Wind Cave

Day 5

”Dad. Wake up Dad. Sun’s up, why aren’t you?” whispered Rosie as she put her cold nose in my ear, knowing better than to wake Mom.2F4B3617-3005-44E1-AFEC-A578512F39E1

”Ok, Rose, ok,” I mumbled as I tossed off the covers. I slowly climbed out of the deep rabbit-hole sleep I was just in with the feeling it was a good dream, no details available, just a contented feeling. And no, not that kind of dream.

If today is Tuesday, we should be in Custer, SD. A half hour away is Hot Springs, SD and Wind Cave. The original entryway is an 18″ hole in the side of a hill. When the barometric pressure is low outside the air rushes out, sometimes as fast as 50mph. If there is a low pressure system outside the air rushes in. Rosie loves when the wind blows the fluffy hair on her head and her ears back and we thought she would enjoy this stop in our journey.

”You said I can go with you to the Wind Cave today, Dad. It’s about time I got to do something on this vacation,” she said.

NOTE: You cannot really take dogs into Wind Cave. They are welcome in the camp ground and hiking paths, but not inside the Visitor Center or caves. Had Rosie really been with us she would have been stuck in the hotel room, no doubt sleeping on the bed. Read the about page for Rosie’s role in our journey.

“Yes, yes. You are going today. A little patience, please.”

Pleased that our National Park Senior Passes entitled us to a 50% discount we saved $6.00 each. National Parks are free with this Pass, and it has paid for itself 10 times over so far on this one journey. We weren’t paying for entry, just the tour.  Best deal ever!

We met Ranger Maggie at the tour waiting area at 8:30 am. Maggie was an Art History img_5300major in college so it perfect she is now a park ranger and tour guide. Actually, she was very knowledgeable and friendly. She is an amateur spelunker and rock climber.

We passed through an airlock installed to reduce the effect of the large human entrance on the air pressure differential. There were electric spotlights well spaced and directed to enhance rock structures and provide safety as we walked down 130 steps to the mid-level of the cave system. Ultimately we will be going down 213 steps to a depth of 257 feet. Flash photography is allowed, but you really don’t need it. Wind Cave contains 95% of the world’s “boxwork” rock structure, as well as “frost work” and “popcorn.”

Ranger Maggie said there were no stalactites or stalagmites in the cave because there was no water to form them. As we were walking through the cave I noticed the floor was wet and the hand rail was damp. If she were wrong about the water, how could I believe anything else she said, (unless it related to art history?) We are stopping in the Art Institute of Chicago in a day or two, so I will check out more of her supposed “facts.”

An elevator returned us to the surface and a short walk later we were back in the car. Rosie was very pleased with her outing today and, wind blown,  settled down in the back to sleep. The parking lot was pretty full. Arriving early was clearly the right choice.

F3E1DF10-1257-4060-AAF9-64CC09C8358FAs we left the Visitor Center we saw a small heard of bison running through a ravine near the road. Can you say stampede? We had seen so many bison over the past two or three days, we didn’t even stop. However, we did stop as we drove through Custer State Park both because the cars in front of us did and there was a family of mountain goats feeding along side the road. Fran took this excellent picture of  closest one of six of them. Luckily, Rosie slept through both “big animal” sightings.

An hour later we were back on boring old I-90 headed towards Albert Lea MN for the night. BTW, this country is BIG!

But first a quick stop in Blue Earth, MN for a photo opportunity with a 55′ tall statue of the Jolly Green Giant and Sprout. Jolly was very impressive. Sprout not so much.