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Just to the west of Badlands National Park, we could see higher, darker, terrain. This higher terrain is like an island in the sea of prairie that covers western South Dakota. It is known as the Black Hills region; and it indeed does look black from a distance, owing to it's almost homogeneous covering of Ponderosa Pines. The Black Hills are home to the highest point in the US east of the rockies, at 7242-foot Harney Peak. The Black Hills are also home to one of America's most famous monuments: Mount Rushmore.
A pigtail
Rushmore from a distance
The four prezs
The Black Hills are quite scenic in their own way, but much different from the nearby Badlands. The core of the Black Hills consist of fantastically eroded coarse granite. Strange towers and spires of rock are scenic and spectacular. There are excellent (though easy) hiking trails, and excellent (and twisty) scenic byways. We explore a sampling of both, and come away very satisfied!
The needles
On Little Devil's Tower
Airy cliff
Needles Eye Parking lot
The Needle's Eye
A most striking tower
Having finished a quick tour of the Black Hills, we moved on into neighbouring Wyoming, aiming to visit (and camp near) a striking and famous natural wonder: Devil's Tower National Monument. Devil's Tower is made of tough, igneous rock. Basalt, to be precise. It is the last-standing remnant - the neck, or main conduit - of a long-since eroded volcano. Slow-cooling of the rock resulted in well-formed hexagonal columns that give the tower a striking appearance.

The drive from the Black Hills to the Tower is pleasant and relatively short, and soon we're set up at the nice National Park service campground at the National Monument. Apart from a quick stroll around and a few snaps, we retire for the night. The next day, we're continuing our drive westward, with our next major stop scheduled at Grand Teton National Park!
Devil's Tower Closeup
Prairie Dog City
Camping under the tower
Wide Wyoming
Heading towards Sheridan
Crusing west on the interstate
The drive to the Tetons goes through a lot of beautiful, classic western scenery. Arid plains, rugged mountains. It certainly looks and feels like wide-open, wild country. As we crest the pass and start to descend into Jackson Hole, we are presented with a dumbfounding, face-on look at the seemingly-vertical wall of jagged rock that is the eastern face of the Grand Teton Mountains. And, we're going to try and climb one of them...!
Topography now more rugged
Teewinot view campsite
Luke the climber-dude
We picked a most beautiful campground in Grand Teton National Park, called the Jenny Lake campground. It was tent-only; it was small and cozy; and it was seemingly directly underneath the towering, jagged mountains of the Teton Crest. This is one of the most scenic car-camping campgrounds, for sure!

We wanted to try our hand and something bigger and more challenging, yet still within our abilities. Our sights settled on one of the jagged mountains now towering over us at our campsite: Teewinot Mountain. A 12,000+ foot peak at the very eastern edge of the fault scarp of the Tetons, Teewinot had a mostly-scrambling mountaineering route up its steep east face. And, It was doable in a day. I and Andree had just finished a 13-day mountaineering course with Alpine Ascents International (click here if you'd like to see an image gallery of that course), and so we did have some freshly acquired mountaineering skills. Luke would receive some basic training from us in certain key areas.
Early Morning on Teewinot
Flat floor
Taking a break
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