Saturday. September 9, 2017. Horse Thief Campground.
We did more than we originally anticipated today, always a good achievement, especially on a road trip.
We started the day at Wind Cave, and did the natural entrance tour. It was a little over an hour and covered approximately 1/2 mile. We had a Puerto Rican as a guide, who used to give tours at one of the old Spanish castles in San Juan. He is very good at his job; being both comical and informative, and is great at storytelling. I got to lead the group down the first long set of stairs, which solidified my place at the beginning of the line. That being something I try extremely hard to get with things of the sort, as I want to hear ALL the information. I strive to learn crazy facts. We talked to several groups of people on the tour; from Nebraska to Colorado, and an attractive geologist from Pennsylvania. (PS Nick if you are reading this, I regret not getting your number, HMU.) It was a beautiful cave filled with a lot of boxwork formations, containing 95% of the known boxwork world wide. I attempted to take pictures of the unique formation, but photography in caves with a basic camera is nearly impossible. We only saw a couple rooms on the tour, with pretty normal names, ex. Cathedral Room. But, Wind Cave is known for some of the weirdest names, being that whomever discovers a new room gets to name it. So if you get bored one day, look up the list of rooms, Allyson and I were very entertained reading the map before the tour.
We had plenty of time after the tour, so we drove up to Custer and ate lunch at the Black Hills Burger & Bun co, where we tried bison burgers for the first time! We had enjoyed the tour of Wind Cave so much, we decided to check out Jewel Cave. It is the third longest cave in the world, with only about 5% discovered at 191 miles. We did an hour and a half tour, and it was vastly different from Wind Cave. There were a lot more calcite crystals, larger rooms, and actual wet cave formations. Fortunately I learned my lesson on the previous tour, and took my Nikon for some slightly better photos. Both caves were lovely to see, and provided something completely different for us to experience.
Afterwards we headed north of Custer and actually had enough time to stop by Crazy Horse. Apparently all of Mt. Rushmore can fit into the size of Crazy Horse’s head, if that tells you how grand it is (and how tomorrow is at risk of being disappointing.) It was cool to see, and the story behind it is wonderful. The Native Americans deserve more than just a carved rock after the cruel history, but at least it is being recognized in a colossal way. It is also all privately funded, so I feel okay about the $22 entrance fee for both of us, but I will likely not return. And honestly it is such a slow moving project (understandably), I do not foresee a drastic change in my lifetime. I respect the commitment to keep the government out of the project, but I think there’s a part that hinders the message and the respect for the Native Americans; since it seems the likelihood of this monument ever being completed is slim. Utilizing the government’s funds would be like a slap in the face too, so it is really a catch 22.
We finally made it to Horse Thief campground this evening; where we made dehydrated chicken fajitas and refried beans for dinner, and then finally took a shower (in the nicest campground shower house I have ever seen!)