Sunday, July 16, 2006

Custer State Park & Jewel Cave

Have based ourselves out of Custer State Park for the last 4 days - what a great place! Really huge park and so much to do! It's nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota and there are heaps of trails and wildlife.

We had a super-busy day on Thursday. Got up just before dawn and rode out to a trailhead to hike up Harney Peak - at 7242ft it's the highest peak between the Rockies and the Pyrennes - amazing to think there's nothing in between as it's not really all that high is it?! Some gorgeous views though across the hills and the back side of the hill with Mt Rushmore on it. Sat there and ate some breakfast before heading back down - I think we must've been the first ones up there that morning - not really to beat the crowds but we were so concious of wanting to beat the heat! Were back at the trailhead by 9am!

Next stop was a drive out to Jewel Cave National Monument. The 2nd longest cave system in the world (alledgedly!) - Over 5 levels and 200 miles of passages - COOL Huh?! We were booked on a Spelunking tour at noon. Now I think this is what I'd previously called pot-holing. Perhaps it's called something different over here. To 'test' out ability we had to crawl through a 8.5 x 24 inch concrete block to make sure we wouldn't get stuck down the cave later! and off we went. It was only the 2 of us on the tour so we had out own private guide! The tour was supposed to last anything from 3-4 hours. Coz it was just us, and that we're so super fit(!?!!!?) we were done in 2.75 hours but I must say it's exhausting stuff! Great, great fun. Lots of crawling, climbing and we were completly covered in black mud (the quickest way to ruin a pair of jeans and t-shirt I know!) Awesome! Saw lots of really cool, rare rock features - balloons, boxwork and lots of other stuff that has complicated names! Cyrstal Caves is so named for all it's calcite deposits which are very crystal looking.

Finally that day we had tickets for a performance of 'Fiddler on the Roof' at the Black Hills Playhouse What a show! I've never seen it before but of course recognised some of the music striaght away. It was hot! (old building and no aircon) but who cares. And it was only 10 minutes walk from our campsite so just a brilliant end to a brilliant busy day!

Had some lazy time at Custer too - lots of nice roads around. Not suitable for RV's (height restrictions of just 10ft in some tunnels that have been carved out of the rock and funky spiral bridges) so we've been out on the bike a lot. It's been incredibly hot so we've been doing some short hikes and all before 9am. The afternoons we just tend to flake out before the evening coolness comes round and perks us back up again! (it was 109 degrees yesterday!)

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