I am leaving West Yellowstone this morning where I will drive across Montana towards North Dakota.
Once past Billings, Montana the terrain changed from mountains of green to rolling hills of tall yellow and green grass.
I will boondock in Miles City, Montana for the night and head to North Dakota in the morning.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a National Park that honors the late president for his efforts in using his authority while in office to protect wildlife and public lands. He created the USFS and established 150 national forests, 5 national parks and 18 national monuments.
**** Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The park had a few closures and it wasn’t as Camper/RV friendly as I was hoping as roads narrowed making it difficult.
The scenery was beautiful and there were plenty of bison and prairie dogs to be seen.
Rolling hills, badlands, prairie ecosystems, canyons and sweeping views abound.
70,446 acres make up the three major parts of the park. There were many hiking trails and a very nice driving tour.
The Park was easy to access off I-94 and the Painted Canyon Visitors Center was not open but a person could get out and walk and enjoy the views.
Beauty can be found in the vastness if one takes the time to look.
I now set my sights on Rapid City, South Dakota where I will pick up my good friend Mary from the airport and we will spend the week exploring the Black Hills National Forest and beyond.
Mary and I set out early for a day of exploring. First stop Mount Rushmore!
**** Mount Rushmore National Memorial
This is the tunnel that takes you into Keystone on your way to the park.
From the distance you are able to see those four faces before entering the memorial itself.
After parking, you enter the park and the corridor of state flags.
This is my third trip to Mount Rushmore and it is always amazing to me.
Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln.
The museum exhibits and movies bring the history alive.
Museum time line.
These words are so relevant in the times we are going through now.
**** Crazy Horse Memorial
72 years ago the Crazy Horse Memorial was started by Korczak Ziolkowski at the request of Henry Standing Bear of the Lakota tribe.
Henry Standing Bear wanted the white man to know that the red man had great heros too.
Dedicated to Crazy Horse, a Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota.
The Crazy Horse Foundation is a nonprofit and operates soley on dollars from visitors.
The foundation not only raises money for the memorial but also for a Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.
This is what a completed memorial will look like.
I was here a few years ago and you can see that the work on this project is not much different than it was then.
The top picture is a few years back and the bottom is today. I doubt at 72 years of working this project that I will see it’s completion.
Inside the Cultural Center was a small Post Office.
Leaving the memorial we drove to Custer, South Dakota. A nice little town that hasn’t seen much commercialization like Deadwood and Keystone.
We had lunch at a cute coffee shop and did not burn any daylight.
We drove through Custer State Park on our way to Wind Cave National Park.
**** Wind Cave National Park
The actual Wind Cave was closed due to Covid-19 but there was hiking, wildlife and much to see.
Mary and I decided to take a hike on the Rankin Ridge and Firetower loop. The highest point in the National Park and well worth it.
The hike wasn’t a long hike, only a little over a mile.
From the top of the loop you could see far beyond the park.
At this point you caught a glimpse of The Badlands and Buffalo Gap.
Along the way were some interesting and beautiful wildflowers.
At the Prairie Dog Town this little guy didn’t seem to be afraid of us. I stopped the truck to get his picture and ended up giving him a little corner of my peanut butter sandwich.
The Bison were grazing throughout the park. As we came around a corner we caught one scratching his head on the guardrail.
On our hike there was an abundance of colorful marble encapsulated in the rocks.
There are a few wineries and breweries in the Black Hills.
We stopped at the Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City, South Dakota to try their rhubarb wines.
What a great day exploring and we ended it with a nice fire at camp.
Today we are off to The Badlands.
**** Badlands National Park
The south unit of the park was closed but the north unit was open.
We took the scenic route through the southern entrance into the north unit.
It was a great way to see the evolution of terrain from the plains to the steep slopes of sedimentary rock and clay which have been eroded by wind and water.
The rich colors of the rocks were amazing.
A look at the prairie lands and a herd of deer nestled together.
A spectacular color display of black/blue coal stria to bright clays of red/orange scoria.
The Badlands is an area of 244,000 acres and home to one of the richest fossil beds in the world.
Geological structures called clastic dikes.
Before we left the park we got some smaller hikes in, like the Fossil Exhibit Trail, the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail and the Window Trail.
This was the Cliff Shelf Trail.
The Window Trail
One lonely sunflower.
Driving back to Rapid City no trip is complete without stopping at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota.
We enjoyed a great mexican lunch and then went shopping.
Too busy for us. We weren’t there long but long enough to see what the hype is about.
Another good day in the books and another great night for a campfire.
Today we are on our way to Spearfish Canyon to see some waterfalls and do some hiking.
On the way there was beautiful Pactola Lake.
**** Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon lies between the towns of Lead and Spearfish, South Dakota.
Our first stop was Roughlock Falls. Little Spearfish Creek flows down a beautiful ravine to a 50 foot drop to a series a cascades.
Upper 50-foot cascading fall.
Hiking down to the lower falls at the bottom of the canyon.
The creek continues through the canyon.
The beautiful canyon beyond.
Wildflowers along the way.
Spearfish Falls starts at the Latchstring Inn. A nice nature hike to the bottom opens up the beautiful cascading Spearfish Falls.
An Aspen tree seems to hold memories of visitors past.
On to Devils Bathtub. Which was an interesting hike. The creek below had to be crossed many times through the hike. Crossing on rocks and logs and at points just getting your feet wet.
A huge tree gall.
Deeper into the canyon.
A smaller bathtub.
The Devils Bathtub. There were so many people just sitting and playing in the water that I stole this picture from google that did not have all the extra people in it.
Bridal Veil Falls overlook.
As we leave the canyon we drive to Sturgis, South Dakota for lunch at the Knuckle Saloon & Brewery.
I definitely do not have a taste for brewed beers.
Sturgis had a Muffler Man with Beer Mug.
As we return to camp at the end of the day, we had just missed a huge hail storm. I had some damage to the fixtures of the camper, but nothing I couldn’t fix.
ROADTRIP! As we head towards Kansas City to return Mary home we found a few cool things amongst the miles and miles and miles of grasslands.
We found the Hay Bale Rest Area.
We watched a plane crop dusting and flying over head.
This is Carhenge outside of Alliance, Nebraska.
Jim Reinders, spent seven years as a petroleum engineer in England, after he returned home his notion was a Stonehenge in his home town.
The first 25 cars were erected during a Reinders family reunion in 6 days and was dedicated on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 1987.
Walking around Carhenge special pieces have been added.
The Fours Seasons on top and the Fish on the bottom.
A great place to sit has always been the tailgate of a truck!
A dinosaur and a sculpture.
Mary is soooo strong!
Chimney Rock in Bayard, Nebraska was next on our stops.
Chimney Rock is the most famous and recognizable landmarks for pioneers on the Oregon Trail.
Scotts Bluff National Monument was about 30 minutes north of Chimney Rock in Gering, Nebraska.
A monument to the Pony Express
There are Five Rocks of Scotts Bluff…..
Scotts Bluff has served as a landmark for Native Americans and emigrants on the Oregon, California, Mormon Trails and the Pony Express Route.
We took a short hike on the Oregon Trail to check out the Covered Wagons used by settlers heading west.
North Platte, Nebraska was where we ended our day of driving and adventure. A nice cold margarita was in our hand shortly after setting up camp.
Before leaving North Platte I had to get a picture of the Indian Muffler Man at the Trading Post.
After filling up and getting coffee we set out to tackle Kansas.
Oh my gosh I have never seen so much wheat, corn and cows in my life!
I opted backroads and we only found one gem on our way to Kansas City.
This was really special to me because I just completed visiting all of the lower 48 states.
Now we found ourselves at the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states! How cool is that and it was a nice place to get out and stretch our legs.
There was a Monument marking the spot.
A nice photo op!
The historical marker.
There was also a tiny chapel.
Three one person pews on each side and a pulpit.
The monument was outside the small country town of Lebanon, Kansas.
In Lebanon was an old jail.
And an old gas station that serves as the Visitors Center.
We continue our travel towards Kansas City. After a very long day of driving we finally make it to Mary’s house. We all are ready to be out of the truck!
This week has been a full week of driving, sightseeing, driving, hiking, driving, adventure, driving and driving!
I hope you enjoyed our roadtrip and by the way this was Mary’s first camping trip! She was great company!
This will be my last blog for awhile as I head back to Tennessee for a few weeks and then on to Northeast Indiana to spend the rest of summer with family.
Take care, stay safe and enjoy life!