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More Bison, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, & Wind Cave National Park – South Dakota

More Bison, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, & Wind Cave National Park – South Dakota

Blog posts are a few months out from where I am currently. Please check out Instagram (@wtfveganfood), Facebook, and Twitter for day-to-day news.

Written September 27, 2012

This morning was absolutely glorious. Because of the time difference I was up around 7:30AM. I awoke to the most beautiful morning sun, crisp, light air, and complete quiet. The other campers around me were still bundled inside their tents so I took the opportunity to grab a couple of pictures of Gerty lookin’ sleek against the Badland’s gorgeous backdrop.

Gerty camps out - Badlands National Park

If I had more time I would have loved to explore the Badlands more. They have a handful of hiking trails and ranger programs (where you can go on guided hikes and tours). However, the focus of the trip is vegan food after all, so I felt it necessary to continue on.

I was absolutely delighted to receive a lovely send off from another heard of bison. :)

Wild, free roaming bison at Badlands National ParkWild, free roaming bison tracks at Badlands National ParkWild, free roaming bison at Badlands National Park

I slowly made my way through the heard. Some of them seemed to hardly notice my big ol’ van while others were quite curious. I drove VERY slowly and once I got to the other side of them I had a remarkable view and the sunlight seemed to change the color of the landscape. MAN! I love this place!!

Wild, free roaming bison at Badlands National Park

Here is a (very)short video clip of some of yesterday’s sheep sightings and this morning’s bison heard.

Today I’m planning to visit Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park. But before I would allow myself to do more sight seeing I intended to get a new blog post published. The nearest town, where I could pick up some wifi, is Rapid City. It rests exactly between where I’m coming from and where I’m headed to. Perfect! I made my way to Rapid City and through the help of my trusty Happy Cow app I found Staple and Spice Market – a health food coop that offers vitamins, bulk foods, and a few vegan grocery items like non-dairy ice cream, soy meats, and tofutti cream cheese. I was hoping for some pre-made sandwiches of some kind but I settled on a couple cups of vegan yogurt and a Luna bar. Breakfast!

vegan yogurt

It was now time to find an Internet cafe or coffee shop that had free wifi and maybe some snacks. I went to my Yelp! app and typed in “vegan.” The first place that came up, just before a steakhouse (??) was a coffeehouse/Internet cafe/restaurant. I wasn’t quite in the mood to play 20 questions about the vegan-ness of their buns, and the soy burger, or the mocha mix, so I ordered some sweet potato fries, found a cozy booth and burried my head into the computer screen for a couple of hours until I finished my first blog post about Columbus, OH.

I read it over a few times, hit “publish,” shared via social media, closed my computer, hit the john, and then walked back to Gerty to start my day. Side note: Rapid City is pretty cute. Once you drive through the gazillion signs pointing you this way and that for tourist trap theme parks and such, it’s quite a lovely little town. And with that health food coop any vegan could make it work. :)


I’ve seen countless pictures of Mount Rushmore but have never experienced it first hand. A bunch of my friends warned me about the parking fee and that it really wasn’t much to see but heck, I’m on an all-50 states road trip here and I’ve never done this much exploring or sight seeing in my entire life. I’m going to Mount Rushmore, dudes!

Mount Rushmore - South DakotaMount Rushmore - South Dakota

A nice couple standing next to me asked if I’d take their picture, so I asked them to do the same. “I’m kind of doing this project so I’m going to hold this sticker…” I said, as I shuffled through my bag. Surprisingly they didn’t ask me any questions about it. Maybe they already knew, or didn’t want to know. Haha. But we did talk a little about where we’re all from and our respective road trips. Fun stuff.

Mount Rushmore - South Dakota

I sat in the video show that talked about how Mount Rushmore came to be, wandered through the dining hall, asked if they had non-dairy ice cream. Lactose-free? Vegan? Nothing was really registering so someone pulled out an ingredients list. First ingredient: milk. I seriously don’t need any more sweets right now anyway. It’s for the best. I walked back to Gerty and we headed for the worlds largest in-progress sculpture.


Crazy Horse Memorial - South DakotaCrazy Horse Memorial - South Dakota

Absolutely stunning!! Though not yet complete I was taken aback by the magnitude of the work-in-progress. I was also inspired by the fact that everything about this project is solely funded by visitors and their donations. The Lakota tribe members (who commissioned the piece) and the Ziolkowski family (who work on the project) have turned down millions of dollars of government and federal funding because they believe that the project is more than just a mountain carving, and they fear that the plans for the broader educational and cultural goals of the memorial would be overturned by federal involvement (wiki). Also, given the story behind Crazy Horse and the establishment of Mount Rushmore, it’s no wonder the Lakota tribe choose to push forward with a donation base.

Very cool. This is also why it’s taken 64 YEARS to only get to the point they’re at right now – Crazy’ Horse’s face (when complete his head will be 87 feet high!) and the top of his arm (263 feet long!). The sculpture is expected to be finished by 2120. What’s neat is that it’ll be a place to continue to visit because every time there will have been more progress made, and it’ll look different than the previous time.

Crazy Horse Memorial - South DakotaThis is what it’ll look like when complete.

I also found it very interesting that the Crazy Horse Memorial has at least twice as much information, artifacts, and educational materials as Rushmore does, despite the fact that Rushmore was federally funded and took 5 years to complete. It seems like Rushmore would have had more resources to show for it. It also costs more to park at Mount Rushmore. Hrm. Moving along.


Time to head toward Wind Cave National Park. I found myself in a loely little town and went into the only grocery store between Crazy Horse and the Park. It’s slim pickin’s in there for vegans but I walked out with some carrots, hummus, a couple of apples, a bag of corn chips, and some guacamole. More than enough to keep me full for another few meals.

It was only another 30 minutes or so to get to the entrance to Wind Cafe National Park. On my drive through I saw and stopped for some wild bison and dozens of dark grey deer (soo cute!!!) on a few different occasions. It just never gets old. Seeing these beautiful animals roaming freely!!!!

Wild bison... and their poop.

I actually wasn’t familiar with Wind Cave until reading the Buffalo Road blog by Canadian vegan, Lisa Jarvis. She and her husband Paul (author of Eat Awesome) took a US road trip last summer. They hit up a lot of great spots so I referenced some of Lisa’s blog posts to help guide me through this part of the country.

It would be getting dark soon so I decided to camp out at the Park. Unlike my last experience – at the Badlands – there was a fee to enter the Park but it was free to camp (in one of the ‘sites). Here, the Park entry was free but there is a fee for camping. No biggy though, the location is well worth it. To my surprise, as I parked, a ranger came over and told me that he would be putting on a brief demonstration about elk calling (the sound they make during mating season) in the Park’s amphitheater. I haven’t attended any ranger programs yet so I decided to check it out.

Ranger program at Wind Cave National Park

At 7PM I walked over to the ampitheater and listened to the talk, felt some previously shed fuzzy elk antlers, held a tracking collar, and learned about elk calls and mating habits. It was a short lecture and a group then went out to try and listen for the elk. I decided to come back here, eat some carrots, and write to y’all.

One thing that really stood out to me during the Ranger’s talk was something he noted about hunting. While talking about the tracking collars (used to monitor their migration patterns) he noted that they are always grateful when hunters return the collars after they’ve killed the elk. I was terribly confused – hunting in a national park? So at the end of the talk I raised my hand and asked how they allow hunting. I was saddened to learn that during hunting season the Park lowers the field gates to let the wildlife roam outside of Park boarders. While hunting is not allowed WITHIN the park grounds, if any animals should wander beyond, they are open “game.” He even went on to say that as a show of gratitude they give hunters, who return the collars, a map of the animals’ migration patterns throughout the previous year, so they can better track them. ::sigh::


One of my friends wasn’t feeling well today so I’m now going to work on editing together some pictures and video that I took for her today, to cheer her up. I’m going to do that now and then go sleep. Goodnight, everyone.

And remember – Eat well. Travel often.



  1. yes! that’s one of our fav places :) ranger programs rule…

  2. Sandy

    Rewarding the hunters??? Thats so weird and sad

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