Rare boxwork formations and fossilized coral, Wind Cave National Park
After filling up the tank in Hot Springs, we headed off to Wind Cave National Park, so named because of the wind blasts that blow out of the natural entrance. We took a guided ranger tour of the cave, which lasted a little over an hour. What's interesting about this cave is, it does not have the normal stalactites and stalagmites you would normally expect to see in a cave. (Those things that look like stone "icicles" ) This cave is know for its unique "boxwork" formations, that can be found only in one other part of the world. The ranger said this is probably because this cave was actually formed underwater, not a dry cave with dripping water over the eons, making the formations you would expect to see in a cave this size.
Wind Cave Visitor Center and Headquarters
Tyler had never been in a cave like this before, and we all enjoyed the tour, narrated by the ranger over several stops along the way. At the end of the line, there is an elevator that brings you back to the visitors center. This is good, because you only have to hike downhill, and don't have to walk back up! We were waiting for the elevator to bring us back up (only 10 at a time), when we saw another group pass us going into the cave. Shortly after they left, we saw a little boy about 8 years old, crying because he wanted to go in the cave, but his mother was claustrophobic and afraid to go in. His Dad and sisters had already gone in and moved on. His Mom wanted to bring him to his Dad, but she was terrified to enter the cave! Tyler felt sorry for him, and offered to bring the little boy to his Dad.
Ranger gives a talk at the natural entrance
He perked up when he heard that, and I wouldn't let Tyler go in with him alone, so off the 3 of us went, back into the cave to find his Dad! We left Dawn behind to tell the ranger lady, who had brought a load of people up. OOOH BOY what a mess this would turn out to be!! We assumed that the group was in a big cavern just around the corner, but it was empty when we got there. We ran down about 100 yards back into the cave, but saw and heard nothing! We figured the group must have gone down a different passage near the elevator, and ran back to it. It went down another 50 yards, and turned out to be a dead end! Then I remembered a split in the cave we had passed on the way in...they had to have gone that way! We ran back, now we've been in there 15 minutes by ourselves, with an 8 year old I never met before!! We finally found the group, handed little Chris of to his Dad, (Who was very surprised to see us!) and ran back to the elevator.
Decending into the cave...complete with railings and reflective paint!
The group ranger told us to come back, but there was no time for explanations. We didn't want to get stuck down there! When we got back, everyone was gone, including Dawn! We waited about a minute, when the doors opened, and it was our ranger. "Boy, am I glad to see you!" she said. Likewise! We explained what happened, and she laughed it off....but when we got to the top, the head ranger had something to say about it! Apparently, they heard third hand that a couple of little boys were lost in the cave, and scrambled the cave rescue team! Dawn said 3 guys with ropes and helmet lights had rushed down to look for us...and the scaredy-cat mom who started it all was more freaked out than ever! I had to reassure her that we had reunited little Chris with his Dad and didn't just leave him in the cave!! The head ranger understood, but asked us to never go into the cave unaccompanied again. I guess it's true what they say...no good deed goes unpunished! That was our Wind Cave adventure. Well, on to the next stop!