Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 4 (Aug 10): Rapid City & Black Hills

Art alley in Rapid City
Chris looked out of the hotel window in the morning, and was very excited asking me to check out the graffiti in the alley behind the hotel.  

Rapid City is an interesting historical looking town with sculptures of famous figures at almost every cross street.

Black Hills

Black Hills is just about an hour away from the Badlands but the landscape is completely different. The native americans called this Black Hills after its rolling layers of mountains (looking black, more like dark green/blue) and the Badlands was called White Hills.  The French gave the Badlands its name for the literal meaning of the name.

The region encompasses Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave, Hot Springs Mammoth Site, and the Needles Highway.  These mentioned are just a small fraction of the Black Hills.

Mount Rushmore

Wind Cave is 320 million years old, now ranked the world's fourth longest cavern.  The largest is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

This cave has unique formations such as boxwork, frostwork and flowstone, not found in other caves.  

This boxwork is formed by residues brought in from a flood over 320 million years ago that remained between rocks or stones at that time.  Over hundreds of millions of years, the softer rocks eroded, leaving behind this box looking thing called boxwork.  Boxwork is so unique because a flood has to happen prior to the cave being formed.  

 95% of boxwork in the world is in Wind Cave.

The crystal looking formation above is called frostwork.  They were formed over hundreds of millions of years due to humidity.  Jewel Cave (on the other side of Black Hills) has more of these, hence the name.

Flowstone, the name is given after its look that resembles flowing water

The graffiti above is left behind by a group of explorers in 1892. Yes, 120 years ago.  It looks like it was written on yesterday.  

Wild Life Loop

This is the first time we are just feet away from wild life.  We saw herds of bison numbering approximately 500, mule deer, pronghorn deer, burros, and prairie dogs.  Hundreds of prairie dogs and they are loud!


Pronghorn deer

Prairie dogs

Wild Turkey

On our way back, we encountered a traffic jam in the park.  Hundreds of bison were taking their evening stroll and a herd of them started walking toward the cars.  I was scared as the bison (the one on the bottom left corner of this picture) was walking next to us and it is bigger than our car!  You can see it's almost the size of the SUV covered in the picture.  We had to wait and slowly squeeze our way in and that delayed us for a good 45 minutes, but well worth the wait.  I've seen more bison than I ever need to in my life.

We took a break on wild life loop to have lunch at State Game Lodge.  It was built in 1922 as a summer white house for President Coolidge and was also frequented by President Eisenhower.  It's now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

French Creek at the base of Mount Coolidge

Along Needles Highway

One cluster of many Needles around

Driving in between Needles

Notice the trees?  

Final stop: Hotel in Sundance