The Mount Rushmore Dilemma

Mount Rushmore Junior Rangers

Mt. Rushmore Junior Rangers

Visiting Mount Rushmore with Kids

Our summer trip to Wyoming and South Dakota was amazing.  We combined climbing with family time, history, geography, science and more.  When we planned the trip, climbing was the main focus, but hitting some of the National Parks and National Monuments were also a must.  Mount Rushmore is one of those locations that combines both.  There are amazing climbing opportunities in the shadow of the National Monument.  There are also a number of tourist destinations to explore with the kids including the Mt. Rushmore Alpine Slide, gold mines, zip lines, and more.  We opted for the following itinerary:

Day 1. Climb at Rushmore

Day 2. Climb at Rushmore

Day 3. Visit Mt. Rushmore and Alpine Slide

Day 4. Alpine Slide, climb, explore the Needles

Day 5. Day trip to Spearfish for Climbing

On our off days from climbing, we visited Mt. Rushmore. The kids enjoyed the family time and their experience with the Junior Ranger program.  It’s an amazing program that is offered at many National Parks and National Monuments.  I love that the kids can learn about why the monument was built and how it came about, the fact that some people were (are) against the monument etc.  Still, it’s a bit like teaching them the edited version of the Civil War, Thanksgiving, the discovery of America by Columbus. . . there’s a room full of bias and an major bit of fact “clean up” so that kids get some of the details without the ugly pieces that are difficult to explain and comprehend at a young age.

Moonstone Mount Rushmore

Small figure summiting the top of Moonstone in Mount Rushmore.

The Problem with Mount Rushmore

So here we come to the rub about Mt. Rushmore.  I believe that Mt. Rushmore is an amazing feat of artistry/skill to accomplish.  That being said, I also think that it is extremely sad that they ruined a bunch of perfectly good rocks (that I would have loved to have climbed) in order to do so.  And that doesn’t even begin to hit on the issues with the Black Hills, Native Americans, and the ownership of the land, not to mention broken treaties and/or the state of poverty on reservations that are only 70 miles from Mt. Rushmore.

I want to teach my kids that just because some people find nothing wrong with the monument, not everyone agrees.  I want to share with them that the important thing is the land, nature, the trees and the rocks. . . the preservation of a beautiful area that we’ll want to share with their kids some day.  Instead, we took pictures in front of the monument, found out who the artist was, identified the great men whose likeness is on the face, and then took off to ride the alpine slide.

I look at that moment as a missed opportunity, where I only briefly touched on the sadness I feel that the rock was damaged to make the sculpture.

My kids are 4 and 6.  I am committed that the next time we come west to explore, we will stop at a reservation or visit a Native American supported historic site.  I want them to learn about both sides of our history.  In the end, it is important for me to share our whole history so that they can understand the importance of valuing nature, and the land – not just the pretty version.

Let me be clear, I greatly support the national park system, national forests, and national monuments as a whole. I even understand that this may have been a wonderful economic boon to an area that otherwise would be void of much tourist industry. The complexities are endless and beyond my comprehension, let alone that of a 4 or 6 year old.

I thought that they were too young to understand the Massacre at Wounded Knee (or Battle at Wounded Knee as it is sometimes called), so we didn’t visit there.  Perhaps in another few years we can go to that haunting land and discuss the history of the US with the ugly parts front and center. . .

For now, I guess I’ll let my kids admire the faces of our leaders carved into rock without the tainted history that goes along with it.

 

New River Gorge with Kids

New River Gorge Climbing Trip We finally made our way back to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of climbing.  It has been years (pre kids) since we had been to this area as it seemed to be a bit less kid friendly than other areas that we had been to.  Our ClimbingWeather.com app was showing predictions of snow on Friday night - and it wasn't far off.  The drive took us eons, especially in the Appalachians with the travel trailer.  We … [Read More...]

Hiking in a Creek

Have you ever started out on a day hike with children only to have it turn into something completely different that what you planned?  Ha. Of course you have. Many of our adventures start out as one thing ("I want to climb X route" or "sleep at X campground". . . "I want to relax in a tube on the water", or "I want to sleep in the sand") and end up as something completely different ("The route had a group staked out on it for the day" or "I couldn't … [Read More...]

Climbing Gym Etiquette With Kids

Tips for taking kids to the climbing gym. There are few things more troublesome than going to a new place and not knowing the spoken and unspoken rules.  Add to the uncertainty the presence of children, and it can be quite intimidating to enter into unknown territory.   For those new to indoor climbing and/or new to indoor climbing with kids, here are a few tips for bringing your kids to the gym. Those that know me will laugh at the irony. . . My … [Read More...]

Stand Up Paddleboarding

The best rock climbing areas tend to be located in or near wilderness, national parks, mountains, and forests.  There are exceptions, of course!  Still, when we took a family trip to the jersey shore this summer, there was no rock to be found.  As usual, my husband and I sought out something both "active" and "family friendly" to try with the kids. Surfing, Kite Surfing, Kayaking Ryan has wanted to try surfing for years, but that's a solo endeavor, as … [Read More...]

The Mount Rushmore Dilemma

Visiting Mount Rushmore with Kids Our summer trip to Wyoming and South Dakota was amazing.  We combined climbing with family time, history, geography, science and more.  When we planned the trip, climbing was the main focus, but hitting some of the National Parks and National Monuments were also a must.  Mount Rushmore is one of those locations that combines both.  There are amazing climbing opportunities in the shadow of the National Monument.  There are … [Read More...]

About Laura Boniello Miller

Laura Miller is a internet marketing professional and a mother of two. Her interests include sport climbing, bouldering, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She believes that playing outdoors is integral to health and well being, and that if your kids aren't dirty, they haven't had enough fun.