Unlayering History In South Dakota!

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Day 77 – Friday July 6, 2007 – Wind Cave National Park & Mammoth Site, South Dakota

When I left you yesterday, we were pulling into a campground somewhere in South Dakota at 10:30pm with a plan to sleep in the car.  Well, I had never tried to sleep in this car before.  To make a long story short, after suffering for two and a half hours I was so desperate to sleep, that without much care, I laid a blanket on the grass at the campsite and laid down and slept on the ground.  Now, in my defense, there were no bears or really dangerous animals in the area, so my decision wasn’t particularly careless.  Being that I slept outside, I awoke around 5:45am when the sun rose brightly in the sky.  I have to say, the coolest thing that came from this whole situation, is that when I opened my eyes, about ten feet from me, was a deer snacking on the grass.  Unfortunately, when she saw that I was awake, it didn’t take long for her and four other deer that were within a close distance, to run back into the forest.

After slowly getting up, we finally pulled out of the campground at 7am to get some caffeine in our systems in order to survive the long day ahead.  On our drive to the store, we had a very close encounter with two Bisen.  In fact, they crossed the street right behind our car.  After getting a jolt of caffeine, we arrived at the Wind Cave National Park Visitor’s Center when it opened at 8am and booked our tour.  Unlike Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Wind Cave NP does not let visitors go into the cave without a park ranger.  Also unlike Carlsbad, the tours are not included in the National Parks Pass.  We purchased a ticket for the first tour at 8:40am and looked around at  some of the exhibits in the visitor’s center.

Wind Cave National Park was the first cave national park and the seventh overall.  It was signed into law as a National Park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.  Wind Cave is also known to be the fourth longest cave in the world.  The one thing that is unique to Wind Cave and sets it apart from any other cave is it’s boxwork.  Now I have considered explaining what boxwork is, but I don’t think I can do it justice.  Here is a link that explains it better than I ever could!  FYI, Wind Cave contains 95% of the boxwork found in the world.

Our tour ended about 9:45am and we quickly got on our way again.  The next stop was twenty miles down the road in Hot Springs, South Dakota, at their Mammoth Site.  Mammoth Site is the largest collection of Mammoth Bones in existence.  In fact, it is an active archaeological site where tours are given for a fee.  We did, indeed pay the hefty price for the tour and entered with excitement and an open mind. 

When we walked into the pit area, our guide explained the history of the site and how all of the fossils ended up there.  The story goes something like this.  Basically, about 26,000 years ago, this area was a water hole with steep sides.  When mammoths would come over to the hole to get a drink of water, they would fall in and be unable to exit.  Eventually, they would starve to death.  To this date, they have uncovered the bones of 56 mammoths.  The other interesting fact about this place is that these are actual bones and not fossils.  To demonstrate this, Shawn Reece and a couple of other children assisted our guide by carrying around a bone that everyone was able to touch.  At $8 a head, admission was steep, but I think the Mammoth Site proved to be a worthy place to visit.

After about 45 minutes at the Mammoth Site we got back in the car for another drive, because these days, we don’t stay in one place for long.  Our final destination tonight was to be Cody, Wyoming.  Cody, Wyoming was founded by that very famous Cody, Buffalo Bill.  We arrived at the KOA campground around 8pm and checked into the cabin we had booked for the night.  This happens to be the first cabin of our trip thus far.  To procure the cheapest one star hotel in this area, one would need to pay in excess of $100.  I just am not willing to do that.  

Tomorrow we are going about 50 miles west into Yellowstone.  While we don’t have more than one day to spend there, we do plan to make the best of it by seeing as much as we can. Everyday we are making more and more progress and by Monday we plan to be in Seattle.  To put that into perspective, from Monday July 2 to Monday July 9 we will have driven from Chicago to Seattle.  That is quite a bit of driving if you ask me, but I promise that we will survive. (I am sure that you really feel sorry for us!)  Once again, the scenery is beautiful and we are enjoying every bit of it!

The Coomer Family


 

 


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