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Old 08-20-2008, 11:13 AM   #1
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Our Western National Parks Road trip

I thought I had posted these but I cant find them SO I will post them all again These are from last year.

Sun Sept. 23rd, the first day, Coleen and I drove to Fargo N. Dakota. We stopped at a rest area in Wisconsin and as luck would have it, there was a historical marker about a fire. A picture was required


The next day we drove west to Theodore Roosevelt Nat. Park. It is just west of Dickinson N.D. where we spent the night. Neither Coleen nor I had ever been here before and we found it to be a very fascinating place.








It is kind of an odd mixture of desolate badlands and canyons, to green forests and valleys.



There were some very cool rock formations



We saw limited wildlife




but the skies were overcast and the wind was ferocious.




Teddy Roosevelt is a two section park. We did the south unit one day then got up and hit the road to the north unit. We saw deer as we entered the park and drove only a couple miles before we saw a HUGE old bull bison


One of my favorite animals is buffalo. I wanted very much to see as many as possible on this trip. When I had been out this way as a child 36 years ago, we saw a few but they seemed very scarce. So we made a point of taking lots of buffalo pictures.





We also saw more beautiful scenery along the way.







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Old 08-20-2008, 11:15 AM   #2
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After we left T.R.N.P. we drove north to catch a highway to go west on. We went this way for a specific reason. Just across the border into Montana is a tiny town called McCabe. Now it may seem a little silly BUT that being our last name we wanted to stop there. I had done as much research as I could about it and found out that it had been founded “by miners” back in the late 1800’s. My great grandfathers brothers were”miners out west”, so we wanted to check it out. We drove 12 miles or so of gravel roads to get there and well let’s just say the heyday of McCabe Montana has come and gone.




The stretch of road across the state of Montana was LONG and straight Coleen was a real trooper and drove most of the way to Shelby, Mt. where we spent the night.

The next morning we woke up and went to a grocery store, stocked up on sandwich supplies and then headed further west.

We drove up to Waterton National park in Canada this park adjoins Glacier in the USA and together they are known as the International Peace Park. The road north was beautiful and although sunny the wind was once again ferocious.





After stopping at a few scenic vistas we went to the small tourist village in the park. This part of the park is different from USA National parks. They allow limited private enterprise inside their boundaries. So there are hotels, restaurants, gift shops and some residences there.

We stopped alongside the lake and had a picnic INSIDE the truck. This was a lot warmer than outside in the wind.


After lunch we drove up to a smaller lake, this is where we saw our first moose. There was a cow feeding in the shallows up near the shore

and a huge bull, just behind the gift shack.

This was the one we showed you all earlier. He stood right there and let us take pics for about 10 minutes.

Then he slowly turned back towards the lake. I and one other guy were on the sidewalk and took a few steps to try and get some pics of him in the lake (that’s where we thought he was headed) Well Coleen thought she should be polite and ask him for just a few more pictures. Mr. Moose apparently had had enough of it though. He dropped that big rack of antlers and took a few fast steps right at us. We scattered like leaves in the wind. This was the end of taking his picture!

After we returned to the village we snapped a few pics of the Prince of Wales Hotel which has an amazing view in a gorgeous location.


We then drove south along another scenic highway (narrow, sharp turns, close steep drop-offs etc.) Since the Going to the Sun Road was closed in the middle, this was as close as we could get to the same effect. It was very pretty. We also saw some Big Horn Sheep.




We spent that night in Essex Montana at the Izaak Walton Inn. The inn is a romantic little hotel originally built to house railroad workers. It was made into a hotel and it is listed as one of the 1000 things to do in North America.




It sits right next to the tracks and trains are coming and going but they don’t make a lot of noise So on our 21st anniversary we had a lovely dinner and strolled the grounds.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:17 AM   #3
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The next morning we got up, had breakfast in the hotel, and then drove to the St. Mary’s entrance to Glacier.

The ranger told us that the scenery was much better on this side of the park than the west side so we changed our plans and spent the day there.






We again had lunch in the truck (man it was windy up there) after leaving there we made a stop at St. Mary’s Falls. The trail markers up here are a little shy of accurate though. This one said .8 mile we went part way and passed one that said .6 to the falls and .3 back to the parking area. That seems to be .9 to me but cest la vie. Of course this was straight down which means we had to come back up. But the falls were pretty.




After that we went up to Many Glaciers. That park entrance was open but all the resources were closed for the season. We drove to the big hotel and took a few pics. As we were leaving we saw a “bear jam” so we asked where she was seen last and a guy pointed up the hill a little. There was not much room so we asked if we might be able to see her from the opposite side. He assured us she would not be there. BUT we drove the ¼ mile, turned around and drove about halfway back. ”STOP THE TRUCK she’s right here” said my cute bear spotter and there she was.




After the bear we drove back to the Izaak Walton. Along the way we passed “range cattle” loose along side the road. They don’t seem the least bit concerned with traffic either.



After a small shopping spree in the Inn gift shop, we had another lovely dinner.
We tool a few pics in the morning before leaving including some with Jolly.



We drove west a few miles and then headed south, toward Wyoming. Lots of two lane highway (scenic) and then some interstate but not a bad trip. We made a short cut that took us through a corner of Idaho and then down to the west entrance to Yellowstone. Not far into the park we saw another “jam” however no critters were spotted until we went another few miles. There we came upon a herd of elk One big male and his harem. They were right along the road and careless as could be.



After them we saw some buffalo. Once again close by the road so more pics were snapped.




Continued next post
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:17 AM   #4
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Since it was getting dark and we wanted to check in we headed to the Old Faithful Inn.

SIDEBAR. When I was younger and we visited Yellowstone I wanted to stay at Old Faithful Inn, it didn’t happen. 36 yrs later it was happening. I was pretty excited.
It is an incredible old rustic building that is just awe inspiring.


The architecture is really amazing.




Old Faithful was spouting off just as we drove up. We checked in and were told we were given an upgrade. Usually this is a good thing so we trudged up to our room. It was an okay room but NOT what we had in mind when we booked the lodge. The beds were AWFUL felt like 50 yr old mattresses. The only real good thing was we were able to watch Old Faithful erupt out our window under a gorgeous full moon. When Coleen mentioned our concerns the next morning though, Ms Personality at the desk couldn’t care less. (This garnered a Coleen response to the Xanterra survey email we received) We did have a very nice meal in the dining room though.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:19 AM   #5
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The next morning was gray, gloomy and chilly. Jolly wanted to play in the snow but there wasn’t much.

Till we got to the continental divide.

We worked our way south and went to Jackson where Coleen scored some new hiking shoes. Sorry no pics. We also went to the Harley dealer and got some t-shirts then we went to The Grand Teton National park. The clouds were low but some photo ops still existed.





Including elk and a moose.




He was moving and so were we so he's a bit blurry


As we drove back to Yellowstone it did warm up a little. We stopped at an information building and met some really nice people. One was the lady working the book store and the other was a ranger. Turns out she will be with her husband, in our area at Midewin, a local Tall Grass Prairie site in a few weeks. We gave her our number and told her to call. Then we stopped at a hot spring site






That night we were staying in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. We had booked a western cabin, which is sort of what we got, but it wasn’t near as bad a bed so we just went to dinner in the Obsidian Room. Well our server at dinner was pathetic. Bad attitude and lack of skills. He actually moved our salad bowls (he never did clear them off) to put the check down and left our entrée plates next to them on the table. Sadly his “tip” was slightly less than our norm


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Old 08-20-2008, 11:21 AM   #6
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The next morning we went back to the Old Faithful Inn to check and make sure we were given the right type of room. We watched the geysers and then went exploring.




We drove along the Grand Loop road. Breathtaking may not even go far enough.. This is an incredible place to see. We stopped at different places and saw hot springs, buffalo, geysers, mud pots,









the gate dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt himself,

a herd of elk at a visitor’s center (with morons walking up towards till a ranger caught them),



a canyon, white water, and much, much more. We both feel like this is someplace everyone should visit at least once in their lifetimes.



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Old 08-20-2008, 11:22 AM   #7
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When we finally returned to the Inn we took a quick walk out to the Old Faithful viewing area and called our daughter she pulled up the webcam and we “waved” to the girls, Heather was able to save the pic.

That’s us down in the front. After that we went to our room. It was perfect

and the bed was comfortable.

Maybe the view wasn’t as cool as the first night but the ambiance more than made up for it. We walked out our door around the corner to an overlook and watched Old Faithful (I know AGAIN, but we just loved it)



We had another great meal in the dining room and then did some shopping in the gift shop. We went up to our room and both of us took a BATH in the CLAW FOOT TUB!


The next morning we got up posed by the buses and then hit the road.




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Old 08-20-2008, 11:25 AM   #8
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We drove out of the park, 2 hrs at 45 mph, this place is HUGE. Then took another scenic (you know what that means) highway. The trip across Wyoming was mixed with plains and peaks. We stopped a few times and got some cool pics.






But this made us a little late getting to the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Scenic drive in the DARK ) We made it through the deer, LOTS of deer, standing along side the road, and went to our hotel in Keystone. The next morning we struck out to see the sights of the Black Hills. We went to Mount Rushmore first. They have a real good museum at the visitor’s center and some great exhibits.





We also saw a couple Rocky Mountain Goats right near the amphitheater.

Coleen and I hiked The Presidential trail (stairs, LOTS of stairs) and were able to get up closer to the monument. This is another one of those must sees. It is somehow very moving to just sit and look up at it. Another gift shop visit and we were off to see Crazy Horse.

We went here on my first trip, 36 yrs ago remember, and they have made progress but I am afraid it may not be finished in my lifetime. It is a very interesting stop and is also highly recommended.






After Crazy Horse we drove to the Custer State park and did the wildlife loop. We saw bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorn antelope, burros, and BUFFALO. This could be one of the coolest State parks in the country. Very nice drive and a great place to relax a little.






Once we left there we went to Wind Cave National Park, This is another of the first National Parks, very historic. Unfortunately we missed the last tour and only saw the above ground areas. So we stopped in Custer and had dinner then returned to Keystone. After a quick stop in the room we went out and back up to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting of it. Once again a MUST see.





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Old 08-20-2008, 11:29 AM   #9
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The next day was bright and sunny again as we drove out towards Rapid City. We stopped at Prairie Berry Winery had a few samples, bought a case of wine and continued on our merry way. Next stop was the 1880 Train. We didnt have time for the trip but took some pics and Coleen posed with an old west impersonator.




We passed through town and went to Sturgis. This is the place where they hold a HUGE motorcycle rally every year. More t-shirts later (including a Sturgis Fire Dept one) and we headed back to Rapid City. We had lunch at The Firehouse Brewery and Grill. It’s an old firehouse that they made into a restaurant. We saw it on Rachel Ray’s show and our waiter was there the day she filmed it. This required a hat purchase and photos.




After leaving there we stopped for gas at a Sinclair station and drove to MOUNT RUSHMORE GOLD and JEWELRY. Unfortunately we got there after a bus of senior citizens. What a madhouse. Those old gals were spending $$$ like crazy. Coleen and I did some spending too. I bought a Black Hills gold wedding band that they resized to size 14. She got a few things too.
SIDEBAR my original wedding ring hasn’t fit for years, since I caught it between a door and a stretcher. Messed up the ring and it took 1 1/2 hours of surgery to fix my finger.
Anyway a couple hours later we were on our way back to Keystone. Stopped and bought a pizza to go and went to our room. OH YEAH as we were returning to Keystone we saw a cute little Christmas store, we had seen an ad for it and they had DISNEY items. So our first stop the next morning was at the Christmas store. Two bags later including a few Disney things we were back on the road. Next stop Wall Drug. My mom made us stop here years ago, you know the drill, well we were looking for a souvenir license plate to go on our sun porch wall (we have lots of them) and of course they didn’t have one. One square block of STUFF and no license plates. Oh well, on the road to the Badlands National Park. We stopped at a grasslands visitors center and then onto the park road. A desolate yet interesting place, with subtle colors, steep chasms and stark peaks.










After a lunch of cold pizza enjoyed in a picnic area on a windswept slope, we stopped at the visitor’s center and hit the road. Poor Coleen got stuck driving across the boring plains of Montana a week earlier and she drove across them here too. We made it to Sioux Falls and found our hotel. Went to Chili’s for dinner and had a great server, she was a real fun gal. Back to the hotel, just in time for a thunderstorm to hit. This was our first real rain in over a week.

The next morning was sunny again so we took a short trip to the Great Plains zoo. It was a cute little zoo and had a few animals out but many were already in their winter quarters and not viewable. We did enjoy the walk though and saw a pretty cheetah and a cool brown bear.


We also stopped at the memorial for the Battleship South Dakota, another interesting place that was closed for the season but took a few pics



After that we made our way to Minnesota.

One of Coleen’s friends she worked with, Julie, moved to Rochester a few years back. We met up with her and her fiancée for dinner. She was very glad to see Coleen and we spent quite a while at dinner. We went back to our hotel which was right across from the Mayo Clinic. Saturday dawned and we had a quick bite before driving north to the Mall of America. That place is HUGE. Of course lunch at HOOTERS was mandatory.




Sunday we spent time with Julie and Eric. Then down the road to La Crosse Wisconsin. After a light lunch at HOOTERS and a few pics we made our way back to Illinois.

Along the way we took our last picture of the trip. Two HUGE pumpkins on a trailer.



HOME, we got there about 8pm or so and I unloaded the truck while Coleen fed Shadow.
We took a few minutes on the couch to sit back and relive our adventure. We both feel that it was an incredible vacation. 5208 miles over two weeks, and loved every minute of it, well ALMOST every minute of it. The former leaders of this country did us an immense favor by reserving these lands. Our National parks truly are a treasure to be enjoyed by all our citizens. Their natural beauty and wildlife are worth taking the time to go see. Coleen and I both were awed and amazed. We feel you will too.

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Old 08-20-2008, 02:37 PM   #10
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Wow - what a great trip report. Loved all the pictures! A stay at Old Faithful Inn is one of my must do's. DH and I were driving thru a couple of years ago and checked. They did have a room for us, but we had our dog along and he could not come into the inn. She checked at the Snow Lodge (or one of the others that does allow dogs) but they did not have room. But one of these years - I just won't expect much from the beds!

I've been itching to do a driving park trip and reading about yours may have me heading out the door sometime soon.
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Old 08-20-2008, 05:43 PM   #11
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Thank you so much for a terrific trip report - I really enjoyed reading it and seeing all of the wonderful pictures! Wow...you really covered a lot of territory. We're going to Yellowstone in a little more than a week, and planning to visit all the places you did in that park. Looks like you had really good weather - I hope ours is as clear...and hopefully a bit warmer. :-)
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Old 08-24-2008, 06:39 PM   #12
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Great pictures!

We did this trip last year. We drove from Maine to Montana and spend 25 days in our mini van, sleeping in our tent or KOA cabin. It was the best trip. Thank you for bringing back the momories.
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Old 08-25-2008, 11:34 AM   #13
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What a great post! Thank you for sharing the photos - as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! DH and I are in our early 60's. He is retiring next year and we are planning a 2+ month auto trip.We will be driving the perimeter of the states. Driving cross country from NJ to northwest, then down the Pacific Coast, across the states on a southern route, then back up the Atlantic coast to home. Our focus out west will be Nat'l Parks. We already have our reservation paid for at the Old Faithful Inn (Sept 09). I was hoping that stay would be a highlight of the trip. I'm hoping they upgrade the mattresses by then.
You wrote about scenic highways followed with "(and you know what that means)"...but no, I don't know...should we not look for scenic byways? I was sort of planning my route to drive as many as possible. We have never been out there and I would love some first hand advice.
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Old 08-25-2008, 11:55 AM   #14
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What a great trip reminds me of going through South Dakota and Wyoming in 1995, we got caught up in all the people attending the Sturgis rally!

Some fantastic pictures you have got as well

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Old 08-27-2008, 06:24 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncbyrne View Post
What a great post! Thank you for sharing the photos - as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! DH and I are in our early 60's. He is retiring next year and we are planning a 2+ month auto trip.We will be driving the perimeter of the states. Driving cross country from NJ to northwest, then down the Pacific Coast, across the states on a southern route, then back up the Atlantic coast to home. Our focus out west will be Nat'l Parks. We already have our reservation paid for at the Old Faithful Inn (Sept 09). I was hoping that stay would be a highlight of the trip. I'm hoping they upgrade the mattresses by then.
You wrote about scenic highways followed with "(and you know what that means)"...but no, I don't know...should we not look for scenic byways? I was sort of planning my route to drive as many as possible. We have never been out there and I would love some first hand advice.
The bed in the high range room (the one 9n the pictures was much better then the first room. I hope you get one of those rooms.

The scenic roads in the mountains can be very steep and narrow with deep drop offs. They are also very winding. BUT the beauty you can see from them is unmatched. By all means take as many as you can ,just be aware of the terrain and drive safely. You should do fine. We drove the Avalanche and it is a large vehicle. If your car is smaller you will have no problems

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