September 11, 2005

Black Hills, Badlands and lots of prairie

(I posted three days in a row -- scroll down to see the other two)

Saturday September 10, 2005

Morning. Do we have to leave? Can we stay in this cabin on the edge of a meadow in the midst of pine and peace, can we stay here for the rest of the two weeks and then drive through the night to get to New York?

Breakfast out on the front porch, then gather our things and get back into the car.

One last stop in the Black Hills:

Jewel Cave. The second longest cave in the US and the third longest in the world. Over one hundred thirty miles of underground labyrinths. We walked half a mile of that on the Scenic Tour. Damian was nervous beforehand but calmed right down and then loved it. This isn't a cave coated in stalactites, though we did see a few. Instead, it has mostly calcite bumps and knobs, a scaly interior skin.

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Also what they call boxwork, ridges created by the wind. I prefer the water-formed shapes, like this:

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Walking through caverns thirty stories underground feels transporting. At one point the ranger turned off all the lights in the cavern. Absolute darkness. In the bowels of the earth.

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Then on the road again. We were running late, so we drove through the Badlands very nearly without stopping well, only three or four times. It was like passing through Southern Utah, another bizarre, otherworldly landscape.

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We drove past the upper crust of the geode, looking down, and then headed down into it, passing mounds colored rose and white and craggy, jagged cliffs that feel at times like what happens to wet sand when you dribble it through your fingers and let it fall onto the beach.

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On the road east. South Dakota flatlands, miles of prairie, into the night. Bugs spattered the windshield like rain past Chamberlain, about halfway through the state.

Tonight, Mitchell. A town in the middle of nowhere, but the Midwest chain motel is very comfortable and the people extremely courteous and warm.

Tomorrow Minneapolis.

Posted by Tamar at September 11, 2005 07:10 AM | TrackBack