15 August 2013
My dear friends and readers around the world,
I’ve been having some exciting adventures above and below ground on our trip to South Dakota.
Paprika and Oregano took me on a scenic drive through Custer State Park. We followed a winding road through a beautiful forest of ponderosa pine and aspen trees. A few miles later we entered a section of the park called the Needles Highway. When I saw the sign, I got nervous.
“Paprika, I don’t like needles,” I said, squirming in my seat.
“Don’t worry, Flat Kathy, these needles are made out of granite and jut out of the ground. They only resemble needles, which is how this part of the park got its name.”
“Phew! In that case, let’s go see them!” I was relieved.
The granite needles were incredible. One of them is called the Needle’s Eye – and indeed, it looks just like a (really large) sewing needle. We got out of the car to have a better look and noticed that there was a man standing all the way on the top of it. Definitely not something I would even consider doing. (Well, not without a harness and some abseiling equipment… and of course I’d need a bit of help climbing to the top…)
We continued through the park and had to drive through one-way tunnels that were cut in the granite. It was a tight squeeze, but luckily Oregano is a good driver.
After we left Needles Highway, we continued onwards to the other end of the park called the Wildlife Loop. The forest opened up into rolling, grass-covered hills full of wild buffalos!
“Can we get up close?” I asked. “What does their fur feel like?”
“Buffalo can be mighty ornery,” replied Paprika, evidently startled by my bravery. “So it’ll be better if we keep our distance, Flat Kathy. We might get flattened too…”
“Yes, despite their massive size and spindly legs, they can run very quickly when the mood strikes them,” added Oregano. We sensibly stopped our car some distance away, and just watched them. It was so quiet, we could hear them chewing the grass and snorting.
While we were driving we also got to see other wildlife: pronghorns, deer and prairie dogs. Paprika tried to get a picture of the prairie dogs, but those little critters are fast and small!
We did get a picture of a pronghorn though. Isn’t he beautiful?
Our driving tour through Custer State Park took almost 5 hours. By the time we were in the home stretch, the sun had set. The winding, twisting roads were a bit challenging in the dark, but we were rewarded for our perseverance when we came around a curve and saw another of the one lane tunnels carved into the granite. As we approached the tunnel, we realized that the tunnel perfectly framed a lit Mount Rushmore in the distance. Wow! Was that a sight to see!
The next morning Paprika and Oregano told me our adventure would take us underground. We were going on a tour of Jewel Cave! I got a snazzy headlamp to wear, since the tour took was going to take us almost 400 hundred feet underground.
I was surprised how big some of the “rooms” were and how narrow some of the passages were. Thankfully, the walkways were lighted so we could see.
In one room, the tour guide wanted to give us a feeling for what it would be like to explore a cave, and what it would have been like for the very first people who ventured this far into the earth. He turned off the lights. I had never experienced darkness like that, not even when I was stuffed into an airmail envelope and sent to New Jersey. If I had hands, I wouldn’t have been able to see them in front of my face.
After all that cave exploration we were hungry and went out to lunch. The restaurant served buffalo burgers, so Paprika and I tried one. Don’t tell the buffalo we saw in Custer State Park, but it was delicious!
We’re off to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado for more adventures.
Yours in flatness and love,