The elevator doors opened and there was a small, cool room waiting which had been created out of concrete. There was a door leading into the cave with a small flag attached near one of the crevice. That small flag would show which direction the wind was blowing caused by the change in pressure from the surface to the cave. This cave is always attempting to equalize the atmospheric pressure from within to that on the surface creating a wind either entering or exiting. At the time of our entrance into this cave the flag was standing away from the door indicating the pressure was higher inside and was trying to escape to the outside. As we waited for everyone in the tour group to arrive inside these close quarters, my mind began racing and a trapped feeling crept in knowing that the only way out was through that elevator which was at the top of the shaft for the moment. The walls appeared to close in and panic was felt climbing into my head. Quickly I started work on calming down with the exercises I had rehearsed many times before this moment. I was in a parking garage under a building I was familiar with. Immediately my mind relaxed a little and in no time the ranger opened the door leading us into the cave. Shortly after getting into the passageways amazement took over and the claustrophobia was gone never to return in Wind Cave.
The cave was cool as it stays at 53 0F year around requiring the use of light jackets but not as dark as I was anticipating. These main passageways that we would be using were very well lit in most areas so we could see where we were going and cave formations. It is unbelievable how large some of the rooms are inside and the passageways didn’t feel tight at all. I was in complete adventure mode as I had never experienced anything like this before. Sure growing up there would be caves to explore but those were merely a place to hide without much more. The colors and formations of these rocks where unlike anything I had imagined. It was now understood how people could spend days exploring different areas inside of caves to uncover mysteries that no one else had discovered. To see something never seen before in the world would be incredible. I don’t think caving would be for me but to see inside some of the easier passageways was incredible. Some of the rock formations such as boxwork, popcorn, and crystals encountered along with the huge boulders hanging overhead provided an amazing experience. There was more than once that the thought of one of these rocks falling entered my mind. Just a quickly a reminder that these stones have been in place for a very long time and the likelihood that they would fall at just this moment was probably less than being injured in a car accident or even being struck by lightning.
There were hundreds of stairs built into the passageways of Wind Cave allowing us to descend into some passageways and ascend into others. Over the course of our tour we changed altitude by 150 feet giving many different perspectives of these rocks and the forces that created them. Some of the rooms were so large that houses could fit inside with room to spare. These rooms made it easy to forget about being hundreds of feet below the surface. It was difficult to keep hands off of these rocks as much as possible because there were crystals or boxwork within touching distance. However, the importance of not touching was presented before entering the cave due to the potential for degradation from either the rocks breaking or oils from our skin deteriorating the minerals that make up these formations. Our tour wound in and out, up and down, and through these cavernous passageways with only a small number being small enough to sneak through. The end of the tour arrived and left us wanting to see more another time. As we exited the cave, that flag that was blowing out of the cave and changed directions and was now blowing into the cave indicating a change in pressure so that the atmospheric pressure outside the cave was now greater than inside. Back into the small chamber to await our elevator ride back to the surface with nothing but memories to last a lifetime to occupy our thoughts.