Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Black Hills Custer, SD, Sunday, 11 September 2011 11:20pm

I got up before dawn to try to take some pictures of the Milky Way over Devil's Tower, but I was thwarted. My sky atlas iPad App was absolutely correct about when the (nearly-full) Moon would set, but by that time (6am), the Sun was close enough to rising that the sky was too light to see any stars.

I went back to sleep. I've been sleeping very well while camping. The keychain thermometer I got at a sporting goods store in Billings (Montanans are apparently very serious about their camping. This sporting goods store had a camping section that would put any camping-specific store I've been to before to shame.) claims that it was over 40F while I was waiting for the moonset. Toasty!

I rode some pretty roads, stopping in Newcastle for lunch and then continuing into South Dakota. I meant to visit Jewel Cave and Wind Cave today, but all of the tours at Jewel Cave were full. I got a ticket for tomorrow morning and continued to Wind Cave.

Wind Cave is the fifth-longest tunnel system in the world, and is a "dry" cave, without enough water flow to form stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone. Instead, it has a feature called "boxwork", which is believed to be the remains of cracks in the original limestone. The cracks filled with harder material before water eroded out the limestone to form the cave. Now all that's left is the negative image, stone where the gaps used to be and empty space where the limestone was.

Wind Cave National Park is also an animal preserve. There's a large herd of buffalo. I also saw a coyote, a hare, and my first pronghorns!

North of Wind Cave is Custer State Park, which includes the Needles Highway, which is a spectacular road for motorcycling. Lots of tight turns as it winds around and through the hills (there are several one-lane tunnels through solid rock). There are some breathtaking rock formations called "Cathedral Spires".


g-na (Anonymously) Monday, 12 September 2011 7:25am

Pronghorns! That's exciting (of course, I love hearing about the animals); I've never even seen one in a zoo. Your trip sounds wonderful and I hope you're having a good time.