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A Bighorn National Forest scenic pullout obstructed by the smoke of nearby wildfires. This was my second stint in the Bighorns that summer, where I spent most of my time just taking the driving tour through the northern portion of the westernmost of the Rocky Mountains. I only ever spotted any other tourists at a well-publicized waterfall, and very few of them at that. The Bighorn's remote location in between seas of barren plains and tiny towns make them an ultimate getaway for misanthropic travelers, but the wildfires now a constant threat out west cover up much of its vibrant beauty.

Cathedral Spires Trail, Custer State Park. Nestled in the granite core of the Black Hills (the same highway passes Mt. Rushmore, exits off into the park and then passes the Crazy Horse Memorial in no more than 20 miles), it hosts some of the best scenery anywhere in the Plains States. The best part - some of the trails go not around the rock formations, but on them, and this lets you get up close and personal with the Black Hills. The little building in the distance on this hill is Black Elk Peak, the highest point anywhere between the Rockies and the Pyrenees.

A stormy 7 AM or so in Badlands National Park. Along the park's main loop road, a lot of the scenic roadside outlooks are perched next to the tops of the formations so that one may walk from their car onto the badlands roofs themselves for quite a ways along social trails. I did so, though not without a nerve-wracking slide down on the trail several feet (with rocky chasms on either side) and an even worse return scramble. I got this shot from a very shaky spot and hurried back to the car to keep sightseeing before the storms hit.

Relatively little-known Makoshika State Park in the eastern Montana badlands. I only had a few odd (and very hot) hours there, but those were enough for a runner's tour around some almost vacant trails. The desert heat in long pants almost did me in, but I managed to get this pic of the barren alien landscape before hurrying back to the A/C.


For some reason so esoteric even God probably couldn't guess it, I took full advantage of a three-day weekend off from work by driving 10 hours one way to the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Not so heinous-sounding when I put it that way, maybe, but I was also broke, alone, sleep deprived, dehydrated and driving a car with brake problems the entire time, because no road trip of mine is complete without chaos. But as the pic proves happened, I made it to the tippy top of the Rocky Mountains on Colorado's Mount Elbert and got a pretty good snapshot of my painfully minimalist gear.

I don't know who died here. Or even if they died here. I'm sure lots of people would like to be buried overlooking all the most impressive peaks of Wyoming's Cloud Peak Wilderness. More than likely, I'd assume, they're the markers of some sort of accident that claimed two lives either here or very near to here. Regardless, they made for a somber reminder of the unforgiving nature of the wilderness, putting new perspective - and in their own way, new beauty - on their mountain landscape resting place.

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