After five wonderful nights in Yellowstone it was time to head farther east as we make our slow move toward Rapid City, South Dakota, which would be our next major destination area. Rapid City is within close proximity to the Black Hills, Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, and many other attractions.
On our way out of the North East entrance to Yellowstone we saw two wolves cross the road in front of us, it sure made our day, as it was our first view of wolves on this trip. We didn’t get any pictures unfortunately, especially since I was trying to shove 50’ of truck and trailer into a pull off better suited for a Prius.
The road out of Yellowstone is twisty and winds through the hills and prairies, making for a roller coaster of a ride, one that sure would be fun in a small sports car. These roads are perfectly manageable with the truck and trailer, but one does need to be paying attention, and we are glad our trailer does not sit as high as a 5th wheel trailer as some of the rock out cropping’s seem to just hang over the road.
As usual we do not like to drive long distances if we can help it, and since we were going to be doing some grocery shopping along the way, our first night after Yellowstone was Cody, Wyoming. Cody is named after Buffalo Bill Cody, as is the state park in the area. This town of 10,000 residents is a major gateway to those headed into Yellowstone National Park. With an annual visitor count into the National Park at over 4 million, you can imagine this small town gets its shares of visitors also. So much so that during the peak summer season the population of the town can quadruple.
The town of Cody has capitalized on this influx of visitors and most of the industry around the area is tourism. Also how often in a town of 10,000 people do you find a Wal-Mart, a very nice one at that when the tourist have left due to the off season in which we visited. Cody has a rodeo arena, and during the summer, they have a rodeo every night, of which even the locals say is a fun time. The few locals that we spoke to also mentioned their massive 4th of July Parade that last over 2-hours.
While in Cody we went to the Beck Dog Park to allow the pups to run off some steam and get to meet some of the local pups, and of course we meet several of the locals there who were intrigued by us Alaskans and our travels. The pups had a great time. We went to the Buffalo Bill State park to spend the night, however although it was still open it was near deserted and windy, therefore we did not feel the need to pay the high entrance fee for a park that was essentially shut down for the year. Therefore we went and spent the night at the local Walmart Parking lot, after a small shopping spree inside. We also got the chance to do a spray down of the truck and trailer, at the cheapest rate I have ever had when it comes to coin operated sprayers.
The next morning we headed off via US14 which is a scenic by way, and scenic it was. The landscape reminded of Western movies, and the pull offs offered info on the Indians who lived in the area until they were hunted down by the American Military of the time. This is a sad part of history that you will be reminded of during your travels in the area. You can picture yourself as an Indian over looking the prairies on a tall hillside, or as a pioneer headed through the area as you’re trying to make it toward the Oregon coast. Several parks around the area are named after figures in western history, much of who were generals in the American Military. I often wonder if these figures of history should be celebrated, on one hand America became what it is by force, and on the other hand it did so by deception and very sad and ruthless ways.
As we continued our travel along US14 we spent 3-nights at Sibley Lake Campground in the Bighorn National Forest. This particular campground is open all year long, however during the off-season once everything is shut off, there are no fees. The temps were in the 70s on the first day we showed up, however on the last day of our stay the mercury barely made it into the 30’s, but with blue skies it wasn’t bad. Our stay there gave us a chance to do some haircuts on both myself, and Josie. We also picked up another traveler, a mouse that has yet to be seen, but traps are out to catch the little bastard.
A side trip off of I-90 as we headed toward South Dakota kept us at Devils Tower N.M. in Wyoming. Devils Tower is a pinnacle of a mountain that just pops right out of the otherwise rolling hills of the area. This mountain has been sacred to the local Indian Tribes with legends of how it formed, their translated name for the mountain is Bear Den. While we were there we watched about 12 people climbing the mountain, which goes straight up in areas. This is a bucket list climb for climbers all around, and even makes me want to learn how to climb.
The campground inside of the National Monument area was very nice, and quiet. The campground has 50 sites, yet during our stay we were the only travel trailer, with two group sites taken up, and two individual tents. Yes we love visiting these places during the off-season, it’s like having the campgrounds to ourselves. Devils Tower is also known for being the backdrop for the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a Steven Spielberg movies from 1977. As it was the 40th anniversary of the movie, the National Park Service and area continues to capitalize on the movie, even having outdoor showings on the big screen during the peak tourist season. We however did not encounter any aliens, beside the stuffed one in the gift shop.
More critter pictures can be found on our Critters page.
NEXT STOP: Black Hills Area of South Dakota