Saturday 19 July

Trip Start Apr 13, 2008
Trip End Oct 27, 2008

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Saturday 19th July
After saying goodbye to our neighbours Chet and Joy, we carried on along the Interstate to Sundance, Wyoming. 
We stopped at a visitor info place as we crossed the state border and picked up our usual load of maps and leaflets for the area.  Steve got talking to the lady working at the info place and asked her if she knew anyone who had a ranch that perhaps we could visit.  She happened to be neighbours with a ranching family  she rang them and made an arrangement for us to go up the road and have a look. Steve wanted to show Holly and Zach what a ranch looked like and what animals they had etc.  The owners of this ranch were Vic and Donna who agreed to show us around.  Their ranch must be about 7 miles off the Interstate from Sundance on a dirt road, way up in the hills. We found it easily and quickly met Vic who showed us all around.  He had a number of horses that they use as stock horses as well as riding for pleasure. We went in and patted them.  They were very nosey and one of them wanted to eat my camera. They had a few calves that they were hand rearing, a beautiful cat called Roxy and at least 2 dogs. Of course they had cattle out in the fields around us that would be in the hundreds.
We talked about the harsh climate that they have to endure here. It is covered in thick snow several feet deep from November to April and so they have a hard time keeping up with feeding all the cattle for literally half the year. They need 5 of the large round bales of hay per cow to keep them alive through the winter. It is an expensive business keeping them all fed well with hay!  At this time of the year it is boiling hot and dry, although as we know they do have regular violent storms with hail etc so it is very different from both UK climate and NZ too.  They are very very nice people and couldn't have been kinder to us.  We must have spent a couple of hours there before heading back down to Sundance. Yes this is where the Sundance kid came from.
After this we drove out to Devils Tower Nat. Memorial.  For those of you who remember watching "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", this is THE tower that was used in the movie when the aliens landed in their spaceship - the one that Richard Dreyfuss was obsessively building out of clay.
Of course this place is much more than a reminder of Spielburgs movie.  It is a unique place and has earned itself a place on the list of National Monuments. So naturally it houses a visitors centre and allows an opportunity for kids to do Junior Ranger activities - which Holly and Zach did. There were free ranger talks which we missed but we did a walk around the tower in the late afternoon sun, so it wasn't too hot.
We were fascinated by the rock structure which appears to be made up of great columns of rock. Many columns have smashed to the ground (not recently though).  The rock is there because it was originally a plug of magma that had been pushing its way up to the earths surface millions of years ago through softer sedimentary rock, with the earth's surface at that time being way above the top of the rock as it stands today.
Over thousands of years the sedimentary rock has worn away  leaving the hard plug of volcanic rock behind.
There were several people climbing the rock as we walked around, it made me feel a bit queasy watching them.
We took loads of photos of the tower so we hope you enjoy looking at them.
For the night we drove down the road to a State Park called Keyhole. It was by a lake, cheap but good for a night stop - except there were 3 very loud people next to us that woke us up at midnight so Steve went and moaned at them! (they did shut up immediately after that!)
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