Driving, Devils Tower, and Mt. Rushmore

June 2, 2009 8:07 pm

Day 14 – Driving, Devils Tower, and Mt. Rushmore

Having decided to start the driving yesterday evening, and stay in a hotel last night, we woke up this morning in nice beds.  After getting ready (complete with showers and running water!) we headed down to a real treat: free continental breakfast!  After enjoying food we set out for the remaining few hours of driving to Devils Tower.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Devils Tower is not the most well known national monument, but it was the first official national monument.  The tower itself is both hard and easy to describe.  Simply put, it’s a several hundred foot tall pillar of rock. 

We took a bit of time to take a short hike around the tower and snap some photos. 

Devils Tower Again

Devils Tower Again

After a short while there, we headed back to the highway and drove another few hours to Mt. Rushmore.  Mt. Rushmore was quite a change of pace from the other parks we had been visiting.  Unlike the previous parks, this one was manmade.  It was neat looking around at the monument, learning about each of the president’s whose image had been carved into the mountain, and learning about the sculptor and the process undertaken to sculpt a mountain. 

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

After spending some time at Mt. Rushmore, we headed to the National Forest outside the monument and found a campsite.  We setup camp and settled in for the evening after a long day of traveling and sightseeing.

Our Campsite (not quite all the way setup)

Our Campsite (not quite all the way setup)

Second Day in Glacier

8:03 pm

Day 13 – Second Day in Glacier

This morning we woke up to a bit of a scary situation.  The night before we had discovered that the tent pad that had been placed at the campground we were at was actually made out of concrete.  This meant that it was nice and level, but also those we were unable to properly put in any tent pegs.  The ones for the rain fly stretched out past the edge of the pad into real dirt so that was no problem, and the tent itself stands up on its own without much trouble.  The problem came in the morning when the wind decided to gust rather strongly.  We woke up to a beautiful, but windy day, with the tent starting to twist around us in the wind. 

We were careful to pack everything up in the tent while we were still in it, to make sure it didn’t blow away, and then we promptly took the tent down with Matt still inside.  After a few minutes of debate, we decided we should let him out and finish packing up the campsite.

After picking things up, we headed over to the Sun Point trail to eat some breakfast and get packed up for our morning hike.  We set out to Sun Point before heading west along St. Mary Lake.  This lake was absolutely spectacular.  It was ridiculously green and crazy cold.  We later read that the water is a really unique color because it is both so cold and so rich in oxygen from falling down the surrounding mountains. 

Sun Point Lookout

Sun Point Lookout

This trail brought us through the woods up past three magnificent waterfalls.  I am not even going to try to describe them, the pictures will have to do.

The first waterfall

The first waterfall

The second waterfall

The second waterfall

A Cascade

A Cascade

The third waterfall

The third waterfall

When we reached the final waterfall we each took a turn running up to where the mist was shooting very forcibly out from the bottom of the falls.  It was crazy cold, but also a really amazing experience. 

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

Now rather cold, we quickly doubled back and found a nice sunny spot along a cascade where we sat in the sun to warm up, and simultaneously took our shoes off and got our feet very cold dipping them in the icy water. 

Clean feet!

Clean feet!

Ben taking a ‘shower’

Ben taking a ‘shower’

After hanging out there for a while, we continued back towards our car once again.   On the way back, we almost ran headlong into a deer, who proceeded to continue munching on the plants beside the trail and right up next to us for about 5 minutes.  At times we were within 4 feet of this very daring deer!  It was a really neat experience! 

DSC01292.jpg

DSC01292.jpg

After our hike, we drove up as much of the Going-To-The-Sun Road as we could from the east, which wasn’t very far. 

Road Closed (and a huge plow)

Road Closed (and a huge plow)

After this, we headed over to the Many Glacier portion of the park.  This area was about a 45 minute drive from the St. Mary portion of the park, but again was a different experience.  This area was again a valley nestled between spectacular mountains.  The lake in this valley was significantly smaller than the previous two lakes we were at, but beautiful none the less.  After taking a brief car tour of the valley, we decided to take a hike around the lake.  This was a neat little hike during which we dodged a few rain drops and got some amazing photos.

A third lake!

A third lake!

Looking back to the south, it was quite clear that they were getting hit with a nice rain storm.  With this in mind, we looked at the clock and decided to head south at eat away a bit of our 14 hour drive to the Mt. Rushmore area.  This proved to be a good decision as we managed to stay out of the rain and drastically cut down the amount of straight driving we had to do. 

We left the mountains behind

We left the mountains behind

Sunset!

Sunset!

We made it to a nice hotel in Livingston, Montana by about 10pm and got a nice night’s sleep.