Spouse, dog, & I went on a serene camping trip this summer. We drove: Minneapolis => Sioux Falls, SD => Devils Tower => the Bighorn Mountains => the Bighorn Canyon => Buffalo, WY => Custer State Park => the Badlands => Sioux Falls => Minneapolis. A wonderful week & a few days wild west vacation.
The first mentionable point of our trip, on the way to Devils Tower, we stopped at a rest stop in Chamberlain, SD. It's a wonderful quick stop with history, an artful statue named Dignity & a beautiful view of the Missouri River. Once at Devils Tower in WY, we camped at the KOA, which sits at the base of the national park. The KOA shows Close Encounters of the Third Kind every night, a great perk for us as my husband has always been infatuated with Devils Tower because of that movie!
Next up was three nights of camping in the Bighorn Mountains/Forest, WY. I was blown away at how beautiful and soothing the region is. We saw so many animals: beavers, elk, fat groundhogs, quail, deer, trout, and a momma & baby moose! There was lots of fishing, reading, crossword-ing and hammock-ing. Such a relaxing and tranquil time. We broke in our new tent on this trip and it's surprisingly satisfying to be able to stand up in a tent! The Kingdom 4 rocks! After 10+ years in a backpacking tent, this roomy tent by REI was a treat.
Hiking is a must when out exploring in a national forest. Porcupine Falls was a pleasant yet slightly trying hike. The altitude changes drastically, the path is basically straight down/up. The view of the falls is worth the shaky legs from the hike tho. The water was frigid. Not great for swimming, but pretty nice for rinsing your hair, especially after not being able to shower for multiple days. Kaiki was the only one in our group brave enough to lay down in the water.
On the fourth of July, we day tripped to the Bighorn Canyon in WY & MT. It was intense. HOT. Such a contrast to the mild & slightly chilly mountain air. We did a mile walk for a fantastic view of the canyon, which proved too much for our beagle fox terrier. She usually can walk for days but the intense heat wore her out in a hurry. After we took a dip in Bighorn Lake to cool off before driving back up the mountain. Once back in the forest, we went on a peaceful three mile walk to the Medicine Wheel. This is a sacred Native American pilgrimage landmark.
After camping for four nights with minimal conveniences, a night in a historic hotel was delightful. The Occidental Hotel, where we stayed in Buffalo WY, is over 130 years old and maintains a strong wild west decor. Our stay coincided with the kick-off of a bluegrass festival in town, which was an added bonus as we got to hear several bands play right on site. One of the bands even played a Prince cover!
Back to the camping! Our last two camping nights were at Custer State Park, SD. The weather in Custer was unpredictable. It would be 80 & sunny, then all of a sudden a quick summer storm would roll in, hailing for 10 to 20 minutes, dropping the temp by 10 to 15 degrees. This happened multiple times throughout our stay! Nevertheless, we still went hiking and fishing and animal spotting. Buffalo, burros, mountain goats! There was a family of mountain goats skipping along the rig of a rock face directly next to our campsite.
Lastly we drove through the Badlands on our way home. That is fierce strip of land. Incredibly hot and harsh and just as beautiful. We were rewarded with a view of two magnificent bighorn sheep on the drive.
It was a remarkable road trip. I'm grateful I get to keep adventuring, to keep reminding & inspiriting myself of many wonders of this earth. Immersing yourself outdoors and making the best of what mother nature throws at you is humbling, satisfying, makes you resolute. We are but a small piece of what surrounds us.