Tuesday, 3 October 2006, Pierre, SD
When we left Yellowstone NP on Thursday afternoon, we drove to Cody. This town is named for Buffalo Bill Cody and has a huge museum also named for him and partly devoted to his story. The landscape along this stretch of road was quite interesting, particularly in the Shoshone River Gorge. But I must say that we found the landscape in Wyoming, and also here in South Dakota, in places quite boring. For this reason I will dwell mostly on the highlights and leave the in-between-parts out of this report.
Cody is a town steeped in 'cowboy' history and legend, and many tourists come there seeking to experience both. Although we aren't very interested in either, we were pleased to seek out the Sierra Trading Post outlet store in the town and spend quite a bit of money on much needed items of clothing at very reasonable prices - without having to include the check, western shirts. Incidentally, these must have been a bargain, as we saw a real live cowboy (complete with hat, boots and belt buckle) waiting for at least a dozen of them to be folded and bagged!
This is also a part of America which is full of heroic, or very sad (depending on one's view of history) battles between white settlers, the army, and many famous Indian tribes. Places like Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee are names most of us are familiar with. We didn't go in search of these rather sad sites since they are not part of our history; in fact we didn't even go past the unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial south of Mt Rushmore (since it wasn't on our direct route).
From Cody our goal was the Black Hills in South Dakota and then Mt Rushmore. On the way we found an interesting aeroplane 'graveyard' come museum in the small town of Grey Bull. We then spent the night at Ten Sleep on the edge of the Bighorn Mountains. Both of these towns have Indian names, the second because it lay mid-way from two major Indian camps, and it was ten days to each of them - measured as ten sleeps, but since there is no plural in the language it is literally translated as Ten Sleep. On this route we passed through very barren landscape, which was only broken up by oil pumps, but driving into Ten Sleep reminded us both a little of Utah, since the road has bright red sandstone cliffs to either side.
The drive from Ten Sleep, through the Ten Sleep Creek Canyon and over the Powder River Pass at a 9666 feet elevation, to Buffalo, was stunning. The first 10 miles or so we were slowed down by cowboys driving cattle along the road, but that is all part of the 'wild west' experience! The canyon was made more attractive by the autumn colours which were so bright as to hurt your eyes! The rocky canyon walls must be beautiful at any time of the year, but the yellows and golds of autumn leaves always change scenery for the better.
This was even more evident as we entered South Dakota near Spearfish and drove into the Black Hills National Forest along the Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Highway. It was late afternoon of a very sunny Saturday, and there was a lot of traffic on its way back to Spearfish, but the light in the canyon was excellent, and the drive earns its 'scenic highway' title honestly! We had difficulty finding a campground because it seems that summer ends the first weekend in September, and 'Closed for the Season' is becoming a regular sight! We ended up parking just outside the padlocked gate of one such campground, and we were only one of 3 vehicles that spent the night in this area (so there is still an obvious demand for campsites - but nobody in the administration of state and national parks seems to be aware of this fact)!
Continuation on > Page 2 > !