Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Labor Day

So the reason there has been an uncommonly long break here is because the ear doctor and I took off for a long weekend over Labor Day. His b-day is Sept 4, so every year we get to take an awesome trip to celebrate.

This year we decided to go to Mt. Rushmore. I was a little nervous about going to somewhere called the black hills and the badlands. Judging from the titles, I wasn't really expecting much natural beauty. Boy was I wrong.

Friday we took off after work and stayed the night in the glorious Express Inn in Cheyenne, WY. Turns out, when you book a room at a 2 star hotel to save money you get pretty much what you pay for. I knew we were in trouble when we got to our room at we weren't allowed to reverse the pull of gravity and make our cigarette smoke go down.

On the plus side the phone specifically positioned to be used while going to the bathroom was sure a convenience.

And the huge mold colony growing on the shower curtain wet the ear doctor's appetite.

We woke up early Saturday morning and high tailed it out of Wyoming. The first stop on our trip...jewel cave. This cave is the second longest set of caves in the world. The ear doctor and I love a cave tour, and this one was no different. The cool thing about this tour is that we decided to take the lantern tour. The cave was an unfinished path and only lit by the small paraffin oil lanterns.

The ear doctor was brave because he had the power of the ThunderCats with him. I was a little more nervous.

After going through the caves we found our lovely campsite at the Big Pine Campground and set up was a beautiful campground. Luckily the tent sites and the RV sites were separated by a big hill. Not that I don't love RVers, but the glare from their TVs at night can be a little distracting when you're trying to get your s'more on.

That night we had the most difficult time lighting a fire. We tried and tried until we had to throw up our hands in defeat. The ear doctor took this defeat to heart and the next morning took out his frustration on the stupid fire "pit".

In case you can't tell what you're looking at, it is a cement slab with a welded metal box on top. Guess what sucks? Trying to build a fire that requires a lot of oxygen in a 3 sided closed box. We figured out what the problem was in the light of the next day....the paper was coated in a flame retardant wax and the wood we thought was nice and dry had really been sitting in a dark, wet box for 3 weeks....go figure.

Sunday morning we went to see the crazyhorse monument. This is a pretty cool undertaking that I had no knowledge of before heading out there. This guy was commissioned by the Lakota elders to carve the likeness of Crazy Horse into a cliff. He started in the 50's, all alone, and started working. He spent the first 2 years just getting his equipment up the mountain. Since then his family has worked on the mountain without any funding from the government, despite being offered it. They didn't want anything to do with a handout. This monument has been built solely on private funds. I love that. When I'm a millionaire this is the kind of thing that I will support.

We needed a break from sight-seeing so we found a place for milk shakes. Butter pecan....soooo good!

Then, we headed off to the main event...Mt. Rushmore. We decided to pay the $5 and get the hand held guided tour. So worth the investment. I love learning all I can about the building of monuments and stuff like that.

Before heading back to the Big Pine Campground, we stopped off at the "cosmos mystery area" which was pretty much a cool little house built at a strange angle on the side of a hill. The whole experience plays with the inner conflict between what you see and what you feel. The ear doctor was all about it, being really into balance and the workings of the inner ear. I was really excited because a lot of the same sensations we experienced are experienced by astronauts in space. Yes, we are both big dorks.

Monday morning we pack up camp and drove to yet another set of caves (see, I told we loved caves), Wind Cave. This tour was a lot like the other tours we've been on with electric lighting and cement paths. Wind cave is the 4th longest cave at 125 miles long. The crazy thing is that all 125 miles are under 1 square mile of ground on the surface. That means a very dense, curvy, vertical set of caves. After entering the cave we went down about 150 stairs to get to the tour. Also, Wind Cave has 95% if the world's "box work" formations. Everywhere inside of the cave seemed to be covered in thin webbing. It kind of looked like the cross sections of bone marrow, or a sea sponge. Very cool. I wish my old roommie Nikita had been there to explain it to me (she's a geologist now).

After the cave we drove into Custer State Park. What a beautiful place! I kept singing "home, home on the range" and wishing that we had a log cabin on the property. We took the long wildlife loop in the south-east corner of the park, and guess what? We found ourselves in the middle of a wild herd of buffalo! The ear doctor was ecstatic!

After seeing the Buffalo, we drove up through the needles highway in the Northwest corner of the park. In this area of the park there are sharp towers of granite that pushed their way up out of the ground all over the place. On the freeway they've blasted really narrow tunnels through the rock. One of the tunnels is only 9 ft wide, so driving through was a little nerve racking.

The eye of the needle:

That night we stayed at the State Game Lodge in the park, which is where Pres. Calvin Coolidge spent his summer months while he was president. It was a really breathtaking area and we had our own little cabin that reminded me of being at summer camp.

Tuesday morning we packed up and drove home...with one important stop. In Hot Springs, SD there is an in situ archaeological dig of a sink hole. In this dig they've already found the remains of 56 mammoths! The ear doctor LOVES dinosaurs, so we just had to stop there. It was really cool. The whole building is build around a current, live dig where you can see the bones of Colombian and Woolly mammoths!

(mammoth femur)

(mammoth mandible...jaw bone)

Between the caves, the monuments, the animals, the scenery and visiting the town of Lusk, WY twice, we had a totally awesome time!


Anth said...

Your trip sounds SO fun!! I'm jealous.

You guys should check out Ape Cave. It's a lava tunnel near Mt St Helens. I don't know how it compares to these other caves, this is really just a shameless plug for why you should visit the NW. :)

trs said...

Great trip! You saw everything you should see and more! Good job.

I lived in Rapid City for three years, so I'm quite familiar with the area. Cool isn't it?

Thanks for sharing.

cropstar5 said...

what a fun trip! you two look like you have so much fun together!

Heather said...

I love the pic of you on the toilet. You're so funny!

Courtney said...

Looks like Great Trip!!! Thanks for sharing all the pictures!

But what is the ear doctor doing playing with the Mammoth Femur? Bones are not toys!!!