After a night spent in Greybull and a quick stop in Cody, the road took us from Devils Tower to Yellowstone National Park. It was still morning when we reached the East Entrance. The long lines at the entrance didn’t scare us, we were excited to get in the park. The Interagency pass we obtained at our first destination (Badlands National Park) let us move quickly once we had arrived at the booth. I didn’t really notice when the scarce vegetation thickened and became greener, and when the surrounding heights became elevated.
Of course, the Tower reminded me of one of the first Steven Spielberg’s famous movies Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Faded memories of a black and white wallpaper, or a strange pile dumped on a wrong spot. Watching this movie as a kid left me with impression of a mysterious place, a picture painted with non-matching colours on a rough, and old wallpaper. No nightmares about aliens, but only fantasies about foreign places. Growing up without computers and internet, I only found much later what Devils Tower was.
Black Hills are only one-hour drive from Badlands National Park. The name comes from the native Lakota Paha Sapa meaning hills that are black, because they look dark from distance. And this is not because the hills are dark, but because of the green vegetation standing out in the middle of the plains. Coming from the eastern grasslands, we could see Black Hills rising from afar, where the pine forests and the granite peaks create a distinctive landscape from what we’ve seen until now. One of the oldest mountains in North America, these hills are actually the highest mountains east of the Rockies with its highest peak little over 2,200 m.
There is a time when one will go backpacking, there is a way where one will go biking, but here is the time when one needs a car, as long North American roads require.
Heading South through North Dakota happened in a blink of the eye. The friendliest (Dakota is the native Sioux word for “friend/ally”) highways with almost no traffic gave us the chance to reach our first way point very soon: Badlands National Park. Not that the lands we’ve seen in the first 2 days of our trip were any better (chuckle!), but I can’t really say that the prairies, or rather the Great Plains, were very appealing. The Great Plains cover most of North and South Dakota, and the endless plains, hills, shrubs and grass that you can see all over can make you think if these areas are really inhabited. But yes, ranching is the predominant agricultural activity, as we could see hundreds of herds of cattle with alternating fields with rolls of hay; so we figured out people are still living in these places (I guess only the brave ones), even though we very rarely saw anyone.