Another week in Rapid City….
Monday was a day for hiking. I packed up my little Turkey sandwich, we usually take lunch with us when we go out because a lot of these parks we are visiting have limited selections, are super expensive or just plain looks like we wouldn’t want to eat anything they offer. Besides, we are trying – and succeeding (most of the time) on eating healthier and losing a bit of weight. The getting fit part is a a work in progress. Anyway, I went on up to Sylvan lake in Custer State park. We had the park pass already because we had visited with Tracy and done a short hike around the lake which sparked my interest in going on the Sunday Gulch trail. It was only a 2.8 mile hike and I figured i didn’t need water and I could eat my sandwich afterwords. It started out a nice trail with some great views and then I met some people who warned me of the rocky and hilly portion at the other end of the trail. When the second group of people I saw also warned me, so by then I was having some concerns, but the one guy told me there were hand rails to help. Ok, so I figured if worse came to worse, I would just turn around and have a longer hike. Well, those were some BIG boulders to climb over, but the hand railings were a life saver and it wasn’t scary or anything. Some great views. When I got done I saw the trail map and felt silly that I missed the strenuous note. I felt good though and just a little tired when I finished, so I drove a tiny bit into the Black hills before heading home.
Tuesday was a happy day- yeah, my birthday. I always like my birthday, usually I try and can salsa and tomato sauce. But today at 830am I was scheduled with Habitat for Humanity to do construction. I was actually working with Brush with Kindness is part of Habitat and it is not building a house from scratch, but helping someone repair their house, yard or whatever to make it more inhabitable. We worked on a trailer which needed windows and rotten boards replaced that day. Alot of other work had already been done and a bit more still to come. I got to use an oscillating saw for the first time-woohoo! I had fun with the 5 retired guys who are regular volunteers. Guys will be guys and they teased each other all day. From the lady of the house came homemade chili rellenos for lunch! Could I ask for anything better? Later, back at the camper I planned on cooking chicken on the grill and when I met Bill from across the road I invited him for dinner. He was a widower from PA who has been traveling alone and was headed to Yellowstone. We had a good time together and dinner was delicious.
Wednesday I got up and headed to Deadwood city, it was a bit overcast, but that was ok because my plan was to explore a the town and shops a little more and go to the museum. There were three floors of the history Deadwood City, its inhabitants and the area, so it took a little while. I also paid the two dollars to see the gravesites of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane who had both lived in Deadwood. Will Bill was actually killed in Deadwood during a card game, when Tracy, Kat and I were all in town together we had lunch in the actual building! I treated myself to lunch and then drove the long way back to the camper, cleaned up a bit and got ready for Kat to come home.
Thursday was a grey and chilly day. Kat was tired and so was I, so we kept our plans to have a relaxing day of not doing much and didn’t even leave the camper.
Friday we wanted to get out of our cave and go to some real caves. We only needed two stamps in our passport book to complete our visits to the National parks in South Dakota. One from Jewel cave and the other from Wind cave. It was to be first state we have completed getting our stamps collected. We only took a short tour of Jewel cave and didn’t really walk through, because we didn’t want to wait around for the next tour or pay the fee. After the 20 minute talk we drove over to Wind cave. Of course we did see some more bison on the way there. We took a longer tour in Wind Cave for $12 each and it was definitely worth it. Ranger Earl was our guide, he was very passionate about the cave and being a ranger in general.He mentioned the importance of the balance between conservation and e.xploration more than once. He was not only very informative about the history of the cave, but he was a great storyteller. I don’t know how long he had worked there and seemed kind of young, but he had his tour stories down pat. The group was made up of 39 people and we walked single file down the path pretty much at our own pace. There was no where to go but on the path really. It was a cement pathway with lots of stairs and sturdy handrails. We had to duck and turn sideways a few times, but it wasn’t bad. When we all got to the large open rooms Ranger Earl would give talks and answer questions. There were a few kids on the tour, but the funniest were Hank and Sam. They provided a lot of sound effects of ohhs and wows! I really liked this tour more than any other cave tour. I guess Jewel can’t really count since we didn’t walk through, and even though Mammoth was really nice, it was just too crowded and Ranger Earl really was that good of a guide. As we all piled into the elevator Little Sam told him “I can’t wait to tell my friends how cool the cave was and how awesome you are”. Must’ve made Ranger Earl’s day, we all loved it.
Wind cave is named that because there is a small natural hole through which wind blows based on the barometric pressure and the wind blowing out is actually why it was discovered. Before a storm it really blows outward. We walked 2/3 of a mile and it took 1 1/4 hours. We went down 209 feet and luckily we were able to take the elevator back up. It was 54 degrees down there. The mineral structures were amazing. The boxwork formations being the most interesting. They look like honeycombs, crumbled up potato chips or whatever you can imagine, everyone had a different idea of it really looked like. Tracy would have liked that because after seeing faces in the rock formations of the badlands, seeing Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse she started seeing faces and things everywhere! I can only imagine what she could have come up with. The box formations were formed from calcite after other minerals and limestone washed away. It was the most prominent feature seen in Wind cave. There were other formations created by minerals that were pretty amazing too, like “popcorn”. There is a lot more of the cave to discover and they constantly go down and explore. All cave guides say the same about their caves, where do they end? How long until they feel they have reached the end of a cave’s tunnels? Who knows, maybe Jewel cave and Wind cave are connected somehow?
Saturday we spent the morning in Starbucks down the road so we could use their internet. It was nice not to keep getting dropped from the internet like we do in the campground, but it was like sitting in a barn because of all the flies and we were inside! I might as well have been sitting on a pile of cow poop. We had a lot of planning and research to do so we suffered through it. We were scheduled for volunteer work at the Habitat ReStore store from 1-5, so after lunch we drove over there. Everyone was super nice and really appreciated our help. I suspect part of it is because no one wanted to do the job we were assigned. We were asked to take the paint cans marked ‘bad” from a large pile of paint cans and fill them with cement, or other fillers so they could be taken to the dump. It seems people donate paint that is no good and it can’t be resold. They try to tell people to take it to the dump themselves, but sometimes some slips in the donation doors. It was not stimulating work, so the time went slow and we were both thinking our backs would be hurting later. It all went well in the end and we were happy to help.
On the way home we made a trip to walmart for some food things before we could go home to relax. I have never been in a Walmart that busy. Wow, it wasn’t even Christmas. We had delicious shrimp tacos for dinner while we watched some TV shows Kat downloaded earlier. It was a super windy night, boy, it blew all night long! The night before it had rained all night. I had crazy dreams for two nights in a row, but at least I wasn’t grumpy on today like I was on Saturday morning.
Very windy this Sunday morning…After another visit to Starbucks I went to do some bike riding today on a trail that runs through the town and along the creek while Kat watched football. The trail started out a bit sketchy as it went along the creek because of the guys hanging around. They didn’t have fishing poles or anything and looked up to no good, but I just put my head down and go as fast as I can. It was still windy and a few times I felt like I might stop moving forward or blow over, but in then end that 18 mile ride did me a lot of good. It was still pretty early after I got back and showered, so we went downtown to find a place to watch football and have a little snack. It was a nice afternoon and we actually got a few things done on our list that need to be done before we leave tomorrow.
Next on the agenda is that we head to Devils Tower in Wyoming and for those of you up on your geography, yes, we are going backwards across states we have been to already, but that is just the way it worked out. We really wanted to meet up with Tracy and we worked out that route for the schedule. For now, it is getting chilly here and fall colors are popping out everywhere. We are hoping to beat the much colder weather as we go back through Montana and visit Idaho. We will get down to Salt Lake City and are planning on visiting Reno before Thanksgiving.
Signing out for now.