I think last night was one of the few nights where I just gave up on my trip, – documenting it, planning it, or really caring about it – just laid in a hotel room bed, and did nothing. On one hand, it’s never fun to have days and evenings like that while you’re alone, but on the other hand, it was exactly the perfect fit for last night. There are just some days when I’ve got a lot of outside things on my mind and it bums me out because it feels like it cheapens the idea of this trip. But yesterday was one of those days.
So my night consisted of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and granola bar for dinner, an episode of Glee on my laptop, and another of House. Exciting huh? Bet you’re glad you tuned in to read this entry, right?
I have seen some pretty cool things in the last two days though. On Thursday, I left Cody, Wyoming and drove through Bighorn National Forest, which doesn’t actually contain many trees, ironically enough. It was amazing though. The road ran right through this valley between two mountains and then up over them. There were signs on the road indicating how old the rock formations were and what era they were from. Pretty cool. One of them read 2.5 billion years… That’s next to impossible to wrap your mind around.
From there, my goal was Devil’s Tower National Monument. According to the signs, this was the first national monument. So now, I’ve been to both the first national park (Yellowstone) and the first national monument. Pretty cool things to check off of my list. Devil’s Tower was really impressive though. It just juts up from the ground 1,267 feet with nothing else around it. I got my passport stamped and hit the trail that circles the base. I made it maybe a quarter of a mile and ran into Sue from Colorado. She was a chatty one, but we finished the 1.3 mile trail together. I got to hear all about her paper she wrote in school on Devil’s Tower that was taught by a furloughed Yosemite park ranger and her job interview in Sheridan, Wyoming. And she got to hear all about my trip and seeing the country alone. She was impressed I just up and left by myself. And she pushed for me to move to Colorado when I’m through because she said they’ll “take any nice, friendly person willing to move there.” I’m hitting Colorado today, so I’ll be open minded, Sue 🙂 And I inspired her to get a National Parks Passport book so she can start crossing things off of her list. So I can say I have inspired at least one 50+ year old along the way. It was good conversation and she took my picture with the tower.
Yesterday, I hit Mount Rushmore in the morning. I was done by 11 AM local time and it was perfect. A good 65 degrees outside, early to miss the crowds, and just a gorgeous day. I’m really lucky in the weather I’ve had on the whole trip. I have had a total of 4 or 5 rainy days the entire trip (going on almost 50 days). But Mt. Rushmore was really cool. It’s crazy to think of the guys carving the faces out with dynamite, jackhammers, and chisels hanging off the side of the mountain on slings. It’s very impressive. I was hooked on seeing how Roosevelt’s glasses were done, seeing as how they’re carved. It was just one of those “sit back and take in the view” kind of places. The plaza they had built was really nice too. It was less than 5 years old.
I was a little disappointed in the area around the monument. It is ridiculously tourist-y. They had cave tours and chairlift rides and slides down the mountain and gold digging “expeditions.” Just very commercial. Especially for being back in the Black Hills instead of by the interstate. Luckily, almost everything was closed for the season (I’m learning that this is almost the perfect time to be hitting a lot of my stops…cool weather, no tourists, no crowds since a lot of the places are closed, but the main places are still open. Again, just really good luck on my trip). I stopped for lunch in Keystone, SD and had a buffalo burger. I had had one before, but now I can just add another unique thing to the list of experiences on this trip!
From there, I headed South through Nebraska. I stopped by the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, but it was drizzling so I didn’t go walk the grounds. I just read the information in the visitors center and moved on. Western Nebraska was dull. You’re not missing much. I did get a surprise phone call from a buddy in Charleston. So here’s your shout out for the call, reading along, and making my afternoon! 🙂
And that puts me in Cheyenne, Wyoming! I’ll probably go to Laramie, just to see the stadium for their school (I was bummed to find out they play at BYU today…because I would have been totally for a laid back day and catching some football). From there, it’s Colorado-bound. I got some good ideas from my faux-Texan, mountain girl in College Station on what to see. And I promised her some pictures from Red Rocks.
From there, who knows where to next for this wandering kid!