O give me a home where the buffalo roam,
And the deer and the antelope play.
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Well, seems like we found it. We set out this morning in search of animals – not the human kind. We were also tired have human-constructed attractions, regardless of their scale or beauty. To find this, we headed south out of Rapid City through the rolling rangeland that borders highway 79. Along this stretch we spotted the first of many pronghorned antelope we were to see today.
Our first destination was Custer State Park. This by far was the loveliest place we have been. Rolling hills and valleys were covered with Ponderosa pine. American Bison roamed,and deer and anteloped played – lots of them. There was a wildlife loop with all these, and prairie dogs thrown in for good measure. I expected the Cartwrights to come riding over the next hill at any minute. After a leisurely drive through the park, we headed south down to Wind Cave National Park,then headed north to Custer for lunch.
Custer was a nice town without al of the tourist traps that afflicted Keystone. Well,they do have Bedrock – a recreation of the Flintstones home. After lunch we headed west on 17 into Wyoming. As soon as we crossed the state line, it looked like the land got dryer and less green. The rolling hills were much less appealing, and the desolation increased as we headed west.
At about 2:00 we crossed the interstate and headed toward Devils Tower. It’s funny how our impressions of certain locations are shaped by movies. For Mount Rushmore it was North by Northwest. For Devils Tower, it’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I’ll have to watch both of these when we get back. The tower itself was phenomenal, rising our of nothingness. I found the surrounding red stone equally attractive. The tower looked like one huge crystalline formation, with hexagonal columns running up the sides of the monument.
Back to the interstate, then on to Buffalo. As we headed west we started to catch site of snow-covered mountains. Buffalo was another nice town on the edge of tourist madness. We got fuel for the car and for ourselves, then headed west for an evening drive across the Bighorn Mountains. The day started and ended with fantastic scenery. There were alpine meadows and craggy rock formations that looked like we would see sheep on every peak. The setting sun brought out the colors in everything. At 9600 ft above sea level, we crossed the Powder River Pass, with snow fields at the same level as we were.
The other side of the pass was even more spectacular. There was a lovely lake, and the Tensleep Creek ran next to the road. We pulled over at one point just to listen to it. We dropped through a craggy canyon into the community of TenSleep, so named because the Sioux said it took "ten sleeps" to get across this pass. On the other side of the community, we entered Wyoming’s version of the Badlands,then finally entered the town of Worland, where we settled in for the evening.