Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Black Hills' last frontier

Two of the world's longest caves are located in the Black Hills, just an hour's drive from where we are spending the weekend.

Naturally, we went out there and checked them out. We are in a pretty awesome transportation situation right now because our friends and hosts Jeff and Karen are letting us borrow their car!

Jewel Cave was the best. We took a "lantern tour": No electric lights, tour group of only thirteen, and everyone got an old fashion oil lantern. We had to crawl through narrow passages and climb ladders, making it the most rigorous cave tour I've ever been on, and also the most fun.

The camera flash ruins the ambiance, but you can get an idea of the type of terrain.

We saw bats, fossils, and lots of crystal formations.

Andrea is on the lookout for our hunky tour guide, whom she had a major crush on.

The next cave was Wind Cave. It is also extraordinary large, and is famous for having ninety percent of the boxwork formations in the world. Pretty big deal if you are a geology geek. Both of these caves were formed by acidic groundwater, and the stone is all sedimentary because the Great Plains area was all below a giant inland sea.

It was easier to walk in Wind Cave but the tour group was huge and there were some bratty kids. Still very fun.

The most exciting thing about these caves is that the majority of the passages have not been explored. In Jewel Cave, something like ninety five percent of the cave is believed to be unexplored. Groups of spelunkers are charting miles of passageways every year, and anyone can volunteer to help. I think I'd be doing this if I lived in the Black Hills.


Jeff Sykes said...

The Corn Palace?! Oustanding! So far that wins "Best Example Of Hokey Americana" in my opinion.

Good luck and stay hydrated. It is 100 degrees in Chicago right now, and I got winded just walking over to Subway for lunch. On the trip back I stopped for water. After all, its a long 1.5 blocks. You just wouldn't understand how far that is.

Enjoy the trip. And while you're up there, please make sure no Canadians are sneaking across the border. SHOOT ON SIGHT! They are coming down here to reclaim Wayne Gretzky and Pamela Anderson. But if they say they want Celine Dion back, please let them through.

-Jeff Sykes

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niki said...

A & I!! I just found your blog and read through all your adventures. Keep on rockin and call me when you get to Rhode Island! love niki

rhea the vicarious said...

the landscapes you've posted are insane. they make me wanna cry or someother emotion that i dont know the word for. thank you for letting me live vicariously through you! <3 rhea