Bighorn National Forest (Rocky Mount Sister Range)

Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
Trip End Aug 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Comfort Inn & Suites Rapid City
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 21 - Today we plan to rest up a bit and just drive. We are headed for Rapid City, South Dakota. Little do we know that we will find one of the most beautiful and special places we have seen on our trip. If you take a trip to Wyoming, you will NOT want to miss the place we find today.

I start out the day by going to the gift shop to buy a stuffed Buffalo Cody of my own. We put him in the back window. Then we have a nice lunch at the Bubba's Barbecue. Of course we have to take pictures of the Fighting Elk in the parking lot before we go in. Art enjoys getting the car into all the pictures, so you see a LOT of the car with the backgrounds.  

We head out toward South Dakota from Cody, heading toward Sheridan. I notice a little green area on the map we will pass over, but I do not pay it any attention. It is small, so it can't mean much.  Boy was I wrong!

Our drive is across very flat land... for a short time. We begin to see a mountain range in the distance. It grows larger and larger and Art asks what that range is. I tell him I think it is a small forest range that I saw on the map. We keep driving and the mountains in front of us are no laughing matter. They are huge and we are wondering, where is the road going? Over them? Through a pass? Around them?

Soon we are entering a passage way that winds us through the mountains. Rock cliffs and rock   dunes are high on both sides of the road and they are beautiful!!  I am snapping the camera as quickly as I can to capture this. I am thinking I should be taking a video. Driving through this narrow mountain passage way, with mountains on both sides of us, is so breathtaking. I never expected to see this today. I thought we were finished with the mountains. We come to an area where the rocks are hanging out over the road. We stop to take pictures here. Art is amazed at how the rocks are formed and how awesome this particular overhang looks.

We begin to climb in elevation and Art and I are both amazed at how high they tower over us, the shapes and the sizes of everything.. We see the sign that says, "BIGHORN NATIONAL FOREST". We had never heard of it, but I later learn it is a sister range to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We travel for SEVERAL miles with the mountains lining the sides of the roads around us.

We eventually come across a little Visitor's Center and gift shop manned by two forest ranger women on the mountain. The sign says, Shell Falls. We are intrigued and go to explore. Just a short way from the Visitor's Center are pathways that lead out to the falls and around the mountain.  There is a deep canyon there, with a river and a water fall dropping into the river.  Only fences lining the walkways hold you back from falling, so it is pretty scary if you are afraid of heights.  We enjoy seeing the falls and take some pictures before we sign the guest book there and continue on our journey.

We continue to climb... and climb... and climb... with no end in sight. As we get higher and higher we began to see trees and it is more green. Rolling hills and grassy areas. Finally, the mountain levels out and we look at the elevation and we are around 9000 feet!  And it is very flat here too. Totally  unexpected. It is a large plateau. There are a few houses and a couple of stores here.

We see several turnouts and one sign says, "Chain removal area". Another couple of turnouts have signs that say, "Unload snowmobiles here". We begin to see snow drift fences. We are realizing that snow is serious business here!  It  snows a lot. One lady we met that works at a gas station told us that she got caught in a snow storm on this mountain in September. That is less than 2 months from now and we can't imagine the temps going from this hot to cold enough to  snow that quickly.

We drive a long time before we begin to descend. And when we do, it is a steep grade! 
Very scary drop offfs, but beautiful scenery. There are several places you can see for miles and miles, maybe several states. There are several places to pull off on the mountain to see the scenery.. We finally make it down and I am very happy about that!!  But it was the most beautiful place, from the passage ways, to the flattop section that was high above the world ready for snow mobiles and 4-wheelers, to the drop off cliff road where you can see for miles. Bighorn National Forest is unusual, diverse, amazing and I will never forget it. I believe Wyoming has become one of my favorite states!

We continue driving now that we are out of this National Park and now we find that we are in flat land. Very flat. We see antelope and deer quite often, although hard to get pictures. We see oil rigs pumping oil all along the way. We see trains parked with cars that extend for miles and miles. And we see RED roads! Lots of the same red roads that we saw in Zion, Utah. 

We are not far from Montana, so we take a quick trip into the state and turn around at an exit. We can add one more state to our states we have entered. We see a lot of rolling land that extends for as far as the eye can see. We see antelope very far away and try to take pictures. But we do not see anything else here in Montana. This state is huge and I would hate to drive through it as barren as it seems.

We continue traveling until it gets dark. We cross into Sioux Dakota. We stop at the first rest area and find a huge tepee made of wood at the station. Very beautiful. The represent the Sioux Indians on the great plains. We will find those at 4 different rest areas along the way.

We finally make it to Rapid City, South Dakota where we will spend the night.

Note: It is often late at night when I write the blog and I am tired. Sometimes the letters all run together (like tonight). So please forgive any misspellings. :)

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