August 20, 2017
Rushmore is best in the morning for pictures. For emotion, the evening before was tough to beat. We arrived fairly early and did the Presidential Trail that gets you up close and personal with some of our greatest leaders. We along with many others took our time and took pictures from almost any angle. Not being professionals, we were happy with the results. I will post a few of the dozens we have. We also managed to find a couple souvenirs that we couldn’t live without. Now we have to find room on the Christmas tree for them.
We enjoyed a drive through the Black Hills countryside. This area is tough to beat in the summer. It could be a challenge in the winter. The roads are excellent for being this remote. The South Dakotans know how to provide tourist infrastructure. Our immediate goal was to reach Wind Cave National Park and secure tickets for a cave tour. They are first co e first serve. Mission was accomplished by noon so we drove to the small town of Hot Springs for lunch.
Wind Cave is one of the longest and probably the most complex cave on the planet. The limestone created when the place was underwater provided the working material. Rain and time created the matrix of interweaving caves. Beyond its structural complexity, the cave is known for its Boxwork cave structures. Essentially, they are formed from hard calcite being formed in tiny cracked in the limestone. Softer surrounding limestone is dissolved over time leaving the thin box appearing structures. The cave contains 95% of these structures known in all the world’s caves. Actually, the cave is “dry cave”. There are no stalactites or “mites” or other structures formed by dripping water. The effect is unique.
The Wind Cave was made a National Park during Teddy’s time in 1903. The cave is covered over by virgin prairie that today hosts a concentration of large mammals akin to the African Savannah. As we emerged from the parking lot, we found ourselves in the middle of another herd of Buffaloes. We were able to escape harmlessly and left the rest of the tourists to figure things out. We continued to encounter these magnificent beasts as we continued our drive. We soon came across a small herd of Pronghorn Antelope who obligingly didn’t run off at hyper speed.
We continued to be surprised by the beauty of the Black Hills. It was easy to understand why the Indians considered this land sacred. Sandwiched between prairies, the small range of mountains is magical.