Tuesday, June 3: From South Dakota to Wyoming
We got up early and hit the road, opting to pick up breakfast on the way instead of taking time in the morning to cook. We got coffee and tea at the Bank Coffee House in Custer, a really cool little coffee shop that used to be an old bank, complete with vault doors. Though it was out of the way, we had planned to make a stop at Devil’s Tower. While we were driving on a 2-lane highway, we saw a truck come around a turn with a white flag waving out the driver side window. We weren’t sure what it meant, so we slowed down. As soon as we went around the turn, we learned quickly; several cowboys were driving a herd of cattle up the road.
Since we still had a long drive ahead of us, our stop at Devil’s Tower was pretty quick. We took several pictures, filled up on gas and snacks, and got back on track.
Our last stop was in Cody, Wyoming, to pick up groceries, beer, and bear spray, as we were now entering bear country. The woman at the grocery store warned us to not leave the spray in our car because the can could explode in the heat, and that is one car you’ll never get into again.
We finally arrived in Yellowstone around 7:30 pm. Almost immediately, we encountered bighorn sheep hanging out on a ledge near the road.
As we drove into the park towards our reserved site at Canyon Campground, we quickly learned that when you saw other cars pulled off to the side of the road, there must be wildlife nearby. If there was something close enough to be photographed, a crowd of people would be standing on the shoulder with cameras out like they were TMZ paparazzi. Within our first hour in the park, we saw pronghorns, bison, elk, and two black bears–one from a distance using binoculars, and the second fairly close to the road where several people watched from safely inside their cars. Almost immediately, a ranger pulled up in his truck and stepped out to investigate, brandishing bear spray in case of an emergency, but the bear had come and gone quickly. Kurt got a good look, but I only saw its butt as it retreated into the woods.
Having just seen two bears made it slightly unnerving to set up our tent outside, especially after the ranger who checked us in warned us that bears had been seen near the campgrounds recently, so we should be sure to leave all food and drinks in the car. “The only things that go in your tent are you and your sleeping bags,” she said. The campgrounds were quite nice, with a nearby restroom, bear-proof recycling, and an indoor dishwashing station.
Since we had rolled in so late, we ate dinner in the lodge and enjoyed a cold beer. Afterward, we made a nice warm fire at our site, as the temperature had dropped to make it the coldest night yet of our trip. We slept warm and cozy in our tent with the bear spray close by our side.
Wildlife sightings: elk, bison, two black beers, pronghorns, bighorn sheep