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We started out across the intimate rolling hills of South Dakota
A day's drive got us to Pierre ("peer"), the second-least populous state capital in the United States. It offered early trappers an easy crossing of the Missouri River. This windswept red pine is in the pretty town park along the shore.
Our VRBO in Pierre featured indigenous decorative touches.
From suburban Minneapolis to western Wyoming we saw nothing but Trump signs and the passion behind them is clear.
There was nothing similar for Biden.
We finally reached our VRBO on a ranch south of Buffalo, WY. We purposely picked minimal accommodations and this one paid off. We used our own linens and cooking equipment, thanks to Jean's planning.
Compared to a backpacking tent, it was luxurious!
No running water and one hot plate, plus microwave and refrigerator.
The view out the front door showing the Powder River Basin, south of Buffalo, WY, and Big Horn Mountains rising on the right.
The other guests.
We walked across the barnyard to a bathroom in the barn/equipment shed. The owner and his ranch hand hang out there.
We made our way into the Big Horns and up Sheep Mountain to the fire tower lookout.
Constructed in 1950 atop Sheep Mountain at an elevation of 9,600 feet, the lookout was historically occupied as a fire lookout until the early 1970s. The Civilian Conservation Corps built an earlier structure in 1930.
No stove, heat, water, nor communication, so come prepared.
Actually, the beds were among our comfiest.
Smoke from western fires softened the views in all directions. Thankfully, though, the Big Horns are not (yet) much affected by the pine bark beetle, so the forests are a pleasing green.
Above treeline, we could look down on one short length of road.
The outhouse featured one of the best views we've seen!
Even in September, some snow remains above 9,000'.
On a day hike in the adjacent wilderness area within the Bighorn National Forest.
It was quite dry and fire danger was rated "High." Fortunately, there were no fires during our stay.
Climbing up to high country, the aspen put on a spectacular display for us.
An alpine lake at the end of the trail.
Another high country lake - but this one had another visitor.
A big bull moose was trying to take his mid day siesta across an inlet from us.
At evening, we were visited by mule deer. We also saw antelopes on this trip.
A smokey view of the Powder River Basin, between the Big Horns and the Black Hills. It was a popular wagon train route to Montana.
The Big Horns resembled the Smokey Mountains in the evenings.
The smoke actually added to the evening color of the sky.
We read pioneering journals as we comfortably traveled by car. Most wagon trains followed the Platt River across Nebraska from Missouri to Fort Laramie, WY. Some then headed for the Montana gold mines past Forts Reno and Kinney (near Buffalo, WY). Few traveled through the Big Horn Basin because it is so dry. Most headed to California and Oregon along the Sweetwater River and the South Pass over the mountains. The daily toil was unimaginable (to us).
Crazy Woman Canyon was named for a Mrs. Morgan. Her family was traveling via covered wagon when they were attacked by Sioux warriors. Three children and their father were killed, but Mrs. Morgan survived. She stole an axe from a warrior and attacked, killing four as the Sioux fled. Soon after, a mountain man came upon the bloody scene. He buried the husband and children, and tried to get Mrs. Morgan to leave. She refused, and he built her a small cabin. Eventually, he found her frozen body, dead from starvation.
The Big Horn Basin. Modern irrigation works wonders (as long as the water table holds out.)
Our cabin outside Yellowstone Park was originally built in 1910. I think the lawn sprinkler system was added subsequently.
We hiked along the Yellowstone River, scouting for bison and bison bones.
Another hiker had more gear than us!
We found a couple bison wallows where they roll in the dirt. The small brown patch in the upper right is bison fur.
Jean finds a bone! Later, the trail crossed the river where there was a virtual boneyard.
Back on the road to home, we stopped at a spread south of Pierre. Their political views were not part of the Airbnb listing.
The bunkhouse was comfy, though. One more long day got us home again.