Monday, January 19, 2015

Picture Day! Black Hills of South Dakota

I have been thinking about how to go about these little photo essays, and decided to simply go back through the years and highlight various places we've enjoyed visiting. These tend to be wilderness sites, but we'll see--I might throw in some science centers and such. At some point I'd like to digitize more of our slides and feature a couple of trips we did with the babies, but for now, we start in 2005 when the boys were 6 and 7.

This was an early-summer trip, as you can tell by how green the hills are. We visited Wind Cave National Park, the adjoining Custer State Park, and Jewel Cave, before continuing on to Badlands National Park (and a stop at Carhenge). I'll hit those last two in another post, lest this get too long. My camera back in those days--my first digital camera--was sure a far cry from what I have now, and I apologize that the photos aren't what they should be.

We joined with friends so that we could have a fun social time in camp and on hikes over the grasslands. At Wind Cave, there was a lot of rolling country, where we saw some nice wildflowers.
Hiking near the WCNP campground.

We also saw some nice wildlife:
Prairie dog
Buffalo. Well, actually Bison. They look very, very big when you are standing on a trail and they are not far off!

Not all the wildlife makes it through the winter. Our boys were really into the bones we found lying about. Parents: squelch your squeamishness and let your little scientists explore this sort of thing!
I'm not sure it's bison, but probably--it was something big!
The Park of course is partly, at least, there because of the cave--Wind Cave is one of the longest caves known. It gets its name from the wind that blows in or out of the opening depending on barometric pressure--the cave is always trying to adjust to match the outside. The Indians considered it a sacred site, and white men began exploration of it around 1890. You can take guided tours in the cave.
The natural opening to Wind Cave
Inside the cave:
This "boxwork" formation is apparently unique to Wind Cave.

We continued our driving-and-hiking tour through Custer State Park.
From a lookout tower in Custer State Park
Including a stop to hike in the Cathedral Spires, where more forest provided different flowers from the prairie:
Tiger Lily, if my memory serves

We did a hike up a formation called "Little Devil's Tower," though it is a far cry from the original. It was a fun scramble for the boys.
View from the top of Little Devil's Tower
However, no matter what the view is, little boys are apt to be much more interested in puddles:
Helping water flow downhill

Finally, on to Jewel Cave, which doesn't have a beautiful prairie around it, but does have beautiful formations inside. My photography wasn't up to the job, but here are a couple of hints. We were bemused by how many of the features and formations had food names: cave popcorn, cave bacon, the Wedding Cake...I'm thinking cavers are usually hungry!
Cave jellyfish?

Amazing what stone and water can produce.

That's my snapshot view of the Black Hills--an area with a lot of history as well as a lot of beauty. Check it out!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015


  1. Fantastic! I think I'd like a trip there. I think I went through it on a Greyhound in 1976!

    The sandstone in the cave (boxwork) is a little like formations they get in the desert in North Africa, and bits are sold as tourist souvenirs. But I think they are formed on the outside of rocks, and I take it yours was in the cave? I think the ones in Africa are known as honeycomb, although they aren't hexagonal. Actually, I'm assuming the boxwork is sandstone because it looks like the ones I've seen in sandstone. Is it? Or maybe a calcareous rock?

    1. Calcite. It's a limestone cave: :

      I did like that area for the contrasts of cave and prairie, and the rock areas (we also did a drive-by of Mt. Rushmore, but frankly except as a monument to human chutzpah, I'd give it a miss). It's not as spectacular as the bit mountains where we usually play, but it's definitely interesting and pretty.

    2. That's BIG mountains. Need to find my glasses...


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