Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Devils Tower

The next day, after a great lunch in Spearfish with some of Bryce's family there, we decided to take a side trip to see Devil’s Tower.  This is one of the most bizarre things we’ve seen on our trip!  It’s a volcanic formation that rises 867 feet above its base and, while there are three working theories on to how it got there, we do know that it is an igneous intrusion.

The Shawnee have a legend of the vertical fissures being made from a giant bear trying to get a girl on the top.  

While we walked the trail around the base of Devil’s Tower, we got to see a number of people climbing the formation!

Beautiful Native American prayer flags were also around the trail.

Next stop... Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mt. Rushmore

After we left the Rocky Mountains we landed in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We had only planned on one night in this area, and I really wish that we had allowed for more time.  There was much to do in the area and we will most definitely want to try to make it back to spend more time here.

Once we were at our campsite and set up for the night, we headed straight up to Mt. Rushmore so that we could see the Monument in daylight and also see the evening presentation. 

Mt. Rushmore was originally conceived as a tourist attraction to help bring visitors to South Dakota.  Sculptor Gutzon Borglum spent 14 years creating his masterpiece, dying shortly before work was completed.  The four presidents represented are George Washington (founding father), Thomas Jefferson  (an expansionist), Abraham Lincoln (worked to keep our country together) and Theodore Roosevelt (a conservationist).  

The majority of the work on the mountain was done with dynamite!  Looking at the faces of the Presidents it is impossible for me to imagine how they were able to do such fine work on the granite.  Every detail was thought of including Roosevelt’s glasses and Lincoln’s beard.

Bryce has always had an affinity for Thomas Jefferson and learning that he came up with the first recipe for ice cream cemented the deal!

The evening program was inspirational, patriotic and reminded me what great Presidents did for our country!  I loved that at the close of the program they invited any past or present military personnel to come up and help take the flag down.

Next stop... Devils Tower

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park

The best part about our time in Rocky Mountain NP was that we got to camp with Bryce’s parents!  We were able to eat dinner together and visit around a campfire which was really, really lovely.

We fit in two different hikes, the first hike being in the Beaver Lake area.  We hiked to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and finally up to Emerald Lake where we saw a mountain lake fed by snowmelt!

We also hiked the Great Basin area where we were able to view several awesome waterfalls.  

We drove Trail Ridge Road and saw some truly majestic sights.  It was here that I confirmed that I could never be a Ranger because I would be constantly annoyed at people.  Even though there were signs every where stating that the tundra was fragile and to please stay on the trails, people were walking on it to get pictures or to take a wildlife photo.  It drove me crazy!  We even saw a gentleman trying to carry away a rather large piece of quartz (it’s a federal offense to take even so much as a small rock from the Parks).

Our campsite had a really beautiful view of the mountains.  Al and Marilyn were only one campsite away!

A weasel in our campground

Next stop... Mt. Rushmore

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Once we left Crater Lake we had a big drive ahead of us in order to get to Rocky Mountain NP.  In order to break up the monotony of driving, we stopped in at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and we were glad we did as it was different from anything else we've seen on this trip.

Craters of the Moon is the site of a once active (about 2,000 years ago) volcanic hot spot and all around are remnants of cooled lava.  Lave columns, cinder cones, splatter cones... it's all here!

As we drove in we commented that it looked like ground up asphalt! The park is small enough that it was really doable to get a real feel for the park even only having three hours to spend there.  We drove the loop and got out at each stop to take a small hike.

It was crazy windy!  We climbed up Inferno Cone (a cinder cone) and the children had a titanic moment leaning into the gale :).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake wasn't a National Park that I've ever heard very much about.  Places like Arches, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain always get all the hype so I was very pleasantly surprised by Crater Lake.  Crater Lake is a volcanic caldera that has been filled in over many, many years with rain and snow melt.  Crater Lake was formed when Mt. Mazama collapsed in on itself after a huge eruption over 7,000 years ago.

 Has anyone noticed that Harris has made it his mission to climb on top of every sign? This was the best he could do on this particular sign!

This water is the most beautiful water I have ever seen, it looks like it has been dyed!  We were told that it is the clearest and cleanest lake in the world.  It's also one of the deepest at over 1,900 feet at it's deepest point.  This is what makes the water such an incredible shade of blue.  The color is just absolutely incredible!  None of these pictures have been enhanced or edited for color!

There was an active fire in the park while we were there so the West Rim Road around part of the lake was closed.  We did get to drive around the East Rim Road but our favorite part was getting on the lake in a Ranger-guided tour.  There is only one trail that takes you down to the lake and it's here where you can go on a boat tour or go swimming in the freezing cold water!  Our Ranger was great and we really enjoyed the tour.

We saw Phantom Ship and a few waterfalls.

And Old Man Stump.  Apparently, this log just floats around the lake, always vertical!

The children also went swimming in the lake.  The temperature at the surface was 60 degrees and they could only stay in for minutes at a time it was so cold.  However, Bryce, Grace and Harris (I didn't have my suit) all jumped off a cliff into the water, it was so fun!

That evening, we went to the historic lodge and had drinks and appetizers on the porch overlooking the lake.

Next stop... Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Redwoods National and State Parks

The Redwoods National and State Park was a wonderful next stop for us as it offered something besides beautiful trees; it offered the coast!  I had never seen the Northern California coast and I'm so glad that we made it there.  It felt fitting to make it to the coast, across the country from our home!

Redwoods are the world's tallest trees and grow along a narrow strip of the California and Oregon coast.  They like to grow in exactly the right spot, as they are sensitive to the salt from the ocean, but require the fog that gives them their required moisture.  We hiked around Stouts Grove,and Damnation Trail, both with old growth Redwoods.

Before the parks were formed to protect these trees, almost 96% of them had been logged!  I find it impossible to believe that we narrowly missed losing these trees forever.  Our campground, which was lush and beautiful, was set amid the stumps of old Redwoods.

We spent a nice chunk of time at Enderts Beach.  While the water was too cold to swim in, we enjoyed the beach.

Also, the children did some small cliff jumping into Smith's River!

Next Stop... Crater Lake National Park

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