Wind Cave National Park is not one of the parks on our monopoly board but it is close to Mt. Rushmore and one that peaked our interest. As I continued to research this park I became a little nervous and unsure about taking any of the excursions into the cave as I tend to get nervous in dark, tight spaces. Many other people go into this cave and come out unharmed so I should be able to do the same. Several days were spent mentally preparing for this adventure and how I would have to think about things if a bout with claustrophobia presented itself. I’m used to riding in elevators both above ground and several stories below ground so that is how I planned on dealing with being 300 – 400 feet below ground. Just image being in a parking ramp that is under a building. I’ve experienced underground parking areas numerous times so this should be fairly easy to do. Let’s see how well this works.
The drive from Custer, SD to Wind Cave is beautiful. This is located in the black hills so there are lots of pine covered hills and valleys to wind around and through continually challenging us to examine the landscape as it quickly passed by. In order to get to Wind Cave we drove through Custer State Park which also has a lot of great scenery and could take many days of exploring but we were focused on our destination so there were no stops before reaching Wind Cave National Park. While stopped at the entrance sigh we were pleasantly greeted by a mule deer off in the distance and the barking of many prairie dogs as there was a town close by. Continuing on we quickly came upon a traffic stop due to a herd of buffaloes crossing the road. They were in no hurry as I’m sure this is a daily occurrence and possibly entertaining to the buffaloes to see how many people they can get to stop and watch. After several minutes an opening arrived for us to drive through without the danger of one of these large animals colliding with us or many of the other people stopped and observing this magnificent sight. On towards the visitor center.
Despite the main attraction – the cave, this park contains thousands of acres which include pine covered hills and vast prairies. The cave was our primary interest so we wanted to leave enough time to adequately explore it before experiencing some of these other attractions. Once at the visitor’s center a tour into the cave was decided upon and purchased. Our wait was not long so the few moments before going down into the earth were spent looking over the displays and learning about the formation of Wind Cave. There were a number of tours available which would have been interesting but we chose the Fairgrounds tour which is about ½ mile long and explores some of the great formations in this cave. As time approached for this adventure we met at the designated spot where a ranger was waiting to guide us to the elevator that would drop us into the cave. This elevator only holds a small number of people so we had to wait in line until everyone was lowered several hundred feet beneath the surface. I tried to be towards the back of the line to minimize the amount of time spent waiting underground before entering the cave passages. Our opportunity to go down arrived and we entered the elevator. If there was a time for claustrophobia, this was it being packed in this little box slowly descending to a place natural light does not exist.