“South Dakota? In February? Seriously?”
I lost count of how many times I heard something along those lines when we decided to head west in February 2009. Yet it’s precisely that way of thinking that made it the perfect time for us to visit… because nobody else was there!
Take Mount Rushmore, for example. I imagine that during peak season the area is packed with people, judging by the size of the parking lots. Yet we had the whole mountain to ourselves, both on the night we arrived, and again the next morning.
It was the same at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and Wind Cave in the Black Hills. At both of these we were lucky enough to have private tours, simply because we were the only ones there. In fact, we got so used to having places to ourselves that it came as quite a shock when we were joined by four other people on our tour of Jewel Cave.
As we continued westwards, the same story repeated. In Wyoming, we walked all the way around the eerie Devil’s Tower National Monument (featured in the classic 1977 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and only as we were driving away did another group arrive. In Montana, we were able to take in the Little Bighorn Battlefield (site of Custer’s famous Last Stand), free of the usual bus loads of tourists.
Barring one particularly nasty snowstorm that found us crawling along the interstate seeking protection from the truck in front, we were lucky with the weather on that particular trip.
All this being said, travelling in the off-season obviously comes with some risks, but I think I’ll deal with those next week!