In which we round out the National Parks tour with Rocky Mountain and Wind Cave

Whew – we made it to Minneapolis! Since our stuff does not get here until next Monday we’ve been camping out in the living room and exploring our little neighborhood before work starts next week. To round out our National Park tour:

On Monday we left Boulder and headed to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park:

7th National Park and it's its 100th anniversary!

7th National Park and it’s its 100th anniversary!

The park has great vistas across meadows to the Rockies beyond.

The park has great vistas across meadows to the Rockies beyond.

Since it's so close to a major metropolitan area and summer is the high season we were stuck behind a lot of cars.

Since it’s so close to a major metropolitan area and summer is the high season we were stuck behind a lot of cars.

Our only stop was to Bear Lake, which turned out to be more nature trail than hike. The parking lot was full when we got there and we only ended up grabbing a spot because they opened up some later ones as we were leaving - talk about lucky!

Our only stop was to Bear Lake, which turned out to be more nature trail than hike. The parking lot was full when we got there and we only ended up grabbing a spot because they opened up some later ones as we were leaving – talk about lucky!

We didn't see any bears :(

We didn’t see any bears 馃槮

Lovely conifers

Lovely conifers

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Reminds me of higher elevation version of Cades Cove in the Smokies

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Since the park was so crowded, we decided to see if we could make it to Wind Cave the same day and cut the next day’s driving to Minneapolis down.

Forgot we needed to get through Wyoming to get to South Dakota - so here we are picking up a bonus state: #7!

Forgot we needed to get through Wyoming to get to South Dakota – so here we are picking up a bonus state: #7!

Starting in Wyoming and continuing through South Dakota we kept running into motorcycles, both of the individual and gang variety. It came to a massive slowdown in Custer and we creeped along through the sea of them at 5 mph. Apparently the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was happening in two days and we were caught up in the beginning of it.

State #8

State #8

And done: National Park #8

And done: National Park #8!

Most of Wind Cave National Park, is as you could probably guess, in a cave. There is a lot of the park aboveground however and it preserves vast swaths of natural grasslands:

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We looked, but did not see any bison.

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The cave part is only accessible by a ranger led tour and we were fortunate to catch one of the last ones of the day:

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Our only option was the Natural Entrance Tour which is the usual one. Other tours explore slightly different areas of the cave or use only candles like early explorers.

Our only option was the Natural Entrance Tour which is the usual one. Other tours explore slightly different areas of the cave or use only candles like early explorers.

Golden ticket

Golden ticket – no selfie sticks!

Stairs down into the cave.

Stairs down into the cave. It’s a good tour – well lit, easy to walk.

Taking pictures in a cave is weird. Bare with me on these next few.

Taking pictures in a cave is weird. Bare with me on these next few.

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Wind Cave is the 6th longest cave in the world and the densest maze-type cave (measured by passages per cubic mile).

Our tour had about 30 people on it and the ranger was great about telling stories of the cave's earliest explorers.

Our tour had about 30 people on it and the ranger was great about telling stories of the cave’s earliest explorers.

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Those rocky lines are known as boxwork formations. 95% of the world’s known boxwork is in this cave.

It was the first cave to be designated a national park in the world.

It was the first cave to be designated a national park in the world.

My cave photography sucks.

My cave photography sucks.

The flash makes it better

The flash makes it better

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More boxwork.

The cave responds to barometric pressure and so

The cave responds to barometric pressure and so “breathes” with whatever the weather is doing outside. Hence the Wind part of the name.

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After learning聽out about the Sturgis rally and finding no hotels under $500 left in southwest South Dakota, we made the decision聽to drive as far as we could towards Minnesota after the tour. It made for a long day, but we grabbed the last room between Rapid City and Sioux Falls in Oacoma, SD (and shared it still with plenty of motorcyclists):

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643 miles, 3 states, 2 parks, and 1 motorcycle rally

We understandably slept in the next morning and made it to Minneapolis聽in the early evening (another 6 hours away):

Hard to get a shot of this sign as it was past the exit ramp of a rest area.

Hard to get a shot of this sign as it was past the exit ramp of a rest area.

I hope to do a re-cap of our adventures, just in case anyone else is stupid crazy enough to try this. For now, we’re settling into our new home and awaiting the arrival of our things.

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