about 20 minutes or so from where we were staying in custer sits the 7th longest cave system in the world. wind cave national park has about 156 miles of discovered “trails” to date.
the tickets to wind cave are sold daily on a first come first serve basis for that day, and because of increased visitation (in all national parks) this year, they sell out quickly. we had read about this, so on the day we wanted to go, i woke up early to head over (with anna) to pick up tickets for the family. we also maybe stopped to get a slightly excessive amount of bakery items at a local shop on the way back to the rv. then we proceeded to have a somewhat lazy morning, before we made our return trip for the tour.
our tour guide, claudia, was full of excellent information and she was really great with hazel who was a bit apprehensive (borderline panicking) before we started. here, she’s showing us the natural entrance to the cave and explaining how it got the name “wind cave”. (when the pressure changes, air can be pushed out, at pretty high velocities). we entered through a man made entrance, which involved squeezing together with a bunch of strangers in an air locked room.
once inside, hazel settled in quickly. photos were hard to take, as is often the case in dark caves, but i managed a few with my fancy pants iphone.
the cave is famous for its “box work” which is formed when water and minerals seep down into cracks in the softer limestone and hardens. then when the limestone eventually weathers away, the harder calcite blades remain, forming this intricate web. something like 90% of the worlds box work is in this cave.
i did get a little frustrated when three quarters of the way into the tour, when our ranger asked hazel if she was ok with turning out the lights for a demonstration. i said that would be fine and told hazel i would hold her and she could close her eyes and never know. but claudia kept insisting that we do what hazel wanted, which would have ruined the experience for the other forty people on the tour. finally i convinced her that hazel was fine, but i could tell she was super judgy about my parenting in the way that only a 20something person without actual children in the year 2021 can be.
(update: hazel survived the harrowing experience and even opened her eyes and admitted that it wasn’t as scary as she expected. imagine.)
cave selfie with the brave girl.
the girls. isaac actually decided not to go at the last minute. as has been previously discussed, he prefers to remain at ground zero, whether that means going up into the sky or deep underground.
after the tour (and another airlock and tight elevator ride), we met back up with ike, who had been doing alternative exercises in his ranger book, and all three lidkids were sworn in.
and another national park is checked off the list.