Although we had a wonderful time spending a significant portion of the summer in northwestern Wyoming, we also had the devastaion and loss of having lost Bogie, our pet and companion. Certainly, the last couple of weeks there was because we were having such a hard time leaving him behind. Ultimately, as hard as it was, we realized it was time to move on.
Looking back, it was hard to believe that we rolled into Lander, Wyoming on July 1st, staying there for a total of 5 days including celebrating the 4th of July there, and then moved past Dubois up into the Absaroka Mountains about 30 miles east of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, spending about 5 weeks at Falls Campground which we used as our base for exploring the greater area of that part of Wyoming. From that camp, we traveled down the mountain to Jackson Hole and the town of Jackson. We kayaked a few times on Jackson Lake in the Tetons and otherwise sought out Jeep trails and the abundant wildlife that is there, including Bison, Moose, Antelope and, of course bears. Before we were done, we had had close encounters with a black bear and a Grizzly. Nothing dangerous. Just a photo shoot.
This “Grizz” was just out for a walk when we encountered him on an open plain near Towgotee Pass. We were no more than 50 yards from him
One of the joys included in our travels are the people we meet and, in some cases, develop relationships with. Such was the case while camping at Falls Campground, where we met Doug, Rex and Richard and Justin.
Rex is an agronomist who has lived most of his 71 years in Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska. Richard was our camp host. He’s from South Carolina and has been traveling to this area as a camp host for the summer for the past nine years. Justin is the local Forest Service Ranger and district supervisor. We spent many hours together just hanging out, sharing meals and circling around campfires.
Once we left that area, we headed east from Yellowstone to Cody, Wyoming where we spent five days exploring the area and visiting the William F. Cody Center of the West Museums. I say “museums” plural because there are five museums under one roof. This is a must see when in Cody.
Among the five museums under one roof, the Cody Firearms Museum was a hands down favorite. More than 7.000 guns on display, covering several large rooms. It is a signicant historical display of weapons that goes way beyond guns that tamed the west.
In fact, while we were traveling Beartooth, we ran across these guys at 11,000 feet.
From Cody, we continued east up into the Bighorn Mountains where we boondocked on top for a night before heading further east down off the Bighorns, arriving in Sheridan, Wyoming. Since Sheridan was such a short drive from our boondock, we continued south on Interstate 90 to Buffalo, Wyoming. Interestingly, this was our first Interstate travel in about 5 months. We DO NOT miss driving on Interstates, but sometimes it quickly gets us from here to there.
Our destination once heading east across northern Wyoming, was to be the Black Hills of South Dakota. We had not been there before. Just prior to crossing into South Dakota, Interstate 90 took us to the turnoff for Devils Tower, which is in the extreme northeastern corner of Wyoming.
Even though we had seen many photos of this National Monument in the past, we were not prepared for what we saw when, after turning a corner on a country back road, we were suddenly face-to-face with it. Rising 1257 feet above anything around it, it was just awe inspiring. We spent two days in the campground just below the tower, using the time to relax and explore the area within the National Monument boundary. Because of the sheer vertical nature of the Tower, we wondered if anyone climbed it, or whether folks are even allowed to climb it. We asked a Ranger who said “Oh yes, about 5,000 people a year In fact, there are about 200 people here to climb right now.” WOW!!
From Devils Tower, we continued on backroads crossing into South Dakota. Although we spent some re-supply time in Spearfish, South Dakota, we took the exit just south of town that took us up into the Black Hills and Deadwood, South Dakota where we spent a couple of days. Deadwood, and the adjacent Lead (pronounced LEED) are both historic gold rush towns well worth exploring, which we did in “spades”.
The Black Hills are an isolated range of mountains running north to south about 60 miles and east to west about 40 miles. At the north end are Spearfish, Deadwood, Lead, and Sturgis, all unique with their own glorious histories and stories to be preserved.
At the southern end of the Black Hills is Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custer State Park and Rapid City. Before leaving this area, we would visit each of these places and otherwise drive the backroads through the Black Hills.
Relating to Mt. Rushmore, although seeing this Monument in person is awe inspiring, the Visitor Center with its extensive focus on the engineering and labor that it took the sculptor and his team to literally blast and carve what we see today is amazing and well worth spending some time pouring over all that is there. Well worth the visit.
We totally enjoyed our time in this area of South Dakota. Lots to see and do. We’ll be back