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Dakotas Trip 2011

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S: The McClements' 2011 Family Vacation

FC: The McClements' Family Vacation | 2011

1: The McClements' 2011 Family Vacation 18 Days 9 States 3500 Miles July 4th - July 21, 2011

4: Zion National Park | Our first stop was Zion National Park. It was a hot and dry day in Zion. We hiked to the Upper and Lower Emerald Pools. At the pools, water was oozing out of and down the walls and it was about 20 degrees cooler.

5: At the Lower Emerald Pool

6: We hiked another 1.5 miles up the trail and made it to the Upper Emerald Pool.

7: At Weeping Rock

8: Arches National Park

9: We added in an extra day to the trip to allow more time to cross the Continental Divide. It was a good thing we did. We stayed the night in Moab, Utah and visited the Arches National Park. The park has limited facilities and Brandon had to improvise at Skyline Arch (left). Stephanie was not too impressed by this park, but we did watch the sunset at the famous Delicate Arch (above). It's one of the most famous arches in the world and is on the Utah license plate.

10: There is a long stretch on I-70 where there are no services whatsoever. These pictures were taken there. Once back on the road, it poured rain. We then discovered that a missing part on the car allowed the engine to suck in rain water. When it rained, the car sputtered and we had to go slowly. We could not get it fixed on the road and had to live with it the whole trip.

11: We made it to Colorado and hit the Continental Divide where we found snow. We stopped for a picture (above) at the Eisenhower Tunnel. At 11,158 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest vehicle tunnels in the world and goes under the Continental Divide. | We stopped in Arvada, Colorado and visited Cousin Shelley Brown at her clinic, Harmony Vet Center.

12: Golden, Colorado is best known as the home of Coors Brewery. We took a tour of the brewery and got to see the production line. Stephanie went shopping for tacky souvenirs (right).

14: RV Life | For the entire trip, we lived in the trailer. We cooked a lot of meals in the trailer too. We were on the move constantly and had to deal with many issues such as hitting a deer in South Dakota (above) and an unscheduled stop in Silt, Colorado to clean a gallon of spilled olive oil off the trailer floor (upper right page).

15: En route from Colorado to South Dakota, we crossed the prairies of Wyoming.

16: Mount Rushmore was a highlight of the trip. We went to the Sculptor's Studio (below left) and saw what Rushmore was supposed to look like. We also returned for the night lighting ceremony (below right). | South Dakota

18: Custer State Park is a state park and wildlife preserve in South Dakota. It is home to 1500 free range buffalo and we saw several of them. We also saw wild turkey, pronghorn and prairie dogs.

19: The Begging Burrows are a famous attraction in Custer State Park. They block the roads and beg for food from everyone who passes. We brought food for them and even got out to feed them.

20: We toured Wind Cave, which is the fifth longest cave in the world with about 136 miles of known passages. We went deep underground, down about 300 stairs

21: In South Dakota, we took a break from sightseeing and played a round of golf. Michael got to drive the golf cart.

22: Deadwood is an old gold rush town. It still has casinos and we saw a gunfight reenactment in the street. We also visited the grave of Wild Bill Hickok who was murdered in Deadwood. Calamity Jane is buried next to him. | Deadwood

23: If it is finished, Crazy Horse will be the largest statue in the world. Work began on it in 1948. We toured their great museum and saw a scale model of what the monument will look like when complete. There is no projected date of completion. | Crazy Horse

24: After a long drive across the prairie, we arrived at the Badlands of South Dakota. It consists of hundreds of thousands of acres of eroded buttes and also the largest protected grass prairie in the US. Some of us were not too impressed.

25: The Wall Drug Store is the king of tourist traps. We were lured in by their 100 or so signs on the way to the Badlands. There was a store, restaurant, bakery, pharmacy, arcade, church, museum and plenty of cheesy attractions.

26: North Dakota is the least visited of all the 50 states, which is one reason we decided to swing through here. We picked a city on the map and ended up staying in Medora for two nights. It was a four hour drive from South Dakota to Medora, virtually all of it was on a lone desolate two lane road. We had no idea what we would find in North Dakota. | North Dakota

28: The population of Medora is 112, but it grows during the summer tourist season. Medora is the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and also hosts the Medora Music Festival. We stayed at a RV Park that boasted live music every night. This is where we found Vern and Rita Davis. Vern is an 80 year old man with his young wife playing "Champagne Country" 7 nights a week during the summer for 4 hours a night. They played in a makeshift shack next to the RV Park office, sometimes there were people watching, sometimes not. We enjoyed them a lot.

29: We went to the Pitchfork Fondue where they deep fried steaks on pitchforks and we dined on a hilltop overlooking the Badlands of North Dakota. After, we went to the Medora Music Festival where Michael and Brandon (until he ran off) participated in the show.

31: At Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we explored the Badlands of North Dakota and saw many wild animals including buffalo, prairie dogs, deer and wild horses. We stopped for a picture along the Little Missouri River.

32: We made our way from North Dakota through Montana where we stopped for a picture along the Yellowstone River, just west of Miles City. Later, south of Billings, we ran into golf ball sized hail and took cover under some large trees. We were too scared to take any pictures. | We finally arrived in Cody, Wyoming for a one night stay. We made it in time to see the World Famous Cody Night Rodeo. Michael and Brandon got a picture on the back of Hollywood the bull.

36: We entered the park through the east entrance. We then stopped in Sylvan Pass where we found snow on the ground. | Yellowstone National Park

37: There was so much to explore at Yellowstone. We went to Artists Paint Pot which had multi colored streams, colored pools, bubbling mud and steam coming out of the ground.

38: We stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs. Here there are pools of super hot water. Algae in the pools gives the water it's color. Calcium is left behind in areas which leaves the ground completely white.

39: Yellowstone Falls is one of the most famous landmarks in Yellowstone. We hiked from the top of the mountain (above right) down many flights of stairs to get an up close picture.

40: Old Faithful is not the biggest or most predictable geyser in the park. But it is the most famous and we waited around to see the eruption. Old Faithful is located in the Geyser Basin (lower right). | Old Faithful

41: We found animals everywhere, sometimes we had to look for them. Above, a buffalo is seen in the distance. Above the buffalo, the small brown dot is a mother grizzly and her two cubs. We saw them using high powered binoculars. We were able to get close up to a buffalo (above right) from the safety of our car. But we never knew what we would see next or where, We found a buffalo on a walking path (below right) and bighorn sheep on the side of the road. One thing is guaranteed, if there are animals, there will be an animal traffic jam (right).

42: Yellowstone was so diverse with wide open landscapes in some areas and rugged terrain in other areas. It is not unusual to drive by an area where steam is pouring out of the ground. The wildflowers were in bloom and Brandon stopped for a picture with The Petrified Tree.

45: Grand Teton National Park | Grand Teton refers to the Teton Range of mountains that abruptly rise out of the ground. Pictures do not do them justice and we never got tired of looking at them. We thought the best way to experience them was to rent a boat and ride around on Jackson Lake. Brandon got to take a turn as captain.

46: Horseback Riding

47: We were forced to get an early start for a 7am two hour horseback ride. We rode through the forest, along rivers and saw spectacular views of the Tetons. We also got to see a real beaver dam (right).

48: We took a hike around Jenny Lake and a boat ride back to our car. We saw what we thought was a beaver (above) but we later found out it was a Marmot.

49: We celebrated the end of our Tetons stay, and end of our vacation with dinner at the Jackson Lake Lodge. We watched the sun set over the mountains.

50: The sun sets on the prairie (right) just south of Lusk, Wyoming. | The End | Yellowstone | North Dakota | Zion | Grand Tetons | Arches | South Dakota

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