Sept 19, 2020
We drove out of the Bighorn mountains into the town of Buffalo. From there we drove onto I-90 and headed east. As we left the Bighorn mountains, the terrain became more rolling hills and grassland. We even passed a cowboy cattle drive on our way out of the mountains.
We stopped in Gillette, Wyoming for gas and some groceries from Walmart. In Gillette we saw blue skies for the first time on our trip. There was still some smoke in the air, but if you looked straight up you could see the blue sky. From Gillette it was about 60 miles to Devils Tower National Monument.
Devils Tower is a large rock monolith rising from the surrounding countryside. It was the nation’s first national monument that was founded in 1906. The original name was Bear Lodge, named by the Kiowa people. Their legend is the tower was formed when eight children were playing when one boy turned into a bear. He chased the other children up a stump of a great tree. As the other children were on the stump, it began to grow, leaving the bear on the ground. The bear’s claws created the vertical lines in the tower, as he struggled to climb the tree.
We arrived at the tower around noon. Being later in the day it was a little crowded, but not too bad. We hiked the 1.3 mile trail around the tower and took some pictures. There were several groups of climbers either coming down the tower or working their way up. It was fun to spot them on the tower. After out hike we ate lunch in the van.
We stopped at the trading post at the park entrance before driving back towards Sundance, Wyoming. Just a mile from Sundance, we drove up the mountains into the Black Hills NF and found a nice camping spot on the top of a hill. It was a nice flat spot that was in the trees. We set up the shower tent and we both took showers. After dinner we read and talked. It was not too cold of a night, but it did rain a bit and the wind blew. Maybe that will clear out the rests of the smoke.
Sept 20, 2020
It was nice to wake up and see blue skies and no smoke. We left camp about 9:30 am so we could ride down the mountain to Sundance, Wyoming to attend church. They have a small branch and counting us there were 32 people in attendance. All the people were really nice and glad to have visitors. Sundance is also the town where Harry Longabaugh got the name the Sundance Kid, after spending 18 months in the town’s jail.
From Sundance we drove east into South Dakota and stopped in the town of Spearfish. This is a very pretty town of 10,000 people on the north end of the Black Hills. We had met a couple in Thermopolis that were from Spearfish and they had recommended going to the fish hatchery on the edge of town. The DC Booth Fish Hatchery was founded in 1896 and is listed as a National Historic Site. It is still a working hatchery and the grounds are free to visit and explore. We walked through the grounds and saw a lot of fish.
We left Spearfish and drove south on highway 14 through Spearfish Canyon. The road winds through the canyon following Spearfish creek. The trees in the canyon were changing to their autumn colors and it was real pretty. We stopped at a trailhead to make sandwiches for lunch before continuing through the canyon. We also stopped at Bridal Veil Falls and Spearfish Falls for a few pictures.
We exited the Spearfish canyon near Deadwood, SD. We plan on spending time in Deadwood tomorrow, so we drove through town and up the mountain just west of town. We found a spot for the night, on the top of a bluff, about 3 miles from town. It gave us a nice view of the Black Hills.