I’m pretty sure I grow more ‘childish’ with every passing year. My dreams only grow bigger and bigger, as I crawl into smaller and smaller spaces…by that I mean, caves. On my first bike tour in 2011, Sheena and I visited Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. We went on the Wild Cave tour, where we were guided through tiny passages, armed with a headlamp, helmet, and knee pads. We shimmied through spaces that were barely larger than my hips, vertically climbed chutes, and went down rock ladders to find ourselves in large, underground rooms. Running water, domes that reached hundreds of feet above our heads, and drops below us, the depths of which we could not see. At one point, we all turned our headlamps off and experienced the true darkness most humans can only find in a cave.
Darkness. Silence. Stillness.
I was sold.
While biking through the Black Hills, I visited Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park. Because of the limited gear I carry on a bicycle, I was only able to go on the walking tours through each of these caves. They each added fuel to the spark, though, and I couldn’t stop thinking: “I want to be a cave explorer when I grow up!”
This first set of photos is from Jewel Cave National Monument.
How did I even get these pictures? On the walking tours, the park service has placed lighting throughout the cave to highlight unique features of this cave. It allowed me to take somewhat decent pictures, but most of them are a little blurry, and some of them are green. The cave is not really green. It’s my camera’s doing.
This guy is 22 feet tall and is the perfect example of “cave bacon”!
The delicate lines of rock against the faces of the cave are called “boxwork.” It is a unique formation found in the Wind Cave; apparently 95% of the boxwork in the world is in Wind Cave. It required a precise set of geological forces for its formation, and all of the boxwork that exists in Wind Cave is all the boxwork that will ever exist there. So they say.
The tour guide was careful to point out how humans destroy everything. The green splotches are a result of tourism in Wind Cave; the humidity from our breathing has provided an environment for algae to grow. They apparently have to power wash the cave every once in a while.
If I remember right, the white spots are called “frostwork.”