We set off to Devils Tower through a rainstorm or two and arrived at the National Park Service campsite just before the next downpour!
From the campsite, we were able to walk up to visit with the prairie dogs in a huge prairie dog town. They are so cute, popping in and out of their holes and chittering warnings to the rest of the pack. Cutest were the little ones who liked to play as well as eat!
Back at our campsite we took in the Ranger presentation and simply marveled at that the Tower was RIGHT THERE, completely dominating our view. Never have we seen a campsite with an equal view.
That night the heavens opened. No flying saucers, but lots of rain.
The next morning it was obvious that we were going to have to stay a second night in order to fully enjoy the park, so after getting change from a nearby camper, we paid our fee!
We then set off to hike up to the Visitor Center and walk the Tower Trail around the base of the Tower. The 1.3 miles to the Visitor Center felt a lot further as most of it was seriously uphill but we made it and joined a Ranger tour of the Tower Trail. He was a source of great information including where the ladder up the tower was located and various dates connected to its history. Sadly, we learned that the flying saucers actually landed in a building in Mobile, Alabama. (Curse you, Steven Spielberg!) After a quick visit to the Visitor Center, we hiked back to the campground and to our lunch! (And vowed to bring granola bars or trail mix the next time!)
Along the way we met a lady who shared this truism: You climb on your heart and descend on your knees. Ain’t it the truth! Total distance was about four miles, which gave us a great appetite!
The next day we set off for Deadwood, a historical site and former mining town in South Dakota that has kept a lot of its old buildings and charm. We wandered the Main Street, admired some of the architecture and even managed to find a latte in former gasoline station. And, if that were not odd enough, they also did glass blowing.
It turns out that we were seen by some friends with a Tiger who live nearby. They were not in their Tiger, so we did not recognize them and, by the time we got their phone messages, it was too late to visit. But this gives us all the more incentive to return.
Courtesy of the Reader’s Digest book, “Off the Beaten Path,” we knew that there is the Chapel in the Hills, a copy of a Norwegian “Stavekirk” or wooden stave church, in Rapid City. This we had to see! It turned out the be a simply lovely site, on the side of a mountain, right in a residential area. The church resembles the wooden construction of a Viking Long Ship and is simply beautiful. And yes, it is in daily use. (http://www.chapel-in-the-hills.org)
We wanted to drive the Wildlife Viewing Loop at Custer State Park because they have about 1500 bison and Denise wanted to see the bison (and other animals). Camping space is at a premium, so we had booked one of the last three sites available. By sheer dumb luck, it turned out to be just lovely. Animal viewing is often best at the end of the day, and so, with our fingers crossed, we set out on the wildlife viewing loop. It was a disappointing tour. We saw both mule and pronghorn deer, wild donkeys, and some wild turkeys. Finally, we saw one lone bison, trying to shelter from the pouring rain. So back to the campsite for supper we went, vowing to try again in the morning.
And after breakfast, we set off again. This time our loop was much more successful. We had a bison traffic jam and found bison all around us, behind us, next to us and in front of us. Most had calves with them and they were so darling. A bit playful and a bit scared at the same time.
When we finally ran out of bison, we left the park to head back to Casper and drove through the Wind Cave Park, where we saw even more bison and some more prairie dogs. So feeling well and truly fortunate, we headed for our campsite in Casper.
We did make one stop at the Ayres Natural Bridge, an absolutely gorgeous and green oasis in the middle of the generally dry desert. The Bridge was noted by some heading west in the wagon trains. We even saw domestic bison in a field as we drove to it! (https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/ayres-natural-bridge)
But then it was time to sort out fridges and coolers at our campsite, do laundry and other chores before heading out north the next day.