After clearing the Black Hills and Sturgis area I continued to head west through north central Wyoming. Out of the hills and into the mountains proper, and the scenery started getting spectacular:
I wondered how my truck would do as we got higher in altitude but it did fine, unlike my tiny Ford Festiva did back in the ’90s, where it chugged and gasped when we crossed the mountains back then. I stopped to pee at the roadside and took another scenery shot:
By that point I had seen my first coyote, many pronghorn antelope, two bighorn sheep in the Badlands, and two mountain goats outside of Rushmore. Mountain goats are very large! Crossing through the Bighorn National Forest, I stopped at Medicine Wheel National Historic Site, a sacred stone circle made by native peoples. Here I saw a pika, a sort of mountain rabbit:
The pika is the inspiration for the Pokemon character Pikachu, by the way. But this one wasn’t shooting lightning. There were a pair of marmots by the parking lot as well:
Marmots are a kind of mountain groundhog or woodchuck who live amongst the rocks.
I’d been through quite a few national forests by this time and the lack of facilities, signage or even staff was notable. I guess they’ve had to cut back on public services. I’ve heard the same thing about national forests west of the Rockies as well. This isn’t good – national forests are multiple-use sites that get heavy usage, and without staffing or funding they’ll just go to pot. Another casualty of the economic downturn. I hope things get better soon.
Wyoming was a long drive, but by evening I was approaching Yellowstone.