Last day in Cody, WY - Beartooth Pass

We were waiting for a clear day, but alas, it never cleared up until this morning when we are packing up to leave Cody. So our drive on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and Beartooth Pass yesterday was a bit clouded. Still, we had some beautiful scenery to enjoy. Charles Kuralt called this the "most beautiful highway into America". The pass is 10,947 feet, the highest in Wyoming. We stopped at "Top of the World" and then continued down the other side into Red Lodge, Montana. The entire drive was great.

Today, we're on our way into Yellowstone, to stay at Madison for the first 5 nights, then at Fishing Bridge. We will have spotty or no cell phone coverage, and doubt we will be online during that time. Upon leaving Yellowstone, we spend two nights in Grand Teton NP then head into Idaho where we will meet up with Steve, Diane and kids at a state park near McCall. Can't wait to see them!

Three Nights in Cody, WY

From Sturgis, it was on to Cody, WY - gateway to Yellowstone's East entrance. We have been here for 3 nights and it has been cloudy and rainy until this morning when we're leaving! We chose some indoor activities for the rainy days - the Buffalo Bill Historical Center was very neat - including the largest collection of firearms in the country in their firearms museum, a plains indian museum which was terrific, and my favorite - the Draper Museum of Natural History. We also visited the Old West Miniature Village which was a really neat display of the old west, plus a huge collection of artifacts.

We washed the truck in Sturgis, but then went offroad near Cody, and it's never been so dirty! Worth it though, we had a great view of a Golden Eagle flying right next to us.

More pics from our Sturgis / Black Hills visit...

We had a great time in the beautiful Black Hills and hope to come back again and spend more time there. Devil's Tower was amazing and we enjoyed watching all the rock climbers.

Black Hills North

We left Custer SP and headed up through Rapid City to Sturgis, where we stayed 3 nights to explore Deadwood, Spearfish, Devil's Tower, and the surrounding areas. We stayed at Mt Rodney's RV Park overlooking Sturgis (terrific view); it was a nice place which we had almost to ourselves; however, it was extremely dusty. The drive through Spearfish Canyon was fantastic, and we enjoyed the short hike up to Roughlock Falls (though Gary was a bit disgusted to find out we could have driven up to them). We had fun in Deadwood, and took a day trip to hike around Devil's Tower in NE Wyoming.

More from Custer SP...

We had terrific neighbors who were next to us at both Badlands and Custer; George and Mary from Wisconsin had two Schnauzers Dux and Mitzi with whom Rexie enjoyed a very comfortable friendship (he really misses Maggie and the rest of the pack at Mom and Dad's); I enjoyed conversations with George who gave us good tips on the area.

Recently, Sylvan Lake and Mt Rushmore were shown in the movie "National Treasure" (part 2) which we have not seen yet; we are looking forward to recognizing the locations during the movie. Gary also discovered that everywhere he fished in Custer SP was amazing - a fish on the line with nearly every cast. He caught a good one on Sylvan Lake, and also a couple really big rainbows in the Grace Coolidge walk-in fish area.

We had resident buffalo (usually two - but once there were 10) walking through or napping in our campground. At one point, I had walked around to get a picture of the buffalo with our trailer in the background, then realized Rexie had opened the screen door and was out on the deck, looking directly at me and the buffalo. Fortunately, he's a bit slow these days - plus I think he might believe the buffalo are big horses - he doesn't seem too interested in them.

Custer State Park, southern Black Hills

From the Badlands, we went into Custer State Park, where we stayed at the Grace Coolidge Campground for 4 nights. Wish we could have stayed 2 weeks - there was so much to see and do, we could not do it all. It was a terrific location with lots of wildlife and beautiful scenery, not to mention all the nearby attractions. We were greeted upon entering the park by a momma mountain goat and her baby. Unfortunately, only got a picture of them as they headed in the other direction.

On the wildlife loop in the park, we ran into lots of burros who would come begging. We also drove through a buffalo herd and saw a few scuffles amongst the big bulls. The buffalo population in this state park is over 1400 at times.

We also visited Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. Iron Mountain Road up to Rushmore goes through several tunnels which frame Rushmore, which is really spectacular. We also loved Needles Highway up to Sylvan Lake - it was beautiful and inspiring at every turn.

More from the Badlands....

While we were in the Badlands, we made a trip to Scenic, SD where Gary's dad Ed grew up, and where Gary's grandparents are buried. We had a true "small world" experience there. An older couple pulled up behind us at the Scenic Cemetery, which is remote and seems out in the middle of nowhere. They both grew up in Scenic, and both knew Gary's dad. In fact, the woman Viginia Bessette, was 83 years old, and said she recalled that her older sister Alyce Bessette had dated Ed Swindler! She said the Swindlers were a "wild bunch" but because her sister was older than Ed, it must have been her who lead him astray, not the other way around! :-)

Then the man gave us a tour of the cemetery, and pointed out the Skinner family graves who were good friends with the Swindlers (Gary remembers them from family reunions), and he also pointed out the grave of Gary's aunt who was married to Howard Swindler, Ed's brother. The man was Marlowe Jurisch who had designed and built the beautiful new gate at the cemetery, and many of the headstones; he also had relatives who worked on Mount Rushmore (the Jurisch name was included in the list of those who helped carve Rushmore). It was an amazing coincidence and lucky timing that we were able to meet them. Just before we left the cemetery, another woman pulled in who was an 8th grade teacher in Scenic from long ago. Gary was introduced and she said, "I remember Ed Swindler!" So here was another person who knew Gary's dad. Truly a small world!

Here are pictures of a 13-lined ground squirrel, prairie dog, Gary hiking the Yellow Mounds area, and a bighorn sheep:

Five Nights in the Badlands

We stayed at Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park, enjoyed beautiful weather (not hot) and really enjoyed hiking in the canyons. We saw bighorn sheep, pronghorn, whitetail deer, lots of priairie dogs, and one incredible lightning storm. Here are a few pictures from our stay.