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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Heartland‏

May 18th, 2010 · No Comments

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This is America’s heartland. It’s the center of the country and as solid as a rock. It is rock.

In the past two days I’ve started to explore the Black Hills in the southwest corner of South Dakota. Yesterday morning I traveled off the beaten path to the geographical center of our nation.

The point at which a map of the entire area of our country — including Alaska and Hawaii — would balance is the center of America’s gravity. The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey uses that method to determine that the center is 21.8 miles by road north northeast of Belle Forche, a town at the north of the Black Hills where I spent my first night in South Dakota.

To get the the center I drove 7.8 miles on a gravel road through farmers’ fields along rolling countryside. I expected to see many other Americans visiting our country’s center, but I didn’t see a single vehicle or person on the road there and back or at the actual site.

In fact, I can charitably describe the site itself as minimalist. It’s not even a wide spot in the road, just a pile of rocks and a sign beside the road and a tattered flag marking the actual geographic center of our country behind some farmer’s barbed wire.

The Center of the Nation

The Center of the Nation

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Today I visited two historic sites that are much more well known. I got to Mount Rushmore National Memorial at 6 a.m. just after sunrise both for better lighting and for beating the crowds I expected. I certainly did that, since I saw only two other visitors and a few workers.

Gutzon Borglum sculpted the faces of four of our greatest Presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln on the mountain.

The State Flags Flank the Approach to the Presidents

The State Flags Flank the Approach to the Presidents

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Working on the Presidents

Working on the Presidents

Click on the picture above to enlarge

In the photo directly above you can barely see two workmen standing on top of Lincoln’s head. This gives a good indication of the colossal size of the sculpture. Each sculpted head is 60 feet tall.

Just 17 miles from Mount Rushmore is what I think of the Native American answer. Their answer is an even bigger sculpure.

The Lakota chiefs commissioned Korczak Ziolkowski to sculpt the Crazy Horse Memorial with Chief Crazy Horse astride his horse. Only Crazy Horse’s head is finished — it’s 87 feet high — but when they complete the  sculpture it will be the largest in the world.

Click to enlarge

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Ironically, the Crazy Horse Memorial is in South Dakota’s Custer County.


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Posted in: Photography, South Dakota

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