In the morning we got up quite early and drove to Wind Cave National Park. It is both a spectacular park about AND below ground. We played around int he visitors center while waiting for our tour. We also worked on another Junior Ranger program.
We learned that the cave breathes. Today the cave was breathing OUT and 6.78 mph.
When we were on the tour we saw the natural entrance (it was the size of the ranger’s hat). The air was certainly blowing OUT.
Every cave seems to have it’s own uniqueness. Wind Cave has miles and miles of caves all stacked and squeezed into a 1 mile cube. Their famous formation was box work. Box work was formed with parts of the limestone washed away and minerals filled the cracks. The limestone continued to erode leaving really neat honeycomb like structures in the cave.
We had an amazing guide, Ranger Sam, and he was able to answer all the questions we fired at him. After the tour we wrapped up our books and went and turned them in and received our badges after the pledge.
Up next was Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. This is quite a strange place. It was once a sinkhole filled with water. Mammoths came to drink and fell in, at least that is what they THINK happened. Oddly they have only proved all the skeletons to be those of male mammoths. They side is excavated in-situ. That means they left the bones in place and just cleaned out the dirt and limestone.
We had to wear funny headphones to hear our guide. It was neat to see all the work that is being done at the site still. They have plans for a lot more excavation.
A giant building was constructed around the site to preserve the fossils and bones.
We had such a great time Mom found out they had mini camps starting tomorrow so we booked a few classes and will come back again.
We are staying at Custer State Park in South Dakota. We have this park as home base for a week or so and we will be taking little day trips out to explore. Last night when we arrived we set up camp and then enjoyed a drive around the park to get the lay of the land. We saw lots of buffalo and many pronghorn. This male wanted to play roadblock.
We spent the evening watching a movie at the campground theatre about the Buffalo Roundup. Every year they round up all the buffalo, vaccinate them and then sell off part of the heard. They keep on average 1500 buffalo! Amazing!
We took a morning trip out to Jewel Cave and explored the amazing Jewel Cave National Park.
Their specialty in cave formation is dogstooth spar. It is a crystal like formation and very pretty.
We had a great tour in the caves.
This strip of cave bacon was about 20 feet long! Spectacular!
We successfully earned our Junior Ranger badges and patches.
After the caves we headed to Mount Rushmore. They charge you to park, even if you have a National Parks pass. The food was expensive but we had to eat. We worked on our Junior Ranger books, watched a film about the making of the monument and toured the museum.
Mount Rushmore was pretty amazing. The walking trail that takes you closer was under construction so we just viewed from the patio.
I loved the flags from all of the US states and territories.
We earned our badges and took yet another Junior Ranger pledge.
We headed back to the campground and Dad dropped us all off at the visitors center for a Junior Naturalist class. We had a nature scavenger hunt and had to find things like bugs, scat, animal fun and feathers. E and I teamed up and got done first.
We headed back to the campground and relaxed around a campfire. We went to another campground movie on the history of the park. We had to attend the movies for credit towards their Junior Naturalist program. It is a very hard program to complete but we are motivated.
This means something! Welcome to Devil’s Tower National Monument. The FIRST National Monument and also the film site for several movies including Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We watched the film last night to be prepared! We learned that the campground we were staying at was the “Dark side of the moon” landing sight!
The campground had a cool playground that E and I spent all of our free time at.
I loved the climbing dome. It became my battle arena.
I could have stayed on the merry go round for hours!
Shh. Don’t tell my friends I am such a goof!
We had a nice site right by the playground and the front of the park.
You could see Devil’s Tower from the campsite.
In the morning we headed up to The Tower (they don’t use the word Devil’s to refer to the tower). We stopped at Prairie Dog Town. Boy were there lots of them out and about. Even hundreds of babies!
The town seemed to extend forever into a huge field.
Enough prairie dogs for now. Time to head up to the mountain for a guided ranger hike.
We had an excellent guide who knew a lot of the history of the area. We saw many prayer flags ties in trees from native americans who use the area as ceremonial grounds.
It was neat to see the prism like structure of the rocks.
The guide kept stopping and listening. She heard ceremonial drums. We stopped several times but no one else could heat them. I finally figured out it was my water bottle bumping my leg and making a drumming sound.
Our hike took us all around the base of the tower. We learned that you were allowed to rock scramble up to the tree line. We begged and pleaded to go.
I am the blue dot in the middle.
Up up up I go!
The bounders are quite large!
E and I made it to the tree line and then headed back down.
Keeping with our strange weather we had more big storms pass through.
We went out to dinner to celebrate Mom’s 40th birthday! We had a great meal and came home and called it a night. E and I played at the playground until dark.
We spent several days in Yellowstone so it all seems to run together. Many long days of hiking and exploring were done.
Our campsite had a snow pile when we arrived and we had fun playing and building in that.
To start we learned that Yellowstone sits upon a caldera. This is a former volcano but still has an active magma chamber underneath. The area is filled with fumerals, hot springs, geysers and mudpots.
The bison were all over the place. It is nursery season so many have calves underfoot. They heard block the roadways making “bison jams” as the cars can’t move if the bison are in the way. One heard came so close Mom could have touched them when she was taking photos.
We spent out first day exploring Old Faithful knowing that the Memorial Day weekend was approaching and crowd levels would multiply. We arrived about 30 minutes before the projected eruption. It was only 4 min part he eruption time and lasted for 3 minutes and 54 seconds. We learned how to predict when he next geyser would erupt. We guessed 10:50 and it was actually 10:54. Not too bad. They give a +/- 10 minute window for all eruptions.
Emmerson and I got along great all day. We snuggled and ate a snack before the eruption. I even snuggled him and read to him about the Old Faithful Geyser and others in the area.
I worked on my bubble blowing skills.
Finally the eruption came! It was SO neat!
Next we hiked the Upper Geyser Basin trail. We saw lots of evidence of wildlife and even a few animals. This little guy is a pika! They have no tails.
We saw fumerals.
We saw hot springs.
We saw geysers.
It was amazing to see all the colors in the hot springs created by the microbes living in the water.
It was a very rainy day but we managed to stay on the edge of the front so didn’t get too soaked. On our hike back we crossed paths with a coyote. He kept his distance as did we. We were finally able to pass.
We opted to participate in a Junior Scientist program and learned a lot about the thermal features in the area. We had to use an infrared thermometer to check pool temperatures. We had to prove that indeed Yellowstone sits upon an active volcano. We were successful.
We also hiked at the mud volcanos, Artist Paint Pots, and several other thermal areas.
I loved the mud volcanos. I could have watched them for hours.
I though one of the names was fantastic. There was a fumeral called Black Dragon’s Caldron. It looked like it was spitting out fire and steam.
We got stuck in our share of bison, elk, bear or unknown jams on the roads over the holiday weekend. People don’t really think. They stop their cars in the middle of the road, hop out and run towards the animals snapping pictures the whole way. Recently a young girl was gored by a bison. You are supposed to keep 25 years away but people get within a few feet to take a photo with their iPad! UGH!
We did happen across a mother black bear with her cubs (one black and one cinnamon colored). Dad drove slowly as Mom snapped the best photo she could get across the car in a moving truck!
We explored the Mammoth Hot Springs area and hiked the area of the terraces. They were cool how the layers were formed by the hot springs bubbling up the minerals to the surface.
The landscape is forever changing. Sometimes the areas close off and then reopen in other spots. So you can see the extinct areas are dry and hot looking.
The active areas are colorful and wet.
After our hike we caught a ranger program on Big Horn Sheep! We learned all about their adaptations. I thought it was interesting that they have very keen eyesight, strong skulls and horns, and special feet for gripping and climbing.
We earned our Junior Ranger patches and had a fun ceremony in front of the fireplace at the visitors center.
We had dinner near Old Faithful and saw it erupt another time.
I was defeated by dessert!
On the drive to the next point the road came to a stand still. Cars lined both sides and even the middle of the road. There was no going anywhere! We were stuck… in a BEAR JAM! By the time the cars did inch forward we caught a glimpse of the bears up in the woods. People were still out of the cars walking towards the bears. We snapped a shot while in motion and headed towards our next adventure spot.
We took a super long hike at Artist Point. It was interesting to know that the thermal feathers are still active here as well and constantly change the colors in the valley.
A rainbow popped out for us to see as we were looking at the falls.
We saw a red squirrel that was VERY noisy!
We hiked along the ridge and then down to a few lakes.
We continued to explore more thermal areas. We saw Steamboat Geyser. It is predictable in the short term but the major eruptions are not that predictable.
We saw more hot springs. The sulfer smell is very strong.
The area was very beautiful with all the thermal features. Even the crowds of people didn’t distract from the beauty.
We had a lazy day the last day in Yellowstone.
We stopped at Fishing Bridge for a ranger program and got to explore some animal pelts.
Mom did laundry, we changed and cleaned up our beds, Dad made dinner and worked on refreshing the water holding tank. We wrote in our journals and caught up on other cleaning tasks.
Sometimes we just sit and read and behave!
We are heading into the last hurrah of the big plans of the trip. Up next is Devil’s Tower National Monument and then off to Custer State Park for Mt Rushmore and several days of exploring and celebrating birthdays. Birthday week is upon us Mom (28th of May), Dad (June 1) and Breighton (June 3).
We drove about 2.5 hours down to Jackson, Wyoming for a day of parades, crafts, exploring and a rodeo! The day started VERY wet. We managed to find a covered stop on the parade route. It was Old West Days and part of the celebration was a parade and activities in the town square.
Just as the parade started the rain paused.
We just happened to be at the stage area so got to see all the groups preform. We loved the Golden Girls dance troupe (women 65-94) as they danced to Uptown Funk!
One lady even did a huge split at the end!
I loved all the horses and carriages.
We saw a bagpipe group. Weird for in the middle of the west!
After the parade we wandered town a bit to let the crowds die down. We had some baked goods and ate pizza for lunch.
We were able to get in a few crafts before the rain picked back up. I loved making imprints into a leather necklace.
We also made dipped candles.
We wandered some more, grabbed a few groceries, hit the hardware store and found mexican for dinner.
After a drive out to see a historic bridge we headed back to Jackson for the rodeo!
We had great seats in the second row behind a couple from Jacksonville, Florida.
Sorry the photos aren’t the best but I can promise you we laughed, cringed, gasped and nearly cried watching these brave people on bulls and horses.
They even had a little cowboy that was only 5 years old ride a bull, with help.
This was an insanely long day. After the rodeo ended at 10pm we had to drive the 2.5 hours back to Yellowstone. We were all exhausted again.