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Omaha. Nebraska

May 31, 2018

Grand Teton NP. Wyoming 15th May.

Things are getting serious regarding bears and in this park which is just south of Yellowstone, many people walk around with Pepper Power bear spray in a holster on their belt. We saw a jogger this morning alongside the road, didn’t have much on but did have his spray with him. It’s a bit scary so I thought it best if I purchase a canister. It’s capsicum spray in a large canister that sprays for about 4 seconds. But the instructions on the tin don’t give a person much joy. Saying things like ‘a bear can cover 50 feet in three seconds’ ‘wait until the bear is about 20 feet away charging at you before using the spray’. If he’s travelling at that speed and you have to wait until he’s 20 feet away that means you have less than 1.5 seconds to act. Then they say to ‘Stay Calm!’

Our problem is the canvas over our bed. Because of that we have had to empty ALL our foodstuff not in tins into the bear box. That includes everything in the fridge. Our alternative was for one of us to sleep on the floor and the other in the narrowed bed with the side up. It’s even worse in Yellowstone where I believe in one of the camps they don’t allow canvas tents at all. Not sure how we will go.

But this park, once again, is a beautiful place. The mountain range to the west has a good coating of snow on the higher parts. The lakes are pristine and the country is meadow-like interspersed with pine groves. It doesn’t get the visitors as much as Yellowstone but still worth visiting. Moose, elk and black and grizzly bears are the larger animals in the park.

The last note regarding the bears. The camp ground we had been staying was just outside the park. All camps in the park were full. Larry the Texan host at our camp was saying that bison come through the park and that is when you may get bears following trying to grab a calf. The first morning Joan noticed fresh scat outside our back door. On making a few enquiries were told that yes, it was bear scat. So they were around and me sleeping with the bear spray under my pillow wasn’t a case of paranoia.

One very interesting experience in Yellowstone was chatting to a bloke who had been studying wolves since the mid 70s. We met him standing behind a serious scope focused on a wolf den some 1.25 miles away. He was one of the forces behind reinstalling them back in Yellowstone. He showed us the genealogy of some of the wolves they were studying. Through his scope we watched a grey female lazing on the grass. Earlier I had picked up with my binoculars one of the pups coming out of the den. So very interesting.

Saw bears (7 grizzlies 3 black) and all the other things that go bump in the night. Then there was the thermal activity. So varied and colourful.

Little Big Horn camping. 19.5.18

So this is where the General met his Waterloo. Rolling hills with embankments to the east of the Little Big Horn River. Green grass and a fast flowing water after recent rain. Tomorrow we will take a tour of the battleground.

Black Hills Free Camping. 21.5.18

The Black Hills in South/West South Dakota was another broken promise given to the Indian tribes. It was to be theirs in perpetuity but once gold was discovered (in very small quantities) the rush was on and it was then the army’s job to protect the prospectors.

We are only on the edge of the forest, near a small stream, on our own. Last night was also a free camp in the Custer State Forest in Montana. Another great site.

Yesterday morning was spent at the Little Big Horn battle site. An area of rolling hills covered in spring grass. Boards along the drive describe in good detail how the battle proceeded and standing on ‘Last Stand Hill’ it is easy to see there had to be just one result. The Indians just outnumbered the 7th Cavalry and there was no where to retreat. The reinforcement were having to retreat under large numbers. It was very interesting but was the death knell for the way of life the tribes were used to.

Today’s highlight was a detour to ‘The Devil’s Pillar. A 860 feet solitary stand of rock. A favourite for rock climbers. It is very impressive.

Horse Thief Camp. Nr Black Hills State Forest. 22.5.18

We had visitors this morning when exiting the bakkie. Two mule deer daintily crossed the road a few metres from us on their way to the stream for a drink. Leaving we came upon more further into the forest then had a couple jump across the road in front of us. Tonight others have come down to this park to graze on the short grass.

We have become a little more selective on what we take the time to see now. Mt Rushmore is in the Black Hills, the four presidents carved into the mountainside. It is a rite of passage for American citizens to visit some time in their lives but to us not so essential and one is able to get good images from outside the park. A couple of snaps and we were on our way.

The Indian effort is Crazy Horse on a horse. It will be the biggest rock carving in the world when finished but not sure of completion date. Started in 1948.

Lake Ravenna. Nebraska. 28th May

The Badlands in Sth Dakota were a fitting finale to our meandering over the western half of the US. 70 million years of erosion has left the area in which the White River flows, a mass of spires, drop offs, canyons separated by some of the last of the native grasslands in the country. In spring the grass is high and a vivid green. The bison love it as do the big horn sheep and prairie dogs. Our first night camping on the area was on the edge of the park, in grasslands with the rim of the Badland drop off metres from the back door of the bakkie.

Yesterday we started the drive to Omaha, Nebraska where the bakkie will be stored and we will catch the Amtrack train back to San Francisco. The trip will take almost two days but we will have a cabin if you can call such a small space that. Then 4 nights in SF and catch the flight home. Before crossing into Nebraska our route took us very close to Wounded Knee. The site of the last massacre of men women & children by the US military where 230 were killed. Another depressing place. We gave it a miss.

Nebraska is renowned for its corn. At this stage the new crop is only starting to appear above ground so we are not viewing corn as high as an elephant’s eye this time around. We have really taken the back roads after leaving Sth Dakota and the towns in many cases are dying or have died. It is an agricultural area and the bigger places are thriving while the small drive-through places are missing out. Places to pull over for a break or morning coffee are non existent. The guide books try and give the state a bright write up to attract the tourists but methinks it’s a lost cause.

The reason we have chosen Omaha to leave the bakkie is because the Amtrack Californian Zephyr train only stops at a few places on its route. It also means when we come back we are in a good position to head east and take in the autumn colours. Besides, maybe some of Warren Buffett’s magic dust might fall on our shoulders.

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