S: Vacation 2009 South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado
FC: Vacation 2009 South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado
1: Our first stop was Mitchell, South Dakota where we visited the Corn Palace. Each year, the outside of the building is decorated with new murals which are made of various kinds of corn. This year's theme was U.S. landmarks.
2: Prairie dogs are everywhere in the Great Plains. We got our first glimpse of them at a prairie dog park just before entering the Badlands. We learned that they like to eat peanuts in the shell. Elaine very patiently offered them her peanuts. Most of the time she would have to throw the peanut just in front of the prairie dog in order for him to take it. They were lots of fun to watch! | Prairie Dogs
3: Badlands National Park Interior, South Dakota
5: The Badlands were amazing! We hiked out onto the rocks past the boardwalks with only a few yellow posts to guide our way.
6: We weren't originally going to stop by Wall Drug, but changed our minds a few days before the trip. It was a fun place to stop, and the kids really liked it. It was a mixture of quaunt, touristy, and oddity. The original drugstore began when the Wall family decided to move out and open their own pharmacy. It was during the Depression. and business was slow in the tiny town. On one hot summer day, they came up with the idea of putting signs out on the highway offering "free ice cold water." People began stopping in, business began to boom.--and the rest, as they say, is history.
7: Mt. Rushmore | A perfect end to the first day of our trip was seeing Mt. Rushmore. What an amazing and spectacular tribute to patriotism and the values upon which our country was founded! (Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln)
8: Big Thunder Gold Mine | We thought it would be fun to visit an old gold mine and try panning for gold since the Black Hills area is known for its gold. So we started our second day at Big Thunder Mountain in Keystone, SD. Each of the kids panned and brought home a couple of gold flakes.
9: Custer State Park and the "Begging Burros" | After panning for gold, we decided to spend a few hours drvimg through Custer State park--which has beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. Custer SP is also known for the wild donkey herd that roams the park; these donkeys have become known as the "begging burros" because they stop cars and beg for food. | We got some chips out and fed them to the donkeys. This made Elisabeth so mad! So, in good fun, we lured the donkeys over to her window and they stuck their heads in over her head while we fed them.
10: Crazy Horse Memorial | By the time we arrived at Crazy Horse, there was a steady drizzle and com[lete cloud cover. Visibility was pretty low; so we parked the car and took a little nap. After about 30 minutes, we went inside the visitor/educational center. After about an hour and a half, the rain stopped and the clouds began to lift enough for us to actually see the monument which is about a mile away from the center. The monument was begun in 1948; and if it is ever finished it will be the largest statue in the world.
11: Road trip entertainment... | take a nap... | read a book... | listen to music on your ipod... | play a game on your DSI...
12: We ended day two just inside the Wyoming border from South Dakota. It was dusk as we crossed over into Wyomng and a pronghorm deer jumped out into the road and collided with the van denting the driver's door and leaving antler marks all down the side of the van. It ended up being about $3900 in damage to our van....but we weren't hurt thanks to Mark's good driving.
13: Devil's Tower, Wyoming | The first stop on day three was Devil's Tower. This huge rock outcrop was made famous during the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" We hiked the 1-mile walk around the base of the rock (which you can only climb with special climbing permits). But it is so high up that the views were beautiful.
14: The Beartooth Highway
15: After leaving Devil's Tower, we drove across Wyoming and up into Montana where we got on The Beartooth Highway which is considered "America's Most Beautiful Highway" lies along the Beartooth Mountain Ridge. The panoramic above was taken from the Rock Creek Vista Point trail. We had to climb over snow drifts and ice to get to the outlook point. When we started out on the short trail, we weren't expecting the snow and we all had our flip flops on. Our toes got a little cold; but it was so grand and breathtaking that it was worth hthe cold feet..
17: We continued on The Beartooth for the remainder of the afternoon and evening and saw one awe-filled view after another. When we got to the top, the elevation (according to our GPS) was 10,947 feet. It opened up to a wide, prairie-like plateau surrounded by more mountains.
18: We enjoyed the drive back down The Beartooth Highway although Shannon hated the sharp turns on the edge of the mountain . Then we went for another short hike and headed back into Wyoming toward Yellowstone National Park--our destination for the next four days. It was dark by the time we got to Yellowstone and to our cabin.
19: Our llittle cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs | Roosevelt Gate at the North Entrance | South Entrance to the park
21: The Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs | Day four began with a walk through the Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs just down from our cabin. The thermal structures and colors were pretty amazing. But the sulfur smell was something else! We got out of the car and were making comments about the smell; Gavin (never one to miss an opportuinty to talk) proclaimed, "Oh! It smells like something good for dinner!"
23: Everyday for lunch, we'd find a spot and have a picnic. This day, we found a picnic area that was next to a small stream. After we cleaned up our lunch, the kids took some time to explore...or rest. | Lunch break
24: Horseback riding in Yellowstone | Elaine had asked if we could go horseback riding on our trip. So after lunch we headed to the Mammoth stables. Gavin was too little to ride, so he and Elisabeth went for a walk and got an ice cream while we did a 2-hour backroad trail ride.
25: After our trail ride and a little nap, we went back out for a drive on the Mammoth-Roosevelt road and enjoyed some beautiful scenery.
27: Norris Geyser Basin | On day five, we drove down to the Norris Geyser Basin near the center of Yellowstone . These photos are an area known as the Porcelain Basin.
28: The Norris Geyser Basin is one of the most volatile areas in Yellowstone. It has some of the hottest and most dynamic of the park's hydrothermal areas. Because of this, new features are formed quite often while existing features drastically change. We basically saw four different types of features: geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots.
29: >Geysers erupt when superheated water beneath the surface creates a build up of steam. The steam pushes the water out and the geyser erupts. >Hot springs are similar to geysers except their is not a build up of steam. The superheated water rises to the surface where it is coooled. >Fumaroles, or steam vents, are the hottest surface features. These are generally dry and the llittle water that does flow is converted to steam. >Mudpots form when acid decomposes the surrounding rock into clay which mixes with water to form mud. Gasses bubble and burst in the mud.
30: Steamboat Geyser | Although highly unpredictable, this is the world's tallest active geyser, throwing water more than 300 feet high.
31: Our second stop for the day was the Fountain Paint Pot trail. This 1/2 mile boardwalk featured geysers, fumaroles, springs, and paint pots. | Fountain Paint Pot Trail
32: Firehole Lake Drive
33: Upper Geyser Basin | This area of Yellowstone has the greatest concentration of geysers in the world. Some of the ones we observed are (from top clockwise): Anenome, Grotto, Castle, Lion Group, and Beehive.
34: Old Faithful | We were able to watch Old Faithful erupt two different times. Once in the afternoon and the second time in the evening just after we finished our dinner. Although it isn't the biggest geyser, it is still pretty amazing to watch!
35: Bison X-ing | A trip to Yelloswtone wouldn't be complete without a bison-jam. This is how day six of our trip began. We were stuck in a mile long traffic jam for 45-minutes because a herd of bison decided to stop in the middle of the road.
36: After getting past the bison, we headed to the Canyon area. We stopped at the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone and Artists Point (with our artist, Elaine).
37: After driving along the South Rim of the canyon, we drove over to the North Rim. We enjoyed several short hikes and a couple trails that were still snow covered. It was neat seeing some of the same sights from a different perspective. Mark, Gavin and Elaine hiked down to the bottom of the falls for an even closer view.
38: When we left Canyon, we drove down toward Yellowstone Lake and crossed the Fishing Bridge. These are some of the views from the Fishing rBidge area. We then continued down to the West Thumb area of Yellowstone Lake. | Yellowstone Lake
39: The Fishing Bridge
40: West Thumb Geyser Basin
41: Fishing Cone is one of the most interesting geysers. Early explorers told of a place where they could catch trout on one side of their boats and then cook it in the water on the other side of their boat. Fishermen also used to stand over the geyser and dip their fish in to boil them. (This is now illegal because it causes damage to the geyser.) | Yellowstone Lake has many active hydrothermal features on its shore and bottom. The West Thumb is a smaller caldera within the larger caldera and has a small geyser basin. We were amazed at the geysers that we could see just under the water's surface. | Beautiful Blue Funnel spring--the deep, extremely hot water is what causes the blue color | Big Cone geyser sticks up out of the surface along the shore of Yellowstone Lake.
42: Yellowstone WIldlife | Elk | Everywhere we wetd in Yellowstone, we saw elk..sometimes just one or two and other times in herds of 15 or so. The elk and bison woudl actually walk right up to the lodge area to graze or rest. These pictures were taken while we were at West Thumb. It is the closest we got to them when not in our car. The photo to the left is of a female elk with her newborn baby. We were about 20 feet from her when we took this picture.
43: Grizzly Bear | While we had seen bison, elk, pronghorn, prairie dogs, horses and even a snake, we had not seen any bears. But on day seven, just as we left through the south entrance to Yellowstone, we were told that a grizzly had been sited. It was down in a valley just a short ways from where we were; since it was across the stream and a safe distance away, we walked over to get a glimpse of it. | We also saw these bear prints in the sand while at the upper geyser basin near Old Faithful.
44: Teton National Park | Colter Bay on Jackson Lake
45: As we drove through the Tetons, we were in awe at their beauty. We stopped for a hike at Colter Bay and had some fun skipping rocks in the lake.
46: As we continued our drive through the Tetons, we found this picnic spot with an incredible view. It was a beautiful and warm day, so we moved the table out into the sun and completely enjoyed our lunch.
47: We drove to the top of Signal Mountain and then walked out to this lookout...another beautiful view of The Tetons! This is definitely a place we want to come back to!
48: Jenny Lake
49: On the spur of the moment, we decided to take the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake and hike on the other side of the lake. Once on the other side of the lake, we took a short hike to the Hidden Falls. We then hiked back and caught the shuttle boat back to the other side. Just before boarding the shuttle boat, though, we saw a moose feeding on the other side of the bridge where we were standing. In addition, we also saw a yellow-bellied marmot while we were hiking; but it was too fast for us to get a picture.
50: Jackson Hole, WY | We ended our day in the Tetons by spending the evening at Jackson Hole. It just so happened, they were putting on an old-fashioned shoot-out that night on the town square..
51: After the shoot out, we decided to try a burger joint that one of the locals had recommended....Billy's Giant hamburgers. And they WERE giant....and so delicious!
52: Day 8 was mostly spent driving down and across Wyoming. But we did stop to see South Pass City--a restored ghost town.
53: Our first views of t e Rocky Mountains... | Only in Wyoming?? We were stopped on the highway in order for some cowboays to herd their cattle from one side to the other. It was kind of neat to watch them holler at the cattle to get them to move.
54: After spending the night in Estes Park, Colorado, we woke up on day nine and drove into Rocky Mountain National Park. We caught a shuttle bus, then hiked to Bear Lake and along the Glacier Gorge Trail. | Rocky Mountain National Park
55: The kids declared this day to be "National Hug a Tree" Day. So they all stopped to hug a tree....
57: A Colorado Butte...that's "byoot" not "butt"! (This became a joke throughout the trip whenever we would see a butte....) | After spending a few hours hiking in the Rockies, we headed south toward Colorado Springs.
58: Air | United States Air Force Academy
59: The U.S. Air Force Academy was very impressive! Our first glance was from a hill overlooking the recreational fields. We then drove around to the visitor center and then to the Chapel, which is by far, the most interesting building on the campus with its angular, triangle-shaped architecture. Inside, the main floor is the main worship center. The light shines in and casts a purple glow on everything, including the huge pipe organ in the rear balcony. As you approach the front, an eternal candle burns in honor of those who have served and are missing in action. The bottom level of the chapel has areas for Catholics, Buddhists, and Jews to come as well.
60: We had dinner at a dude ranch--The Flying W Ranch. Before dinner, we walked around the various shops and displays all set in an old time cowboy setting. Dinner was a chuckwagon supper (served on tin-plates with a tin mug from which to drink) and a real western stage show for entertainment
61: Focus on the Family Headquarters | On day ten, the lst day of our trip, we drove over to the Focus on the FAmily headquarters. We've wanted to do this for sometime and it is the main reason we included Colorado Springs inour trip. first we watched a movie on the history of Focus, then wandered through the programming exhibits. Then we let the kids spend quite awhile running through Whit's End; then we headed back upstairs to browse their huge bookstore!
62: Pikes Peak Cog Railway
63: We opted to ride the cog to the top of Pikes Peak instead of driving. As we ascended, we were so glad at our decision as the weather got wors and wors and the visbility got less and less. It was a relaxing way to travel! When we go to the top, we ate some "high-altitutde donuts and hot chocolate!
64: Ooooh! Was it cold!! When we first arrived at the summit, lightning was seen, so they asked everyone to og inside. On our way back out to load up on the cog, we had a quick pictures snapped. YOu can see the snow/sleet falling in this picture.
65: Before heading to Pikes Peak, we stopped at the Garden of the Gods for lunch and a hike. We only stayed for about an hour then had to leave for our Pikes Peak reservation. | Garden of the Gods
66: After PIkes Peak, we had some time to spare and although it was drizzlilng, we decided to go back and drive through Garden of the Gods. The rock formations are so intricate and unusual, but we couldn't get many good pictures because of the rain. This is how we ended our trip out West. We are so blessed to have been able to take this trip and to observe and experience God's beautiful and creative handiwork!