August 21, 2017
Today presented a challenge. We needed to be at Jewel Cave early to get a tour. They always sell out early in the summer. We also wanted to see the solar Eclipse that would happen in the morning. Scheduling necessitated a miss on Crazy Horse Monument that was a highly recommended stop by several people whose opinion I value. Oh well, maybe next time. The Black Hills are certainly worth several visits. Actually, the Black Hills deserve their reputation for beauty.
Ironies certainly exist. Custer County includes most of the major sites and an exceptional state park that is amongst the finest that I have ever seen. And coming from a Californian, that is a major endorsement. Having the Souix hero and vanquisher of Custer and a sizable portion of the 7th Cavalry, is just one of the ironies. Carving a Sioux sacred mountain is in my mind akin to carving Moses on Mt. Sinai. I am still a sucker for good old American “stand and deliver” patriotic sites. Mt. Rushmore is as close to a sacred secular site as anything west of Washington, DC. Then again Gettysburg is pretty close to the top in that category.
Our tour of Jewel Cave was professional. The cave is the third longest in the world at present. However, only 3% has been mapped and discovered to date. What is accessible to the non-spelunker is covered with 6 to 8 inches of calcite crystals that have a knobby surface. Countless tons of crystal still cover the walls despite chunks big and small breaking off over the eons. None fell while we were in there to our relief. The Cave itself was made a National Monument in 1909 by Teddy Roosevelt. Ted always had excellent taste is recognizing what needed preservation.
We emerged in time to receive a complimentary eclipse viewing card. Even with the eclipse gone, the card is a keeper that bears information and great graphics. We watched the beginning of the solar event soon after emerging. We the hustled across the Wyoming border to have picnic lunch while watching with the rest of the town of Newcastle. The eclipse was not the prized totality. It was 98% and made a nice counterpart to our exploration of the sunless cave. It also didn’t involve eclipse traffic and gouging.
We are close to Yellowstone in Cody, Wyoming. Yes, Buffalo Bill is well memorialized just like Rushmore. We’ll skip the nightly Rodeo and the exhibits commemorating a guy who did his best to bring the bison close to extinction. In fact, it was Buffalo Bill who invented the modern reality show with his Wild West Show. Enough for now..