I turned in early and was woken by Greg strapping in the rainfly after he apparently heard of heavy winds on the weatherband radio he wisely picked up. Aside, I can't think of how many times I've said "wow Knak, always thinking!" - in short, he is meticulous to detail and picked up some cool items for the trip that have proved invaluable. Regardless, the forecast proved accurate because both of us had a tough time sleeping amidst the heavy winds that occasionally caved in the tent over top of us. It was bizarre hearing the wind traveling towards us in the distance, whistling through the trees, before savagely attacking our tent. It's hardly shocking that many cultures believe in nature-spirits and ghosts because I definitely had a sense of foreboding. I almost felt we were being warned that we weren't welcome.
Soon enough the light came on day 11 and we headed out early for Devils Tower, known by Natives as Bear Lodge or Bear Tipi, which is kind of cool. They believed a giant spirit bear called the tower home. The info at the Visitor Center suggested that Natives don't like people climbing the tower, nor do they approve of the name "Devils Tower"...yet we still allow climbing and still call it Devils Tower. Seems a good metaphor for our relationship with Natives. Go figure.
Bighorn National Forest was our objective following Devils Tower/Bear Tipi. It seemed a natural midpoint between the Black Hills and our plan to hit Yellowstone and the Tetons. It was another evening of disappointment though. The ascent was fun and beautiful, but when we finally reached the Visitor Center for info, it was closed. We searched around for info and even went into a cool bar/restaurant/lodge called the Arrowhead that I'm almost positive I stayed at when I was 11, but we couldn't really find concrete information on where to camp. A grizzled lodge attendant with a half-smoked cigarette dangling from his mouth said something to the effect of "hell, I think you can camp anywhere" and proceeded to tell us about a spot off a gravel road where camping isn't allowed, but just to head up there and close the gate. We tried it, but soon the SS Tiny Adventure was over-matched by the potholes and treacherous dirt path. After a quick u-turn in the spirit of the first Austin Powers movie, we ended up in a traditional campground called Prune Creek with a beautiful stream rushing past. It surged with the plentiful waters of melting snow. I felt like I was in a really tacky beer ad from the 1980s.