wind cave national park

Our most underwhelming park yet, Wind Cave is located in the southwest corner of South Dakota. It is, obviously, a cave, and entrance is allowed only with a guided tour. Sadly, after reserving our places on the cave tour, I was notified that the park elevator had broken and all tours were canceled until further notice. Our only experience of this national park ended up being a short walk to a very tiny hole in the ground, the natural entrance to what we can only imagine is a stunning cavern worthy of being ranked next to Yellowstone as one of America’s most wonderful places.

Wind Cave is a sacred area for Native American tribes, as evidenced by little scraps of red fabric (representing prayers) tied all over the trees. Ancient tribesmen heard the wind whistling through the cave opening and believed it was the Great Spirit. The connection between wind and spirit is an interesting one, even seen in Genesis 1 with a mention of the ruach hovering (or blowing) over the water.

The best part about our trip to Wind Cave was the purchase of a young bison who has been adopted by Rachel. National Parks Family is proud to be a supporter of bison conservancy efforts!

The end.

Not really! Our trip to South Dakota started with a flight to Rapid City, the third time we’ve flown with all of our kids. Like 2022’s trip to Phoenix, we took advantage of the free checked luggage included with our airline credit card and brought our massive cooler along, which makes picnic lunches a little easier. The kids are getting to be old pros at traveling and they get very excited about flying.

The seating assignments on our American flight to Rapid City were spread out over a few rows. I sat with Rachel, Greg and Eva sat behind us, Zoe and Aaron Henry were across from us, and Sophia was on her own a few rows ahead. Sophia’s seat companion turned out to be a young girl from an Orthodox Jewish family named Esther, who appeared to have the flu. We watched with dismay as this sweet sick girl coughed and sneezed all over our healthy daughter during the 3.5hr flight, and prayed that we would all stay healthy! Sophia seemed fine the next day, and the next day… and then she did come down with a sniffle which made a quick round through our family. Sometimes these things just can’t be avoided when traveling.

Ironically, we weren’t able to get into Wind Cave but did manage to get tickets for a cave tour at Jewel Cave, right down the road, and, one would think, very similar. Jewel Cave gets its name from colorful crystals that sparkle all over the cave walls. We descended into a damp cavern and listened to a presentation from one of the park rangers about the rock composition and discovery of Jewel Cave. It was surprisingly cold. We’ve been in several caves by now (Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, Luray Caverns) and this was probably the coldest one yet.

Note the 29-week baby bump below. Claire won’t remember this trip but she was right there with us!

Gregory & I have both had Mount Rushmore on our bucket list for a while, and it was so exciting to drive out there with the kids. We went first thing in the morning on a weekday to avoid huge crowds. That was a great idea because it was pretty crowded by the time we left. It is a truly incredible place! We heard a presentation at the Sculptor’s Studio about the history of Mount Rushmore and the techniques used to carve the figures, and then we walked the Presidential Trail to get a closer look at the presidents. Definitely one of my favorite stops on our park trip!

The Black Hills of South Dakota are absolutely beautiful. While we were in the area we drove into Custer State Park for the afternoon and took the Needles Highway – an incredible drive – to hike around the “Cathedral Spires.” The highlight of this trail ended up being tiny wild raspberries which a passing ranger told us were perfectly fine to pick and eat. Although the park wasn’t crowded, there were a few other people out on the trails. We were absolutely shocked to run into Sophia’s seatmate from our flight, Esther, and her family! What a coincidence!

We picnicked at Sylvan Lake and climbed around the giant boulders afterward. We tried another trail but it smelled strongly of hemp, thanks to a native plant with a strong scent. Overall the Black Hills were a lovely part of our trip and a place I would enjoy revisiting if we ever make it back to South Dakota.


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