National Parks

THE Wind Cave

This is Nick the guest blogger with a quick one. Last week while in South Dakota I took the kids to Wind Cave National Park. Mind you, I like my nature natural and the word ‘tour’ makes my eyes glaze over whilst memories of terrible boredom on school trips rise unbidden to my mind. But, if you have the chance to look around one of the largest caves in the world (maybe even the largest if the theoretical connection to Jewel Cave is found) you take it how you can get it. We really wanted to try the candlelight tour, but when we got to the park at 4 (I had to work until 3) only the tamer tours were available, so off we went with the precocious younglings and retirees.

In a word, Wind Cave is impressive. It’s geologically boring, but so big that it can’t fail to make an impression. 140 or so miles have been discovered and mapped and about 2 miles are added every year. The Park Service estimates that between 5 and 50 percent of the cave is known based on measurements of the air flow exiting the cave mouth via barometric pressure. The map shows a jumbled mess of criss-crossed passages made all the more confusing by virtue of being stacked on top of each other under a single square mile of surface. The original explorer, Alvin McDonald, mapped a mere 10 miles of cave but did it with only candles and string.

I’m not including a lot of pictures here because it’s impossible to gauge the scale and complexity. Here are a few anyways.

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Whether you’re a nature snob like me or a seasoned tourist, I highly recommend having a look at Wind Cave. The sheer vastness and grandeur of the cave is worth it and the rangers do a great job of making it interesting and informative.

Categories: National Parks, South Dakota | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

A Whirlwind in South Dakota

Today was a whirlwind of a day in South Dakota!  We definitely packed it full and had a wonderful time. We’d had a great several days in Hermosa, SD. Wednesday we visited Mt. Rushmore. Then on Thursday, Nick and the kids went to Wind Cave and watched a couple of movies at the local drive-in. Friday we were all tired and decided to rest up for the weekend. Nick and I did, however, go into (the very small) town to pick up some groceries. We discovered the smallest, strangest grocery store we’d ever shopped in! One of the best parts of this trip has been exploring small towns. I love their little independent restaurants and shops.

We made a quick stop at Wall Drug… fun, as always!

































On our way to Badlands National Park we saw signs for Prairie Homestead. It looked interesting, so we stopped. We were able to tour the original 1909 homestead of sodbusters,  Mr. and Mrs. Ed Brown. It was fascinating! As you can see, they offered a selection of costumes to wear while touring. We, of course, took advantage of the opportunity! Haha!


































































Next, Badlands National Park.  It is definitely something to see!






















We then went to the Auto Museum in Murdo.  It was full of old cars, tractors, motorcycles, bikes, games, toys, etc. They also had a couple of old RVs which we found especially interesting! We all really enjoyed our visit. It is definitely worth stopping by if you are ever in the area.







































































We ended our day in Presho, SD. We stopped here for lunch back in May and we decided that it was the driest, dustiest place any of us had ever seen. What a change a couple of months makes! It is so lush and green now that we didn’t recognize it.  And once again, Hutch’s Cafe was a hit.

Tomorrow we head for Mitchell, SD and the Corn Palace!

Categories: National Parks, South Dakota | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Another Day at Yellowstone

I am still trying to get caught up on blogging about our adventures. I will try to put two posts up today and then I will be up-to-date. Hooray!

Saturday we returned to Yellowstone. It was a beautiful day and we had a wonderful time. It is such an amazing park!

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone











Scenes from Yellowstone











Norris Geyser





















The Roosevelt Arch 













Elk in Mammoth





















A buffalo grazing on the prairie and (picture #2) a buffalo sitting just outside a restroom. It was a bit of a shock to see a giant buffalo sitting there when we came out and turned the corner. So awesome!











A herd of buffalo and (picture #2) a long line of cars waiting for another herd to finish crossing the road. We were pretty far back in the line, as you can see, but fortunately we had my grandfather’s binoculars to watch the crossing.











Beautiful Jackson Lake and one last good-bye to the Tetons


Categories: National Parks, wildlife, Wyoming | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Teton and Yellowstone

This is an exciting day! My sister gave birth to a little boy this afternoon. Congratulations to John and Katie and the three big sisters!  I have now been blessed with 21 nieces and nephews! 

So… I have fallen behind in blogging. We had a wonderfully busy weekend and then Monday I had a terrible headache all day, so I will try to get a little caught up now. And I am sorry this post is so long. Friday we were back in Teton to hike a trail that skirted beautiful Jenny Lake. Saturday, Nick and George had a wonderful adventure exploring a wind cave in Targhee National Forest (hopefully he’ll blog about that tomorrow). Sunday we spent the day in Yellowstone National Park. I should say we spent *most* of the day in Yellowstone, because we were actually in two national parks, 3 states (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), 3 national forests and a wilderness area before the day was done. It was quite a day!

Hiking around Jenny Lake on Friday


Sunday we drove through Teton, making a few stops, to get to Yellowstone.











Visiting the AMAZING Yellowstone National Park


A picnic lunch at Lewis Lake (Luckily, we did not encounter Yogi Bear!)











We saw Old Faithful and other geysers erupt. Very cool!






















The Lewis River and Nez Perce Creek











Wildlife! We saw a lot of really awesome things in Yellowstone, but the wildlife was definitely the highlight!  Most of the creatures we saw in the park were along the Nez Perce Creek (coyote, elk, and buffalo).



















I wish I would have gotten more pictures of Idaho, but we were all tired by the end of the day and a storm was approaching so we just wanted to get home.  In any case, the farm land was so lovely and I have never seen so many wildflowers. It was absolutely delightful! Here are a couple of pictures of the the Tetons from the Idaho side.

The Tetons have loomed up grandly against the sky. From this point it is perhaps the finest pictorial range in the United States or even North America. -Thomas Moran, while painting the Tetons from the Idaho side, 1879


Categories: Idaho, Montana, National Forests, National Parks, wildlife, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Grand Teton National Park


There are no foothills to the Tetons. They rise suddenly in rugged majesty from the rock strewn plain… the soft light floods the great expanse of the valley, the winding silvery river and the resplendent deeply carved mountain walls. -Lieutenant Gustavus Cheney Doane, 1876

(As always, click on a picture to view it larger)

For most of the trip from Pinedale to the park, the road follows alongside the Hoback River.  The drive begins in the enchanting, open prairie lands of Sublette County and ends with the majestic beauty of Teton County.











Grand Teton National Park was a wonderful place to celebrate the 4th of July. It is definitely America the beautiful!











The Cathedral Group










Beautiful Jenny Lake











The view of the valley from Signal Mountain’s summit











The wildflowers are plentiful and oh so lovely!











The Snake River at Oxbow Bend Overlook











It is so awesome to see buffalo roam across the prairie. It conjures up images of another time in this place and stirs the imagination with visions of the old west.


Categories: National Parks, wildlife, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy 4th of July from Wyoming

One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, One Nation evermore! -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Happy 4th of July from beautiful Pinedale, Wyoming!  We are staying in a great little rv park that borders on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. I love Wyoming! It is spacious and empty and wonderfully serene. In the midst of this crazy, busy world, I truly appreciate the peaceful solitude of this place.

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.  -Theodore Roosevelt

The beautiful rv park where we are staying. Most of the land you see in this picture is actually national forest.

The beautiful rv park where we are staying. Most of the land you see in this picture is actually national forest.

We heard a strange squeaking sound coming from the grass just outside our rv. We discovered countless burrows and saw at least a dozen prairie dogs scampering about. Here is one of our little neighbors.

We heard a strange squeaking sound coming from the grass just outside our rv. We discovered countless burrows and saw at least a dozen prairie dogs scampering about. Here is one of our little neighbors.

This forest is just beautiful!

This forest is just beautiful!

We will be spending our day in the Grand Teton National Park appreciating this beautiful country and the blessing it is to live here.

Categories: National Forests, National Parks, rv parks, wildlife, Wyoming | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Redwood, Some REALLY Tall Trees

We have spent two chilly, wet, fabulous days in the Redwood Forest.  Redwood National and State Parks are amazing! Amazing! I am incapable of capturing the grandness, height, and beauty in my words or pictures. If you have never been to the Redwoods, you really should see these awesome trees for yourself.

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America

(click on pictures to view them larger)





























It is a tree lovers paradise. And even if you are not the tree hugger type, this just might make a lover out of you.
























Monday my husband wanted to hike Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The 8 mile drive to the canyon was fantastic with tall moss covered trees and ferns all along the road. Towards the end of the drive the ocean comes into view. Just lovely!











Unfortnately, I was having an IBD day and the bumpy ride was not helpful. I rested in the car while my family hiked. My husband said that it was one the most beautiful places he has ever visited. He brought back these pictures from Fern Canyon.



I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.  -e.e. cummings

Categories: California, IBD, National Forests, National Parks, state parks, wildlife | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Heading South




We have spent the past two days heading south. Late Saturday morning we left Newport and headed down the Oregon coast. Highway 101 is a beautifully scenic drive. The picturesque views of the ocean are excellent. There are numerous state parks all along the coast. They are lovely and right on the ocean providing terrific views of the Pacific, hiking, and camping. Well done, Oregon! Well done!















We stopped at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area along the way.











We visited the Coquille River Lighthouse and spent some time at Bullards Beach.




















Saturday night camped at the lovely Bullards Beach State Park. The campsites were spacious and afforded a rare amount of privacy. The beach was only a short walk away.


Unlike yesterday’s beautiful sunshine, today was rather blustery. It was rainy, dreary, and gray. And though I was missing the sun, I must say that the mist and fog added to the charms of Oregon and California’s rugged coastlines.












We are staying along the Klamath River tonight.










Tomorrow I will write about our Redwood Forest adventures. BIG TREES = BIG ADVENTURE

Categories: California, National Forests, National Parks, Oregon, state parks | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Yaquina Lighthouses and Devils Punch Bowl

After a dreary, rainy morning, the sun made an unexpected, but glorious, appearance this afternoon. We set out for Yaquina Bay State Park to view the historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  It is an adorable little lighthouse in a lovely little park. The lighthouse was actually only in use for 3 years. It sat empty, unused, and dilapidated until it was restored in 1974. The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse’s light was re-lit in 1996.


We then drove up to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area to see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The view of the lighthouse standing boldly on the cliff above the ocean was so picturesque it almost felt surreal. The park was wonderfully rugged and natural. The beauty was breathtaking. Truly.
























From the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, we walked down to Cobble Beach. It was marvelous!  It is an extraordinary beach!  I was in awe of the beauty as I stood with cliffs behind me, the rugged coastline before me, and piles of round basalt rocks beneath my feet. Harbor seals basked in the sun on the rough rocks jutting out of the ocean, while birds flew over head circling the waters below, calling out to their friends.

























We arrived at low tide, which provided an awesome view of mussels, star fish, hermit crabs, turban snails, purple sea urchins, green anemones, and blue crabs.  There is something so amazing and wonderful about seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. Nature, wild and free.



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Finally, we drove to Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area. It is a great little park overlooking Devils Punch Bowl. Unfortunately, we arrived at low tide, so the punch bowl was empty. Nonetheless, it was quite a sight!



Categories: National Parks, Oregon, state parks | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cannon Beach and Fort Clatsop

Yesterday was yet another fun-filled day! We decided to spend the day in Cannon Beach and Astoria. These two places are dear to my heart. First, I have been going there since I was a very young girl and I have wonderful memories of my visits. Second, adding to its charms, is my love of The Goonies (if you were a kid in the 80s you’ll understand).

We headed to Cannon Beach in the morning. Cannon Beach is a lovely little town full of art galleries, souvenir shops, restaurants, and bakeries. The beach itself is rugged and beautiful. It is wild and free and wonderful. And it is delightfully windy. I have never been there when the wind wasn’t trying to sweep me off my feet. It is also home to the famous and amazing Haystack Rock.

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach































Later in the afternoon we headed up toward Astoria. We stopped at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. We visited a replica of Fort Clatsop, the 1805-1806 winter encampment for the Lewis and Clark expedition. We also spent some time at the interpretive center. We had recently watched a fascinating documentary by Ken Burns about Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery, so this was especially interesting. Visiting the fort really made history come to life.

Fort Clatsop

Fort Clatsop

A replica of Fort Clatsop

A replica of Fort Clatsop

Oregon and rain go together like peanut butter and jelly

Oregon and rain go together like peanut butter and jelly

beautiful trees

beautiful trees

interpretive center

interpretive center

Lewis and Clark River

Lewis and Clark River

Categories: National Parks, Oregon | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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