The Snowflake Fairy and the Bitter Cold Fairy teamed up to give me what I wanted.
After leaving Minneapolis bright and early on Thursday morning, Julien and I did backcountry camping just outside of the Badlands. We set up camp in the freezing dark, so freezing that we had ice crystals crusting the interior of the tent and so dark I didn't see the prickly pear cactus right under my sleeping bag (Luckily, I stepped on it before I lay on it, and my thick winter socks protected my foot). We did buy snazzy "Never Summer" sleeping bags, and I must say that we slept very well despite the cold.
The next morning...SNOW flurries began in Wall, South Dakota and did not leave us all the way through the Black Hills and down toward the Custer State Park. We stopped at the Crazy Horse Monument, and in my (seemingly) normal way, I got all choked up looking at the carven, blasted, roughed-out form of the sculpture and thinking about the atrocities settlers committed against the Native Americans. Why oh why must we live in a world filled with such violence, hate, and greed? Why in the world is there a state park and a state forest named after Custer??
After leaving the monument and being turned away from one campground, we decided to get a motel room. Thankfully, I say, because Custer was the epicenter of a freakish cold snap. The Weather Channel proclaimed -1º F for Custer whilst everything else arond us was 12º and 13º. Minus 1 is -18ºC and our sleeping bags can protect us down to -35ºF/-37ºC, so we would have been all right, but BRRRRRR.
The next day was spent in CSP where we saw animals galore.
(Actually, we spied this fox between Buffalo and the Bighorn Mountains. Saw another in the Badlands.)
We camped in the French Creek Natural Area, despite all the natives looking at us like we were nuts for braving the elements. Rest assured, we survived and loved hearing the flock of wild turkeys flying over and roosting near our tent. :P
Today, we drove into Wyoming, trying to get as close to Yellowstone as possible. Only we called and found out most of the roads are closed and snow tires (see below) are required for the others. J and I decided to kill some time in the Bighorn Mountains while waiting for conditions to improve.
And kill time we did. We got stuck in the snow (obviously those aforementioned snow tires can come in handy) trying to get to a campground. Thankfully, Tim, Krista, 6th-grader Sam, and 2-yo Tucker were on their way up the road and helped us out. They had a 4-wheel drive pickup, but it still took us 2 hours to push/tow our rental car 150 ft to flatter ground. We headed back to Buffalo to buy our saviors a tank of gas and dinner.
Sadly(?) no camping tonight. Instead, heating, hotel bed, and wi-fi.