Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jewel Cave National Monument

The next stop we had planned was Jewel Cave National Monument. I was pretty disappointed when we got here. You have to be on a tour to go down into the cave and while there was an easy "discovery tour" that I and the kids could all handle, the website suggested getting reservations to be sure to get in. Well, I tried. I called them multiple times and never got an answer on the phone. At the time I figured it must not really be that big of a deal and it would all work out.

I'm not sure what to tell you about HOW to get reservations, but you do need them. Perhaps if you showed up in the morning, you could buy tickets for later in the day, but we didn't have that long to hang around. When we showed up around 4pm, the tours for the rest of the day were already sold out. Big bummer. The adults and the kids were all looking forward to seeing the cave.

There were some examples in the visitor's center of what we could have seen if we'd gotten tour tickets

The kids could still do the junior ranger activity without going in the cave also. Sierra had the regular junior ranger booklet to do and Sedona had an easier "pee-wee" version and then needed to hike the roof top trail on top of the cave (an easy 1/4 mile walk). The ranger that took their packets and awarded their badges was a young guy that was REALLY great with all the kids. One thing that can be simultaneously rewarding and annoying about the junior ranger program is that while a ranger is talking to a kid about their packet, they don't rush through it just because someone else is waiting to ask a question or buy some postcards. I haven't really come across a "bad" ranger doing these, but this guy really went above and beyond. He seemed genuinely excited to talk to them and was really dramatic about presenting their badges, which they loved.

When we went back outside, the girls tried fitting through a crawl space. This concrete box is in front of the visitor's center with a sign saying that if you can fit through it, you qualify to go on a certain strenuous tour that takes you through less commonly traveled areas of the cave. Of course, the girls didn't have much trouble (saw plenty of adults give it a try and back out's smaller than it looks!)

On the way out, we stopped by the park sign to take their picture with their new badges (they were being a bit silly by this point in the day!)

Driving back through the town of Custer, we passed a Flinstone's camp ground! I tried to snap a few pictures

We had considered stopping at Wind Cave National Park, but we didn't get there until late in the day, so we drove on past that one

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