Thursday, July 5
After filling up the fresh water tank at Cottonwood Campground outside of Hot Springs, South Dakota, the crew and I head north on Highway 79 to Rapid City. We take Interstate 90 west to Sturgis. By early afternoon we reach our destination: Bear Butte State Park.
Bear Butte is not a butte; it’s a mountain considered sacred by Native Americans and others who have experienced its mystical aura. One approaches via a straight road which draws you toward its base.
We take the turn toward the campground, passing the entrances to two day use areas.
At the gate I stop and get out to read the campground rules. Gee, this wind is something else! I’m glad we’re off the highway now. The fee is $10 per night for no hook-ups. A water spigot, vault toilets, and trash bins are available. There are no electric sites. No extra charge for pets. Good. I take a fee envelope and drive the PTV into the campground. This is pleasant. The lake is within walking distance and there are shelters or trees at every site. Since I plan for us to stay only one night, I’m not going to unhitch, so I choose a site that’s level, both front to back and side to side.
Bridget and Spike recognize we’ve reached our new home.
Immediately I open up the PTV’s side door and they scramble out, Spike barking and Bridget squealing. Good thing no one’s here but the camp hosts. We hurry through the wind to see the lake. I’m amazed to see an older gentleman with two young boys trying to fish in this weather. “No, Spikey, you can’t go swimming today. Maybe tomorrow will be a nicer day and you can go in the water.”
On the way back to our campsite I notice the sky darkening with thunder clouds.
Inside the BLT I turn on the television (8 stations!) and the weather lady tells me we’re in for some thunderstorms. Later, toward evening, a tornado watch is put into effect. Rain pelts the roof for several hours that night. That’s more rain than I’ve heard in the past six months!
Friday, July 6
The sky looks ominous to the horizon in all directions. Rain is falling to the west. Bear Butte is shrouded in fog. What a dreary day! I open up my laptop to discover it’s all messed up. The cursor doesn’t have any effect. In fact I can hardly move it. The desktop loads funny. I can’t get online. I call Verizon and together we reinstall the air card. It becomes obvious the problem is the laptop. By this time it’s noon and more thunderstorms are threatening all around.
I decide it would be best to stay put.
To get my mind off technology, I put some birdseed on the picnic table and watch red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and a new-to-me bird with a yellow bib peck at the seed. In the afternoon the crew and I walk up the road to both day use areas.
I keep my promise to Spike.
He lies down in the water facing the little waves and white caps. Okay, one more night here. First thing in the morning we’ll hit the road, go further west to the Wal-Mart in Spearfish, buy a laptop, return the crappy camera, and continue on to the Flying J in Gillette, Wyoming. That will put us well on our way toward Yellowstone and the Tetons. A free camp will be good after dropping $20 here.
At a different time in different weather I might have explored the sacred mountain. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right.
I get the atlas out of the PTV and turn to the map of South Dakota and then Wyoming.
As you can see from this slideshow, we did see Devil’s Tower. I also bought a new laptop, exchanged the defective Nikon camera (after 15 days you can only exchange), and we are camped at the Gillette Flying J!