East to Devils Tower and the Badlands

Thermopolis, WY was the most western point on our trip.  After we concluded our visit there, we headed east through the Big Horn Mountains into South Dakota towards Devils Tower and the Badlands.

Where does the time go?  A week ago I was putting these pictures into this post, and time has slipped away from me again.  Family emergencies must be dealt with, but I am determined to get this trip report done before……Thanksgiving?

Yes, this is still the Eclipse 2017 trip, but now we are now at our turning point.  At Thermopolis, we will now turn east to head back home to Georgia.

We left Thermopolis in the late morning (after a short dip in the free state pools) to drive east to the Big Horn Mountains via Ten Sleep Canyon.  We had driven this route many times before, but we had forgotten how spectacular the canyon really is.  It rivals some the more famous canyons, like the Copper Canyon in Mexico and the Colca Canyon in Peru, for spectacular scenery.

Tensleep Canyon, WY
Tensleep Canyon, WY

We drove through the Big Horns and headed straight for Devils Tower, which we had climbed several times back in the old days.  The rolling hills surrounding the Tower keep it hidden until you get just a few miles away.  When it pops into view you get that tingly feeling that you are approaching a very special place of high spiritual energy.

Our First Glimpse of Devils Tower, WY
Our First Glimpse of Devils Tower, WY

Right before you turn into the National Park campground, you’ll find cars stopped along the road taking in the cuteness of the prairie dog colony.  Modern prairie dog habitat has shrunk about 90% in the last 100 years.  Many Westerners still consider them to be “varmints” but they sure are entertaining.

Prairie Dog Town, Devils Tower, WY
Prairie Dog Town, Devils Tower, WY

When you visit Devil’s Tower you’ll take a zillion pictures because the Tower is photogenic from all directions and in any kind of light.  This photo was taken mid day from the walking trail that encircles the base of the Tower.

Devils Tower from the Base Trail
Devils Tower from the Base Trail

We stayed in the campground only one night and headed further east into South Dakota towards Mount Rushmore.  We had to take just one more picture when we saw the Tower in our rear view mirror.

Parting Shot--Devils Tower, WY
Parting Shot–Devils Tower, WY

We have an extreme intolerance for large crowds when we travel out west.  I had never seen Mt. Rushmore and wanted to remove it from my bucket list.  B had seen it many moons ago and said it really wasn’t that big of a deal but would go if I wanted.  In order to get a good view of the carvings, you have to park in a huge multistory concrete parking garage.  This really put me off and we decided to do a drive by only.  Yes, it looks just like the pictures.  We did some short hikes in the nearby rock climbing areas and found a campsite on Horse Thief Lake just a few miles away.

Another bust was a planned stop in the historic town of Leadville, SD.  When we got there it was packed with tourists and there was no parking, so we moved on.  We saw a town on the map called Hot Springs so of course we had to check it out.  It is another cute historic mining town, with the addition of a commercial hot springs.  We had just left the big daddy of all hot springs in Thermopolis and it was 95 degrees, so we decided to ride up into the surrounding hills and see if we could find a swimming hole.  We found the perfect little stream incised into the red rock cliffs where we could take a private and refreshingly cool swim.

Swimming Hole Near Hot Springs, SD
Swimming Hole Near Hot Springs, SD

We camped that night right inside the western entrance to the Badlands.  The Sage Creek campground is free but you must bring your own water.  The next day we took the tourist drive through the park, stopping at all the short trails and lookouts.

Colorful Sedimentary Rocks in the Sage Creek Area, Badlands, SD
Colorful Sedimentary Rocks in the Sage Creek Area, Badlands, SD

 

The Pinnacles Area of Badlands, SD
The Pinnacles Area of Badlands, SD

Next–we sadly leave the high country and drop back down into the flatlands on our way home.

 

 

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