Last night was awesome. We camped trailside about a mile down the trail from Harney Peak. Not having to deal with other campers is a great way to start the day. The morning got even better when during our descent back to the car when a family passed us and the young boy said to his father after looking at us, "Now that's what I call real hiking." Once we got back to the car we had a quick lunch and got back on the road.
Something that is constantly amazing me is the variation of landscape we've encountered on this trip. Now that we are in the mountains it become even more stark. From the rolling hills of Kentucky to the big sky of the Great Plains America has a lot to offer in regards to topography. This experience will for sure make an impact on my teaching. There are countless examples I can now call upon when referencing land formations and weather.
Before camping for the night we decided to stop in Deadwood for some coffee and wifi. We found a nice place called the Pump Station that was an old gas station/glass blowing studio. The latte really raised my spirits as we headed to the Wyoming section of the Black Hills.
Now at this point the journey starts receiving it's first bit of bad luck. Cook Lake Recreation Area was our destination. It offered a nice lake to camp on and a few short hikes for us to do in the morning. It took about an hour of traveling on dirt roads before we got to the entrance only to see that it was closed due to mudslide risk. We ended up having to pull of the side of the road and camp on some flat land. Luckily for us someone else had done so previously and built a fire pit. At least we could have a fire. Once the fire was lit I took the opportunity to read my book on the natural history of the Black Hills. It was about as perfect as it could get considering the circumstances.
Today has to be the worst day of the trip so far. The fact that today was Friday the 13th should have been an omen. Last Night we had to weather a pretty intense windstorm. Gust were coming out of the southeast at 20 to 30 miles per hour. There were times where our tent caved in and almost felt like it was going to blow away with us in it. I might have only got 3 or 4 hours of sleep. We had planned to do some hiking in the morning at Cook Lake, but again it was closed. A theme that would run through today.
The only highlight was a spectacular trip to Devil's Tower. A structure unlike anything I have seen before. The process in which it formed is amazing. Some hypothesize that it was the remnant of a volcano. This makes sense because to the west under Yellowstone National Park is a volcanic hotspot. The location will definitely be a new lesson I teach next year during my plate tectonics unit.
Once we left Devil's Tower the day went back to being horrible. Our plan was to spend the night in Big Horn National Forest. The drive up was scenic as we ascended via car to about 7400 ft. After the last week in the Great Plains it was fantastic to see the Rocky Mountains. Some of the peaks still had snow on them. Going back to yesterdays post it's amazing the type of scenery this country has to offer. Connor made an interesting point at Devil's Tower as we passed a group of foreign tourist. He mused that people from other countries are sometimes more excited to travel around the States then most of its citizens. I was lucky enough as a kids to have parents who wanted to travel and see new places. I fondly remember getting in the family minivan and driven down from Michigan to Florida. We even flew out to Las Vegas, still one of my favorite places to visit, and renting a van to drive around the Southwest. There are a lot of people who dream about traveling to faraway lands to see exotic environments when sometimes all they have to do is drive a few hours away from home to have the same experience.
Back to the journey. The plan was to travel to the Big Horn ranger station and pick up some maps and tips on where to hike which might not seem like that far away, but it was through winding mountain roads that we could only go about 35 miles per hour on. We luckily hit a small roadhouse and was able to ask the proprietor about where to camp for the night. He gave us a few tips and we set off again. He lead us to a small road about a half mile away. Everything was going swell until the dirt road became impassible by our tiny Mazda 2. So we had to turn around. After about an hour and a half of looking we found a small campground. We were already to set up camp if it wasn't for our lack of cash. So we headed by to the roadhouse pick up some money and finally had a place to stay for the night. Hopefully thing will go better tomorrow when it's not Friday the 13th and we're in Yellowstone National Park.