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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.