As luck would have it, Dear Husband read that Wind Cave National Park was giving free tours the Saturday we were in town. He read to arrive early, be prepared for crowds, and other “there will be a lot of people so please be patient” commentary. The night prior, we showered and prepared our lunches. We arrived early hoping our boys could wait with the tiniest complaining possible. When the parking lot was not even half full we were a little surprised. Still, while Dear Husband was parking and sorting out coats for the boys, I headed in swiftly, trying to get our names on the list.
“Are you ready for a tour?” the ranger asked.
“How many in your party?”
“Four,” I said.
“You can’t take that bag in, but you can take your camera.”
“Sounds good,” I replied as I was getting the lowdown.
“Okay, grab your party, you can go right away,” she pushed.
“Now?” I gasped. “Like, right now?”
I ran back to the car, stripped my camera bag off, jammed a few things into my pockets all while telling the family, “NOW, now, like, the tour is this exact second.”
We shuffled in, downstairs, along the path, and caught the tour at their very first stop. Dear Husband and I got some stink eye from other guests, like we didn’t really get permission for what we were doing. However, we just mashed into the edge of the group, pointed the ranger out to the boys, and looked at each other unable to determine how in the world we got into the tour the second we arrived!
We’ve done caves before. We lived near Mammoth Caves, but also have taken the boys to Jewel Cave, and a handful of others. Each has its own stories, history, and feel. This one has an interesting hole entrance where the air rushes in our out based on outdoor temperatures and humidity and other reasons I’m not privy to. The most interesting thing about this cave to me is the boxwork. In fact, I’m pretty sure the ranger stated 95% of the world’s boxwork is in that single cave. Or, some really huge number close to that. She explained how the boxwork formed (acid eating away the minerals around that tough calcite) and stressed the importance of NOT touching it. We did not, however in the visitor’s center they have a piece you can touch. What looks like lace is indeed so strong and solid, the boys and I were surprised. (I absolutely recommend touching that!)
As always, the boys participated in the Junior Ranger program. I am sorry to say this was the worst experience we ever had with it. The booklet took way too long for a single visit. Both boys even cried. The worst was when the ranger grilled them for EVERY SINGLE question they answered. We love Junior Ranger. I do not want it to be too easy or cushy. Indeed I want the boys to learn about the surroundings of each wonderful park we visit. However, when we left, we talked about how awful we felt during that experience. We promised the boys ice cream, we all just needed a break.
At Dairy Queen in Custer, the boys ordered some infused blizzard concoction. The worker brought three blizzards to us (I ordered something else), flipped them over, where one promptly plopped out on to a stack of local tourist papers. The other two stayed in tact. I’m sorry that happened to that girl but it was truly just the laugh we needed!