A day of Geology and Geography

We are currently in Kentucky, but I will be posting a few more blogs from South Dakota.

With a dog sitter in place for Makena (thanks Dick and Cheryl), we took a day trip over to Devils Tower, Wyoming, about 120 miles from Custer, SD.  In 1906, Devils Tower became the nations first national monument.  It plays a prominent part in the classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” movie from 1978.

a view from afar

a view from afar

There are two theories about how the tower formed, one from geologists, and the other from Native Americans.  Geologists agree that the tower is an intrusion, formed by magma, and has been exposed by erosion.  There are multiple theories on how this occurred, but in simple terms, as the rock cooled, it contracted and formed hexagonal columns.  (Todays math lesson: a hexagon has 6 sides)

The Native American legend is several girls were playing and a bear began chasing them.  As they tried to get back to their tribe, they jumped on a rock and began praying to the rock to save them.  The rock, only several feet in height, began rising out of the ground, out of reach of the bear.  The bear attempted to claw its way to the top, forming the “claw” marks on the tower, but was unable to do so.  Devils Tower remains sacred to many tribes today.

getting closer

getting closer

 

Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower, WY

There is a relatively easy 1.3 mile walking trail encircling the tower, affording many different views of the columns.  The base of the tower has a large rock pile, from the rock believed to have fallen off after the magna had cooled.  The rocks at the base have been slowly eroding away, further exposing more of the columns of the tower.

Close Encounters

Close Encounters

 Devils Tower, at a height of 867 feet, is a very popular park for rock climbing.  There is a voluntary closure during the month of June, as many Native American Tribes hold ceremonies during this month.  We were able to watch 3 climbers for a while.  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the three, one at the top center, middle left, and bottom center. (you may need to click on the photo to enlarge it)

3 hikers

3 hikers

In 2008, Japanese sculptor Junkyu Muto installed a sculpture on the property, “Circle of Sacred Smoke”.  The sculpture represents the first puff of smoke from the pipe used by Native Americans during their ceremonies.  The two granite boulders beneath the sculpture are blast fragments from Crazy Horse Memorial.

scultpure

sculpture

view thru sculpture

view thru sculpture

After soaking up all the geology, we heading over to Belle Fourche, SD to finish up with some Geography and History.  Belle Fourche (pronounced Bell Fuush), is the geographic center of the United States of America.

Belle Fourche, SD

Belle Fourche, SD

There is a large monument, with a geographic marker that I am standing on.  Been there, done that!

standing in the middle

standing in the middle

All fifty state flags surround the monument.

the monument

the monument

Also at the monument is the Tri-State Museum (free admission, donations welcome) which has some interesting items on display.  For the ladies that wanted curls, they could go down to the beauty parlor and sit under this machine, that looks like something found in a Frankenstein movie!

high tech perm machine

high-tech perm machine

The museum had a photograph showing a women getting her hair done.  It did not state how long this process took.

getting a perm

getting a perm

Vacuum cleaners have come a long was as well.  This is the Great Northern Vacuum Cleaner, made in Chicago, Illinois.  It is not electric, but a suction plunger model.

vacuum cleaner

vacuum cleaner

This is the Ironrite Mangle, a 1940’s model ironing machine.  You would feed your clothes into the heated roller.

ironing machine

ironing machine

Below is the Hodge Bootery X-Ray Shoe Fitting Machine, which was popular in the late 1940s and early 1950’s.  The shoe salesperson would take an x-ray of your feet to determine your proper shoe size.  In 1950, they realized the hazards from the radiation, and by 1970, 33 states had banned the machines.

shoe x-ray machine

shoe x-ray machine

The museum was also selling a poster of ‘Crazy Horse’, with a disclaimer that it is “believed” to be the only known photograph taken of him, in 1877.  In reality, no known photograph of Crazy Horse exists.

Crazy Horse??

Crazy Horse??

It was an interesting day, and the museum was a nice little find.  We would recommend a trip out to Devils Tower if you are staying in the Black Hills, or as a stopover on the way out West.

Quote for the Day:  “You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” – Nate Berkus

 

 

 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

After our first foggy visit to Mount Rushmore, we returned with our friends Forrest and Mary while they were in town.  As you approach the memorial from Highway 244 out of Hill City, you enter past a turnout that displays a profile of George Washington.  When we pulled in to the turnout, not a single person was looking up at George, and we quickly discovered what all the excitement was about.  There were Rocky Mountain Goats on both sides of the roadway,   We had these two right in the parking lot.

Mom and baby

Mom and baby

And a more adventurous pair across the roadway into the hillside.  These goats were introduced to the Black Hills in the 1920’s, and have adapted quite well to the area.

DSC_0319 (1)When Gutzon Borglum started carving Mount Rushmore, he originally planned to put Thomas Jefferson on the right  side of Washington.  After the workers started blocking out his face, it was discovered there was not enough good quality rock for carving, so they blew up what they hard started.  As a result, it left a good profile of Washington.

profile of Washington

profile of Washington

As you enter the memorial, you go through the Avenue of Flags, which has 56 flags representing all of the states and territories of the US.  It also makes for a popular photo opportunity.

Dan, Forrest & Mary

Dan, Forrest & Mary

The memorial has a Grand View Terrace, for excellent views of Mount Rushmore.  Beneath the terrace if the Lincoln Borglum (named after the sculptors son), which contains a museum, theatre and bookstore.  The museum has a photograph of what Mount Rushmore looked like prior to the construction.

prior to October 1927

prior to October 1927

After Gutzon Borglum died in 1941, his son Lincoln spent seven months working on the monument, but then Congress declared the monument complete on October 31, 1941  This is how the memorial looks today.  The heads are 40 feet tall.  (since we are working at Crazy Horse Memorial, I do have to note that all four heads of Mount Rushmore will fit on the side of Crazy Horse’s head!)

Mount Rushmore 7/2014

Mount Rushmore 7/2014

There is a walking path that takes you a little closer to the memorial, and down to the sculptors studio.  In the studio, there is a 1/12th scale model of what Borglum had planned for Mount Rushmore.  His plans were never completed.  All of the Presidents were to be carved down to the waist.

1/12th scale model

1/12th scale model

The small museum near the visitors center has many photographs and articles that go into great detail on the history of the memorial.  It also talks about the pointer device that was used to project the dimensions from the 1/12th scale model on to the mountain for carving.  This photograph demonstrates an example of the pointer (Math is important!)

pointer device

pointer device

We took the walking path around the memorial, and were able to get a nice photograph of the grand view terrace, and the amphitheater.  They have a nightly lighting ceremony, which we plan on attending one of these nights. (admission to the memorial is free, but there is an $11.00 annual parking pass).

Grand View terrace & ampitheater

Grand View terrace & amphitheater

Mount Rushmore is a “must see” item if you are in the area.

Quote of the day:  “Well, those figures were there for forty million years.  All I had to do was dynamite 400,000 tons of granite to bring them into view.”  – Gutzon Borglum

Jewel Cave National Park

Last week we had a wonderful time visiting with Forrest and Mary, whom we met in Cedar Key, Florida.  They are from Wisconsin, and are slowly making their way out to the Southwest, for the winter.  We all managed to get many things off our ”bucket list” during their visit.  Hopefully I can start getting caught up on my blogs, as I am very behind due to the lack of reliable internet.

Forrest & Mary in Jewel Cave

Forrest & Mary in Jewel Cave

There are many cave tours available in the Black Hills area, and so far the two best ones (in our opinion) are operated by the National Park Service.  We have previously visited Wind Cave National Park, and went with Forrest and Mary to Jewel Cave National Park.

Jewel Cave, Custer, SD

Jewel Cave, Custer, SD

Jewel Cave was discovered around 1900 by two brothers, Frank and Albert Michaud, and their friend Charles Bush, when they heard some wind blowing into a hole in some rocks.  They discovered a cave full of sparkling calcite crystals, and made a claim to this “jewel mine.”  Soon they realized there were no valuable minerals in the cave, and turned it in to a tourist destination instead.  Since “calcite crystal cave” doesn’t sound too exciting, they named the cave Jewel Cave.  The National Park Service took over the cave in 1908 which has protected the cave.

calcite crystals

calcite crystals

In 1959, Herb and Jan Conn were asked to join a cave expedition, and they spent the next 21 years discovering over 65 miles of additional passageways in the cave.  After they retired in 1981, additional explorers have continued discovering and mapping additional passages.   To date, over 170 miles of passageways have been discovered at Jewel Cave.

They offer four different cave tours, and we opted for the Scenic Tour, which is the most popular of the tours (and free with our VIP pass).  At $12.00, it is an excellent value.  The tour covers about 1/2 mile of the cave, in 1 hour and 20 minutes.  You take an elevator down into the cave, and there are about 700 stairs to climb up/down.  Of all the cave tours we have been on so far (still have several others to blog about), this would be the best tour for anyone who is claustrophobic, as this is a very wide open, cavernous cave.

Photography inside a cave is hard to do, because of the lighting, and lack of depth perception in photographs.  To get an idea of the size of this cave, you can see the stairs in the photo below, showing how far down we will be going.

Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave

And then back up again to another area of the cave..

up through a narrow passage

up through a narrow passage

Into a larger room of the cave.

cavernous area

cavernous area

This cave has several interesting formations.  I thought this piece of flowstone looked like a brain.

"cave brain"

“cave brain”

They call this very thin piece a soda straw.

soda straw

soda straw

Curved pieces of calcite on inclined walls and ceilings create these interesting “curtains”.

curtains

curtains

This piece of “bacon” is over 20 feet long.  It is also formed from calcite, but has magnesium in it as well, which provides the coloring.  This was our favorite formation in the cave.  Again, the photograph does not display the enormity and full color of this piece of “bacon”.

mmmm bacon!

mmmm bacon!

Jewel Cave is well worth the visit if you are in the Black Hills.  It is estimated that only 5% of Jewel Cave has been discovered, based on barometric pressure readings of the cave.  Future generations will be able to continue enjoying new discoveries for years to come.  Many visitors inquire about which cave to visit, Jewel Cave, or Wind Cave.  If you have the time, I would recommend both, as they are very different.  If you are short on time, or a bit claustrophobic, then stick with Jewel Cave.  And in our opinion, the National Park Service has done an excellent job in taking care of and preserving both of these caves.

Quote for the day:  “In the United States the best of our national scenery and our most interesting scientific and historic places are retained in public ownership, for the benefit and use of all people.” – Isabelle F. Story

A foggy visit with friends

My friend Angie and her co-worker Brenda took an extended weekend to drive from Wisconsin to the Black Hills to see Mt. Rushmore, and participate in the 10K Crazy Horse Volksmarch. This was a ‘bucket list’ item for Brenda. They arrived on Friday, June 6, about the same time the fog rolled in for the weekend!

We headed off to “see” Mount Rushmore National Park, in Keystone. Admission to the park is free, but there is an $11.00 fee for a parking pass, which is good for the entire year. Dan and I plan on returning to the park, and I will have a more detailed blog on Mount Rushmore at a later date.

When we arrived it was misty and a thick blanket of fog covered up the Black Hills. The entrance to the park takes you through the Avenue of Flags, which has a flag for every state, in alphabetical order. On a clear day, you can see the Presidents in the background.

Avenue of the Flags

Avenue of the Flags

 

The viewing deck provided this lovely view!

 

where are they?

where are they?

The fog in the Black Hills comes and goes, so we decided to check out the small museum and watch a short film on the making of Mount Rushmore, while waiting to see if the fog would lighten up.

cell phones off, please

cell phones off, please

 

And as luck would have it, the fog lifted enough to see George, Tom, Teddie and Abe!

 

hi guys

hi guys

After that, we went back to Hill City and had a nice dinner at the famous Alpine Inn, which offers two choices for dinner: a 6 ounce bacon wrapped tenderloin or a 9 ounce one.

On Saturday, Brenda, Angie and I met up at Crazy Horse to participate in the annual Volksmarch, which is held annually the first full weekend of June. Crazy Horse also hosts another Volksmarch in late September, during the annual Buffalo round-up at Custer State Park. The Black Hills Volkssport Association organizes the event. The walk is a 10K (6.2 miles) that goes through the woods around Crazy Horse, up to the top of the arm, and then back down with the finish line at the Visitors Center.

 

let the fun begin

let the fun begin

The terrain in some spots was a bit challenging, but even with the fog, the scenery was nice.

 

rocky terrain

rocky terrain

many hills to climb

many hills to climb

let's go girls

let’s go girls

The AT&T cellular “tree” was mixed in to the woods. (Now if Verizon would just put a branch on this, we could get service out here!)

AT&T's tree

AT&T’s tree

 

After an hour of walking, we got our first glimpse of the mountain.

 

first glimpse

first glimpse

A short while later, we were making it around to the back of the mountain.

 

around the corner

around the corner

The top is finally near!

 

almost there

almost there

Congratulations Angie and Brenda!! Another check mark on the bucket list!! And the fog cleared for a few minutes at the top…..

 

congrats Angie & Brenda

congrats Angie & Brenda

 

….but soon returned!

 

the fog is back

the fog is back

We began our descent to the bottom, going past the tunnel under the arm.

 

tunnel under the arm

tunnel under the arm

And on to the finish line!!

 

10K complete!!

10K complete!!

If you are interested in seeing more photos of the view from the top of Crazy Horse, please check out our prior blog post from our orientation day when we took a van ride to the top (click here).

After we finished, I headed back to the camper, as Dan and I had to work from 2pm to close, and Angie and Brenda continued exploring the Black Hills. It was a short, but very enjoyable visit with Angie and Brenda. By late Sunday afternoon, the fog finally lifted, but they had already began the drive back to Wisconsin.

 

Quote for the day: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Green

Wind Cave National Park

One of the benefits of working in the tourism area in the Black Hills is the V.I.P. pass that we receive. The pass is for Visitor Industry Partners (VIP) and allows us free or reduced admission for many of the attractions in the area. This way when a visitor asks “what else is there to do”, we can tell them about the other attractions from our own experience. It’s a very smart marketing idea, and we plan on taking full advantage of our pass on our days off.

Our first stop was to Wind Cave National Park. The park offers five different cave tours in the summer. As part of the VIP pass, we received a complimentary Natural Entrance Tour (normally $12.00 per adult), which is the one tour available year round. Admission to the park is free, and they do have a campground.

Wind Cave

Wind Cave

 

Wind Cave covers over 29,000 acres, with 70 percent natural prairie grassland and 30 percent forest. It is home to many species of animals, including a growing herd of bison. But the main attraction are the cave tours. The cave was first discovered in 1881 by two brothers, Jesse and Tom Bingham, who were out hunting deer. When they heard a loud whistling noise, they followed the sound and discovered a hole in the ground that was blowing air so strong it knocked Jesse’s hat off. The original entrance to the cave is no longer used, as it has a 90 degree turn right when you enter. As such, there is no evidence that bats or animals have entered the cave, because it would be a difficult entry way. At a constant 58 degrees the cave is also too warm for bats to live because they need colder temperatures to hibernate. Dan’s Mom would be happy to know there are no bats in the cave!

This is the original entrance to the cave.

Original entrance

Original entrance

 

The wind, which gave the cave its name, is created by the difference in barometric  pressures inside and outside the cave. On the day we visited, the wind was blowing in to the cave, as demonstrated by this Park Ranger’s red piece of tape.

winds blowing in

winds blowing in

 

The Bingham’s told others in town about their discovery, but there is no evidence they explored the cave further. In 1890, 16-year-old Alvin McDonald began exploring the cave, using candles and string (so he could find his way back out). He kept a diary of his daily explorations, which the Park Service has, and uses to document the history of the cave. The McDonald family blasted open passages to the cave and offered tours for a fee, along with selling specimens from the cave. In 1893, Alvin traveled to Chicago to display specimens at the Columbian Exposition, and to market the cave for tourism. Alvin came down with typhoid fever at the Exposition, and passed away in December, at the very young age of 20.

A land dispute erupted between the McDonald family and a mining company (there was no gold found in the cave), and eventually the government stepped in and took control of the cave. In January of 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established Wind Cave as the seventh National Park (and the first cave), forever protecting the park for future generations.

Studies of the barometric pressure of the cave have estimated that only a small percent of the cave has been discovered. The Park Service is continuing to explore the cave, and it has been “growing” as they continue to find new passages. Right now, there are 141 known miles of the cave, all covering just one square mile of surface area. (ponder that math fact…!)

Wind Cave is famous for formations of Popcorn, Frostwork and Boxwork. Ninety-five percent of all the known Boxwork in caves around the world is found at Wind Cave. On our tour, we saw a lot of Boxwork, and a little Popcorn and Frostwork. The Popcorn and Frostwork is more prevalent in other parts of the cave that can be seen on other tours. Stalagmite and Stalactites are not common in the cave, as it is considered to be a dry cave. The visitor’s center has excellent specimens of the Popcorn and Frostwork, so the following are photographs of the specimens.

Popcorn is formed when small deposits of Calcium Carbonite seep through the limestone.

Popcorn crystals

Popcorn crystals

This is the Popcorn that we saw on part of our Natural Entrance Tour:

Popcorn in the cave

Popcorn in the cave

Water seeps through the porous rock, evaporates, and leaves behind aragonite crystals, called Frostwork.

Frostwork formations

Frostwork formations

We saw one area that had a little frostwork:

frostwork inside the cave

frostwork inside the cave

The Natural Entrance Tour that we took is about 90 minutes in length, and has about 450 stairs to negotiate. It was a rather easy tour to navigate, and we did not feel too enclosed. We would recommend this tour as it was very informative. There was a part in our tour where the Park Ranger turned off all the lights, and lit a candle, so we could see what the early explorers were dealing with. For those so adventurous, they do offer one tour that is strictly by candlelight, so you can experience what touring the cave was like when it was first discovered. They also offer a very strenuous four-hour tour which involves a lot of crawling through narrow passages, so you do need to meet certain “width” restrictions!

The Natural Cave Entrance tour has some narrow passages….

watch your head!

watch your head!

But also some large rooms where everyone can fit, and the rangers will spend several minutes talking about the history of the cave.

wide open rooms

wide open rooms

Boxwork is what this cave is known for, and we saw many examples on the ceiling of the cave.  Boxwork is a honeycomb formation of thin calcite fins that protrude from the walls and ceilings of the cave. The Park Ranger explained that when they were first exploring the cave, using candles, the Boxwork initially looked like giant spider webs.  That is what is documented in the diaries they have of the early cave explorers.

Boxwork formations

Boxwork formations

Photographs of caves are not the best way to see a cave.  We definitely would recommend a visit to Wind Cave (remember…no bats!)

inside wind cave

inside wind cave

 

Quote of the Day:  “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear.  Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave.  While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.” – Joseph Campbell