Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

Wyoming and South Dakota – 2018

So much to see and do in Wyoming and South Dakota!  I had a wonderful trip with my new teardrop trailer (HikerTrailer.net) and crossed off a bunch of adventures on my bucket list 🙂

First stop was Grand Teton National Park, but the haze from wildfires made it very hard to enjoy the views that I know are here! I finally got to see a moose, which I missed seeing last time I was there a couple of years ago.

Next I went to Devils Tower National Monument, and stayed at Belle Fourche Campground. This is so impressive, and hard to describe. Photos can’t convey what it feels like to be up close and personal with this monstrous hunk of rock. I hiked the Red Bed Trail, a 3-mile loop around Devils Tower that gives very different perspectives on the Tower and meanders through some wonderful bright red soil areas. It looks totally different depending on the angle and light of day. Morning light was my favorite 🙂

Next stop was Badlands National Park in South Dakota, which I promptly fell in love with!! I stayed at the Cedar Pass Campground, which was so-so, not horrible but not my favorite campground either. It was a blistering 98-100 degrees while I was there, but it didn’t stop me from exploring and driving the Badlands Loop Scenic Highway over and over (can you say car A/C ???) , and getting up before first light to hike before the heat of the day (and before the rattlesnakes woke up). I found a perfect spot for early morning yoga at the end of the Door Trail with the most amazing morning light. Unfortunately the Notch Trail was closed due to several injuries and rescues this year. The hike/scramble up to Saddle Pass has some incredible views, and it’s a lot of fun to sit at the top and just take it all in. Badlands NP is surreal and magical, and I already want to go back again.

(not hiking related) – After Badlands NP I backtracked to Buffalo, Wyoming, to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law for Longmire Days. If you haven’t seen the show Longmire on Netflix, it’s definitely something to binge watch this winter (trust me, you’ll be hooked). We had so much fun, met and got autographs from 5 of the cast as well as Craig Johnson, the author of the books. I can’t say enough about how gracious, kind, humble, generous, humorous, and downright amazing they all were, including the cast,  Mr. Johnson, all the volunteers, the people at the campground (Indian Campground in Buffalo WY), and every single person we met. Those few days went a long way toward restoring my faith in humanity, and it was hard to leave.

After Longmire Days in Buffalo WY, we headed back east to Custer State Park in South Dakota. Custer SP is a perfect central location to explore Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, the Black Hills, as well as the town of Custer. Custer State Park itself is wonderful, with great hiking, lakes, wildlife, and the Needles Highway. We stayed at Legion Lake Campground in Custer SP, which was very nice.

The next day I went on the Fairgrounds Tour at Wind Cave National Park, then on to the Historic Lantern Tour at Jewel Cave National Monument. I love going into caves, they’re fascinating, especially when there are bats!. Both of these did not disappoint. Wind Cave is a barometric cave, and will sometimes “sing” at the natural entrance as the wind is flowing in or out. It’s the 3rd longest cave in the U.S. The ranger leading the tour was wonderful, explaining the rock formations like boxwork as well as the Lakota Indian legends surrounding the cave. Wind Cave has 95 percent of the world’s boxwork formations, it looks like something from a sci-fi movie 🙂

Jewel Cave gets its name because a large potion of the cave is covered in calcite crystals. It also has a nice population of bats, which are amazing creatures! I highly recommend the Historic Lantern Tour, as long as you’re comfortable going up and down very narrow and steep wooden stairs (very sturdy, tho!) and crouching down for low ceilings 🙂  Our guide was a ranger-in-training, and she did a wonderful job of explaining the history and geology of the cave.

I ended the day with a hike around Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. At Legion Lake Campground a huge bull bison wandered right through out campsites!

The following day we drove to the Crazy Horse Monument, then on to Mt. Rushmore National Monument. Both are amazing to see in person and well worth the time to see. I really enjoyed watching the videos at each visitor center explaining how they came to be and how they were carved.  At Mt. Rushmore, we were honored to meet the only living original worker, he was a jackhammerer and a winch man. There was rocking thunder and lightning, and we skirted the storm on the way back to the campground. Perfect timing.

After the weather cleared, we drove the Needles Highway in Custer State Park. There are amazing rock formations here, and 2 teensy tunnels to drive through. The grand finale is the Needle’s Eye just before ending up at Sylvan Lake. Have I mentioned that I love rocks?

I stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana on my way back home.

It took me about 21 hours of solid driving over 2 days to get back home, but it was so worth it. Sleeping at a remote Montana rest stop overnight, right next to a very active train track, is not highly encouraged. I’d do this trip again tomorrow if I could, I had such a wonderful time!

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