Monday, September 30, 2013

Jewel Cave

Yes, that is my husband peeking through someone's windows.

Actually, he wasn't the only one.  We all peeped. 

 We went to visit Jewel Cave while we were in South Dakota and this is the cabin built for some of the surveyors around 1935.  We weren't allowed to go in so we had to satisfy ourselves with looking through the windows.  

Jewel cave was discovered in 1900 by two brothers who noticed a hole in some rock.  They could feel a blast of cold air coming out of the hole and that means only one thing - there's a large area behind this rock. The hole wasn't big enough for them to fit through so, being men, they got some dynamite and very carefully and delicately blew it up.

The original entrance is gated now, but when you stand in front of it, a very strong cool wind still blows all over you.

It's wonderful on a hot day.

Inside the cave are tons of calcite crystals which sparkle in the light - 
which is where the name "Jewel Cave" came from.

Much in the same way "Diamond Head" in Hawaii got it's name.


Wait.  South Dakota.  I was talking about South Dakota.

There are several different guided tours you can take, ranging from just going in one cavern to spelunking through tiny tunnels while worming along on your belly.

We opted for the Scenic Tour which lasts about an hour and a half and requires you to go up and down 723 stair step over about a half mile.  I thought they meant 723 steps down and then 723 steps back up.

Thankfully the steps go up and down, then up and down, and there are platforms where you stop and listen to the guide talk.  So even though it is listed as a "somewhat strenuous" tour, it isn't too bad.

The guide stops to point out interesting features in the cave and tell you about the history.  

This particular formation looks like a bunch of jellyfish crawling down the wall.

And this one looked like a giant slab of bacon.

Giant bacon, ya'll! 

And oddly enough, there is a naturally formed map of the United States on the ceiling in case you get lost!

The tour guide also turned out the lights in one cavern so we could experience "total darkness".  That was cool except for the one dork who had his phone out and the little indicator light on it was like a beacon.  

The amazing thing is that they've mapped over 157 miles of caverns underground and they believe it's less than 2% of Jewel Cave.

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