We leave Yellowstone by the NE entrance, heading east across Wyoming. We're at altitude all day going across the scenic Beartooth Highway that rises into Montana for 9 miles. Heading SE on the Chief Joseph Highway, we encount fire alert signs and a huge encampment of firefighters. The fire was contained two days prior to the SW ridge where we see burned trees just along the rocky ridge line. They're breaking camp tomorrow. We find a tiny 5 sight camp along a babbling frigid creek at the base of a monolithic mountain seen above. We awake to a cloudy morning after light rain during the night.
Friday Aug 19
We climb Dead Indian Pass (8060') first thing. Over 1000' up from our camp, it has seven levels of road and switchbacks! On the other side, we descend to Cody Wyoming where cowboy culture rules. We follow roads marked as Scenic Routes. Ten Sleep is a town just before the southern area of the Big Horn Mountains. It's unusual name is explained on a sign in the center:
Leaving the mountains, we drive due east almost to the South Dakota state line when we decide to make a quick detour to Devils Tower, famed for the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We watch climbers scaling the tower.
Bismarck Lake, Black Hills SD
Sunday Aug 21
Morning finds Collin encircling the lake while I paint a small 6x8. Two couples ask me to add them into the scene so I am now painting two commissions!
Off we go to Mt Rushmore where we first pass by an ongoing rock carving project called Crazy Horse.
The pointing arm looks to me like Crazy Horse is riding a Harley - certainly appropriate in this motorcycle/ATVs area!
Mt Rushmore has certainly changed from Collin's 1990 trip there. From 1994-98, they made a grand entrance to the monument and enlarged all the attractions. Apparently they did not get enough federal funding for the parking so they sold the rights to a private company who built a large multileveled concrete structure and charge us $11 for RV parking. The deal smacks of cronyism to me - some senator gets federal money to enlarge the park while a concessionaire gets the rights to make millions off a previously free National Monument! Most enjoyable is a ranger talk at the Sculpture Studio on the process of making the figures. 90% of the work was done by very accurate blasting - to within 3-4" of the final surfaces! We head out in early afternoon to the historic town of Lead. Just before Spearfish Canyon, we find a sympathico tiny campground in a meadow by a babbling brook-Hanna CG.
Monday Aug 21
Mostly driving today to get half way thru North Dakota. Lovely morning drive up Spearfish Canyon on the way to Spearfish SD, an obviously upscale community. The canyon is gorgeous, filled with large cabins and loads of scenery. We stopped at Roughlock Falls. Lovely!
By 5pm we make it half way up ND and find a great campsite at Theodore Roosevelt NP- north unit, Oxbow Overlook in North Dakota.
Teddy had a cattle ranch here back before his political days - it failed due to drought and blizzards but the experience contributed greatly to his lifelong reverence for nature and the preservation of the extraordinary places in the US. This park is such a surprise for us -turning off the highway, its wonders are not visible as it is all carved out by the oxbows of the Little Missouri River.
Tomorrow we will arrive in Canada and begin the Canadian Adventure!