Monday, July 7, 2014

Wind Cave National Park - Day One

There are so many things to do at Wind Cave National Park - both above and below ground - that we planned to spend one and a half days there.
 After checking in at the visitor's center and picking up the girls' Junior Ranger booklets, we set out to hike the Prairie Vista Trail (1 mile round-trip).  Evelyn studied the prairie habitat in 4th grade, specifically the prairie at Wind Cave, so she was really excited to see first-hand the things she had learned about in school (in Massachusetts!).
 We saw and heard lots of meadowlarks . . .
 . . . some cacti had flowers blooming . . .
 . . . and we saw plenty of the girls' favorite prairie critter, the prairie dog.  Julia and Evelyn were amazed to learn how helpful these little rodents are to keeping the prairie habitat alive.
 After our prairie hike, we girls headed to a completely different habitat in the park - the Rankin Ridge Nature Trail (another 1-mile round-trip hike).  This hike took us through a ponderosa pine forest to the top of one of the park's mountains.  While hiking Rankin Ridge, the girls' Junior Ranger booklets encouraged them to think about the importance of two habitats - prairie and forest - meeting together and what that provided plants and animals who lived on the edge.  It was really something else, being able to hike two completely different trails, just a few miles apart.
 As we left the southern end of the park this evening, we came across a buffalo herd crossing the road.  We pulled off the road to watch the buffalo for a few minutes (from the safety of our car) before heading to our hotel for the night.