Journey (partway) to the center of the Earth

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2010

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Thursday, May 20, 2010

Turned out to be a busy day when we thought it would be a day of relaxation. We spent the morning on the 1880 train from Hill City to Keystone, S.D. For your information, Keystone is the tourist trap closest to Mt. Rushmore. It was interesting, but not particularly scenic. You will see my weak attempt at dramatic photography attached.

We trekked on down the Needles Highway, named for the sharp vertical rock formations along the route. Very scenic and very winding, with several claustrophobia-inducing tunnels and lots of nifty granite formations.

We grabbed lunch in DQ and headed down to Wind Cave National Park without high expectations. We found the Wind Cave tour, conducted by Ranger Tami, completely enchanting. Tami is from Green Bay and did a terrific job of getting 20 tourists at the end of a hard day of touring involved in a geologic formation. Wind Cave is the fourth-longest/largest cave in the world, behind Mammoth and Gem Cave in the U.S. (Gem is only a few miles from Wind Cave) and some unpronounceable Ukrainian cave. The Ukraine being part of the former USSR, which was prone to exaggeration, suggests the Ukraine claim is questionable.

Wind Cave is unique for what is known as "boxwork" formations, which I have tried to capture in the photos. The unique boxwork resulted in Wind Cave's declaration as the first protected cave in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. This is one of the few tours we have taken that I consider a good investment. We both had a great time, and saw some really cool cave stuff. By the way, it’s always 53 degrees in the cave – chilly.

Tonight we rest in Hot Springs, S.D. Tomorrow: the long trek across South Dakota via Wounded Knee, and on to Sioux City, Iowa, tomorrow night.
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Alan Freitag on

Real Charles Kurault stuff -- great context, narrative and whimsy.

sara on

You know i used to work at Wind Cave! Reading this one sure brought back alot of memories!!

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