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2006 Pacific Northwest Vacation - July 23 to August 12, Part 7


My 2006 Pacific Northwest Vacation - 21 days, 6700 miles.
Days 16 (continued) to 18, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area to Custer State Park, South Dakota.

Bighorn Canyon NRA - August 7

If you leave Yellowstone or the surrounding area though Cody, WY and are heading East, chances are you'll cut across US-14 to I-90. If instead, you take US-14a, you'll go through the Bighorn National Recreation Area. We were directed that way by the local residents, and have never taken US-14. You'll see a lot of wildlife through the Bighorn National Forest, as well as some beautiful views of the countryside.

It was here that the impact of being in the area of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began to show itself. Not only were there a lot of motorcycles, but there were no hotel rooms, either. We spent the night in some fly-by-night motel in Sheridan, because we couldn't find a room. Keep in mind Sheridan is 200 miles from Sturgis.

Stealing another hotel's wireless internet since ours had no access, we searched for a room for the next night. We found one at a Rodeway Inn in Hot Springs, SD, about 60 miles South of Rapid City, 60 miles out of our way, and what had to be double the normal price, at $146. Even our fly-by-night was $53, probably 50% higher than a hotel of that caliber should have gotten.

I was also through this area in 1998, but without the motorcycles.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area / Bighorn National Forest
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Devils Tower National Monument - August 8

I was last at Devils Tower National Monument in 1998, and was pretty disgusted with myself for having more pictures of prairie dogs than of the rock. Well, this time, I have no pictures of the prairie dogs. A couple of signs, though.

Not only that, but this time we actually walked all the way around the Monument. Which is longer than one might imagine. And no, there's no landing field on the other side for UFO's... :-)

Cars weren't allowed in the main parking area, and had to park in a secondary area further from the visitor's center. On the way out, we were going to stop in at the store, but with over a hundred motorcycles parked in front of it, we just went on our way. Did I mention you shouldn't come close to the Black Hills during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?

Devils Tower National Monument
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Wind Cave National Park - August 8

The twisty little passages in Wind Cave, Wind Cave National Park.
I had wanted to go to Deadwood and Lead, if for no other reason than to see the places, but the Sturgis Rally had ruined that for us as well. (Having seen the HBO series Deadwood probably had everything to do with wanting to go to Deadwood...) Oh, don't *ever* go to the Black Hills during the Rally. (I think I've said that before.)

Since we were forced so far South for a room, we went right through Wind Cave National Park, so we stopped in. We didn't have time for a cave tour in 1996, even though we did go down that way, and even stopped in at the Visitor's Center. This year with the bikers around, we bypassed some planned stops and had some time. We arrived at the Visitors Center, and found a cave tour was leaving in 5 minutes. Sold! We went out to the car, grabbed some water and jackets, went to the bathroom, and left on a two hour tour.

At the appointed time we all took a walk over to a sheltered area away from the Visitor's Center where the Ranger explained a few things about the tour and the cave.

He had a small capsule, opened it, and it had about 4 or 6 feet of string inside of it. He explained that if the string represented the length of Wind Cave, it would be better represented as the string bunched up inside the capsule. In other words, it's a three-dimensional cave that has passages above (or below) others. (See the picture below...)

Our next stop was to the only natural entrance to the cave, which almost always has an airflow in or out caused by the changes in the outside atmospheric pressure. The cave is big enough (and the entrance small enough, less than 2 feet across) that the smallest change in pressure is will cause a wind to form. (Hence, Wind Cave. Get it?) The entrance we went through were revolving doors, like you'd see in a modern highrise to preserve the difference in pressures inside the building and out.

It was a cool place to visit, with smaller and twistier passages than Carlsbad Caverns. In fact, even if you didn't like enclosed places, you could probably *still* do Carlsbad. Not Wind Cave...

Given the way the cave is and the extensive passages, I was surprised to learn that they hadn't used fiber optic cameras to see what was beyond some of the cracks that are pervasive though the cave. I would seem a natural thing to do in places where there's nothing on the map. Well, maybe they have by now.

Wind Cave National Park
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Custer State Park - August 9

One actual benefit of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, is there are so many motorcycles going through the North part of Custer State Park, that all the wildlife flees South.

So coming up through the Park from Wind Cave National park, we saw an abundance of animals ranging from Buffalo to wild turkeys to pronghorn antelope to deer, and the ever present burros...

We stopped by the South Entrance, to find one of the bison herd within the park had made it their overnight location. There were a few calves that were almost cute. For a buffalo...

Not wanting to get out of the car, and maybe getting between a cow and a calf, we made our way North around the Wildlife Loop to a Rangerís office to pay our entrance fee, just in case they had cameras at the self-pay entrance. I explained we didn't want to get out of the car in the middle of the herd. She agreed (see, all of us tourists aren't completely stupid), then made a call on the radio informing other rangers where the herd was. Which, I guess, says they didn't have cameras at the entrance. Then, she also took our $14...

This is the third time through the park, the other times in 1996 and 1998. It's my favorite state park.

Custer State Park, South Dakota
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End 2006 Pacific Northwest - Part 7.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

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