The wife and I decided this year to visit some friends in the midwest and some family in Texas. And, while we were out, we decided to see some of the sights along the way, making a long road trip out of the adventure. When we left home the only dates we had were the weekend with friends and an approximate date to be back home. Everything else was pretty loose schedule wise. We ended up putting 5600 miles on the wife’s Prius and visited 6 national parks and a couple of monuments. And after the better part of three weeks on the road we got home still speaking to each other. It was, all in all, a very good trip.
About half our our nights were spent camping. Finding a place to pitch a tent is harder in a car than it is out backpacking. The tent is bigger and the mattress is softer though.
We got to Yellowstone late in the second day and visited a bit before heading back out of the park and getting nearly the last room in town. There were a whole lot more people around than I had expected. And for someone as socially challenged as I am, it was challenging.
The original entrance into Yellowstone at the north end of the park. Most traffic skips it now, but you can still drive through it.
One of the pools at Mammoth Hot Springs. Each of them have a name but I generally forgot them shortly after I read the sign. In the background is all of the tourist facilities at the north entrance.
As the hot mineral water flows from the springs it ends up forming terraces on the hillside. Different colors represent different minerals or bacteria in the water. White usually indicates it is dry.
Yet another terraced flow at Mammoth.
The only elk we saw were on the grounds around the visitor building and hotels.
This set of terraces was in the upper part of the hot springs. Plus a bonus thumb.
No massive bison herds but there were a number of smaller groupings, some close to the road and some a bit more distant. Most of them had caves as well; you can see at least three of them in the center of this picture.
This pool looks very inviting. But it would probably boil you alive in no time.
Not sure why, but one of my favorite attractions at Yellowstone has always been the mud pots. For some reason I enjoy watching the mud boil. I am always reminded of the Shakespeare quote ” Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble”, although quite honestly I always thought it was “bubble, bubble”, rather than the doubles. Guess I’m not too up on Shakespeare.
We got to Old Faithful an estimated 20 minutes before the next eruption. So we plopped down on a bench with several hundred other people and waited for the show; and it was good.
The drive through the Grand Tetons was quick, but it was scenic.
We found ourselves a little ahead of schedule, so what do we do to waste a little time. How about drive up to Mt Rushmore?
And what visit to South Dakota is complete without spending a few minutes looking at the Corn Palace. There was lots of road construction in front of the place, but it was still interesting.
The primary purpose of the trip was to visit some friends and family, in particular this wonderful couple.
My aunt, on the right, is my OLR (oldest living relative) and I got to spend a day with her in Plainview Texas. With her is my uncle and his wife. Enjoyed dinner with them and with a cousin.
Texas is really proud of the steers; there are statues of them everywhere. I even found one in front of a McDonald’s instead of Ronald. This one in Plainview had a mural painted on it.
Glen Canyon is upstream from the Grand Canyon. We had to cross over it on a high bridge to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was pretty cool itself.
The Vermillion Cliffs are another landscape feature that I assume was formed by the same uplifting that helped to create the Grand Canyon.
I have been to the south rim of the Grand Canyon several times, although not recently. This time around we decided to visit the north rim, a place I had never been. It was well worth the extra effort to get there.
The north rim is more deeply cut by tributary streams than is the south rim. You can drive and then walk out to several points that extend way out into the canyon where you are surrounded by views like this.
For those interested in a destination wedding, this is a wedding chapel that overlooks the canyon. Pretty rustic and limited in size, but the view can’t be beat.
Another of the many breathtaking vistas from the north rim. The Colorado River flows along the far ridge.
I don’t remember the name of any of the formations, but this is in Zion National Park. Zion was pretty scenic, but there were altogether too many people.
The most scenic part of Zion is in a valley that is accessible only by shuttle bus. At the end of the road is a paved trail that gets you another couple of miles back and then you have to wade the river to get beyond that. There was a steady stream of people both coming and going for the mile that we waded. Did I mention that there were too many people in Zion?
The road along the south end of the park traverses through a tunnel that is over a mile long. The tunnel is in the ridge to the left and the road dropping down from the tunnel can be seen switchbacking down into the valley.
The amphitheater at Bryce National Park was pretty stunning. We were able to walk for several miles up along the rim; one side just a wooded slope with this on the other side.
Another view into the amphitheater at Bryce. It is pretty amazing what erosion can accomplish.
At one point we were able to drop down into the amphitheater and walk through some of these formations. Pretty amazing.
Next stop on the trip was the Great Basin National Park in Nevada. I had never heard of this park before the trip but I glad we found it on the map. The big attraction in this park is Lehman’s Cave. We booked a 90 minute tour (the only way to get into the cave) and were treated to some pretty fantastic cave formations.
Some more of the cave formations in Lehman’s Cave
One of the interesting, and nearly unique, formations in Lehman’s are the shields. These formation grow out from a hairline crack in the wall. Most of the know shields are in this cave.
One more picture of the formations in this cave. Every inch of the cave is not covered with these, but most of it is.
The final stop on the tour was at Craters of the Moon National Monument. This is a location in southern Idaho of relatively recent volcanic activity. If memory serves me correctly, and I wouldn’t count on it, the most recent activity was just a few thousand years ago. This area is covered with cinder cones and lava. It is mostly pretty barren. although there are flowers growing in profusion in places as well as a few trees and shrubs.
Many of the volcanic rocks in the monument are very light and will actually float.