Friday, July 31, 2009
Part 1: From Arches to Yellowstone
Part 2: From a hail storm in Yellowstone to home sweet home
Sunday, July 12, 2009
We made it to Devil's Tower and Nic and Julie hiked the base and climbed boulders. I picked up a Close Encounters of the Third Kind DVD, but within half an hour of starting it, Nic deemed it too boring. Oh well. At least everyone liked the Prairie Dog Town on the way up to the Visitor's Center.
Yes, giant Jim has a head as big as Devil's Tower CUSTER STATE PARK
Nic, Julie and Devin went horseback riding today, which we'd been holding out in front of them like a carrot for most of the trip. We also stayed in a big cabin, which had been held out in front of Julie like a carrot. Fortunately all the horses they had were well behaved, unlike the poor girl on the trail ride who had a horse that kept trying to knock her off. Last night, we drove the Wildlife Loop and it worked: buffalo, longhorn deer, prairie dogs and semi-wild burrows that stuck their heads in the car to get fed.
Sure, Julie's comfortable with that
We also got to take a couple of hikes in the park, following a horse trail to a river crossing where we decided to throw rocks then turn back. Nic, Devin and Jim climbed to the top of a gorgeous bluff near the cabin we stayed in (getting down was a little trickier).
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Finally, on our way out of Custer today, we got to stop for awhile in the Badlands. It's actually not that far from Cedar Falls, so we were scoping it out for a potential future visit, but when we drove by one of the mini-canyon outcropping you can climb, we had to stop and give it a shot.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
In the afternoon we took a boat ride around Yellowstone Lake and learned more about the geological origins of the Caldera (basically, the old crater from the volcano that created this area and the geysers) and the role of humans in changing the ecology of the area. Ian thought it more interesting to train the binoculars on the sleeping boy behind us than to look at the coast.
Our last night camping was July 7-8 and it was a gorgeous morning for breaking camp and a game of pickle. We all hated (OK, Julie was just mildly wistful) to say bye to the tents for the last few days of our trip.
Last night we stayed at Yellowstone Inn, which had a John Wayne theme. The sign above the toilet in Sue and Craig's room read: Our toilet paper is just like John Wayne: rough, tough, and it won't take crap from anyone. (We'll forgive the jokester for the lack of parallel structure.)
Today we drove through southern Montana and then the northeast corner of Wyoming. Words fail to capture the profound beauty of Montana. There are wide, lush valleys cut through by meandering streams, and surrounded by mountain ranges. Herds of cattle, horses, and occasionally sheep roam the area. It is such a large, lush vista that Jim dubbed it the "anti-Nevada." (We traveled through southern Nevada on the way out to CA and northern Nevada on the way up to Yellowstone and decided it was the "Place we'd least like to break down in." Imagine a stark, desert dotted here and there with neon casino signs and a few bedraggled bushes in the "oasis" areas.) As we traveled east, the trees gave way to grasslands that shimmered in the sun and the wind. The mountains became these gradual hillocks, like the place had frozen while bubbling.
We arrived here on Friday, July 3 and hurried to put up our tents because of ominous clouds. We enjoyed dinner at the Lakehouse with a great view of a downpour on Yellowstone Lake. Unfortunately, the view was a little less interesting two hours later when it was packed with people similarly trying to wait out the storm. Our tents stayed dry and we warmed up by the geysers the next day. We also saw a bison really near by and Jim hopped out in a hailstorm to take his picture.
There is a funny convention here. There are so many wild animals here that you can see them from the roadside. Bison, elk, and mule deer rank high on the "must-see" list and people will suddenly pull over to photograph them. People driving by stop, hop out, and ask others "what is it and where?" Woe to the traveler stopping to pee in a bush because he'll be surrounded by a dozen photographers.
We had our coldest morning on July 5 when Julie and Ian chose to have breakfast wrapped in a sleeping bag in the car. The weather improved and we saw Biscuit Basin and the Midway Geyser Basin, where we saw all sizes, shapes and colors of geysers and mud pots. In the afternoon we had a thunderstorm but it improved again. The weather here is so changeable, moving from 36 degrees and damp to sunny and 70 degrees, to windy and 50 degrees, to thunderstorms all by about 2:00 in the afternoon.
The highlight today was Mud Volcano, an enormous bubbling mud pot (spa treatment anyone?) and dragon's grotto, a cave with "dragon's breath" wafting from it. We also saw the lower falls and the canyon floor which were spectacular.
The surprise of our vacation has been this little resort town about 25 miles from Pocatello in SE Idaho. We saw a brochure advertising hot springs, a water park, and rental tubes for floating down the river and thought we had stumbled into kid heaven. The first night we stayed at a cute bunkhouse "the Yellow Submarine." Each cabin was named for a Beatles song and I thought of my roommate Val, who hung a picture of "the boys" in our dorm room. I fondly thought of them as our other roommates.
Jim already described the river ride, to which I would only add that it appeared one could go for miles on the river if one was willing to hike back with the inner tube.
The second night in Lava Springs we stayed right next to the river where we got out from the tube ride and across a foot bridge from the water park. This was really convenient for lunch and Ian's nap. It was not great, however, at night. It was like the Sturgis Falls of train routes with alarmingly loud whistles every 30-60 minutes.
Hopefully, we'll be able to get to a computer over the next few days so we can upload pix (we've filled our memory card) & give a full account. We're in Montana & heading East tomorrow.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The town features hot spring baths, a huge aquatic center, and river tubing. Devin made it down the river 4 times and Nic ruled the water slides. We're camping tonight next to the river & it's on to Yellowstone tomorrow.