Friday, August 20, 2010

Grand Teton National Park to Devils Tower National Monument

We left Grand Teton National Park on Thursday, August 19th and began to make our way to Devil's Tower National Monument. We decided to make this a leisurely trip and take two days, stopping in Buffalo, Wyoming for the night and then rolling into the Devil's Tower area early the following afternoon.

So we left Grand Teton and, once again, drove through Yellowstone which by now is an old friend.  Except this time we turned right at Fishing Bridge and kept on going until we exited the park at the East gate. Highway 16 proved to be quite steep, which worried me a little because the Autopark (emergency) brake on the Trek is still not working.  Anyway, I was extra careful and downshifted to 2nd, and even 1st at one point, and we made it to the flat lands east of Yellowstone safe and sound.

That the drive to Buffalo was interesting, to say the least!  It started out fairly  innocuously, with us leaving Yellowstone and winding our way through Cody, Wyoming and onward. In fact, we stopped in Cody to pick up some supplies from Wal-Mart.  The scenery along the way was stellar (be sure to look at the photos), but the really interesting part came when we decided to take the US Route 14 Scenic Byway to traverse the Bighorn Mountains.

There was no sign, nothing, to warn that this route is a narrow windy road with a steep grade for 20 miles or more. I am just thankful that the Trek is only 28 feet long or we could have found ourselves in a real pickle! As we drove up and up and up, we wound around craggy limestone outcroppings and went past colorful stacks of granite and sandstone that, according to signs, is filled with fossil shells. All of this was very interesting and really quite beautiful but we couldn't stop to take a closer look. In fact, I was pretty sure that if I even slowed down too much we would never get going again. Even though the engine temperature gauge on the dashboard showed the Trek was running only a little above 50% temp, I knew that if I stopped, that radiator would bubble like a Yellowstone geyser!  And so we just kept on going and that intrepid Trek huffed and puffed until she hauled us up to the highest point: Granite Pass at 9003 feet.

When we popped out at the top, we found ourselves on what seemed to be a mountain plateau with cattle ranches and beautiful meadows. It was a little surreal!  As we drove along the level road, the Trek quickly cooled down but I was anxious we would have to go down a long, steep roadway and might have braking problems. Well, as it turned out, there was no need to be concerned - compared with our ascent, going down down the eastern slope of the Bighorn Mountains was a  piece of cake!

We arrived safely in Buffalo and found the Twin Creeks RV Park with no trouble.  By 7 PM, we were  settled in for the night and laughing about our journey up and over the Bighorn Mountains. You know, it wasn't funny at the time but these adventures have a way of being pretty entertaining... after the fact.

After a good night's sleep, we set off early this morning for Devil's Tower and arrived at the Belle Fourche Campground around 1:30 PM.  We got settled in and walked the dogs around. This is a wonderful campground that lays in the shadow of Devil's Tower. The sites are very large and there are cottonwood trees everywhere. There aren't any hookups, but we're prepared for that with plenty of fresh water and empty holding tanks. The camp hosts are very nice and told us we can run the generator as needed, except during quiet hours.

Unfortunately, our visit to Devil's Tower will be very short - we have to leave tomorrow for Rapid City, South Dakota.  And so we're off now to go hiking around the Tower.  Stay tuned!

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