There’s no place like HOME

The past week has been a blur. The Black Hills of South Dakota were beautiful and we really enjoyed our time there. Interject connection was sketchy and only got worse as we headed East, but the good news is that we rolled into our driveway at about 6 pm this evening, with Mom awaiting us eagerly.

We had a fantastic summer and have more stories and photos to share, but for right now I’m going to sign off by saying while its great to be home, I miss the arid climes of the west–this eastern humidity is for the birds!

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Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore is a don’t miss. But we did. Well, sort of.

You see, the park is free… you simply have to pay $11 to park… not TO the park, but to a concessioner. So, to visit a National monument paid for with tax dollars, you have to also pay some stupid troll controlling the “bridge.” We wouldn’t mind paying the Park for entry of parking, but paying a concessioner means that money does not support the Park. We don’t support that model and voted with our feet.

So, we viewed Mt. Rushmore from other vantage points… no less for wear, and enjoyed viewing a National treasure our own way. – Dan

Custer State Park

Custer State Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota make for a wonderful place to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. The park itself has an abundance and variety of wildlife such as wild goats, big horn sheep, buffalo, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and lots and lots of bunnies. We took an early morning drive around the lengthy wildlife loop and we were not disappointed. As we learned from our Yellowstone experience, getting out early increases your chances of seeing more wildlife.

On our way to the park we learned that the 72nd annual motorcycle gathering at Sturgis, SD was just starting. This event draws bikers from all over the US and even the World as we heard an Aussie accent from one. The bikes are everywhere! One source quoted the number of bikers in 2010 at 600,000 and the number continues to swell. We found the folks we met and talked to as friendly and from all walks of life. No official events are planned, it’s just one big gathering/celebration/party.

If you’re ever headed this way, don’t miss the Black Hills. Just try to avoid the first week in August!

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Alice in chains

We’re in Rapid City SD this afternoon visiting the Museum of Geology at USD School of Mines. Looking for a place to get lunch, we realized there are almost no locally owned sandwich shops around. It took a bit of sleuthing to find one, and from the looks of the sandwiches on the plates of the other diners, it was worth the effort.

People, support your local businesses! I just had a bite of my sandwich and believe me, Subway’s got nothing to match this delicious sandwich. Break the chains!!

A wild farewell

This morning we backtracked to Yellowstone to head east to South Dakota’s many wonders. We were awake early and on the road before 7 am. The sun was lighting the tops of the Tetons as rain began on the mountains. We pulled over to a turnout to gasp as a rainbow, then a double rainbow, glimmered in the distance. We stayed until the rainbows faded then resumed our journey. 20120801-173458.jpg
Continuing northward, we were astonished when later along the shore of Yellowstone Lake, Dan spotted two buck elk sparring. Several cars zoomed by while we watched in amazement, snapping photos.

Eventually other cars stopped and we moved on, only to come to a traffic jam — a certain wildlife indicator, and sure enough, a grizzly bear soon wandered into view after an apparently unsuccessful visit to the picnic area. As he turned toward the road Dan hopped into the car but we watched, incredulous, as others moved still closer in search of the perfect photo! We, alas did not get the photo, but we do still have all limbs intact.

We moved on past the grizzly only to again be stopped by the cars whose occupants were viewing a black bear wandering into the woods. The remainder of the drive was mostly small rodents, a few marmots and several pronghorn antelope, interspersed with jaw-dropping views of the east side of Yellowstone NP and the Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway into Cody, WY.

Ended the day at Keyhole State Park near Gillette, Wyoming with Pronghorn Antelope grazing out along the field.

As always more photos will follow on Flickr when we have better connection; these are from the iPhones.
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The Tetons are indeed Grand

We had a whirlwind day through Yellowstone NP (bison! antelope! pika!) before hitting Grand Tetons NP, where we were lucky enough to find a campsite in the park on Lake Jackson. We had dinner by the lake and today have been exploring the park. At the top of a Signal Mountain in addition to glorious views, there is a cell tower so we are taking advantage of it to post and make a few phone calls.

Jenny Lake beautifully frames the largest peaks in the Teton range, and the Snake River winds through the flats providing water for bison and elk. It is stunning. The clouds are gathering now over the mountains and we are hoping we might be able to view a thunderstorm from afar here atop Signal Mountain.As always we’ll upload more photos to Flickr when we can, but for now I’ll post a few here.

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Yellowstone

Yellowstone was not our list, but hey, it’s on the way (mostly) to the Tetons so we did a very quick drive through some of the southern loop.

The short trip through meant we had to choose what we wanted to see carefully. Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon won. The Falls within the canyon, the trademark canyon color, the geographic features, and the history of what we were witness to confirmed that we had made a good choice!

We saw a lot of the Park on the way in from the western access point to the Park and we continued to be awed by more as we headed out the southern entrance/exit. We saw our share of elk and bison. At one point we had to stop as a family of bison crossed the road. Majestic papa bison was making his presence known with a series of snorts.

We had planned on visiting Old Faithful, but as its clock was set to a timeframe, so was ours in terms of finding a campsite in Teton. Another time I guess!

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