Jewel Cave National Monument [Day 5] - I'd never been spelunking before. I saw a marker for Jewel Cave National Monument on my map, looked
it up in my guide book, and saw something about a spelunking tour. I called to make the reservation
and luckily they had a spot for the next day. They only take one tour with five people through
the cave each day. It was described as a strenuous 4-5 hour tour. The woman on the phone warned me
not to wear clothes I'd ever want to wear again.
I got up in the morning and shelled out $20 at the local goodwill for a pair of pants, shirt,
shoes, and gloves to ruin. Before we got to go on the tour we had to prove we could make it
through the smallest point in the cave: a hole 8.5 inches in diameter that you have to crawl through.
Our guide sat on a cement block while the five of us squeezed through. One guy almost didn't make it.
He had to take off two layers of clothes to get through. Luckily he was wearing three.
The caves were pitch black, but when I turned my headlamp on the walls I saw they were covered
with beautiful crystilline formations. The cave is also covered with something called magnesite. A
fine black mineral dust that covers you completely and is almost impossible to remove from your
clothes. After an hour or two I was really wishing that I had picked up some knee and elbow
pads at goodwill as well. There was one point where we had to crawl on our bellies over sharp rocks for
about 100 feet. At the end of that tunnel was the 8.5 inch hole.
Everyone made it through. And we all agreed that even though it was tough at times, we'd all
do it again in a second.
Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore [Day 6] - After spending a wet night camping in the Blackhills,
I got up early, had a quick breakfast and headed for
The Crazy Horse Monument. I could go on and on
about the impression that this passionate and ambitious mountain sculpting project left on me.
It was by far the most impressive man made attraction I saw. When it was started by the sculptor
Korzak in 1949 he was almost 40 and had only $174 to his name. Almost 50 years later, with only a
tiny fraction of the sculpture done, his wife and children carry on his dream. It is financed solely
by entrance fees, souvenir sales, and private donation. Korzak refused several million dollar grants
by the U.S. government, feeling that turning this into a federal project would be a slap in the
face to the Native American peoples the monument is meant to honor.
Mount Rushmore, while exciting to see in person, was a bit of a let down after the inspirational
story of Korzak and the Crazy Horse Monument. In addition, it was over run by the same bikers I had
encounted in the Badlands. I stayed only long enough to take in this
National Landmark, walk to it's base, and then was on my way.