July 31, 2016
Miles Driven: 205
Parks Visited: 1
I did it! And it was great! What might that ‘it’ be, you ask? Today I dared myself to take the ~800 step, Scenic Cave Tour at Jewel Cave and I finished without having to be rescused. Basically, I started out the day again with different plans. I had no intention of taking the longer cave tour; I already had achy muscles after yesterday’s Wind Cave tour. But once I was there and been teased by the all-too-short Discovery Tour, what else was I to do? It was like Yellowstone all over again. Well, sort of. And, traveling as a single person has its advantages – that being, it’s easy to find space on a tour. Wow, was the longer tour worth it. We saw lots of calcite crystals – stalactites, stalagmites, flow stone, draperies, soda straws, dogtooth spar, and my favorite cave bacon! What’s more, I learned that Jewel Cave, though currently the world’s third longest cave, has high hopes for becoming the longest. Based on air/wind volume calculations, scientists believe that only 3% of the cave has actually been surveyed. That 3% equals approximately 190 miles. Yes, they think it could be as big as 15,000 miles! Mammoth is only 400 miles (and scientists think they’ve found about 90% of that one). If you are in the area, you have simply got to stop in to Jewel Cave. If you go early enough, you’ll get a tour. I showed up at 9:45 and the 12:00 Scenic Tour was available.
Of course after that hike, any stair I see now brings fright to my thighs. But I toughed it out and hiked a bit further down to see the original historic entrance. They give actual lantern tours in that section of the cave. If I could have withstood another 900 steps, I would have signed up right away. On the up side to your spelunking adventure, the cave is a cool 49 degrees all the time. So, while you are working out, at least it’s more comfortable than hiking in the 90-degree temperature above ground.
Well, what could top Jewel Cave? A drive through The Needles. Holy moly, are they gorgeous. Rock spires just thrust up into the sky. The highway you take to go around them is a miraculous piece of engineering too. I admit that I did not get out of the car as much as I should have to view the sites. That would imply I could walk at this point in the day. After the Needles, I wound my way back through the Black Hills up through Custer, Hill City and Deadwood. What I learned is that I did not have enough time here since I had no time remaining to see these remarkable time capsules of American
history kitsch. Truly I must come back. If you are planning a vacation, you’ll need a week.
Finally, to answer your much anticipated questions – Yes, I did eat again at The Dough Trader. Yes, I did have the Jeffersonian. Yes, it was incredibly tasty. No, I don't know what I'm going to do for the rest of the trip?! I have enough leftovers for 2 lunches. But after that! I’ll be suffering. When you come to the Black Hills on your travels, make time to go to Spearfish, if only to eat there. Oh, and, yes, I did have ice cream at Leones Creamery tonight! So add that to your list of places to check out too when you're next in town.
Until tomorrow from Badlands NP….
PS Thank you Dough Trader, you are my home away from home.
Roadtrip! Daily Game
Board Location: South Dakota
Happiness: Jovial (8)
Energy: Peppy (5)
Visiting a hot springs in the morning did nothing for us. I blame Whiskers, who just don't like baths. The rest of the day similarly cost us more money as Helen kept buying souvenirs. Sadly, one of them broke when she tried to cram it in her luggage. I had told her that she overpacked, but she didn't see it that way. We had a spot of luck in the evening, if you could call it that. Our motel had a rat problem, so our money was refunded. And as would happen, the motel also had a magic-fingers mattress. Whiskers loved that!