Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 Vacation - Day 3: Wet Buffalo and Devil's Tower

Wednesday, day 3 of our rather wet vacation, started with rain. Rain, rain, and more rain. It was also cold – 40s & 50s. A perfect day to ride in the back of a jeep … which is exactly what we did.

The jeep tour, provided proudly by Buffalo Jeep Safari, was in a covered jeep and took you wildlife watching in Custer State Park. While the jeep's cover kept most of the rain off us, there were no sides or windows to the jeep. The Wife rode shotgun and ended up with her right side soaked. I was in the second row bench seat and was fairly dry as I was sitting in the middle (my seat was wet to the left and right of me). I did feel the full brunt of the cold though as the front row heat did not reach back to me. We were the only adventurous fools to not cancel. Fortunately the actual tour was worth the cold, wet misery we subjected ourselves to.

Our driver, a retired, Vietnam vet, truck driver from New York state had a great sense of humor and told a good story. We really liked him even though his knowledge of park history was a bit limited. He drove us on less traveled roads looking for bison and other wildlife. Unfortunately the national guard was conducting exercises involving noisy truck convoys, troop maneuvers, and some exercises involving blowing up Improvised Explosive Devises along the roadside. This didn't make the wildlife very happy so many of the animals were skittish and made themselves pretty scarce. Despite that, our driver managed to find a herd of bison – mostly females with lots of newborn calves – that we could get close to. The bison were used to the jeep so we came within 10 feet of nursing buffalo calves. Along with the buffalo we saw Pronghorn antelope and deer. Pretty awesome if you ask me. Pictures from our jeep tour can be found here.

The jeep dropped us off back at our car where I jumped in and turned the heat on full to help thaw out my hands and feet. We left South Dakota heading northwest into Wyoming for our next destination – our nation's first National Monument, Devil's Tower. The drive there followed the developing theme of our vacation: non-stop rain and drizzle. Fortunately another theme started here as well: as we arrived the drizzle let up and we had time to take pictures and to do the 1.3 mile loop around the base of the tower. It turns out we've been lucky with the weather and it often clears up when it counts. A few pictures of Devil's Tower are here.

On the way back to the car from the hike, the Wife's superpowers were activated once again when someone called her name. We both rolled our eyes a little and smiled. Sure enough, one of the Wife's students from Mercy was at Devil's Tower. Her superpowers never cease to amaze.

Leaving the park we decided to take action against the weather and stopped at a gift shop to buy a sweatshirt for the Wife and a Fleece jacket for me. We both had packed mostly shorts and t-shirts and this vacation has not been a short and t-shirt type of vacation.

The rest of the day was a drive to Sheridan, WY, a stay at what once had been an old Mill, and a great dinner at a corner bar.

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