Working Our Way from Wyoming to Wisconsin

I’m late in sharing these photos from the end of our fall U.S. road trip, but hey, what else would you expect from two unemployed travelers like us? Anyway, maybe we can provide some inspiration for your own domestic travel plans in 2017 and beyond!

After two lovely weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, we drove east through Wyoming, making stops in the cowboy town of Sheridan, the hippie-climber-rancher-Indian melting pot of Lander, and Devils Tower National Monument. We found enough free campsites to make do in Wyoming, including some with spectacular scenery.

Off U.S. Highway 26 near Crowheart, WY

Off U.S. Highway 26 near Crowheart, WY

Sinks Canyon State Park

Sinks Canyon State Park

Free BLM campsite near Kirby, WY

Free BLM campsite near Kirby, WY

Last photo of the hubcap we would lose in South Dakota

Last photo of the hubcap we would lose in South Dakota

Cooking dinner at a free BLM campsite outside Gillette, WY

Cooking dinner at a free BLM campsite outside Gillette, WY

Sunset in northeast Wyoming

Sunset in northeast Wyoming

Van camping in late fall is definitely more challenging than in spring and summer. Between the cold weather and limited daylight, we found ourselves preparing meals early and being packed up and in the van by 6:00 or 6:30 each night. Far different from sitting outside until after dark like we did earlier in the year in California and the Southwest!

We woke up several mornings with ice accumulated not only on the outside of the windshield, but the inside as well! Good sleeping bags were a big help in staying comfortable each night.

Morning wake-up temperature

Morning wake-up temperature

Prairie dogs at Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

Birds headed south, as we all should do in the winter!

Birds headed south, as we all should do in the winter!

We crossed from Wyoming into South Dakota, my first “new” state of either road trip. South Dakota’s Black Hills were surprisingly beautiful, and we also enjoyed stops at Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, and Custer State Park.

Bizarre formations at Jewel Cave National Monument

Bizarre formations at Jewel Cave National Monument

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Boxwork at Wind Cave National Park

Boxwork at Wind Cave National Park

Cathedral Spires, Needles Highway

Cathedral Spires, Needles Highway

Hiking in the Black Hills

Hiking in the Black Hills

What road trip through South Dakota would be complete without a stop at Mount Rushmore? Being the cheapskates we are, we avoided the $11 parking fee by leaving the van in a lot about a quarter-mile up the road and hiking in.

We also visited the still-in-progress and somewhat controversial Crazy Horse Memorial. We appreciate the sentiment behind the gargantuan monument (and I do mean gargantuan; the head alone is taller than Mount Rushmore’s carvings), but there’s also something to be said for the criticisms of its design, its deformation of the sacred Black Hills, and its non-native ownership. Perhaps they’ll finish it in our lifetimes.

Requisite Mount Rushmore shot

Requisite Mount Rushmore shot

Crazy Horse Memorial in the background, with a mockup design in the foreground

Crazy Horse Memorial in the background, with a mockup design in the foreground

From there, it was onward to Badlands National Park, but not before a quick pit stop at the bizarre (and completely empty in October) Wall Drug.

Daniel riding the jackalope at Wall Drug

Daniel riding the jackalope at Wall Drug

Badlands could easily be seen in a single day, but we spent three nights camping on BLM land nearby and enjoyed practically every square inch of the park. It felt great to be back in a desert landscape, and we hardly saw another tourist during our hikes around the area.

Beautiful Badlands

Saddle Pass Trail

Saddle Pass Trail

I spy a bighorn sheep

I spy a bighorn sheep

Castle Trail

Castle Trail

The remainder of our trip east was a whirlwind. We took a weekend detour south to Kansas City, where we explored the city and had some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten. We headed north again and spent about a month visiting friends in the Twin Cities, Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago. And finally, we headed north through Wisconsin toward the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before the long ride back home – the photos from which I’ll share in our next post.

Lovely Kansas City

Lovely Kansas City

Pumpkin-shopping outside Minneapolis

Pumpkin-shopping outside Minneapolis

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier

We were in Chicago for part of the World Series. Pretty fun!

We were in Chicago for part of the World Series. Pretty fun!

Eating cheese curds and watching the Packers in Green Bay, WI

Eating cheese curds and watching the Packers in Green Bay, WI

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18 Comments

  1. Beautiful pictures!!! You’re definitely doing it right. We will have to add a few of these sites to the itinerary for our big road trip in a few years. Keep on adventuring 🙂

  2. I love these pictures! Our family took a couple trips to SD while I was growing up and I have great memories of the Badlands.

    Did you get to see much while you were in the Twin Cities?

    • We didn’t have time to do a ton of sightseeing, but we’ve visited once before and really love it there. Although we joke that we’ve only visited the Twin Cities during beautiful weather in May and October!

  3. Very cool guys – love looking at pictures from your adventure. You’ve captured some truly awesome sunsets.

  4. We’re hoping to visit many of these places in the next 18 months! Thanks so much for sharing – it gets us even more excited for our “vanventure” 🙂

  5. That’s cool that you were in Chicago for the World Series. That had to be a cool vibe!

    • We didn’t go into Wrigleyville at game time (we’re not insane), but it was really fun seeing everyone out at the bars watching the games. You couldn’t walk 5 feet down the sidewalk without seeing another TV with the game on.

  6. amazing pictures that motivate me to keep my life in the right balance. Not FIRE yet (maybe never), at least plan enough travel.

  7. Awesome pics as always. Didn’t know the van was built for off-roading 😉

    • Ha! We’ve taken it down a few too many roads for which it was not intended. I try to keep that in mind when paying for yet another little fix to a misaligned belt or pulley.

  8. Your photos definitely inspire me! I don’t know if i’ll make it up to some of those northern parks this year or not. For now I have a month booked in NM and a month booked in south UT – plenty of time to explore Bryce and Zion.. After that? We’ll see.

    It’s shocking to me that you’re able to get all of these great shots off of your phone camera.

    • Thanks, TJ! NM and southern UT should be fantastic. Don’t miss Arches and Canyonlands, too, if you have the chance. I hope you make it up north at some point, though there is so much else to see!

      • Yeah…I definitely need to figure out how to “fit” Arches & Canyonlands in. Both parks might be a bit “far” from Cedar City (where my 30 nights is) for a day trip. (4+ hr drive). .so I could either stay in Moab for a bit after, or I could just do a few nights in Moab during the Utah month either at a cheap motel or in a tent. We’ll see!

        At this point, I’m booked through early May. I hesitate to do any more booking until I’m on the road (I leave March 6).

        • Yeah, that’s pretty darn far for a day trip. But if you were willing to get a motel or camp (especially at Canyonlands, which is more remote), a few days out there would be well worth it!

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