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Monday, March 27, 2017

Wind Cave National Park and South Dakota's Black Hills

So we headed north from Colorado through Wyoming to Rapid City, South Dakota.

As we traveled through Wyoming we noticed the wide open space. We stopped in Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming, and remarked how small it was compared to other capitals we'd visited in the past. We looked up and realized that Wyoming is the smallest state based on population, about 550,000 people. It's another state that has 75 mph speed limits on two lane roads it is miles and miles of pasture and prairie.

We stayed in Rapid City, SD. We had time Sunday night so we drove through Custer State Park and their Wildlife Loop. During the drive we saw two huge elk herds up close and lots of buffalo, deer and antelope.

Monday we went Wind Cave, the first "Cave" National Park. The National Park Service works very hard to protect these national treasures. When we purchased our cave tour tickets they asked if we'd been in other caves, and of course we answered yes. Because of this they disinfected our shoes to make sure we did not bring any bacteria from the previous caves that we'd visited. White-nose syndrome is a fungus killing many cave bats, and the park service is doing its best not to spread it.

Wind Cave has +140 miles of passages and more are still being discovered today. It is a very different cave than Mammoth and Carlsbad. They commented on how we were going to be 250 ft deep at the end of our tour before we would take an elevator to the top and all we could think is walking out of Carlsbad from over 850 ft underground (it's all perspective). Fascinating formations in the cave that differed from formations we'd seen in other caves.

We also had a chance to hike on a trail to the highest point in the park. The vistas were stunning as you looked across the Black Hills and the prairies. unfortunately we saw many areas where trees were damaged from fire, beetle infestations and even high winds. These pine forests are both beautiful and quite fragile.

We saw so much wildlife over our visit - deer, antelope, elk, buffalo, turkey, prairie dogs, mountain goats and heard the coyotes howling.  Such a beautiful area!
Welcome to Wind Cave--an antelope is in the see the red circle.
Mountain goats were not shy at all, kind of ignored us.
The three 'stooges' (aka, elk) looking for the rest of the herd.

Prairie dogs enjoying a warm, sunny day.
Gorgeous vistas seen during our hike.
This guy is so big - he goes anywhere he wants!
Pine forests affected by fire, beetles and wind - so sad!
The rest of the elk herd.....

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