Mazes and Marvels - The Less Traveled Routes


The BEE HIVE Route is interesting, but difficult to travel. It leads through rough, craggy, and dismal avenues and chambers. which abundantly permit one to study the Cave as nature left it. Of the one hundred miles explored and the three thousand chambers discovered in Wind Cave, none are as interesting, romantic, or half so difficult of access as the Crystal Palace Route, which extends fifteen miles to the left, beyond the Wind River Route, embracing the Crystal Palace, the Mausoleum, and Columbian Hall. The Grand Canyon Route, with Elephant Hall and Monument Room at its terminus; is a continuation of the Devil's Lookout crevice. Few take this route. Probably not more than one tourist in a thousand dares face the dangers of the 110-foot climb down the perpendicular walls of the Grand Canyon. The ride down Echo River in Mammoth Cave, Ky., might well be classed as the journey of a tenderfoot compared with the Alpine trip of the unique route. The writer will never forget the incidents of that romantic trip down Echo River, nor the descent of Wind Cave's marvel, the Grand Canyon. Having descended the walls of that canyon without a rope, using the guide, however, as a bridge in places, and being seated upon the old elephant's back in Elephant Hall, I said to the guide: "If we should lose our lights, or have them extinguished and have no matches, how would we ever escape from this deep and dangerous subterranean prison?" He replied: "Since I am the only one this side of Montana that knows this route, it is possible, under such circumstances, that centuries might roll by before our unbleached skeletons would be found by some venturesome exploring party and preserved for study as fossils of an extinct race." This rather depressing information unfolded a possible chapter of unwritten history within my imaginative horizon that caused me to tremble with fear. Mental pictures flashed in rapid succession, portraying the vistas of time, in which a black-haired Penelope and a three-year-old boy figured most prominently. I could see them approach this breathing wonder in search of one who had long years before set out to seek, not Trojan honors, but Wind Cave intelligence. No tidings come. All grow hopeless save the one who knits by day and unravels by night. Suitors come and go, but the promise is withheld. The former boy grays with age as years take their flight. But when the summit of the Grand Canyon is scaled, equilibrium of both mind and body is regained and the semi-blood- curdling experiences of the past two hours seem only as a dream.

Hastening over craggy rocks, steep precipices, and deep pits, through apertures impossible of access by the fat man, down declines glacier-like, sprinkled here and there with crystals glittering and pellucid; walking under sparkling diamond formations and between giant columns of stalagmites and stalactites, under towering domes, and through starry grottoes connected by marvelous avenues, we reach the well-beaten path traveled on the regular routes by tens of thousands of tourists, and seek the outer world by ascending the 156 steps whence we started. Our experiences have been wonderful. We return convinced that no pen can portray the Cave's manifold wonders; no artist can do justice to the calcite chalcedony-covered art formations, the snow-white, delicate frost-work with orange-hued background, or the pearly-covered, popcorn-fringed box-work so abundant in the lower tiers of the Cave.

When an outing is under consideration, do not fail to include the wonderful Wind Cave on your itinerary. When a party emerges from the Cave it is common to hear such expressions as, "It is wonderful", "I never dreamed of such a marvel," "Its mazes and marvels surely defy description," "I would not have missed it for $100," etc, etc. An old Dakotan met a party of Kentuckians at the Evans hotel and asked them if they did not want to visit one of the great wonders of the world, Wind Cave, twelve miles away toward Harney Peak. Quick came the reply: "We want you to understand, sir, that we are from Kentucky and live near Mammoth Cave, and if you have anything to show us that approaches the wonder of our native state, we are at your service, sir." This was an opportunity, and he responded, "I will take you out, show you through the Cave, bring you back to the hotel, and if you do not say Wind Cave is the equal of, if not superior to Mammoth Cave, I'll not charge you a copper; otherwise the charge will be $1.50 each." They accepted the proposition, and were so bewildered by the Cave's mazes, marvels, and endless profusion of wonders that their former praise of Mammoth Cave was changed to eulogies of Wind Cave, the unparalleled geological wonder of the world, located twelve miles from Hot Springs, the "Carlsbad of America," amid the entrancing, scenic Black Hills, which are known to art as the "Switzerland of America."


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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