Sunday, July 31, 2016

We Find Our Jeep, Visit a Sacred Lodge, and Catch Up With Good Friends

Wednesday, July 27 - Sunday, July 31, 2016
Moorcroft, Wyoming

At 196 miles, Wednesday's drive to Moorcroft, WY, is longer than usual, but on  I-90 it's an easy drive. The area around Sheridan and Buffalo is particularly pretty, and I remind myself we want to stay here next time through.

We're in Moorcroft because it's half-way between the two things we want to do in the area - see friends and see Bear Lodge.  Rangeland Motel and RV does nothing more than give us a place to park with FHUs and 50 amp. And it does this quite well. Another set-up where you back into your site from the city street, the gravel pad is level, the site and area clean, and the owners friendly and helpful. As we end up staying a couple extra nights, I'm glad we like it.

It rains overnight and is still cloudy with more rain in the forecast for Thursday. The area is parched, and the rain is very welcome - you can hear the earth sucking it in!

I have been checking for used Jeeps along our route for some time now. There is one in Sioux Falls I'm interested in, but since they usually sell pretty fast, I'm not convinced it will still be there when we are. So I'm excited to see one available in Gillette, WY, just up the road where our friends live. With the weather iffy for outdoor activity, we head for the "big city."

Meeting all our criteria except a data port in the music system, we test drive the Wrangler and decide it's a good fit for us. We're happy with the deal, and they will move the towbar and brake-assist from the Cherokee for us. 

Unfortunately the plate won't fit the Wrangler so they order us a new one to be shipped overnight. They can do the install on Monday if we can wait a couple days. We can. 

Piper, the new member of the family
Just driving through town with the air conditioner on, and not worrying about whether it's going to stall in an intersection, is such a relief that I'm even more thrilled with our decision.

Reading the manual on the way home Bill makes a discovery - and we listen to our music on one of our thumb drives plugged into the data port in the center console :-))))))

Friday morning we get up and out early, hoping to beat the expected much hotter temps. We're going to see another bucket list place - Bear Lodge (Devils Tower National Monument). 

Everyone warns you that seeing it from the highway is amazing, and that's an understatement. There isn't anything else that looks like that, and I can understand why the native peoples have held it sacred for so long. The giant bear claw marks are visible for miles - hundreds of years ago, what else could have made those marks?

Known as Bear Lodge to the Lakota
Our hopes for a light crowd are dashed as we sit in line to get in the park. The parking lot is nearly full, but a few people are leaving and we find a spot in the dirt.

We're taking the Tower Trail which makes a 1.3 mile loop around the base of the tower. It is very popular. 

Several times we stop along the paved path to let noisy hikers pass by. It's wonderful that kids and teenagers are experiencing this wonderful place, but they sure miss a lot by just looking and not listening.

Interpretive signs along the trail provide geological and cultural information
Colorful prayer cloths 
Looking in the crack for the elevator button
Note the (lack of) shoes on her climbing partner
See the climbers? No? Because it's a million miles up there!
"Around back" the trail comes out of the forest with beautiful views across a green valley. It is a pretty spot, although without the shade of the trees it is getting very hot, very quickly.

Cattle country
Beautiful views of the Black Hills National Forest
Smaller rock formations
Three distinct layers are more visible from this side
As the trail climbs again we're grateful to be back in the shade. The crowd thins some and we enjoy the bird song and slight breeze in the trees. A little cutie named Violet is getting a piggy-back ride from her daddy. A couple looks through binoculars for climbers. The tower looks very different on this side.

After 40 million years sometimes you just need to take a break
Flat formations along the base
With no wildflowers in bloom, bright leaves provide a spot of color on the forest floor
Back at the parking lot both the temps and the crowds have increased significantly - I'm very glad we got here early. The tiny visitors' center is packed as expected and I make a quick walk through before joining Bill and Tessa.

Bear Lodge is a unique and amazing place. I need to come back when the noise and chaotic energy of vacationing crowds are gone. I miss the spiritual connection that I know is here.

The legend of Bear Lodge
If it hadn't been filmed in a sound studio, that famous movie space ship would have landed where the VC stands
We were going to walk the South Side Trail for a different view of the tower, but it's too hot. Instead we make a stop at Prairie Dog Town, and then at the Day Use Area. I can't leave without seeing the Circle of Sacred Smoke monument.

Over a hundred prairie dogs live in this town of burrows
A quick pose 
The Circle of Sacred Smoke is a beautiful piece made by Junkuy Muto. One of three sculptures designed as symbols of peace, the others are at the Vatican and at Buddha's birth place. Of all possible locations in the world, Muto believed these sacred places most speak to his vision. Muto is searching for four additional sites to complete his work. 

For the Lakota this is the site where White Buffalo Calf Woman gave her message to the people. Ceremonies are still held here throughout the year.

Good heart and mind required
Polished and raw marble from Italy, standing on rock from Crazy Horse Monument
I have never had allergies, but something here is making my nose run and my eyes water. As much as I want to spend more time, I'm too miserable to stay. 

Piper's first day trip - pretty special
There is still a line of cars coming in as we leave the park. We drive eight miles to the tiny town of Hulet for lunch, then return home.

Lunch in Wyoming is often under a deer head - Ponderosa Cafe, Hulet
Saturday afternoon we are joining friends Polly and Buddy for dinner at her house, and we hang out at home until it's time to head for Gillette.

Polly and I graduated together in 1973, and is a long-time friend of both Bill and I. She met Buddy in Gillette a few years ago and he has become one of the family after joining us at the annual reunions.

We enjoy great conversation and a delicious meal, and way too soon our evening is over. We love it when our route takes us to see good friends!

Polly and Buddy - love these two :-)))
Polly's brother Coy is also a good friend - his place in the SoCal desert is where we took the motorhome on it's maiden voyage. He lived in the small town of Newcastle, about 45 minutes south, for 25 years. We take a day trip to check it out.

The pretty canyon where Coy lived
Lots of green along Hwy 16
Large clouds
Small flowers 
Old brick buildings line the main street
Hotel Antlers - of course
Built in 1867
The Weston County Courthouse is beautiful, but I fail to take a photo.

It's a warm and windy day, a nice day for a drive, and we enjoy just being out seeing the sights - in a strong-running, air-conditioned Jeep!

Monday we're back to the dealership to get Piper ready for towing.

For those who aren't fans of the cable television show Orange is the New Black, Piper is the main character :-).


  1. Congratulations on your new purchase.

    Bear Lodge is a beautiful did a great job capturing it in your photos Jodee.

    1. Thanks - the sun was a challenge. It's quite the place!!

  2. Nice score on your new toad. WY is our trip next year, with the Tower a must stop. Thanks for the preview.

    1. We have been so in awe of all we've seen in Wyoming - you will love it!

  3. That's a mighty nice looking Jeep you have there. So much more room in those 4 newer 4 door Wranglers than the older 2 door Wrangler like we had. Your Devil Tower photos brought back memories for me. I was there in May of 1992 and did that same walk around the Tower you did. I too felt the same way about all the people and noise and wished I could have been there with less or no people. I always try to get a feel for wherever I am but so many times it is all but impossible with so many noisy people chattering and nattering about.

    1. It really is frustrating :-( We love still having four doors and even more interior space!

  4. Congrats on the new Jeep!

    It's a shame the crowds were so crazy for your visit to Bear Lodge...but it sure is impressive from every vantage point, isn't it?!

    1. Thanks Lisa! Oh yes, it is an incredible place near and far away :-)

  5. Can't wait to see the new Jeep! You are lucky you located a used one. John tried to find one...nope! Enjoy!!

    Glad you did get to Devils Tower even with the crowd. Our morning rainstorm really turned out to be a blessing by keeping people home. It isn't a place that works with noise. I love your photo of the Jeep, tower, and sculpture :)

    1. We're really happy with it - finding a used one was indeed a challenge. It probably helped that we were traveling and could keep looking "down the road". Thanks, I'm not sure I realized I caught the sculpture until I looked at the pics :-)

  6. Can't wait to see the new Jeep! You are lucky you located a used one. John tried to find one...nope! Enjoy!!

    Glad you did get to Devils Tower even with the crowd. Our morning rainstorm really turned out to be a blessing by keeping people home. It isn't a place that works with noise. I love your photo of the Jeep, tower, and sculpture :)

  7. I love Piper's color! Rock climbers amaze me. Barefoot no less. I wonder what was setting off your allergies? Maybe the grasses?

    1. It was incredible to see them scaling that flat wall! It might have been the grasses although they didn't look different - hope not!!

  8. Congratulations for becoming members of the very exclusive Copperhead Club. If I can figure how, I'll send you a picture of what Piper can look like when it grows up.


    1. Wow! Didn't even know there was one :-)))) My email address is in my profile.

  9. Sounds like congratulations are in order for your new Jeep! Hopefully you'll have many more places to visit in it. You always seem to find such interesting places to visit. I'm sure you'll have many more to share too. What an adventure you're on.

    1. Thanks! We're enjoying it and looking forward to lots more adventures :-)

  10. Seeing the climbers always makes me angry. I think how I would feel if people felt free to climb my church's steeple just because it looks like a fun challenge. I guess I need to work on forgiving people's disrespect of others' cultures. Or not.

    1. I share those feelings as well. Although it is a national monument, I don't understand why the climbing is allowed given that the parks department seems to embrace the tribal history and culture when it suites them.

  11. Oh yay!!! Congratulations on your new Jeep! Love the color and name. (We just finished watching season 3 of Orange is the New Black—the Lopez library has it. :-)) Devils Tower is on our list, but we'll try to go when there aren't so many people (if that's possible). The sacred smoke sculpture is beautiful—I wonder where the next four will be placed?

    1. It will be exciting to see where he places the next ones - and what they will be! Our friends said May and late September were usually good with high winds possible in May. After spending today in the Black Hills I know we want to come back when it's cooler and less crowded - the whole area is inspiring. We have to catch up with Season 3!!

    2. Haha, it's such an addictive show, isn't it? Thanks for the info on the best time to visit the area—I think it's going to be late September for us one of these years (soon). I don't like high winds.

  12. I like your new family addition. Devils Tower has been on my list for a while. Bear claws of course. But not for me to climb. And would also prefer no crowds.

    1. You'll love it of course - but definitely find a time with less folks :-) We're loving the new addition!