October 14, 2016: We’re back on the road, and it’s spectacular.
After spending the summer mostly centered around Minnesota, it was to get back on the road on September 21. We were headed to Yellowstone to meet up with Laura’s aunt who was visiting the park for a couple of weeks. Along the way, we made a couple of brief stops.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
We headed west into North Dakota. We stopped for the first night at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center on the edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This visitor center is also a highway rest area, but not your average rest area. We took a quick walk around the grounds on arrival:
During our stroll we saw this:
Michael asked, “Is that bison poop?”
We walked up to the visitor center building and found this:
It IS bison poop. There are cattle guards to keep them off the freeway, but they can roam around the visitor center and rest area as they please.
The next morning when we left the van, we saw the real bison deal.
As the name implies, the visitor center is on the edge of Painted Canyon. We took the short loop hike from the visitor center into the canyon. Even on a cloudy day, there was great color.
When we finished our hike, we walked back to the van. Wait, which one is ours?
There are a lot of Class B RVs out west.
Continuing west, we saw a sign for Pompeys Pillar National Monument in eastern Montana. We’d never heard of it. But, as earlier this year we bought an America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Parks Service, giving us unlimited access to parks, national monuments and the like, we decided to check it out.
This rock outcropping is the pillar that gives the site its name. In 1806, William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame), carved his name in this rock on his way back east:
So did a lot of other people (not all in 1806).
The signature is the only remaining physical evidence of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. From the top of the rock, there are nice views of the Yellowstone River.
The visitor center next to the pillar has some interesting displays, including this boat made out of buffalo hides. Similar boats were described by members of the expedition.
Continuing our drive through eastern Montana, the views were grand. [click photos to enlarge]
We made our next overnight stop in Cody, Wyoming, staying overnight in Wal-Mart’s parking lot. There were probably 10 or more other RVs in the lot.
We visited the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a Smithsonian affiliated collection of 5 museums under one roof. Thanks for the recommendation Erika!
Perhaps the best museum is the one dedicated to William “Buffalo Bill” Cody himself, who founded the city that bears his name. There’s also a section dedicated to firearms, a natural history museum, and art museum and a Plains Indians section. We only saw three of the five. Hopefully we will return to see the rest.
After Cody, we continued west towards Yellowstone. The drive has some spectacular views.
Just outside Yellowstone, we camped in the Shoshone National Forest at the Eagle Creek Campground. Like all the national forest campgrounds we’ve seen so far, it was pretty bare bones in terms of services, but was in a great location right on the Shoshone River and was clean with well developed sites. There was also a very nice couple acting as camp hosts, who at one time lived in Stillwater, MN.
We took a short hike on a trail off the campground. It was dusk and we were a little nervous about bears. We didn’t see any, but did find mule deer, on the trail and right in our camp site. [click photos to enlarge]
The next morning we continued west.
Yellowstone, here we come!