the arm of Crazy Horse, you are treated to a spectacular view of the valley around you. You can see the hikers below, winding their way along the grueling six mile serpentine trail that leads from the visitors center, through the valley, and eventually up the left side of the sculpture. From that vantage point, you can also see a second, completely flat and utterly short, straight trail that leads right up to the monument that would have made the previous hike orders of magnitude easier. Bastards.
On the way home, I drove through Custer State Park, just because. The previous day, we took the Queen B’s mother-in-law to Mount Rushmore, followed by a drive through the Black Hills. We told her stories about herds of deer and buffalo, antelope and wild donkeys that you see along the trip… and then, of course, we managed to see nothing along the way.
Oh well. Finagle’s Law.
So of course when I went home, I saw buffalo and deer and antelope and even beavers along the way. I took lots of pictures to prove to my mother-in-law that such animals existed in the Hills, but unfortunately all my pictures were eaten by a pair of donkeys that jumped me on the way home.
Oh well. Finagle’s Law.
You can look at more pictures from this years hike over at Flickr.