I promised two weeks ago that I was going to write about the camping trip to Wyoming and South Dakota
, Wind Cave
, Jewel Cave
, Custer State Park
, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
(ICBM silo), and several days in The Badlands
). FYI, Jess did a great job of recounting some of the more interesting parts of the trip on her blog
, so I'm just going to add a few photos and anecdotes.Outbound travel
: Initial travel had an inauspicious start. I decided to mass transit the trip to the airport; however, when I got to Porter Square from the 77 bus, I noticed a lot of people on the platform. Huh. Then more people showed up. And a train heading the other way passed through. Huh. The platform continued to fill up. At about 30 minutes, another train came the other way and stopped. Fuck this... must be an obstruction on the track or something. Of course, no announcement or information from the MBTA.
I scrambled upstairs to find a taxi... no dice. Called one, and waited fifteen minutes... nothing. Then I called one of my coworkers--"I'll give you $50 in exchange for a ride to the airport." Turns out one of them was eating lunch, and wanted an excuse to get out of the office anyway... completely saved my butt.Rapid City
: I am developing a city index--over a certain population, they are likely to have a brewpub (Firehouse Brewing Co.
), an organic food coop (as found by Jess), and have a general supply of interesting things to do. It's good to know that travel to places like South Dakota won't be intrinsically painful.
I was fascinated by the town name of Belle Fourche--that's French for beautiful fork. Admittedly, it's named after the fork in a river, but my first reaction was, "What, was this named by the same guys who come up with names for US military operations? Operation Valiant Toothbrush? Operation Urgent Lunchbox?
: what a wonderfully bizarre geological feature. FYI, it is some type of lava plug/intrusion, and the surrounding sedimentary rock was eroded away. But it's more an excuse to show off this photo.Needles (Custer State Park)
: Our scenic drive to our next site took us through the Needles formation in Custer State Park
--a group of eroded granite spires. Pretty wild, and fun to climb around in. There's a single-lane automobile tunnel cut through the peak of the formation:
Yeah, not much clearance on either side of a Nissan XTerra:
Also, it was bloody cold up there, and snowing/sleeting. Poor sunflowers:National Park Caves
: Jewel Cave
is known for its crystaline formations--it was originally flooded at one point with a supersaturated mineral solution, and when it dried out, it deposited all over the walls, covering the surfaces. This layer has fallen away in some spots, showing the layers--for instance, covering a rock sitting on the surface, in the picture below. Some people have compared to to being inside a geode. Pretty neat.Wind Cave
is known for its feature called boxwork
--it has this strange, almost organic/cobwebby texture--take a look at the pictures in the link. Like giant honeycomb tripe cast in stone.
There is a pretty substantial park around Wind Cave—grasslands and trails; bison have been reintroduced to the park, roaming wild. On one trail, we came across a mostly-skeletonized bison carcass. The long “spines” out of the upper back vertebrae were a bit of a mystery until I finished a bit of research—bison have huge
heads, so they need to anchor the muscles back to something—thus their back “hump,” and this skeletal structure.Badlands
: A pretty awesome geological feature—they were originally soft layered sediments deposited on a former inland seabed (the Western Interior Seaway
--basically the entire middle of North America, from the Rockies to the Appalachians). These sediments are now being eroded, resulting in these formations. Note that this erosion is pretty fast, in geological terms—about an inch per year. So be sure to get here in the next 50,000 years, before they go away.
Incidentally, throughout all of this trip, it was spectacular to have Drea along as our private naturalist—she could identify birds, plants, etc. at a quick glance, and pointed out things that we would have easily missed at first glance. Also, it was great to travel with a bunch of nerds who are also
interested in questions like, “Why is this layer eroding at a different rate? What causes the formation of a clastic dike?”
Also, the cooking was a lot of fun—Ouija and Drea provided home-dehydrated African Chicken Peanut Soup and Dal; we also popped popcorn, and made Annie’s Mac & Cheese using cheese mix, powdered milk, water, and vigorous shaking:
This park also has bison roaming wild—they’ve really made a comeback in these parks. We gingerly drove through a herd of them (“Nice bison! XTerras are not competing for your territory!”)
Our last day in the park was a trip down to one of their more remote units (Palmer Creek), which is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Oglala Sioux)
(as an aside about the reservation—85% unemployment. Holy cats.) Bird skillfully navigated the XTerra up and down washes, fords, and dirt roads—I have to say that off-roading five people with gear is a pretty acceptable use for SUVs. We parked the vehicle and climbed around on formations—a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and we didn’t see anyone else out there--it is one of the less-visited areas of the park. It seems like the majority of the park's traffic is people coming in on tour buses, walking around the scenic overlook for five minutes, and getting back on, so it was a relief to get away to this degree.
A wonderful vacation, overall—many thanks to my fellow campers for coming, and thanks to anyone who is still reading and suffering through the slide show!