Day Fourtyfive

Wind Cave National Park, SD to Wind Cave National Park, SD
July 9th, 2009

High Point of the Day....
Low Point of the Day......
Crawling on our knees for four hours
There's a cave joke here, but we can't think of it
Miles Traveled Today
Total Miles Traveled
The Bus Playlist
Just the sound of wind in our hair
Sunny in the 70s, with a monumental lightning storm at night
Price of Gas 
(average per gallon)
Night's Lodging
Where this Page was Uploaded
Deer, bison, horses, rabbits, and a donkey
Elk Mountain Campground, Wind Cave National Park
Ranchester, WY

Daily Didactic
We started the day a little after 7:00 on the advice of our campground park ranger and headed the mile to the visitors center to secure our tickets for a tour of Wind Cave. Five years ago we were standing on a regular "paved path" cave tour in Mammoth Caves when we saw a group crawl by on their bellies in a shaft below us. They were on a "wild cave tour" and we were not. It made us feel like slackers. Today we got the opportunity to make up for that. We scheduled a normal walking tour, the Fairground Tour, for the morning and a four hour crawling "wild cave" tour for the afternoon. The Fairground tour was a great tour, focusing on this cave's specialty "boxwork". Boxwork is really interesting calcite "crack filling" that formed between fractured limestone and then lasted after that limestone eroded away in a mild carbonic acid bath. This cave is not a formation monster truck like Carlsbad, no stalactites or mites, and its "boxwork", "frostwork" and "popocorn" is all pretty fragile and understated stuff. It's also very neat to look at. Our first tour was with Park Ranger Charlie and lasted about an hour and a half. Our second tour (which also turned out to be with Charlie) started an hour and a half after that, so we jumped in the bus and headed to the nearby, cute, and heavily sandstone community of Hot Springs for lunch.

At 12:30 we returned to the visitor center fueled for our "wild tour". We and eight others were outfitted with helmets, headlamps, knee pads and gloves, and we signed something making it clear we understood medical help comes slowly when it has to be crawled into a cave. The tour lasted the full four hours and was a really awesome mix of crawling through low narrow passages, climbing up chimney chutes, and slithering through clearances as little as ten inches high. It also turns out we have the height advantage in this sport. Nice.

When we finished the subterranean component of our day we crawled into the bus and headed to nearby Custer for a bite to eat and then onto Mount Rushmore to look at a little sculpture. We ogled for a while, but didn't have it in us to stick around for the 9:30 lighting ceremony. As the place was filling up, we headed back to the wonderful little Elk Mountain Campground for a campfire and (after we had retreated to the bus for the night) a colossal lightning storm. A great day in the Black Hills. We are big fans of southwestern South Dakota.

Daily Pictures (Slide Show)

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Morning in the very pleasant Elk Mountain Campground The view from the bus
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More pretty flowers We'd recommend it to friends
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Morning at the not yet chaotic visitors center Wind cave on foot, no cameras were allowed for the knees tour
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Following ranger Charlie In caves we enjoy a height advantage
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Pretty rock Popcorn, little rock droplets
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A wall of popcorn with viewing benches Stairs down
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Boxwork Prairie over Wind Cave
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The very cute town of Hot Springs Where they have a thing for sandstone
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Brian, eyeing lunch A Hot Springs gargoyle
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One wild cave tour later, Custer for dinner A narrow old building in Custer
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Large tin horses, not old Crazy Horse mountain, when it's done he'll be riding a horse
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Road shot on the way to Mt. Rushmore There were a few folks here
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Still pretty impressive to stare at The amphitheater that fills for the nightly lighting, by that time Theresa was cooking a smore

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