On our way to Wind Cave National Park, we decided to hit up Mr. Rushmore. Mt. Rushmore is a National Memorial. It is managed by the National Park Service, but it isn’t a National Park. There are 413 NPS units. We would be at this for years had we decided to get to all of them! That being said, there is no harm in stopping by those that are on our route, right?
We took a pit stop
Big heads on the mountain top
They made my jaw drop
Another bonus to our journey was sampling the Jefferson Ice Cream Recipe. Turns out this guy didn’t only like experimenting with government, but enjoyed creating frozen treats as well. You can actually get his original recipe in the store – we HIGHLY recommend it. It tastes like a founding father in cup.
I don’t know how old I was the first time that I went to Mt. Rushmore. I would guess maybe five years old? But I do remember learning a very powerful lesson. As my little legs walked myself around the gift shop with my parents, I found a little tiger eye polished rock on the ground. Little people notice things on the ground more often than adults. It was cool, so I took it. When I showed my dad later that day, he informed me that what I had done was called stealing. Even thought I didn’t know that they were selling these rocks, I felt SO BAD. But there was no way to take the rock back, because we were already long gone on the road.
So 20 years later we are here – at the same gift shop. I have had that little stolen stone weighing me down most of my life – something had to be done! Since I didn’t have the original stone to put back, I figured I could buy a whole bag of rocks from the display and that should pay my debt. So I did just that. I bought a bag and then dumped the contents back into the display. The cashier ladies must have been super confused. But whatever. I kept one stone to remind me of the lesson I learned as a five year old – a nice polished tiger eye. I cleared my conscience for $7.99!
Our first day in Wind Cave National Park was Vladimir Kitten’s first birthday! Can you believe that this little stinker is already a year old! He has seen a lot in his one year – more than I saw in my first year, that’s for sure!
Since it was his birthday, we decided that we HAD to take him with us on the trails. In our defense, the sign said “no dogs”. So we didn’t disobey. And whatever, arrest me – it was his freaking birthday! Nobody wants to be alone on their birthday, right?
At the top of our hike we sat and watched the sun go behind the mountains. The golden hour always makes Madison’s golden hair look so awesome. My wife is a babe.
After exploring the ground level, we went subterranean for the next chapter. There are quite a few options for the cave tours offered. The one that lined up best with our schedule was the Garden of Eden Tour. It was one of the shortest ones, but also marked as one of the prettiest. IF we had the chance, I would do all of the tours because the cave was just that cool. But alas, the limiting factors of time and money will always exist.
The highlight for us (and the most unique feature of the cave) is the boxwork. The thin fins of calcite formed even before the cave. Intersecting fractures in the limestone provided a place for the calcite to precipitate. Then, years later, the limestone eroded when the cave was formed by the subterranean fluid flow and the boxwork was left behind. Geology puzzles – you’ve got to work them backwards.
Troll Snot was also a must see in the cave. This feature isn’t as unique – it can be found in any cave that has trolls.
Madison’s favorite was the frostwork. This formed like popcorn formations found in other caves, but the wind helps direct the formation into these needle like features.
Back in the day, early explorers of the cave offered tours of this magical place. It was common place to burn your name and the date on the wall to prove that you were there. I still don’t know how I feel about this. Part of me thinks it is a special piece of history that is preserved, and the other part of me cringes at the disrespect. I guess the question is, “at what point does graffiti become history?”
I’ll just use the flash, she said. It will be painless, she said.
This is the natural entrance to the cave. This is where all of the early explorers entered the cave before they put in the bigger door and elevator (yes, there really was an elevator).
This place is not only an entrance to a cave, but it is known to the Lakota Nation as the birthplace of their people. To quote the sign, “This opening is the place of emergence of their people to the surface of the world. Their creation story says they were beneath the surface and were led to the sunlight by Tokahe (the first to come).”
One thing that is interesting, and the reason of the park’s name, is the fact that the cave ‘breathes’. This happens because of the differences in pressure. When the outside pressure increases, the air flows into the cave. When the outside air pressure drops, air flows out of the cave. When we were there, the cave was exhaling. It was exhaling so vehemently that it sent Madison’s hair flying! I didn’t get a good picture of it, but you can see it in the video.