Day 40: Hot Springs, The Mammoth Site, Pioneer Museum, Wind Cave National Park, Chapel in the Hills, and Dinosaur Park.
Saturday, July 10th, 2021
I can’t believe it’s been 40 days already, yet it feels sometimes like 400. Being untethered from friends and family in this way is so unsettling for my soul that it has been a real exercise in understanding who I need in my life and whose story has come too a close. Now, determining who is who is the tricky part, but I feel with God’s love and guidance, sun kissed trees, and the open road, that all will reveal itself in time. We shall see.
It has been wonderful being in one spot as I tour from here every day, I have felt at least a bit grounded somewhere while I play in South Dakota. How I choose what I am going to go and see is by distance and what I can do IN that distance to make the most of my time and gas tank. Hot Springs, SD, had several things that sounded super interesting, so I set my sights on this adorable, sleepy town.
The first thing I headed to was “Mammoth Site” which was discovered by George Hanson in June of 1974. Moving dirt while preparing to build a housing development, he hit a Mammoth tusk. Excited about his found treasure, he contacted Dr. Agenbroad who then met up with all of the local Colleges and the City to help him fund an excavation for the site. After a year of involving others, excavating bones himself to show others, he wound up getting a team which grew excitement for the site and thus it began to become what it is today.
The Mammoth Site was actually a sinkhole that filled with water, making the Mammoths think they had safe passage to use, drink, and bathe in. The problem was that they weren’t able to get out, due to the sediment and mud that lined the sinkhole, making it sleek and unavailable to climb. They believe, so far, they have over 60 Mammoths in this sinkhole, and to see it is SHOCKING! To see history before you, preserved as they died right there (yes, they haven’t moved them- only smaller bones found have been removed to be cleaned and cataloged.) They have all of the species clearly marked, and one of my favorite things was to see the footprints made by the Mammoths, sunk deep into the mud. Admission was $12, and all of your money goes into this ACTIVE site. They work on it Monday-Friday if you want to see them in action, and there are several guides standing around the Boneyard that will help explain what you are looking at. It takes about an hour to watch the film, read the information, and enjoy the boneyard. I LOVED it! A VERY unique experience for the family.
I headed over to the town of Hot Spring, looking for the Waterfall. They have a beautiful walking area and park with the waterfall cascading off the hills above. Also in this area is the old 1800’s jail which is free to tour.
I then headed towards Main Street, when I saw this huge building sitting at the top of this very, high hill above the town. Curious, I headed up the “Oh my God Can My Car Drive Up This Steep Holy Hell Of A Drive” road and found the “Pioneer Museum” which they based inside what used to be the old school. First off, bravo to the parents who would have to drive that sucker up and down every day AND in the snow, my hats off to you! It held all grades, and the building just screamed “I am so haunted” so I was more about ghost hunting it and less about the Museum. Yep, I am ok to admit this because it was a very, cool building. I got lots of talking inside the building, in fact, one lady had written a book called “Woman’s Occupations” and I laughed out loud and said “Elanor, we women can do ANY job we want too right now” – and my ghost app said “tone” LOL I guess she didn’t like my tone. I also got “secret” in the same room which was the hats room…what secret?
They have categorized each school room in the 4 floored building, and honestly, it’s probably the biggest collection on antiques I have ever seen. Everything from old post office items to children’s toys to kitchen mixers to dental chairs. It REEKED of old….and I LIKED it! Few people were touring today so I pretty much had every floor to play and look around with my ghost app…it would be an awesome one to do a nighttime ghost hunt in. It was only $6 and it took about 90 mins for me because I wasn’t reading everything, just walking from room to room talking to the air LOL. Worth it to see all of the items from the past, highly recommend if you are in the area. Just bring your moxie with you to get up that freaking huge hill…don’t say I didn’t warn ya!
Ok the next stop was one of those “Seriously?” After you drive through this town, about 10 miles down the road is “Wind Cave National Park.” I saw the sign, jumped out to grab my pics (YES, I am that nerd who needs the city, park, attraction sign…it’s a thing, let it go) and then headed to the Visitor’s Center. Got there at NOON, NOON people!! Why this is important is that I got in line to see what tours were available for what caves…not realizing I had to HAVE a tour reserved to see ANY cave. I mean, can’t they just have ONE for those who just want the gist of the place without a reservation, just have a Ranger at the mouth of it watching people come in and out? Reason I say this is the last tours were being reserved as I was in line for 4 p.m. !! So for 4 hours I would have to find something to do in that area, until the tour began. On top of it, they decided to pave the roads on a Saturday inside the Park…so traffic was backed up at the Visitors Center, and both ways in and out of the Park. I had this moment that I just decided that this would be one I would lovingly look back at and say “I went to Wind Cave…too bad I never went IN a Cave while there.” I had already bought my sticker, so I decided to not even drive more of it, an exit gracefully. It did help that the skies opened up about 10 minutes later and it down poured.
The next stop on my “Petermann Reality” tour (a nod to all of my Seinfeld fans) was the Chapel In the Hills. Found in Rapid City, SD, where I was actually staying, I remembered coming across this months ao and just got lucky seeing it again in one of those brochure holders at my last stop. By the way, ALWAYS look at those brochures, they have great coupons, information, and I feel it’s one of the fun parts of exploring. A buffet of choices, and YOU get to decide. Another destination located high up in the hills (they REALLY love their hills here, my poor Ellie (car) has gotten quite the workout on them), this one is a beautiful escape from the tourist traps and a quiet, tranquil spot to breathe, enjoy, and pray if you feel the Spirit wash over you. Designed after the famous one in Norway, and for my Disney people, you have seen something similar at Epcot in Norway, this was just breathtaking. Located in the hills, in a forest setting, complete with deer walking around…I enjoyed the peace. I needed that peace today. Free of charge, donations appreciated, and a small gift shop complete with the lawn lined roof for the goats to walk and eat grass on- it was a great spot to just sit. There is also a small museum located on the left of the Chapel which depicts a Norwegian home- very neat. How much time you take here is up to you, but it is quick to tour, so maybe 30 minutes max to see and sit.
Last but not least, the old Dinosaur Park, again, in the hills. I mean, nothing cooler than seeing this large Brontosaurus sitting on the top of this hill, looking over the entire city…seriously bad ass. One last climb for the day, I made it to the top and parked at the Visitors Center. First, know this was made in 1936 and is basically a handful of dinosaurs sitting on a hill- that’s it. It is free, but honestly you pay with your health, as they make you climb hundreds of stairs to reach them from the road. No way around it, you have to climb. So if you have someone in your party who cannot walk steep stairs, or can’t at all, sit this one out. It is NOT wheelchair accessible, and honestly, you aren’t missing anything. I got to the top and I was like “Wait, this is it?” Which a lot of people said around me…it was like a mean hike up a hill being promised something really cool and then you got there and someone said “HAH just kidding.” I did it, check it off the list. Grabbed a fish dinner at Culvers on the way back to the hotel which served as lunch and dinner as I never found anything worth stopping at to eat in Hot Springs.
In for the evening, writing and prepping for tomorrow. Sunday is my last day here in South Dakota before I head to the North on Monday morning. This State has been AMAZING and I plan on writing about my favorite and not so favorite things I enjoyed this week here on tomorrow’s post. See you then, have a GREAT Saturday night!
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