By Marcus Heerdt
WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK – Wind Cave’s Elk Mountain Campground, located just to the northwest of the park’s visitor center, is occasionally selling out its campsites this travel season due to its new listing on www.recreation.gov.
“Because we switched to a reservation system for the campground, we are selling out. In the past, it was very rare, if ever, that the campground filled up,” said Tom Farrell, chief of interpretation for Wind Cave.
Recreation.gov was created by the federal government in 2002 to be a one-stop shop for outdoor lovers to plan their next travel adventure. Partnering with agencies such as the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers, the website includes more than 113,000 reservable campsites across the United States. Recreation.gov estimates that their website has more than 21 million users.
Elk Mountain Campground has 62 campsites and is open year-round. Sites are reservable on Recreation.gov late May through September, and are first-come, first-served at all other times. Ranger programs are offered nightly in the campground’s amphitheater during the summer. The Elk Mountain Nature Trail, a nearly one-mile interpretive trail, begins and ends in the campground.
On the morning of Thursday, July 6, Max and Heather Sexauer were packing up their campsite and getting ready to head to The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs.
“My parents came here 26 years ago on their honeymoon, and they suggested we visit The Mammoth Site,” Max said.
Max and Heather call Zumbrota, Minn., home and were on a national parks trip, and had traveled down from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota before spending two nights at the Elk Mountain Campground. He is a computer engineer for a technology company and she is a safety, health, and environment engineer for a large production facility.
“This is our first time in the Black Hills,” said Heather. “We booked this campsite using Recreation.gov in mid-March, and even then there were only four or five sites still available.”
Although disappointed that their cave tour was cancelled due to elevator maintenance issues, the couple said they enjoyed hiking the trails, attending an evening ranger program, and viewing the wildlife at the park.
After their visit to The Mammoth Site, the Sexauers were headed to Badlands National Park for a couple more nights of camping and then were going to make their way home.
When asked why Max was wearing a Detroit Lions hoodie and Heather a Michigan Tech shirt, they both had an amusing story to tell. Max is originally from Wisconsin and a Green Bay Packers fan. Heather is originally from southeastern Michigan, and her family members are die-hard Detroit Lions fans.
When Heather moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for college, a region filled with Packers fans, her father told her “not to come back a Packers fan.” Her father became even more worried when she started dating a Wisconsinite. Pretty soon Max bought Heather Packers gear, and her father retaliated with buying Max a Lions hoodie.
“It’s a nice hoodie so I wear it,” Max said.