Wednesday, September 21, 2016

TR & Black Hills

Summer Is Over September 21, 2016

We want to start off this edition of the blog by stating that daily we feel strong gratitude and a real sense of how fortunate we are to be on this adventure together. We have always been blessed with ample time for summer road trips beginning in 1980 on our first marathon 7-week tour of western states and Canada and continuing in subsequent summers with our kids. Retirement has just made it possible to extend these travels into multi-month journeys. This trip has mostly been a re-visitation of points of interest from our 1980, 1994, and 1997 trips with a few new locations and extra time to delve deeper into the places that strike our fancy.

Since our last report from Helena, Montana, we continued exploring central and eastern Montana, made another short visit to Yellowstone NP, spent time in western North Dakota, and are winding up our visit to the Black Hills of SD.

Here are the highlights:

We found ourselves less than 100 miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park and decided to spend two days in the Mammoth Hot Springs area, a part of the park we had not visited in many years. While the crush of visitors had abated somewhat, we still saw vehicles lining up for a campsite by 8:00 in the morning. We made time to visit our favorite part of the park – the Norris Geyser Basin. We awoke to find a bull elk bugling in the campground with his harem browsing on bushes right next to our truck.

 "Devil's Slide" rock formation, Yellowstone River

 Roosevelt Arch, north entrance - Yellowstone NP

These pronghorn are too used to tourists; they should be running away.

 bighorn sheep

 Tower Fall, YellowstoneNP

 Yellowstone River near Tower Fall

 Steamboat Geyser, steaming away

 Orange Spring Mound

Elk passing through our campsite, the little one is looking right at us.

          Replacing a cache above a hot spring along the Yellowstone River

More encounters of Lewis and Clark historic sites, including Pompey's Pillar in Montana. Plentiful pronghorn spotted in the rolling ranchland of SE Montana.

We spent three days at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, both the south and north units. Another first for us – a herd of bison grazing in our campground!

     Campground, South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

             TR's Maltese Cross cabin

               prairie dogs everywhere

  Handsome fellow looking at us

        TRNP - North Unit

 Formations known as cannonball concretions, TRNP

Along the Missouri River in ND, we stopped at two historic sites: Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark spent the winter, and nearby Knife River Indian Villages where Sakakawea lived after being kidnapped from the Shoshoni in Montana and where she joined Lewis and Clark on their expedition.

You know from our previous posts that we like to stop for quirky, oddball places so we stopped to see “Salem Sue” (largest Holstein in the world) and the large metal sculptures along the “Enchanted Highway.”

           Salem Sue is 38 feet tall and weighs 12,000 pounds; New Salem, ND

  "Geese in Flight"

 "The Deer Family"

        Signing the log of a geocache in a maze - a first for us!

 "Grasshoppers in the Field"

"Fisherman's Dream"

 "Pheasants on the Prairie"

 "Tin Family"
"Teddy Rides Again"

After passing through the geographical center of the U.S., we returned to Wyoming for a visit to Devil's Tower National Monument and to find the caches in the Sundance Geocache Roundup. The highlight of the 'Roundup' (figuratively and physically) was the Warren Peak Fire Lookout Tower.

 Geographical Center of U.S. in Belle Fourche, SD

       B with "The Kid" in Sundance, Wyoming

       We realized that we would not get back to our campsite before dark so we made our dinner on the top of the mountain.  Handy picnic table compliments of the US Forest Service.

          Helicopter rescue training exercise in progress

 Devil's Tower from our campsite

       Early morning light, view from our campground

 Cute prairie dogs, again.

We are now wrapping up a four day visit to the Black Hills: Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Black Hills National Forest. Next on the itinerary: Badlands National Park.

          Wind Cave is famous for this cave formation known as "boxwork."

                  Fall is here in the Black Hills