|Day 7 - FRIDAY THE 13th -- Bighorn Canyon NRA, WY
||[Aug. 13th, 2004|10:00 pm]
Trip Odometer: 2418 mi|
All in all, an interesting day – definitely worthy of being Friday the Thirteenth. It started with a late wakeup in a frigid tent and a discovery of a cracked tent pole (repaired with gaffer’s tape, of course), and a hole in my sleeping bag stuff sack. We did cook ourselves some French Toast, and got some showers at a shower house we had missed seeing the night before (the star hunting, by the way, didn’t go as easily as planned – the trees made it difficult to see much on the horizon, and one of the nearby campsites was having fun shining their flashlight in our direction – they claimed to “see eyes in the woods” which turned out to be two thumbtacks stuck in a tree).
There wasn’t much time spent on the interstates today, and a great deal of time on tiny twisty mountain roads both on the outset of the trip and as we were arriving into the campsite late at night (more on that later).
As it turns out, we made a wrong turn leaving the campground in the morning, and the GPS told us to u-turn in the crazy horse memorial parking lot. We hadn’t been planning on going to see it, but since we were there, we stopped in for a brief (1-hour) visit. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the Native American equivilant of Mt. Rushmore (and just down the road from it). The difference is that its big big big -- the entirety of Mt. Rushmore could fit in the head of Crazy Horse – and that doesn’t count the rest of Crazy Horses’s body or the horse he is riding. It’s also a 360° sculpture, and is being entirely privately funded. Needless to say, they have a long way to go before it is completed.
We continued on our way to Devil’s Tower National Monument, which is more or less a huge chunk of rock stuck in the middle of otherwise rolling hills. It was first visible from about 30 miles away and disappeared and reappeard as we approached it. It was also a big biker destination (remember the Sturgis’s rally was still going on in this area – however Devil’s Tower was about as far west as the heavy biker density got today, so hopefully it’s done now, since while all the bikers are very nice, they tend to clog up the roads a good deal). We hiked around the Tower Trail and saw the rock from all sides – along with about 20 climbers on its surface (they actually encourage technical climbing of the monument).
As we left Devil’s Tower we decided that since we were within 20 miles or so, we should visit Montana – not for any particular reason beyond just saying “we went to Montana”, but it’d be fun nonetheless. Actually what spurred the idea to visit was the fact that about 10 miles from Devil’s tower there’s a sign that says “Montanna, 28 miles this way”, apparently to advertise the booming tourist industry in southeastern Montana.
We didn’t do much in Montana other than stop for gas, ice (for the cooler) and food. Otherwise we just drove in a straight line, and then turned south to re-enter Wyoming. By that time, it had started to get dark (BTW – the sunset we saw over the hills in central Montana was very pretty), and it was completely dark by the time we got off the interstate onto US Route 14A.
US Route 14A is a windy, twisty road up (and down) a number of mountains, and is so twisty and graded that they actually close it part of they year. It was certainly an adventure – especially when a deer jumped out onto the road in front of my car (it jumped uphill, over one of those metal railings). Luckily, I braked and avoided in time, but it was very nearly a bad day. On the rest of the way to the site, we saw 2-3 more deer just waiting to jump out in front of us.
Naturally, because of the dark windy road, and total lack of decent signage in the Bighorn area, we completely missed the turn off to the campsite we had reserved, and were about 10 miles passed it by the time we figured it out. Luckily, we came across another campsite and just decided to pack it in there for the night instead of re-climbing the hills.
We didn’t get so lucky – this campsite was on top of a rather large hill and we had to go through about another 10 switchbacks (without the benefit of guard rails – and in the darkness it looked like we were climbing sheer cliffs) before reaching the campsite. When we got there, there wasn’t a good indication of where the sites actually were, and we were parked several hundred yards away from the site we decided to stay in. To make matters worse, we had to walk through a site where another group was staying, with two very large, loud black dogs that didn’t like our presence at all. All and all, not a pleasant night, and we were happy when we were finally asleep (to our benefit, there was a creek right behind our tent which makes pleasant creek-noises).