15 States in 15 Days- Ch 5
We did almost zero research before for this trip. No in-depth seasonal weather checks because it’s May, duh, so everywhere in the US should be nice and warm . . . enough. We didn’t do these deep dives on where, when and how not because we thought we were smart enough but because it went from inception to execution of idea in 48 hrs! Grabbed a couple items from the store, some sleeping bags, our tent, propane camp and hoped for the best. Survive and adapt . . . and have fun! We CAN do that.
The past 24 hours, our dear western states of South Dakota and Wyoming have shown us their hand. They’re straight up your ex-psycho girlfriend depending on elevation and a couple miles. Learned that REAL quick-
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The goal was to camp as much as possible on this trip mostly to stay on the cheap but also to experience the west in it’s raw form. We wanted our sweet, city girl Selah to get dirty and Landon to tame some of his wild beast or express it appropriately : ) Problem we’re facing up here, which we didn’t know prior, is that 90% of campgrounds don’t open til mid May because their crazy Aunt Winter still reigns supreme even during the spring months. I can just hear the eyes roll after we called our umpteenth campground on this trip, “Ummm, hello! Do you have any primitive tent sites available?” No, no we don’t ya dumb dumb. We thought it was COVID. It’s not. It’s normal.
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Last night we stayed in Deadwood, SD. Driving into the town and down their historic main street, we were pleasantly surprised how nice and clean it was compared to the other country towns that are full of worn buildings and trailers. Let’s just say architecture isn’t really a thing out here. But Deadwood stood out . . . until we looked in the windows. It’s all gambling there. Every other shop is gaming. So yes, probably loads of cash to keep the facade of cute mountain town up. We left just in time as the casino’s were back open for biz stating today at 8 am.
Off we went on the southern route (Rte 16) through the Bighorns which are about halfway to Yellowstone. It was hard getting weather reports for that area as they ranged from 51 and sunny to 37 and sleet/snow. I knew we wouldn’t camp out but I wanted to go the north route but decided against it since we didn’t have 4x4. Elevation ranges from 5000–14000 feet in those mountains. As we started our climb it was crystal clear and 55. Nat and I both looked at each other and asked how the weather reports could be so wrong. Forty five minutes later the thermometer read 27 as massive snow flakes pounded our car being hurled by gusts of 40 mph. We both laughed hard when I looked at Nat and said, “So kids, we’ll be camping tonight!” In that moment, I felt so green (once again.) I stood in awe of Mother Nature and her ability to humble.
The downside was that all 3 hikes in the mountains I had planned weren’t happening mostly because 12–24” of snow were on the path and we had zero apparel for those conditions. In another hour we arrived onto the plains of the west side of the mountains. Almost instantly, the sun came out, precipitation stopped and temp hit 57. A 30 degree swing!!! Absolutely nuts to experience that in May- Since our hikes were blown, we looked for side roads to turn down to get a walk in. Nat spotted a sign for dinosaur tracks on Red Gulch Road. It’s a 32 mile dirt road. The dinosaur tracks were only about 5 miles down the road so off we went in a billow of dusts. Single dirt roads and mountains views are my jam! As we bounced down the road, random cattle caught our conversation and names. The kids giggled and yelled!
As we pulled up to the dino spot, Selah was trying to understand how this could be?!?! How could footprints from dinosaurs STILL exist today? Too big a question for her to understand. I get it though; 167 million years ain’t no small number. As her little fingers traced their steps she squealed, “This is REAL proof! This is how we know they existed!” It was a fun moment to see science and youth collide.
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What a day Wyoming! Thanks for the wild and whacky welcome-