Road Trip: The Wild West

Early morning view from the hotel
Early morning view from the hotel

We woke up early in Rapid City and although there was still snow, there was sunshine! Who-hoo!

We grabbed breakfast and some coffee to go and headed toward Wyoming, which is possibly my husband’s favorite state.

We wanted to make it to Missoula, Montana, by dark– a full day of driving that still left us some time to do a little sight-seeing at Devil’s Tower.

I remember visiting the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Wall Drug, etc. when I was younger, but I don’t remember visiting Devil’s Tower. Unless my parents inform me otherwise, I’m going to say this was my first time.

IMG_1337We saw quite a few cars still in the ditch from the previous day’s storms, but we had nearly clear blue skies as we headed toward the national park.

IMG_1343I don’t know exactly how far the Black Hills extend into Wyoming, but we were definitely driving through some pretty foothills along the way.

Brian was keeping an eye out for interesting animals, but all we’d seen so far were cows and deer. I’ve seen a cow or two in my day, but I couldn’t get over seeing them in the woods. They seemed so out-of-place in the middle of heavily wooded areas.

The traffic was light as we wound our way through some pretty rural roads, following the signs to the tower. I don’t even want to imagine what the traffic looks like during the summer when it’s tourist and RV season.

IMG_9097We came over a hill and suddenly the tower was in front of us! I think I actually drew in a sharp breath because it was striking against the blue sky with the rolling hills and the dusting of pure white snow.

I know it’s a geological phenomenon, but I can’t say I’m terribly enamored with rocks most of the time.

This was different.

It really stands alone and apart from everything around it, especially from a distance. I’ve seen pictures of it before, but I actually found it more impressive in person. Sometimes that’s not always the case.

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We pulled off to the side of the road at several viewing points to take pictures, and there were a few other cars of couples doing the same. It wasn’t busy at all and although a little cool, it was really nice to stretch out, take a deep breath and look around.

Husband + Tower
Husband + Tower

Once we were close we actually paid to enter the park so we could drive up the hill to park at the visitor’s station. I like reading all the geeky information about the history (I learned the local tribes had various names for the tower, all referencing bears. They think there was a translation error that resulted in it being called Devil’s Tower. Also, on the formal documents they forgot the apostrophe so it’s technically Devils Tower.)

After reading all the background we decided to hike one of the trails around the tower to take pictures.

Hiking around the tower
Hiking around the tower

It was warming up so the snow was starting to melt. This wasn’t a problem until big chunks of snow started falling off of the tree branches onto the trail!

It was a challenge to keep my lens clear from all the little drops of moisture, and I lost the battle with trying to keep my person free of snow. About half-way around a huge branch let loose and I got a boatload of snow dumped straight on my head. (sigh)

My husband will tell you I wasn’t exactly in harmony with nature in the following moments. I was in jeans and a fleece, and tromping around in a soggy fleece with snow melting down your back is not exactly comfortable. Had I been appropriately dressed, it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Probably.

Once we completed our hike we drove back to lower ground where there was a large prairie dog field. I know I’ve seen these critters before, but they were actually pretty cute and VERY vocal.

Photo Credit: Brian Griesbach
Photo Credit: Brian Griesbach

I was content to snap a few photos from the road but my husband was immediately up close and personal and caught some amazing pictures.

They would pop out of their holes, chirp, and then either duck back down or run over to another hole. They were entertaining and not terribly afraid of people. One guy walked through the field with his dog, and neither the dog nor the prairie dogs seemed all that concerned.

We wound our way back through the hills to I-90 and continued through Wyoming. What a BEAUTIFUL drive! The weather was beautiful and the scenery was breathtaking! I loved the rolling hills and how vast everything seemed. There were no houses or people anywhere–just big beautiful country everywhere you looked.

IMG_9224We also got to see TONS of antelope!

We were going too quickly, and there were too many signs that said you were only supposed to pull over for emergencies for us to take pictures, but we saw probably a dozen different herds as we drove through the state. It was fun keeping an eye out for their white rears dotting the hills as we flew by.

By the time we arrived in Montana the snow had cleared. There were some rolling hills, but I thought the landscape grew more dynamic and interesting the more we headed northwest.

We came over a crest and the mountains were in front of us yet again. I couldn’t get enough of them and kept asking my husband to take pictures. He kept saying the pictures would not remotely do the view justice, but I think this one does a fair job:

Photo Caption: Brian Griesbach
Photo Credit: Brian Griesbach

I absolutely loved this leg of our trip and would love to go back to Wyoming to see Yellowstone. So. Freaking. Beautiful.

Here are a few other pictures we took along the way:

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Photo Credit: Brian Griesbach
Photo Credit: Brian Griesbach
Photo Credit: Brian Griesbach
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Photo Credit: Brian Griesbach

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