Nice and slow day today. Caught up on blogs earlier, we did laundry and visited the Jewel Cave. It’s about a 180 mile of cave tunnels with a good 1/2 mile walking path for a tour. The wind cave, another cave not too far away, offers a more spelunking experience where you squeeze through a rather tight space to see the “natural wonders inside”. I’ll let them continue to be a mystery in that cave.
We did stop at the ranger station and got a great map for dispersed camping (just pull off a forest service road). It’s very common is AZ, but not so much as you move east. Picked a spot that was gorgeous for tonight. You can’t see it, but the vista also overlooks the Crazy Horse carving off in the distance. Grilled a couple of steaks and a baked potato for a great meal overlooking the valley. Saw two red-tail hawks circling right in front of us (they wanted the steak), but no deer or elk. Got to say that this ranked as the new #2 spot.
We stopped at Devil’s Tower as we left Wyoming. A very neat rock. Camping is turning out to be interesting. We made a reservation in Yellowstone, but everywhere else we just find the local national park or national forest campsites and pull in. Most folks crowd into the KOAs or larger sites, with folks spaced about 10 feet apart in their 50 foot trailers. The park and forest sites are really nice, are mostly tents and the hosts have turned out to be some interesting folks.
South Dakota is a new state for both Pam and me. The Black Hills area is very pretty. Camping in the forest around here is just like the Rim, Ponderosa trees and grassy fields. As you approach the area the one thing you notice is the number of bikes in the area. Sturgis kicks off next week, but a lot of bikers are already in the area.
Rushmore was interesting. The area around it was the busiest place with the most people we have been in for some time. It felt like entering Disneyland, but the rock was neat to look at up close.
Crazy Horse was huge and will be incredible when it is finished in a few decades. Maybe we’ll be around to see the carving completed.
Laundry is now done so we’re on our way east.
We dropped out of Montana into Wyoming and Yellowstone. We came in the north entrance, left through the south entrance to go to see Grand Teton range and then left out the west entrance for Cody and points east.
Yellowstone is huge and unfortunately its set up for driving around. We decided to be different and hike the canyon area during our trip there.
We hiked from the campsite to the falls and back since parking the roamer in the small lots gets interesting. Stopped for a good lunch spot along the way and saw a really neat osprey nest in the rocks. Also had a couple of good drafts when we got back to the lodge.
Yellowstone is a pretty amazing place. Every turn offers a more beautiful vista of a totally different type. These were the thermal vents that seem to be all over the park.
We dropped down towards Jackson and saw the Grand Teton range. Never realized there was a huge lake at the base of the range. Thinking more about owning a boat now and pulling it behind the Roamer.
We then pointed the Roamer east and headed for Cody. We stopped in the Wild West Museum there. Huge place with a lot to see. Their gun collection was amazing. This is a fraction of the guns that were in the place. (add picture later wi-fi is dead).
Camped in the forest east of Cody after climbing a huge hill. The sign said “steep grade”, but it was only because they don’t make “100% grade” signs. Thankfully the Roamer has plenty of power and it was a lot cooler in the trees. We visited the Medicine Wheel on the top of the hill. No pictures were taken because there was a prayer ceremony within the wheel ongoing. It reminded me of the pictures of Everest Base camp – pretty neat.
Next up – the Black Hills of South Dakota
The drive to Billings was through grassy, rolling hills covered with crops nearly ready for harvest and wildlife, with the occasional vista along the way. We saw a lot of deer, bison and pronghorn in the fields, with three large birds that are as of yet undefined (believed to be sand hill cranes – lifer!).
Stopped for lunch at a fishing access spot and ran into a cigar-smoking dentist with waders on and heading into the river. He gave us directions to the Tobacco Row cigar shop in Billings. Got to like fishing dentists. We visited Pompey Pillars, the place Clark (of Lewis and Clark) carved his name in the rock over-looking the river in 1806 during his return trip east. It is the only known sign they left along the way during their journey. Besides the historic rock graffiti, the visitor center was a pretty interesting building inside.
Next stop was Little Bighorn battlefield, where Custer and the 900 men that made up the 7th Cav met Sitting Bulls and 20,000 upset Sioux. The June 1876 outcome (just 70 years after Lewis and Clark passed through the same area) was pretty much a given due to the numbers and home field advantage. Questionable tactics led to Custer’s and about 50% of the 7th Cav’s fate on Last Stand Hill.
It was a reflective experience to walk the area, and in 1991 the Sioux were given approval to add a monument to honor their side of the battle. That word of the defeat reached Washington, DC during the 100-year anniversary celebrations did not bode well for the Sioux in the months that followed Little Bighorn.
We then took off for Yellowstone and a beautiful drive through the Beartooth wilderness area. Another high altitude pass with incredible vistas. This is an area to visit again and check out some of the dirt roads we saw on the other side of the valley heading into the hills – perfect for the Roamer. We passed another Earthroamer going the opposite direction on the pass road.