Originally, the Badlands were happening today, but alas that was not to be. This morning was cold and rainy, so we surveyed the options and decided to check out Wind Cave and then Custer State Park, weather permitting.
Interesting tidbit: Wind Cave is presently the 4th longest cave in the world with 138 known miles of tunneling. Survey trips are still being taken to diagram yet even more cave tunnels that so far have been unexplored. It has the most intricate and concentrated amount of “boxwork” in the world. Boxwork is a formation that looks like spider webs, honeycombs, or as Ryan and I perceive them, the inside of a Wraith Ship from Stargate Atlantis.
We took a tour of the cave that lasted about an hour. From beginning to end, we only walked about a quarter mile, but it was 400 steps and 200 ft. down from where we started. Very cool experience.
After Wind Cave, we rode around Custer State Park until sunset. When we first entered the park, we saw 2 buffalo in the distance down in a low pasture from the road above. Sadly, we don’t have a telephoto lens, so we tried taking some pictures, but you couldn’t even really tell they were buffalo. Hense: Beth “I would totally climb down that hill to get a better picture.” Ryan “Let’s do it.” Ryan is a mountain goat, so he scrambled down the hillside pretty fast. By the time I’m half way down the hill, he’s at the bottom, slowly, very slowly covering more distance. (I admit probably not the best idea we’ve ever had, but if the same situation were to present itself again, let’s be honest, we’d likely do it again.) So, Ryan goes as far as he dares, snaps a couple pictures and heads back up the hill. At this point, another buffalo has joined the other two and all three are ignoring us, but all the same, walking at a steady pace towards our general direction. Both of us gladly head back up the hill. As we were about to leave, one of the bison decides to play in the dirt and hurls himself, 2000lbs. and all, into the ground happy as could be. That was cool to watch. I think Ryan got it on video.
After this, we’re thinking “Sweet! What are the chances? Buffalo within camera distance? Awesome day.” Little did we know…
Two minutes later we’re riding around a sharp bend and BOOM, buffalo 7 feet from the motorcycle on the side of the road! Freaky you say? YES. However, we gathered our wits, decided to be prepared next time and kept moving with anticipation. The same thing happened again and this time I managed to get a shot from the bike while riding by.
The climax was when a herd of buffalo decided to lounge on/by the road. So, we approach said road to find two cars at a dead stand still in the middle of the road gawking at the herd. Okay, understandable. If I were housed safely in a vehicle that could shield me from a potentially painful attack from a 2,000lb wild beast, I would gawk too. However, WE ARE ON A MOTORCYCLE. Little bit more vulnerable here. As we nervously pull up behind the closest car, all seems to go well until one buffalo decides to get skittish at the sound of Ryan opening up the throttle to pull up further on the road. He starts stamping at the ground and moving toward us. At this point, my memory isn’t very clear, but Ryan tells me he managed to move up the road 20 or 30 feet to distance us from the buffalo, the cars in front of us started moving along, and we escaped unscathed! Talk about an adrenaline rush…
The rest of the day at Custer was pretty, but pretty uneventful. Ryan enjoyed the ride through the windy roads on the bike and we were able to snap a few nice pictures. Overall, very enjoyable day.