After much (extended) discussion, we finally agreed that our next destination should be Devil’s Tower National Monument, just over the border into Wyoming. Then, depending on the weather outlook, we would either forge on to Yellowstone, or turn east and head to the Black Hills, etc., and back toward home.
We eagerly scanned the horizon for the first glimpse of the Tower – when you first see it, it’s a remarkable sight. Standing tall, all alone in the landscape. All the Travel Gods were lined up on our side as we rolled into Belle Fourche Campground, at the base of the Tower. For a mere $6, we had a primo site, nestled among some glorious cottonwoods, with a commanding view of the Tower. Truly, it doesn’t get any better than this (except for a very stiff wind).
After docking the Fireball, we quickly grabbed a bottle of water and headed off to explore the Tower. The sun was shining, and temps were in the 70s – shorts and t-shirt weather. Up close, Devil’s Tower is even more impressive.
Its vertical columns are the largest of its type in the world – up to 600 feet high, and 5-7 feet wide. Voices float through the air, and you realize that climbers dot the sides. It’s crazily beautiful. We took a 1.5 mile trail around the base, then doubled back and strolled another couple of miles until we reached the path back to the campground. Truly, I don’t think we could have had a better afternoon.
Good thing. The next morning, I crawled out of bed, and wandered over to the bathroom. Getting back to the Fireball, I announced to John, “It’s gone. The Tower is gone!” A thick icy mist/fog had rolled in overnight, and totally obscured our magnificent view. What?In freezing wind/rain/sleet, we packed up, our decision made. We would make the swing back east. Snow and wind pelted us along the road, so a short day seemed like a good plan. That pointed us to Deadwood, SD – an old mining town remade into a rambling, gambling vacation destination. Not many campground are open, so here we are at the Days of 76 Campground (a glorified parking lot). The plus side is a warm bathroom, and laundry facilities. And, we can walk to town to see the sights.
What a gorgeous cemetery – sections for the Chinese and Jews, and other groups who comprised Deadwood’s community in the mining days of the 1870s-80s. A Children’s section, and three Potters Fields reflect the harshness of life. It’s beautifully kept. Here’s Calamity Jane’s grave, right next to Wild Bill’s. The walking tour guide that comes with your $2 admission provides lots of colorful information on the cemetery’s residents, and the chatty guy in the ticket booth filled us in on whatever else he thought we needed to know about Deadwood (including the best spot to grab a beer).
So, off to Saloon #10 we went – the spot where Wild Bill was shot and killed by Jack McCall. Bill’s Death Chair is still enshrined there – in its own lighted compartment over the door.Deadwood was an interesting stop. Lots of old-timey stuff to gawk at, a beautifully restored courthouse, and interesting geography (it’s nestled into a steep valley).
It was cold and miserable walking around, and most of my photos aren’t worth posting, so you’ll have to use your imagination, or visit yourself.
The big snow predicted for last night didn’t materialize, and we are moving on today. In the next two days, temps are supposed to climb back into the 70s. The Fireball rolls on.