We did everything today. I mean everything. Up fairly early, and immediately into Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom: buffalo everywhere! Just a bit further down the road we found pronghorn deer grazing and sipping from a small lake. The herd of wild mules that stopped traffic turned into a hilarious encounter: we were all looking out the driver's side window at the mule who had stuck its nose into the car nuzzling Rob, when Michael suddenly squawked and busted up laughing as another mule butted him with its nose and stuck its head in the window. And driving through a wide open plain, we spooked scores of prairie dogs, sending them scurrying into their holes. We found breakfast in Hot Springs, and then set off to the Mammoth Site, burial ground of more than 50 wooly mammoths. The excavation has been going on for more than 20 years -- the first tusk was uncovered by a backhoe preparing the property for a housing development -- and they expect the discoveries to continue for 20 years more. Hard to describe how well-organized and engaging this museum is. It made me want to go outside and start digging.
From there we headed to a park called Cascade Falls that I heard about from the cashier at the breakfast restaurant. We found ourselves cooling off from the 90-degree heat in the cool waters of a local river, jumping off the rocks along with the locals. We snacked on sunflower seeds and I think Rob won the shell-spitting contest. But we had not yet finished with Hot Springs. We stopped to pick up a package of buffalo jerky on the way out of town, and headed north to Wind Caves National Park a few miles up the road. Our luck was holding and we were able to get tickets to the last cave tour of the day, an hour-long tour about 20 stories under the surface of the earth. At 53-degrees underground, caving was our second great break from the heat of the day.
Dinner at the Sage Creek Grill in Custer was recommended by one of our cave tour participants -- good glass of wine, and Rob enjoyed his buffalo rib-eye, but I was focused on eating healthy and I probably ordered wrong. Oh well... Michael contended that no dessert was necessary and then helped us polish off a hefty portion of carrot cake.
The plan is to make it all the way across Wyoming tomorrow.