In 2019 Anna and I toured the National Parks across the southern United States; we did a lot of rock climbing and hiking. Then we planned to do the northern route in 2020 but the pandemic made that impossible. So this year we finally did it.
Pulling our T@B camper,
we started out on July 21st and rushed across West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. It took five days to reach South Dakota where our adventures began. As (bad) luck would have it, we were just in time for the "heat dome" which lasted for a few days - the high temperature reached 107° F.
Dignity of Earth & Sky is a sculture on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlin, South Dakota. The 50-foot high stainless steel statue depicts an Indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. The sculpture honors the culture of the Lakota and Dakota peoples who are indigenous to South Dakota. That day we also visited the Lakota Museum.
MAKE SURE TO CLICK on all the links which will take you to short videos. This first one is in Falls Park (Sioux Falls, SD):
And Anna immediately starts rock climbing!
The Badlands and Notch Trail:
Anna, dwarfed in the Badlands:
And there are LOTS of prairie dogs in the Badlands:
Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills:
Crazy Horse Memorial and The Indian Museum of North America
Finishing carving the actual rock will take decades.
The Wind Cave tour was astounding. Wind Cave is recognized as the densest cave system in the world, with the greatest passage volume per cubic mile. Wind Cave has 154 of explored cave passageways. On the tour, stairs were steep, slippery and dimly lit: we did a lot of bending and stooping. We saw boxwork (Wind Cave is home to 95% of the known boxwork formations in the world), frostwork and cave popcorn.
The ranger describes the original entrance where it was noticed that sometimes the wind blew out from the cave and sometimes blew in. The wind direction varies according to the local atmospheric pressure.
Boxwork is made of thin blades of calcite that project from cave walls and ceilings, forming a honeycomb pattern. The fins intersect one another at various angles, forming "boxes" on all the cave surfaces.
Hiking and Climbing the "Cathedral Spires" in Custer State Park in the Black Hills:
Short video of the landscape: https://youtu.be/u1o8ngUZPE4
In Custer State Park we came upon a herd of bison; it's pretty impressive when the bull is the size of your car!
We traveled on to Devils Tower in Wyoming 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, standing 867 feet from summit to base. The summit is 5,112 feet above sea level. The view from the summit is spectacular.
Anna has wanted to climb it since seeing the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We hired a guide, Andy, to lead us up the tower using "trad" protection (nuts, cams and hexes). We did a practice day with Andy, who taught us about crack climbing (jamming hands, arms, feet, and whole body into the cracks between the pillars). The next day Andy and Anna started in the dark (4:00am) and, wearing headlamps, scrambled up the boulder field to reach the beginning of the climb. Five pitches later they reached the summit at 11:30am. Anna was cut and bruised - but happy!
And it took them an hour to rappell down in stages.
We couldn't resist stopping in Story, Wyoming - population 660.
We went through Sheridan, Wyoming and visited the Saddle Museum which was much more interesting than I would have imagined; and then on to Bozeman, Montana.
From Bozeman it was an easy drive to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is so vast that it required a lot of driving between famous tourist spots. Hot water and steam are ubiquitous because of the underlying volcanic rock.
And an entire region of the park with bison and elk:
We spent four days at Yellowstone and it was well worth it.
Next we headed to Montana and Grand Teton National Park. The four days we spent there were the highlight of our trip.
We did a major amount of hiking and saw an incredible amount of wildlife.
Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon:
Herd of elk:
Chapel of the Sacred Heart in the park:
On our last day in the Tetons we hired a guide to teach us fly fishing. He rowed us out on a boat and we spent four hours going down the Snake River casting until our arms were falling off! But Anna caught a 16 inch cutthroat trout and Myron caught a 13 incher!
Before we moved on to Idaho we listed the wildlife we had seen up to this point: bison, bear, elk, antelope, moose, coyote, sheep, prairie dogs, pheasant, sandhill cranes, beaver, eagle, and osprey.
Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
The hot springs were sorted by temperature in six different shallow pools. The grounds surrounding the pools were beautifully landscaped: https://youtu.be/-GrA1uS22pU
Before turning east we stayed with Liza, Paul and Evie for two weeks in Salt Lake City, Utah . It is always so much fun to see Evie growing and learning.
We took Evie to the to playgrounds, the zoo, and a carousel.
We had a fabulous barbecued ribs dinner in Park City at the home of Liza's parents, Gail and Richard. And we all went on a family hike to Ruth Lake: https://youtu.be/d5aokYo3wKI
We then turned toward home in North Carolina. We left Salt Lake City and camped in an old western town, Rawlins, Wyoming, on our way to meet Chris in Cheyenne. The day we arrived Anna and I walked through the city which leverages its old west heritage for tourism. Anna convinced me to visit the Cowgirl Museum which turned out to be fascinating.
Chris met us the next day and we went for hike in Curt Gowdy State Park. The Crow Creek Trail to "Hidden Falls" was 3.6 miles round trip. The falls turned out to be barely visible because of the very dry spring and summer. Oh well, it was a nice hike with Chris.
Very hidden "falls":
So now we headed towards North Carolina through Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois until we reached the T@B manufacturing and repair facility in Sugar Creek, Ohio. We dropped off our camper for repairs and then drove the remaining 480 miles home.
A total of 6,500 miles in a little over seven weeks. The United States is a great place for adventures!