Last week, we flew to Nebraska, rented a car, and drove west to see many of this country’s iconic monuments and parks: Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
I am pretty sure that only my mom is interested in seeing these pictures (and she was with us for half of the trip!), but I hope you will indulge me anyway.
After a pretty drive through Nebraska over to Rapid City, South Dakota, our first stop was Mt. Rushmore:
We were pleasantly surprised with Mt. Rushmore. They’ve thoughtfully designed various ways to view the monument, including a short trail that allows you to get right underneath it and look up at those huge faces.
After a side trip to the Crazy Horse Memorial, enjoying the scenery of the Black Hills along the way, we backtracked to the Badlands, which are east of Rapid City.
It was hot. I mean really hot. But the view! We spotted our first bison and prairie dogs here.
We made the obligatory (and mercifully short) stop at Wall Drug before heading back west to the nation’s first monument. Do you know what it is? It’s in Wyoming.
Devil’s Tower. Theodoore Roosevelt made it the nation’s first monument in 1906.
We arrived at Devil’s Tower a couple of hours before sunset and were blown away by its size and surroundings and the beautiful late afternoon sun shining it. If you can believe it, there were several people climbing it, and they were more than halfway up.
There’s a really nice path around the base, which is a little more than a mile long. We hiked it, saw some deer in the forest, listened to the wind rustle through the aspen trees, and soaked it all up.
When we left Devil’s Tower, the moon was rising right next to it, and as we drove toward our hotel for the evening, the sunset seemed to last forever.
From Wyoming, we headed in to Montana, where we picked up my mom and spent a few days visiting my uncle. We spent one afternoon in Bozeman at the excellent Museum of the Rockies – a must for dinosaur lovers. This picture above is an actual T Rex skeleton (not a cast).
While in Montana, we also went horseback riding at the Chico Hot Springs Resort. The scenery was spectacular and the horses (Rebecca, Jake, Ruben and Roper) were easy riding partners.
Here are the girls immediately following the ride:
This is what pure joy looks like.
We stayed in Livingston, Montana, which is about 50 miles from the north entrance of Yellowstone. We took two day trips there (these pictures are a combination of both days):
Exploring small hot springs in this little stream – it felt like bath water.
This is a view of Mammoth Hot Springs near the north entrance.
Can you guess what they’re waiting for? Here’s a hint:
Old Faithful! It erupts every 90 minutes, or so, give or take 10 minutes.
We also saw lots of stinky sulphur pits, like this one, as well as waterfalls, rivers, and Lake Yellowstone.
Animals we spotted along the way included a huge herd of bison, elk, antelope, deer, a coyote and a wolf.
Just south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park. The mountains are very vertical and gorgeous:
Here’s another view. It was a beautiful day:
We drove through the park, but didn’t spend time here – it was our last full day and we were headed all the way across Wyoming and down to Colorado, to spend the night outside of Denver and catch a flight the next morning.
Here’s a fun thing we learned:
Remember how I said that I put little blue Moleskine journals in the girls’ travel bags and noted that they looked like passports? Turns out that at the National Parks, they have little stations where you can stamp your Park Passport (or notebook or journal) with a stamp that looks like a postage mark. We had no idea! We discovered it at Devil’s Tower (and therefore missed getting stamps at Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands). But we had a lot of fun finding as many stations as we could around Yellowstone (there were several). So, the next time you are at a National Park, look for the passport/stamp station. The one at Devil’s Tower is particularly fun, because they have a stamp that looks just like Devil’s Tower itself.
With 2500 miles of driving on this trip, mishaps were bound to happen. Like leaving our laptop power cord at a hotel, which took them four days just to put in the mail (perhaps they sent it by Pony Express – it took forever for it to arrive back home). Also, my iPhone took a two mile joyride on the roof of the car as we traveled the road up to Devil’s Tower and fell off only when we pulled into the parking lot. Unscathed. (A miracle, right?) And the worst of the mishaps: a bird flew into our car as we were driving through the Badlands (we noticed a lot of birds skittish of the car would take flight right in front of us – we nearly hit a couple more). The worst part is that we didn’t notice until the next day that when the bird hit us, it had gotten lodged in the grill of our car. Oops. Sorry little birdie.
The bird incident notwithstanding, this was a great trip, and I feel lucky and grateful that we did it. Have you been to any of these places before? Our three favorites of the trip were Devil’s Tower, horseback riding and visiting Yellowstone.
Next Monday is Labor Day here in the US, so I’ll be taking that day off to enjoy the last full day of summer vacation before the girls go back to school. I hope to see you back here on Tuesday.
Thanks for letting me share these pictures, and have a great weekend!