Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some Rather Exciting Discoveries

So the adventures most assuredly continue! I am actually at the Hot Springs Public Library right now because I have the day off and for once am NOT going somewhere to do something adventurous! I figured it would be nice to actually take a day off and try and accomplish some other things, one of which was to come to the library and get a bunch of episodes of "deadwood" which I will be watching in the ensuing days. :) I am probably going to do at least a little hiking in the park later though. It is way to hot to go out now, but perhaps in the evening. :)

Things are changing here at Wind Cave. Last night we had our farewell dinner with all of the interp staff and had to start saying goodbye to people. Deric left last night as did Toni. So two of my closest friends here are now gone. :( Toni is actually going to be in Custer State Park for the next month though, so maybe I will still be able to see her occasionally. And Justin will be leaving in about four days. So very soon I will be a great deal more alone than I have been so far.

I continue to apply for jobs for the winter, but have not heard any positive word yet. I did get a negative response from Voyageurs in Minnesota and from Everglades in Florida though. So those parks are now officially off of the possibilities list! I also just found out that they do have some positions on the lighting crew at Wind Cave for the winter. Since it is a different division I could actually do that job and stay at Wind Cave. My job would be to actually help pull cable through the cave and install the new lighting system. Very different than what I have been doing! But it is something to consider. If I did decide to try for that I might be able to just stay here. Hmmm.

As for adventures, there has been no shortage there either! Last weekend I had three rather exciting adventures actually. the first occurred on Friday. I got up early to go and take a staff picture (which can now be seen as my facebook profile picture) and on the way back was invited to go with Eric and Noelle to go and climb up Inyan Kara mountain in Wyoming. It was a difficult, but very beautiful hike that provided great views looking toward the black hills and also toward Devil's tower. Eric had heard that there was a signature from the Custer expedition on the mountain so we decided we should find it. After much searching reminiscent of Nicholas Cage in national treasure we succeeded in locating the legendary signature which read. "C. Custer, '74." That would be colonel (he was made a general as a field commission during the civil war but after the war was demoted back to colonel, the rank he still held in 1874) George Armstrong Custer on his famous expedition into the black hills in 1874 when he and his part found the gold that started the gold rush, led to the foundation of deadwood and the richest gold mines in the united states, and ultimately resulted in the infamous battle of little bighorn two years later. That was an exciting carving to find!

The adventure continued that night when I got to go on a rec trip in the cave that took me through a section I had not yet seen. That included all sorts of fun things like string from the 1890's, several interesting signatures, and some amazing cave formations. The most exciting part was getting to climb down into the cathedral from above and see where one of the holes out of that room actually leads! For Mom and Callie, that is the room on the natural entrance tour with the impressive boxwork and high ceilings looking much like a gothic cathedral just before the stairs leading down to the model room, which is the second stop on that tour. For the rest of you, it is really cool. :)

The next day brought more cave adventures as I finally got to go on a survey trip in wind cave! I spent 8.5 hours on Saturday crawling through the cave and helping to officially map 460 feet of passageway. So Wind Cave is 460 feet longer now because of me! I got to be on point which means I was the first person to go through anything because I was the smallest. That was very exciting because that meant that I was the one to actually find things in the cave! And find things we certainly did! I found newspaper from the 1890's, found a significant amount of string from the same period, found several candle stubs, and found a match as well. All of that was at least 110 years old!

I also found virgin cave passageway, meaning passageway that no one had ever been down in any capacity. And I was the only one that could go in because of my size. So I got to go somewhere no one else has ever been. :)

But the most exciting discovery of the day for me was a 160 foot long passageway that had previously been unknown and unrecorded. But I was not the first one to go down it. As soon as I started down the passageway I could tell that someone had been there before me and soon began to see string. The passageway started to widen out and a dome opened above me so I stood up. when I did so I saw that there were from carvings in the rock. The first read Joe Striker. We don't know who that is. But the second signature read "A.F. McDonald." That would be Alvin Frank McDonald, the greatest explorer of wind cave who died in Dec. 1893 from Typhoid fever he contracted at the World's Fair in Chicago. The date underneath that signature read "July 17, 1893" which means that I found one of the very last signatures in one of the very last places Alvin ever explored. So exciting! It was a phenomenal find, and I was the one to choose the passageway and the one who actually found it! Not only that, but the passageway is significant enough that we get to name it. :) After talking to the other guys we decided that we want to give it a name that references those signatures because they are the most significant part of the passageway. Current possibilities include Alvin's Attic (because it is higher than anything else we have found that Alvin was in in the area) or Striker Street (because that appears to be the only reference to this particular gentleman in the cave). 

So I found unknown passageway, and found one of Alvin's old passageways and get to help name it! How exciting is that?!

I got to give the campfire program again on Sunday night and it was just as fun as last week. I love being a ranger! And then I gave the wild cave tour again yesterday! I have today and tomorrow off and then work for three days giving the normal tours plus the walking tours. I don't have the new schedule yet, so I don't know what happens after Saturday! So that is why I am taking today off. :)

Living the adventure!

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