Team Bubbie was headed back to Minneapolis this morning, so we got a shot of the kids:
We went back to the Fishing Bridge area, where Trish did laundry while I replaced the bearings in one of the RV wheels. Greasy fun!
On the way out of Yellowstone, we stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Some of the pools here were very deep. The color of the pool is determined by the temperature, which determines which species of bacteria grow in the water:
There’s a prairie dog colony along the road to Devil’s Tower:
At the prairie dog colony:
We took a hike around the tower. M is on the left:
After getting our Junior Ranger badges in the visitor center, B took a peek through the scope:
Saw this rig in the parking lot. It’s built on a 4’x8’ cargo trailer. Personally, I’d rather stay in a 10’x15’ tent.
Leaving the tower, we headed west. We arrived Fort Phil Kearney National Historic Landmark. The visitor center was interesting, and one wall of the massive stockade had been rebuilt. I think it was a little abstract for the kids.
M has had enough at this point:
The rest of the stockade is marked with paths and ground markers. It was quite large!
M in the corner guard post:
After visiting the fort site, we drove a couple miles north to the site of the Fetterman Massacre. The interpretive trail was long, but it gave a good feeling for how the battle progressed.
We had originally planned to go on to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, the site of Custer’s last stand, but that would cause us to miss the rodeo in Cody. Since the kids didn’t get much out of Fort Kearney, we decided to skip it.
We headed north on I-90, then took highway 14 and 14a across the Bighorn Mountains. The grade was 10%+ in some places. On top, it was all wildflowers and short plants. There was still snow in places:
There’s not much there, just a paved walk and some interpretive signs. The site is a sobering reminder of how thin the veneer of personal freedom is in the US:
Of the 500 buildings (the camp was at the time the third largest city in Wyoming), only the hospital and a few ancillary buildings remain. The area was listed as a National Historic Site in 2007, and a visitor center is being built:
After leaving the relocation center, we headed west to Cody, where we experienced the rodeo. Trish enjoyed it much more than I did. The highlight of the evening was when they had all the children in the audience come down to the ring. They then released 3 calves with ribbons on their tails. They told the kids that whoever got the ribbons would get a prize. General mayhem ensued. Unfortunately, M and B didn’t participate.
I got up at 5am, hoping for a 7am departure. Sunrise over the badlands:
This is the last trip where this arrangement will work. They are getting to be too big. Wake up!
M and B do their Little House on the Prairie imitation:
Surveying his domain:
We finally pulled out at 7:45ish. We headed over to Delta-09, the Minuteman Missile launch site:
It’s a long way down:
Sitting on the radar blister:
We made it to the Rapid City Kia by 9:30am, where we were informed that the transmission cooler had worn a hole in the A/C condenser line. They didn’t have the replacement part, and it would take a couple days to get, so we kept going. We will get it fixed when we get home.
The brothers who ran the mine worked it for almost 30 years. In the end, they found 7 ounces. Bummer.
On to Mount Rushmore:
The kids are working on their Junior Ranger packets. I found myself saying “can we please finish it in the car?” more than once:
Continuing west, we reached Jewel Cave National Monument. While we waited for team Bubbie to arrive, we followed one of the nature trails. Here, ranger Tattie shows M a Ponderosa Pine. “Behold its flaking bark, a protection against fire. Smell its lovely butterscotch scent!” I think I’ll keep my day job.
Down we went into the cave. I regret not bringing a flash. Jewel Cave is currently listed as the second longest cave in the world, with over 150 miles of mapped passages. Scientists estimate that only 5% of the cave has been explored.
Here’s a map:
To get down into the cave, we ride down the longest elevator shaft in South Dakota. Not saying much, methinks.
The tour took about 90 minutes. It was great!
The schedule had us seeing Devil’s Tower, then driving on to BLM land, but we were still a bit behind. We found a campground listing for Moorcroft, but when we got there, we realized that the “campground” was little more than electrical hookup in the side yard of a hotel, so we went on to Sundance for the night. We drove about 252 miles today.
The schedule called for us to start out from the Fort Pierre National Grasslands, so we were about 200 miles behind schedule. But no matter, because today was the day we would start seeing the good stuff!
I took the SUV to the Kia of Sioux Falls. They did a vacuum check, refilled the A/C refrigerant , and send us on our way.
Here’s the KOA in the morning. Not much in the way of ambiance, I’m afraid:
The kids found many toads, and buried a dead one that they found:
David et al left the KOA at 11am, a few minutes before us. We headed west.
After three hours or so, the A/C stopped working again. We made an appointment at 9AM tomorrow at the Kia of Rapid City. Grr!
At one point, we saw a pair of the largest domestic land animals I have ever seen. It really was incredible.
It’s basically a single-wide trailer. Most people were there to schedule a tour. The Site has a Silo (Delta-09), and an underground control center (Delta-01). Delta-01 is open to tours only, and they only allow 12 people in per day. Seems pretty absurd considering how many tourists come to the area. I had tried to schedule a tour weeks earlier, but they were already full. Good thing, since we would have been late anyway. We hope to visit the missle silo tomorrow morning. The contact station had a few interesting displays, but we weren’t there long.
We’ve been seeing these giant grasshoppers all through South Dakota:
As we continued south into Badlands National Park, we could see the Badland formations from the car. M said “Wow, that’s so beautiful!” with such wonder and incredulity. That was definitely the highlight of the trip so far.
We did the “Window” hike upon entering the Badlands. On the boardwalk, we saw the largest Argiope I have ever seen. It’s body was the size of an olive:
At the end of the boardwalk, there’s a great vista of the badlands. We hiked around on the formations for a while:
Team Bubbie did some shopping in Sioux Falls, so they were about an hour behind us, and caught up with us at the visitor center. Here are our two vehicles:
The visitor center had a couple teepees set up:
After the visitor center, we did the “Fossil” hike:
More great vistas:
We left Badlands National Park on the road to Wall, South Dakota. Badlands National Park is surrounded by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, which allows dispersed camping. We pulled off onto a dirt “road” detailed here: