The Crazy Horse Memorial

On my way back to Manitoba I seized the opportunity to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills, of South Dakota.

The memorial is on the Avenue of the Chiefs, which is located just off Highway 16, a few miles north of Custer, SD. It was easy to find as there were plenty of signs pointing me to the site. As you drive up Highway 16 you will be able to see the memorial, but to get a good view you have to turn up the Avenue of the Chiefs and pay the admissions. A warning though, once you make the turn onto the Avenue of the Chiefs there are no u-turns allowed and it seems that you are committed to go through the toll gate. It cost me $10 to enter.

The memorial depicts an image of Crazy Horse, the Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was originally commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. Really though, the only part that is currently complete is the face.

There is a bus that will take you closer to the monument, but it costs $4 and in seeing the lineup for the bus I decided to remain near the visitor centre. I have a telephoto lens so I was able to get some good shots of the memorial regardless.

Construction equipment is parked on the mountain.  Are they working on it?
Construction equipment is parked on the mountain. Are they working on it?

The monument as wonderful as it is at the moment, has been in progress since 1948. Any visitor can see that it is still far from completion. In fact, I heard more than one person mutter complaints about the slow progress. According to the information available at the site, there has been some progress on the memorial, however I think that the progress has been slow and therefore difficult for visitors to comprehend.

Currently the memorial is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a private non-profit organization. It receives no federal or state funding. They also operate a gift shop at the site which also makes money for the foundation. Also at the site you have an Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.

Thunderhead Mountain, where the memorial is being carved, is privately held land that is considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota. In fact some of the Lakota criticize the monument as a desecration of a natural land. Also, Crazy Horse was known to have always resisted being photographed, and was deliberately buried where his grave would not be found. Critics claim that Crazy Horse himself would not have wanted to be memorialized in such a fashion. Thirdly, critics claim that it was not traditional for the Lakota to point, and in fact, pointing was considered to be bad luck to the Lakota.

To all the critics, this memorial will always generate bad vibes. But if you want to visit something that is beautiful, located in a beautiful part of the world, then stop in to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. Further, if you don’t want to pay the admission price, bring along a pair of binoculars and go ahead and view it from Highway 16.



Cannon Beach Oregon

Haystack Rock at Sunset
Haystack Rock at Sunset

The Oregon coast is a dreamland. Highway 101, which runs along the coast from Astoria down to Brookings, is the gateway to a 340-mile collection of misty beaches, wide sea stack filled bays, and incredible endless surf. Around every turn in the highway is an amazing new vista, the view often better than the last, promising that the next viewpoint will be even more breathtaking.

One such incredible vista, Cannon Beach, is located about 20 miles south of Astoria.  Cannon Beach has to be considered as the jewel in the Oregon Coast. A popular destination, it has been visited by humans for centuries.  It is both scenic and wild in its demeanor, and always memorable, mainly due to its key feature, a 235-foot basalt sea stack named Haystack Rock.

You may have seen Haystack Rock before.  Undoubtedly, it is the most photographed natural feature in Oregon and is featured on many travel guides. It is also Hollywood famous, being shown in the opening scene of movie The Goonies and also in one of my favorite flicks, Steven Spielberg’s 1941, where it poses as the California coast in the opening beach scene.

Haystack Rock is mighty and magical. It seems that every time you look at it, the Haystack takes on a different persona. In the morning sun it is green and lush, in the fading sunset it is dark and ominous. At high tide it stands tall as wide Pacific breakers crash all around it. At low tide it is more serene as a mossy home to mollusks and seabirds. In fact, the rock is a protected nesting site for sea gulls, terns and puffins.

The sunsets at Cannon Beach are second to none. I was there for two nights and each sunset had a different look and feel. People gather on the beach just for the sunset event, most of them arriving with a camera in hand. Groups pose in front of the setting sun and many more gather near Haystack Rock for a chance to include the behemoth in their sunset memory. People stroll in the surf, or ride rented bicycles up and down the beach, providing additional photographic fodder to eager shutterbugs.

Tandem bicycle on the beach
Tandem bicycle on the beach

The beach stretches out in both directions as far as the eye can see. I walked pretty far on the beach but I never reached the end. The brown beach sand is loose, but if you walk near the surf it is hard packed and easy to stroll upon. Or better yet, take off your shoes and walk in the surf. The water is cold but it is refreshing. Cannon Beach was never really crowded. Maybe there are more people at the beach on the weekend, as I was there on a Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.

Haystack Rock sits in the “intertidal” region of the beach, meaning that it can be reached by land at low tide. The Haystack Rock tide pools are home to starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets, and sea slugs. Included in my hotel room was a small book of current tide tables. The first thing you are to look up is the time of low tide. Low tide is a prime time to walk on the beach and also to get up close to Haystack Rock.

A view of the Haystack from my room at the Surfsand Resort

At the Surfsand Resort, where I stayed, the rooms are cozy and they are all very close to the beach. My room included a balcony overlooking Haystack Rock, which was nice. When I woke up in the morning I could see the towering sea stack, in all its glory, absorbing the heat of the morning sun. It was nice to be staying so close to the beach. The soft sand was only a short stroll from my door. A walk on the beach did not have to involve any footwear what so ever!

Other than Yellowstone, this is one location that I visited that I really want to come back to. I will be back!

Cannon Beach Gallery