We continued on our journey through Indian Country passing through parts of the Badlands. Looking out over the formations in the Badlands is breathtaking and at the same time ominous. It is difficult to imagine the natural forces that created this maze of eroded land covering 379 square miles. It is an area I would like to be able to explore more, and the photo opportunities are endless!
Next stop was Wind Cave National Park, a key landmark for the Lakota people. Upon entering Wind Cave I was confronted with twists and turns in a narrow configuration of maze-like passages as I descended the constricted and steep concrete steps into the caverns within the cave. At a constant 54 degrees F, it was cool and dark, the path illuminated by lights first placed there by the Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Located 50 miles from Rapid City, South Dakota, Wind Cave is one of the world’s longest and most complex cave systems. Even with other people around me I felt the isolation of being deep under the prairie and closed-in by a stunning array of prehistoric geologic formations not seen in many other places. The most conspicuous feature of the Wind Cave are the boxworks, honeycomb-like blades of calcite that can be seen on the ceiling of the passageway, resembling bat wings suspended in time.
To the Lakota people the Wind Cave is the origin site of their emergence as peoples. The original Lakota people lived in the cave and were waiting for the Creator to make the earth ready for them. A few of them were tricked into leaving the cave before the Creator said it was ready by two spirits that lived on the surface, Iktomi, a spider and Anog-Ite, the double-faced woman. When they realized they could not survive they tried to return to the cave but were denied entrance and turned into buffalo by the Creator. When at last the Creator told the people in the cave that the earth was ready He told them to follow the footprints of the buffalo and they would have everything they needed.