[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/31/art.obamarushmore.ap.jpg caption="Sen. Obama tours Mt. Rushmore into the late night hours."] KEYSTONE, South Dakota (CNN) - Everyone in Barack Obama's traveling press entourage thought it was just a late night jaunt to Mt. Rushmore, sans the candidate.
Since Obama is planning no events at the popular tourist destination on his two-day swing through the Rushmore State, about 30 members of the media and his staff decided to check out the monument on their own after the work day was over.
But press were informed at about 10:15 PM local time - midway through the 30 minute bus ride to the site - that the White House hopeful would be meeting up with them and would be at the base of the mountain ahead of time.
Some members of the media had not come on the trip, since everyone had assumed it was an Obama-less evening to relax.
Traveling spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters after the stop concluded that Communications Director Robert Gibbs had informed the senator a group of people were making the trip. Obama's response: "I want to go, too."
It was his first trip to the national park. Earlier in the week, rival Hillary Clinton made her own trip to the famous monument.
After being shown around the site by a ranger, Obama turned to his press corps and asked them what they thought of the view. One reporter asked if he'd like to see himself up there someday.
"I don't think my ears would fit," he said. "There's only so much rock up there."
"There's something about seeing it at night that's spectacular."
He then asked a few of the rangers assembled nearby if they wanted to take a picture with him.
The only tourists around at this point were a couple visiting from New York. They did not approach the senator from Illinois.
Asked what they thought of running into Barack Obama at almost 11 o'clock on a Friday night in the Black Hills of South Dakota? One word sums it up.
"This is weird," one of the two said. The press would probably have agreed at that point.
"Can we take pictures of him?" the woman continued. "This is so weird, but awesome!"