Today was busy, both with sightseeing and chores!
Wind Cave National Park
After our failed attempt to visit Jewel Cave yesterday, Dad and I decided we'd go out to Wind Cave as early as possible this morning, we were aiming yo be there for the first tour of the day. We didn't quite make the first tour, but we were the first ones signed up for the 2nd!
Wind Cave is a huge cave network under the Black Hills. It might be connected with Jewel Cave, they aren't sure yet. Wind Cave was a very sacred spot for the Native Americans, they never explored it but the cave held a lot of meaning for them. The National Park service seems to do an ok job recognizing this and the guide talked about it in the tour, but it's that same conflict - here's this sacred place and we came in and explored it and discovered things about it and potentially destroyed some of the sacredness for the Native Americans. This seems a bit different to me because the exploration of the cave has lead to increased knowledge for everyone, whereas Mt. Rushmore was simply carving the faces of the great white leaders in the rock.
The tour was very interesting! I don't remember all the stuff the Ranger told us, but the cave itself was very natural - there were handrails and the walkway was paved, but it was narrow and low and dark! It was a contrast to Luray Caverns which is a different type of cave, but has been designed as a tourist attraction rather than to preserve a natural resource and educate.
After the cave we came back to the campground for lunch and to get the laundry. My fridge was still on! We took the laundry into Hill City and while the clothes were washing we all broke out our devices and sucked up as much data on our cell phones as we could! I can now make my phone a hotspot and use my data for my iPad, this meant I could post blogs!
Sunday Gulch Hike, Custer State Park
After the laundry was done it was 3:00 and we were debating what to do next. Yesterday when we were at Sylvan Lake we saw the Sunday Gulch Trailhead - it was a 2.8 mile loop that went through a few boulder fields and claimed to be "unique". Dad and I were interested in hiking it so decided that we could sweep it in between laundry and dinner. We left Mom in Hill City at the library with her iPad so she could work on her blog.
We weren't really prepared to go hiking - I had on jean capris (cotton is not good if you get wet & I hate walking around in wet clothes!), we both had water bottles we'd picked up at the gas station. No rain gear. We were just going out for a quick walk. As we were walking along the lake to get to the trailhead I pointed out to Dad that every time we try and go out for a quick hike something doesn't go as planned (see the blog post in July 2012 when we hiked around Kidney Pond in Baxter State Park!). We chuckled and kept hiking.
The first part of the hike lead us through a boulder field with huge granite spires, a lot like the Needles Highway we drove yesterday. Then the scenery changed and it was more the scrub pine, then it changed again and was a typical pine forest. We crossed the stream several times and it was just a nice walk in the woods. We were moving pretty fast so we could get back for dinner.
Soon we came to a spot where we had to cross the creek on a downed tree. It was very narrow, but luckily there was another tree to hold on to. Soon after that the trail went up and over a rock and it was unclear where trail even went! We had to scuttle on our butts to get down the sheer rock face. Then there were a series of big steps where they'd installed railings to help. We met some folks right after we got past that part. We told them about the rock scrambling, they told us that further up there was lots of rock scrambling, and you had to get your feet wet! What?!??
Well, they weren't lying! Soon we got to the beginning of the rock scramble, and the creek ran right across the trail, or did the trail run right across the creek? The rocks were huge and slippery, but luckily the park had installed railings on both sides to hold on to. In most places I had to use both railings and a lot of upper body strength to get up! I was so glad we were going up rather than down! We climbed up the rocks, mostly avoiding getting our feet wet, until we came to a spot where the water was gushing down the rock steps and it was completely unavoidable. I just rolled my pants up and waded right in! The water was surprisingly warm and it was fun to be slogging through the water while climbing up the rocks! All too soon we were back at the top! The end of the hike was a bit more than we'd bargained for, but it was fun! Had we known about the rock scrambling and wet shoe factor we probably wouldn't have tried that hike today! So it was good that we didn't know.
After the hike we went back to Hill City to get Mom and dinner. We went to a cowboy place - Desperado Cowboy I think - they had buffalo burgers. Even though I don't eat meat in a regular basis, I did enjoy a Buffalo Burger this evening? It was good stuff!