22, Count Them, 22 Photographs
Saturday, May 29 - Against our best judgment we decided that we could not endure staying in our very private CG another two days. We headed north to South Dakota. We found a COE CG and there were open sites. Woohoo. Well, open until the ranger posted reserved signs on them at 5PM. Sure enough, about 7pm folks from Denver came in. In the rain, we found a spot at Kemo Saby CG. The ranger was most kind to escort us to the CG.
Sunday, May 30 - We had not been to Custer State Park since our first trip in 2007. I particularly wanted to revisit the pigtail bridges.
There were 15 Mini-Coopers that were using the park roads for a road race. Staying on each other's bumpers and wheeling around the constant turns. We were parked at an overlook and the last three in the convoy were a little behind. I pulled out and inadvertently cut them off from their buddies. I could see the driver fuming for the next 11 miles.
Anywho, we had a pleasant 4-hour drive through the park, then returned to Kemo Saby, had a delicious Dorothy burger, went to Bomgaar's hardware to get a grade 8 bolt for the hitch, installed it in the parking lot, and finally went to the COE CG we were yesterday - this time with reservations.
Just one block north of Hot Springs is Cold Creek. Go figure.
Monday, May 31 - Laundry Day, The police in Hot Springs stopped us twice for speeding. 35 in a 25. Keeping it to 25 down a long hill is difficult. No tickets.
Tuesday, June 1 - We moved NW to Gillette, WY. In some parts, it's difficult to find places to dump and take on water. There is even a dearth of private RV parks. We found water at a visitor center along the road and a dump in Gillette in a wonderful park. Gillette has 32,000 souls and everything looks like it was built in the last 10 years. We stayed at a quiet well landscaped Walmart.
Wednesday, June 2 - We finally got someplace! Leaving Gillette, we could see the Big Horns Mountains. The first mountains of this trip worthy of the name. An hour later we were in Buffalo. We filled the propane tank and ascended the steep grade of US16 into the Bighorns. We are perched in a field of wildflowers at 7,000 feet with magnificent views in all directions. There is no one else close by. AND we have three bars. This is what we come west for. We were in the Bighorns in 2016 and our campsite was most memorable. This one will go down in the memory banks as a winner.
At 5pm it is 76. Down below in Buffalo, it is pushing 90. The forecast for the next few days is for more heat in the valleys.
Thursday, June 3 - It was the third of June, another sleepy delta day....
We spent the day enjoying being parked where we are. Where we are parked reminds me of the scenes in The Sound Of Music. The meadow is covered in purple and yellow flowers. We finally identified the songbird that is invisible in the short grass - a yellow-breasted chat. He flew to a fence post, sang, and agreeably waited long enough for me to get the binoculars from the Jeep. But long not enough to get a picture. How that bird hides in the grass only 20 feet away with a yellow breast is a mystery to me.
Friday, June 4 - Dorothy wanted to stay, I wanted to move to the northern road - 14A. I agree our site would make a fine place for a mountain lodge, but this spot is the only scenic spot on 16. Just pine trees from here to the west side of the mountains.
So we drove separately down the steep grade, dumped and took on water, and made the short drive north on I90 to Sheridan. We shopped at Walmart and were so damn excited that the GPS showed a Safeway close by. We had our mouths set for their Friday $5 fried chicken deal. There was a Ridely's in the place of Safeway.
Chicken-less and depressed, we continued to Hwy 14 and had lunch at a city park with both ACs on. 94 degrees and climbing.
The ascent on Hwy 14 reminded me of some mountain roads in the Sierra Nevada, with lots of twists and switchbacks. We topped out at 8,300 but it was 83 degrees.
I was headed for a dispersed camping area, but when we passed Lake Sibley, it looked so good, I turned in. So we are in a formal CG for $10. They even have electric sites for $5 more. But I was thinking what do I need electricity for? Two hours later I thought oh yeah AC. No cell coverage here, but I did not expect it.
About 4pm, the sky turned dark, Thor threw down lightning rods and a few drops of mist fell. The good news is that the temp dropped 15 degrees. No need for AC.
Saturday, June 5 - We scouted a new home on Freeze Out Road. It looked good, 360 view and three bars of VZ. When we got there with KoKo the cell signal proved an illusion. By midday, the road had a lot of scooter-pooter traffic. There must have been a mud bog down the road as they came back covered in mud. But the view was fine. The wind was 20-25. It died down after dark. I suspect it was the heated air where we were rising and the cool air over the snowfields rushing in that caused the wind.
The View From Freeze Out Road
I usually study maps before exploring, but I had one mission and I thought I knew the location of the waterfall. Wrong. We had a pleasant enough drive to where 14A starts its steep, 14% descent into the Big Horn Basin. Got up to 9,300 feet where the snow is only half melted. [The roads are clear)
I had thought we would leave on 14A, but I changed my mind today and we will descend on the 8% grade of Hwy 14. I did 14A in 2016, no need to repeat it. I know our southern friends who have never driven in the western mountains can not comprehend such grades.
Sunday, June 6 - We went west on Hwy 14 dropping down only 500 feet, but we can both breathe better. As we started down I recognized the terrain and knew we had parked here before. Sure enough Shell CG came into view. We are parked in the same place we were in 2016, right alongside the gurgling Shell River. The river went up 13 inches in the last 24 hours because of the heatwave melting snow.
NO RESERVATIONS was not only the name of one of Anthony Bourdain's shows, it's what we have been doing all the years we have traveled. OK, except in 2006, when Dorothy made reservations for every night of the five months we were gone. In the last three years, all Forest Service, National Park and Core of Engineers CG's require campers to use Recreation.gov. Someone needs to hack that site! I should start a GoFundMe to pay hackers to take it down. Many CG's are now 100% reservable. This CG has one site that is not reservable. And we are in it. Flashing road signs announce the fact that most of Wyoming is Open Range. Public CG's should be just as open.
We went the short distance downhill to see Shell Falls again. Probably not a soul has heard of the river or the falls that have not been through here. When the river is flowing full-throat like it is now, it's worth a look. Sitting in KoKo writing this the sound of the rushing water is soothing.
We continued downhill another mile where a cell signal can get up into the canyon and checked our mail.
Monday, June 7 - We have enough water to stay another day, but we have done all we know to do, so will we head down the hill. The heatwave has mostly dissipated.
We finally got cell service in Greybull and found that the only place that met our current requirements was Big Horn Canyon - about an hour north. It's a nice CG with good views. I was gobsmacked that while it is a national park, senior discounts only applied to primitive sites. It's run by a concessionaire and I guess they got a concession to sidestep the discount.
Tuesday, June 8 - We left at 8am in Rubi to drive north along the Big Horn Canyon. Even with full overcast, it was scenic. We only saw two other couples on the 17-mile road. Your tax dollars were well spent here and without the hordes of hoopleheads and tour buses of full of Asians, it will stay scenic. The road enters Montana after a mile or so and dammed if the sky did not get bigger.
One overlook named Devil's Canyon showed they the area is honeycombed with canyons filled with water. It looks a little like The Maze in Utah. The watercolor is light brown, just like the sandstone sides. I don't know why it does not settle out. We noted one canyon that had a small stream feeding into it and the water was clear. Anywho, it's a swell hole in the ground. For my money, it wins out over the Black Canyon of the Gunnison by miles.
At the end of the road, there are four RV sites overlooking a canyon. Nice. No one was there. Only two empty boat trailers.
It was pleasant yesterday with a breeze. We did not cut on the AC until after dinner. We slept with it on. Great sleep. Today, it was again pleasant in the morning, but the cloud cover broke about noon and the AC has not shut off. About 3, I put out the awning to shade KoKo. About 4, a wind storm appeared. I got the awing down before it could get damaged. The storm lasted about an hour and then blue skies. About midnight the wind was howling again.
Last week we went through an area where many things were named Crazy Woman. Road, creeks, trails, etc. Today it was back to the usual names Dead Man, Dead Horse, Dead Swede, and today I had on my Deadhead t-shirt. Devil is another popular place name.
Wednesday, June 9 - She Who Must Be Obeyed has declared this cleanup day. She defrosted the refer yesterday and is going to wipe everything down today. I cleaned the exterior. I am having internet withdrawals. This is day seven off the grid. Our 30GB is down to 3GB and it's a week until the next cycle. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie, etc. want free college. I want free unlimited internet. OK, 90GB a month would satisfy me.
Dorothy just reported we have a mouse. He ate a bit of banana last night. I saw a tiny mouse outside when we arrived. I will set a trap tonight. After breakfast, I opened the drawer where the mousetrap is stored and was face to face with the little critter. We were both startled. He was munching on plastic trash bags to use as nesting material.
I am listening to a BBC production of Rogers and Hammerstein's "greatest hits" while typing this. All of those productions were before I was "of age", but I recall listening to them. The older I get the more 1940's music appeals to me. I suppose Michael Jackson was the first of the no-talent superstars. A long list of no talent performers has made millions since. Mostly Black male rappers and Latinas with lips and bottoms injected with whale blubber, though some light skin women can be included. If you thought Jackson had talent, don't talk to me.
There are two other canyons in the area that we have seen before but did take the time to make decent images of them. I plan to rectify that.
Thursday, June 10 - We have been gone a month. We drove south to Worland, WY. There are precious few places to park in this area. We wanted hookups as it's been hot and the forecast is for more of the same. Turned out that we had stayed in this RV park back in 2016. Why? No clue. Maybe for the same reason as now.
The town has two supermarkets, but one is being remodeled. That left us with a high-priced one. It will be nice to go through a big city and shop.
We spent the afternoon catching up on a week of surfing and drinking a bottle of delightful wine we had shipped to us from NM last year.
I was asleep by 7:15.
Friday, June 11 - We were off at 8 to Ten Sleep Canyon. This is the west side of the Big Horns on Hwy 16. We were disappointed that the dirt road on the south side of the canyon was closed to protect wildlife. It opens in 4 days. It would have allowed a better vantage point for photographing the canyon walls.
On the way back, we stopped at a brewery and I had two glasses of brew. We got to chat with a likable couple from Cali.
Back at the CG, Dorothy is washing clothes and I am blogging. More wine later.
Saturday, June 12 - Today's mission was to image Wind River Canyon. We got away at 7. Dorothy wanted McDonald's for breakie. We got to the mouth of the canyon just before 8. Already the sunball was spilling light into the canyon. I managed to get a few decent shots before the sun bleached out the canyon by 9.
I imagined traffic would be light early on a Saturday morning. Not so, lots of 18-wheelers, trucks hauling livestock, etc. Fortunately, there were a lot of turnouts and sometimes, I just pulled on the shoulder to let them pass. All were driving the speed limit. No tourists eyeballing the scenery.
It's a magic canyon. I think the Indians did it. Southbound you have the strong sensation that you are going downhill. Yet the river is flowing briskly north. The GPS says you are gaining elevation. Still, your senses tell you that you are descending. Magic.
And one from 2019 in the afternoon
Tomorrow, we headed north into Montana.