SHORTEST ROUTE, TIME ABOUT TWO HOURS—GUIDES-REGISTER—FIFTY-NINE POINTS OF INTEREST.
This is the shortest route, requiring about two hours' time, and is intended for those in a hurry, having only a limited amount of time at their disposal, and for old people, cripples, etc., desiring a taste of the underground marvel.
Come with me and let us take the routes as I took them. I visited the Cave, day after day, to get acquainted with its mazes and marvels as far as it is possible without learning it sufficiently to avoid having a guide.
Having donned our caps, we set out for the cabin covering the entrance, only a few hundred yards from the hotel. Here we register our names, so that should any accident happen to us our home address may be easily ascertained. Accidents do not happen because everyone is glad to follow the guide's instructions, but this precaution is taken, recognizing that a human being, an intricate machine, is liable to cease business at the old stand at any moment. Not having time to read the register to learn what illustrious people have made the trip before us, we register quickly, assured that all the good, bad, and indifferent have returned to the civilized world safely, which braces us for the trip of a lifetime, going from the known to the unknown, from daylight to the densest darkness.
Here the guide hands to each person a candle, requesting all to follow the guide and fear no danger. The candles being unlighted, a few hasten to light theirs even before descending the steps, only to have them extinguished by the strong current. Having descended a short distance, we light our candles and proceed with less fear.
Just 155 feet below the entrance we reach an apartment called BRIDE'S CHAMBER. Here a plucky girl was married to the one she loved, having doubtless promised her painstaking mother that she would not marry the young man in question on the face of the earth. This procedure would enable one in such a predicament to keep both promises by straining the truth almost to the limit.
We next enter a small chamber of the cabin type where we are shown LINCOLN'S FIREPLACE. The kindling is placed in position ready for a fire to warm the Rail-splitter when he comes in from the forest. The pine knot is placed to give proper light for his nocturnal study, preparing him for the presidency.
Passing the fireplace, we notice a PRAIRIE DOG and MOUND. The little chirper stands ready to dive from our view, but moves not an inch, for his petrified state long ago produced locomotor ataxia.
Our attention is next called to a freak of nature not seen except in Wind Cave. Burning a ribbon of magnesium, the guide directs our attention to the phenomenon, and umbrellas are wished for as we behold the unexpected PETRIFIED CLOUDS. It is needless to state that the unexpected may always be expected while touring in a region of perpetual surprise.
Looking overhead we notice a myriad of SNOW BALLS, each adhering to the frescoed rock as if lately driven to their rest by the recently liberated school boy. This appearance produces a chilling sensation, but the normal temperature returns when the deceived visitor learns that the nearest snow is not less than two hundred miles away to the northward and that what we see above us and around us are carbonate of lime formations only. They appear so much like well formed snow balls, however, that the very elect are deceived.
To avoid a possible storm which threatens from the direction of the Petrified Clouds, we hasten toward the CHURCH STEEPLE. Petrified objects galore are pointed out by the guide, among them being a PETRIFIED WHIRLWIND. One dusky son from a southern clime allowed his imagination to become sufficiently elastic to conceive of a petrified bird singing a petrified song.
Passing the Church Steeple, we enter the POST OFFICE. Here mail addressed to every clime is held as if awaiting claimants. The presence of box-work resembling the typical post-office box gives this chamber its name.
Leaving this medley of letters and cards we pass into ROE'S MISERY. Here an early guide named Roe got stuck and had to be pulled out by means of a rope.
The next chamber is called RED HALL, the prevailing color being red. Here the visitor is shown LIBERTY BELL, which is cracked just like the original at Philadelphia. What formed it? is the usual question. No living man knows, but it is supposed to be the work of a geyser spurting up from the floor. Not far from Liberty Bell is a Wash Boiler, which especially interests the ladies who are so fortunate as to see it. Adjoining this hall is a chamber called the OLD MAID'S GROOTTO. The next chamber is called the WHITE ROOM, and is as white as if calsomined.
From the White Room the visitor enters the OPERA HOUSE via HARD SCRABBLE AVE.
Overhead in the Opera House is the PEANUT GALLERY. Professor Romaine, the renowned violinist of Hungary, rendered several selections here and wrote on the wall the words "Chopin's Nocturne," and beneath it his autograph. He drilled the guide in pronouncing the entire inscription, and cautioned the guide not to forget or vary the pronunciation in the least on penalty of being haunted by the musician's ghost as long as he guided visitors through that Opera House. Mispronunciation was little less than barbarism to the trained ear of Professor Romaine.
The passage way from the Opera House contains a miniature WORLD'S FAIR ADMINISTRATION BUILDING and a PETRIFIED ALLIGATOR.
The next point of interest is the DEVIL'S LOOKOUT standing 65 feet high. Here in silence are two pigs, one having an ear of corn in his mouth as if ready to run for a more congenial spot. A New York lady discovered the two pigs, and remarked, "Isn't it perfectly wonderful that I should be the first one to discover the pigs?" The guide replied, "It is easy for people who have been in the habit of seeing such animals to find their likeness here in the Cave." He was saved from her wrath by being the only one who knew the route.
We next pass SOUNDING ROCK or HIS SATANIC MAJESTY'S CALL and enter MILTON'S STUDY, representing the room where he wrote "PARADISE LOST".
Just beyond is the DEVIL'S KEY-HOLE and a DUTCH BAKE OVEN.
The next room is named SAMPSON'S PALACE. It has a very high dome with box-work edges and stalagmitic floor. In this palace is a formation known as the QUEEN OF SHEBA'S HEAD DRESS. The drapery was a premonition of modern Parisian styles.
A party of foreign tourists, observing the counterpart of the Alps mountains beyond Sampson's Palace gave to the canyon the name SWISS SCENERY. A chamois stands upon a lofty craggy rock ready for a leap, while lower down on the right is a LOAF OF RYE BREAD and a SWISS CHEESE.
Close by is a water formation representing spilt milk and is named the MILKMAID'S MISHAP.
Following our guide, we enter the QUEEN'S DRAWING ROOM, a chamber fearfully and wonderfully made. Here tapestries, draperies, and box-work greet one on all sides.
Advancing a short distance we look above and behold the NEW YORK ELEVATED R & R. The cars are not running owing to a strike.
Following the direction of the track, we enter the M. E. CHURCH, which was dedicated by Dr. Hancher, ex-president of Black Hills College.
Close by the M. E. church is the DELSARTE TEMPLE, named by Professor Warman of Chicago.
The guide leads us on into the wildest, roughest, and most rugged chamber, known as the GIANT'S CAUSEWAY.
We then make a graceful prolonged bow and file under the ARCH OF POLITENESS into LENA'S ARBOR, then on into BISHOP FOWLER'S RETREAT, where our attention is called to the beautiful grotto named LOVER'S RETREAT. Here a youthful couple, having lingered behind and being lost from the party, were found by the guide with clasped hands and in the meshes of Cupid. The midnight darkness of that subterranean world has no terrors for Cupid.
Advancing through POP CORN ALLEY we enter ODD FELLOW'S HALL. Here we observe the ALL SEEING EYE, three links, two goats, and the canopy over the Noble Grand. Music is provided from the MIDWAY PLAISANCE, producing the unique Tom-tom.
On entering the hall the wreck of the Spanish warship COLON attracts attention. This specimen of Wind Cave novelty was named by Dr. Lentz of Brookings, S.D. This wreck is 350 feet below the entrance, nearly two miles from the starting point, and in the sixth tier of chambers. Nature, thousands of years ago, anticipated our choice of colors for the national ensign and indelibly frescoed the avenue leading from Odd Fellow's Hall with red, white, and blue. This avenue is called TURTLE PASS because it shelters a large turtle about five feet in length by three in width. This formation evidently was completed weary years before Columbus dreamed of a land to the westward. At this point our rear guide was detached to return to the hotel with a man who was complaining of having heart trouble on the right side. His chief trouble was an oversupply of quartz (quarts) of a sparkling variety not found nearer than twelve miles of the Cave.
Turtle Pass leads to the CROSS ROADS, where the route divides. Here is NASBY'S DOME, beyond which is the BRECKENRIDGE GALLERY and BULEIGH HEIGHTS, the latter having a dome ninety feet in height.
We are next ushered into the STONE QUARRIES, where one imagines prehistoric giants must once have held sway, but departed since to fields of labor where the rocks are less gigantic.
Here the visitor is shown the GARDEN WALL upon which rests the GIANT'S COFFIN. Strange sensations creep over one as he studies his surroundings, fearful lest he be intruding upon the subterranean retreat or mausoleum of some giant race. The coffin lid can be raised and those sufficiently lion-hearted may look within, observing the GHOST OF A LOST OPPORTUNITY.
Leaving this reminder of mortality, the tourist passes through BISHOP'S GAZE, which has a dome towering 110 feet high, and enters G. A. R. HALL. This hall was dedicated in June, 1899, during the soldiers' reunion at Hot Springs, ninety-six old soldiers being present at the dedicatory services. A monument was erected upon an eminence within the hall to the memory of the heroic dead who wore the blue, but are now sleeping the sleep of the departed patriots. The committee requested that every old soldier visiting the Cave leave his name, company, and regimental designation at the foot of the monument. The G. A. R. Hall is well named. About it are natural fortifications more durable than were constructed upon many a battlefield. Overhead are calcite formations representing breastworks, stockades, etc., the handiwork of nature's creation.
From the G. A. R. Hall an avenue leads to WASHINGTON'S ARBOR and to ST. GEORGE'S PALACE. Were these points of interest shorn of their beautifying accessories, they might have been named THE GREAT LAUNDRIES, as the box-work formations represent many a washing hanging upon lines crossed and recrossed.
Another avenue from the G. A. R. Hall leads to the CLIFF CHAMBER'S DELIGHT, sixty feet high, via FAT WOMAN'S MISERY. A less difficult route has been opened, so that only those desirous of following the old path submit to the crawling process.
Our path leads to the EASTERN STAR ROOM, where chocolate caramels tempt the eye and taste. A different route branches off from each of the five points of the star.
Near the Eastern Star Room, is the W.C.T.U. Hall, dedicated in August 1892. Here the flag and white ribbon keep each other company in perpetual night, the darkness being broken only by the candle and magnesium light, the sunlight having never penetrated that abysmal depth. The guide commands, "Lights out." All obey, because we have learned to trust the guide implicitly, being willing to try the impossible if the guide would so order. The lights go out in an instant and concentrated darkness reigns. The darkness seems more intense with the eyes opened than when closed. You imagine you could cut that darkness into chunks with a knife and preserve a cube of it in alcohol. A magnesium light flashes and the pall of death suddenly changes to radiant light.
Fittingly connected with this hall is SILENT LAKE, fed by a spring forty feet above the level of the lake.
We next pass under the CATHEDRAL DOME through KELLY'S SLIDE to the climax of the route-THE GARDEN OF EDEN. The most beautiful frost-work and box-work fringed with frost-work observed on the entire route is seen here in limitless profusion. The candles are extinguished and magnesium light is substituted. The tourists from Maine to California are fairly bewildered, amazed, and stand speechless as they become entranced, intoxicated by the unexpected profusion of elysian beauties. Here adjectives are useless, vocabularies fail; the word painter is confronted with a scene which defies description. The camera is outwitted; nature triumphs. The many domes are doubtless of geyser formation; and the depression named JACOB'S WELL represents the remains of an extinct geyser as he struggled for existence. The Garden of Eden covers half an acre; the floor is uneven and rugged; the ceiling is a constantly changing panorama of beauty. On one side is the LINNAEUS GROTTO, named by Professor Udden in honor of the renowned Swedish botanist; on the other side is another grotto containing stalagmites and stalactites in process of formation. A GYPSUM MUMMY and RHINOCEROS JAWS are also attractions here.
Leaving the Garden of Eden, but not forgetting it, we visit BEACON HEIGHTS and CORK SCREW PATH. Half way down Cork Screw Path is the GLACIER. Passing the Glacier, we reach the SPORTMAN'S DELIGHT, where a Goose hangs suspended from the ceiling. How many years have passed with the Goose unfed, uncared for, untouched, no man knows, but she is there nevertheless, ready for flight should the Glacier overtake her.
The last point on the Garden of Eden Route is DANTE'S INFERNO. It is dark, black, deep, and a decidedly weird abode for the tormented, and without excuse for its existence when compared with the Garden of Eden.
This route should not be classed as inferior simply because it is the shortest. Fifty-nine points of interest occupy one's undivided attention as the trip is made. The Fair Grounds Route has sixty-four and the Pearly Gates Route, seventy-six distinct attractions, giving a variety likened unto a kaleidoscope effect. We return almost as we came, laden, however, with a boundless supply of sublime, but strangely unique memories. Much in our life's history will be forgotten, but Wind Cave will never, can never, be obliterated from the scroll of remembrance.