We based our operations in Rapid City, South Dakota at the Shadows of Rushmore RV Park, $10/night with Coast to Coast. It was a nice resort and convenient to everything. While there we visited Mount Rushmore, where we met Nick Clifford, the last surviving sculptor of the monument.I bought his book and he autographed it. It was a nice visit and I understand that he recently celebrated his 98th birthday. We also visited Custer State Park, which I enjoyed enough that we went for a second day. The Badlands was also beautiful and breathtaking. Deadwood and Lead were also interesting places with so much western history. All in all this was a wonderful stop but it was cut short as I had to come home due to a family emergency on the 15th. More about that later.
I do recommend visiting this area. South Dakota is a beautiful state and the people are very friendly and inviting. There is a lot to see here. This blog is mostly pictures with descriptions. Please enjoy.
I flew out of Rapid City Regional Airport in South Dakota at 5 AM on June 15, headed to Raleigh Durham Airport (RDU) in North Carolina. The Rapid City Airport had two runways and seven gates. I flew a Delta small jet, capacity 50 people, to Minneapolis. I arrived in RDU around 8:30 PM and was so glad to see my son waiting for me. My mother’s condition had worsened so I had to cut my trip short. Travel is on hold for me for a bit and while it is, I’m going to blog about my family’s journey with Alzheimer Disease. I will be brutally honest, sharing insights, and I hope it helps someone. Please stay tuned.
We did a stopover at the Crow Agency near Hardin, Montana. Our base of operations was Grandview Campground , $42/night with Good Sam’s and is cash only. The plan was to visit the Little Big Horn National Monument and take a tour with Apsaalooke Tours to get the Native American point of view. We were not disappointed.
The Native American’s call the Battle of Little Bighorn the Battle of Greasy Grass because the grass in the area is so tall that it rubbed the bellies of their horses and caused a shimmer on the grasses. We went on a tour with the Apsaalooke Tours, run by the Crow Indians and includes visiting the Crow Reservation. We had three Crow guides and Ray and I were the only people on this particular tour. It was an excellent two hour tour and we learned so much. I highly recommend going and engaging with the guides to learn a more complete picture of this Battle. I also recommend reading Lakota Noon by Gregory F. Michno. He used recorded Native American accounts of the battle to form a timeline and give their perspective on what really happened that day. It’s a fascinating account and well worth the read.
After the Apsaalooke Tour we went to the visitor center/museum and watched the introductory film. It was interesting that the Park Service now indicate that the Native Americans were protecting their homes and their way of life. Afterwards we went on our own self-guided tour, which was also very informative. The Monument has changed over the years and brown markers have been laid to indicate where Native Americans fell in battle. These were added well after the white markers of the US Calvary. On the knoll we saw a number of white and brown markers and the marker for General George Armstrong Custer. One thing I noticed while touring was that visitors were quiet and reverent as this was a place of loss of life and the magnitude of what actually transpired here.
The battle was on June 25-26, 1876 between the US 7th Calvary, led by General George Armstrong Custer and the Lakota-Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes who were camped together at the Little Bighorn River, while hunting. The Native Americans were led by Crazy Horse in battle and Sitting Bull at the camp. Other tribal leaders were Gall, Red Horse, American Horse, Two Kettles, and Two Eagles. The Calvary led by Reno attacked the unsuspecting encampment, which was full of women and children, and the battle began. It didn’t go exactly like the Calvary expected. The tribes fought back fiercely to protect their families and homes.
Six women and four children were killed in Reno’s original attack. During the battle thirty one Native warriors died in combat or from wounds. The 7th Calvary lost sixteen officers and 242 troops, with one officer and fifty one wounded. The 7th Calvary lost 52% and suffered a massive defeat with Reno becoming the scapegoat after the battle. I encourage you to read credible sources as to what really happened. I promise that it will be an eyeopener for you.
I do encourage you to read more about this battle and the Indian Wars. Our history books painted a much different picture than what actually happened during this time. Live, learn, grow. Thanks for reading. Next up Rapid City, South Dakota, a beautiful and historic place.
New base of operations in Cody, Wyoming is the Absaroka Bay RV Park, $39 per night with Good Sam’s. This was a very nice park and centrally located for our day trips to the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (also known as the Nez Perce Scenic Highway), tours of the town of Cody, and the Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West Museum. This area is rich in history and a wonderful place to visit. To see the museum in full you need about 1 and 1/2 days. So much history and artifacts, you don’t want to miss it.
When we left Idaho Park, Idaho we decided to take one last trip through Yellowstone, yes with the RV. We left early and the scenery was spectacular. We said our goodbyes and headed for Cody, Wyoming. It was a great trip and we got to Cody early enough to make a trip out to check out the town. Pictures of our travels through Yellowstone.
We set up camp around 1 PM in Cody, Wyoming and headed into town to look around. Cody was founded on the Shoshone River in 1896 with the help of Colonel William Frederick (Buffalo Bill Cody). Cody is the county seat of Park County and has a population of about 10,000. Many of the original buildings are intact and still in use. We walked the streets and met a couple of real cowboys, with beer in hand. They were happy to give us some tips about the area and acted like our long lost friends. I truly enjoyed the town and the area.
We stopped by the Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West, which has five different museums under one roof and is a world class center. Draper Natural History Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum and the Buffalo Bill Museum make up the Center. I found it fascinating, but did not enjoy the Firearms exhibits because visitors were firing guns at stations and that unnerved me a bit. When we bought our tickets we worked out a deal to come back a day later to finish the museums as we planned to take the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway the next day and didn’t want to spend two consecutive days inside. The staff granted the the exception and were very easy to work with. Two thumbs up. I should also mention that the Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate.
The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is also known as the Nez Perce Scenic Highway. It is the trail that Chief Joseph and his tribe followed trying to escape the US Calvary to a safe life in Canada. They were just a few miles short of the border when they were captured and forced on to a reservation. The trail is now Wyoming Highway 296 and is approximately 50 miles of beautiful territory. The beauty belies the desperation that the Nez Perce must have felt fleeing for their lives and their way of life.
I hope you have enjoyed the Cody Capers. Thanks for reading. Up Next: Rapid City, South Dakota. Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Lead, and more.
Day five was an errand day in Idaho Falls (Ammon), Idaho. I was to get two new tires put on the truck while Ray went to his eye appointment. We had a slow leak in one of the front tires and we were also having that checked. It simply couldn’t be a patched tire. We had cracked a rim on our off-road adventures. So two new tires and a new rim later, we were back on the road. $$$$$ to “Cap the stack,” as my mother says, they didn’t have any chrome rims to fit so we ended up with a charcoal colored one. Three chrome rims and one dark rim made for a stylish ride. We did order a matching chrome rim and had it delivered to Arkansas to be installed when we arrive there a few weeks later. We did see some pronghorns and elk on the errand adventure, which was great.
We spent the last few days exploring more areas in and around Yellowstone. It did not disappoint us. We started every morning around eight AM, packed a good lunch with snacks, and we would get back to the RV around nine PM. Glorious days and we were enjoying more and more sun. One of the days included going back out to Tower Falls Road, where we were blessed to see a Big Horn Sheep with her days old baby. I didn’t know the babies are gray but the are and they are adorable. We watched the two of them walk down the steep rock face, cross the road, and then disappear in the direction of the river below. The lamb did not miss a step on the steep slope. It was impressive! As with the other photos, we used a telephoto lense and stayed a good distance away.
We managed to see a Whistling Swan, Sandhills Cranes, another Moose on the loose, elk and bison. We also visited more geothermal sites and watched a few geysers. Everyone wants to see Old Faithful but there are many more great geysers to see, without the crowds of Old Faithful. All in all I rate Yellowstone National Park a 12 on a 1 to 10 scale. I will return again and again. It’s officially my favorite of the places we visited.
I really enjoyed Yellowstone and can’t wait to go back and share it with my family. It is a spellbinding place, full of wonder. Next up: Cody, Wyoming! Thanks for reading.
We started our day around eight AM. It was a beautiful but chilly morning. Eagles and pelicans were out at our campsite, which started the day wonderfully. We packed our lunch and headed out to Jackson Hole and The Grand Tetons National Park. The sights were beautiful and peaceful, making for a great day.
A little about Jackson Hole: It is named after a beaver trapper, David Edward (Davy) Jackson, who trapped there starting in 1820. He was the first European to stay an entire winter in the area. Although Native Americans hunted the area and used it for religious ceremonies, the valley wasn’t inhabited year round until 1870. The valley lies between the Teton Range and the Gros Ventre Range.
The Grand Teton National Park: It is 310,000 acres just 10 miles from Yellowstone National Park and is part of the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Paleo-Indians hunted in the area 11,000 years ago and were the first known humans in the area. The Grand Teton mountain is 13,775 feet in altitude and rises 7,000 feet above Jackson Hole. The Grand Tetons are the youngest mountain range in the Rocky Mountains, 6 to 9 million years old and were formed by earthquakes on the Teton Fault and continues to shift due to an active fault block. This area is absolutely beautiful.
What a beautiful day. Next up: Day 5-8. Back in Yellowstone and the Henry Lake area. Thanks for reading!
We left very early for the Tower Falls area of Yellowstone National Park on the 3rd day. We had packed a lunch, as usual, and planned to stay until early evening. This was a spectacular day for wildlife viewing. Two grizzlies, five black bears, pronghorns, elk, and stampeding bison and calves. We also saw some outstanding geothermal features and enjoyed the Mammoth Hot Springs area. It was a wondrous day!
What a fantastic Day 3 in Yellowstone. So much to see! Stay tuned for Day 4 – Jackson Hole and The Grand Tetons. Lovely!
Day two in Yellowstone National Park took us on a route down Firehole Canyon Road, alongside the Firehole River and Falls. It was early in the morning and we were in for a big surprise. Down on a little peninsula in the Firehole River was an Elk who had just given birth to a beautiful calf. We parked and slowly exited the vehicle and sat quietly on a rock on the ledge above the river. We watched as the calf got up and nursed for the first time. It was a surreal and spiritual experience, a sacred part of nature. Please note that we used a telephoto lense and were well spaced away from the event out of respect for nature.
Once we could tear ourselves away from the miracle of birth, we completed the trek down Firehole Canyon Road. We stumbled upon a coyote hunting rodents in the meadow, bison, and many geothermal features, including geysers. We also saw Old Faithful and while it is a big attraction at Yellowstone, there are many other geysers that are more impressive and have fewer tourists vying for a good spot. I love exploring!
How in the world can one have a better day than day two at Yellowstone? Well, day three was bear day… Grizzlies and black bears. One with her yearling triplets. Stay tuned. It’s awesome! I love Yellowstone!
We made one stop at Deer Lodge, Montana, Indian Creek Campground at $31.34/night, to break up the distance to Island Park, Idaho. We broke camp early on the 19th and headed to Jared’s Wild Rose Ranch, $45.46/night with Good Sam’s, just 20 minutes from Yellowstone National Park and on Henry Lake. What a beautiful place. The park had full hookups but the spaces were very small. That didn’t matter when you saw the view of the lake and the Mountains. We also had eagles visit us right at our campsite each day. I would definitely stay there again. The staff was also very accommodating and while we didn’t fish, the fishermen (and women) were making many big catches of trout.
We spent several days in Yellowstone and made day trips to the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole. Everything was so picturesque and being spring, the wildlife was in full bloom too. Calves, cubs, fawns, etc. You name it, we saw it. All this means is that the Yellowstone blog will be broken in to several parts. This is Day One – Part One… I must have taken a thousand or so photos. If you are interested in avoiding crowds and seeing a lot of wildlife, I recommend going early in the morning or staying later in the evening. It will make for an amazing visit. We did a little of both and slept well at the end of the day. Please respect the wildlife and stay a respectable distance away and please do not feed them. It causes many of the bears,etc to become dangerous and they sometimes are removed but sometimes they are destroyed. RESPECT! A bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can run up to 40 miles per hour. Watch for their warning signs and do not get too close. It will keep you safe.
Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the USA, founded by President Ulysses S Grant on March 1, 1872. It is known for it’s abundant wildlife and it’s geothermal features. It is a hotbed of volcanic activity and is absolutely beautiful. Ancestral Native Americans inhabited the area about 11,000 years ago. The Park is 2,219,789 acres, with 96% in the state of Wyoming, 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho. The Yellowstone Caldera is known as a “supervolcano” and the largest volcanic system in the USA. It is expected to erupt sometime in the future, which would have devastating effects on the world. Something to look forward to?
The first day we took the route to Madison, Norris, and Canyon Village from the West entrance. It was beautiful. Some of the roads were closed due to late snows but those roads opened in a couple of days. The best way to experience our trip is through pictures, although the pictures cannot capture the beauty. Yellowstone is my very favorite of the national parks that we visited. I want to go again and again. I will!
This concluded day one. Stay tuned for day two and the birth of an elk calf. Phenomenal!!!
We were off on our capers in and around Glacier National Park. Our base of operations was the lovely and well maintained Columbia Falls RV Resort, $35.83 per night with Passport America. Columbia Falls is the gateway to Glacier National Park. An adult bald eagle and a juvenile entertained us during our stay there and the owners of the Resort were very nice and helpful.
We spent 2 days in Glacier National Park and due to the late snows many roads and trails were impassable and closed. If trails weren’t closed for snow, they were closed for bear activity! Glacier National Park (the Park) is one million acres located on the Canadian border in two sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains. It was formed 170 million years ago by tectonic plate activity and glaciers. In the Mid 19th century there were 150 glaciers in the Park, today there are 25 glaciers remaining.
The Park was inhabited by ancient Native Americans 10,000 years ago. They were ancestors to the Blackfeet, Flathead and Shoshone Native Americans. The Blackfeet ceded the land under duress to the United States Government in 1895. The Blackfeet and Flathead Natives are now on reservations adjacent to the Park.
Glacier National Park receives 2.2 million visitors each year. It is a gorgeous area with many species of wildlife and flora. 95% of the Park is designated wilderness area but as of yet has not received protected status. It has the best preserved Proterozoic Rock in the world and is visited by experts for study. It’s a fascinating place, spanning the continental divide.
One of my favorite places was visiting Polebridge, Montana.It is on the National Registry of Historic places and is half way down a 50 mile dirt and gravel road, Outside North Fork Road, between Canada and West Glacier. Polebridge is the Gateway to the wilderness areas of Glacier National Park, known as the Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake Gateway. All roads in this area are maintained in a primitive state to preserve the wilderness. The speed limit is 20 MPH and the roads can be impassible. We were lucky as the road opened the day before we arrived. There were handmade signs on the road near sparce cabins that read, “Slow Down, People Breathing!” It was a bucket list experience and really and truly “off the grid.”
Polebridge was founded in 1914 by William Adair. Mr. Adair had a reputation for growing huge cabbages, fishing, and drinking. He built a general mercantile, homestead cabin (which is now Northern Lights Saloon), and a barn. Today there are other small cabins there but none, including the saloon and the mercantile, have cell service or electricity. The population is listed as “somewhere between a handful and 90.” The Mercantile is now home to a fabulous bakery and rumor has it that it’s “the best bakery in Montana!” I’d have to say it’s one of the best bakeries anywhere. I had a Chunky Monkey turnover and Ray had a sticky bun. Heavenly! This area is really worth the trip! I got the tee-shirt!