Beard Family Trips & Vacations

Seattle, Vancouver, Denver, Mt. Rushmore, and Yellowstone

September 7-23, 2012


The trip was for Wanda and Matt to visit several northwestern US states and British Columbia while on vacation in 2012


Itinerary of the trip (plan)


Map of Canada showing provinces

Map of Canada showing provinces (from Wikipedia)

First Part of Vacation

First part of trip from Seattle, WA to Whistler, BC and back to Vancouver, BC (from maps)


Denver, CO to Wall, SD

Second part of trip from Denver, CO to Wall, SD (from maps)


Walls, SD to Crazy Horse Memorial to Mt. Rushmore

Second Part of trip from Wall, SD to Mt. Rushmore National Monument (from maps)


Mt. Rushmore to Sheridan, WY

Second part of trip from Mt. Rushmore National Monument to Sheridan, WY (from maps)


Sheridan, WY to Cody, WY

Second part of trip from Sheridan, WY to Cody, WY (from maps)


Cody, WY to West Yellowstone, MT

Second part of trip from Cody, WY to West Yellowstone, MT (from maps)


West Yellowstone, MT to Denver, CO

Second part of trip from West Yellowstone, MT to Denver, CO (from maps)


Day 1 – Friday, 9/7/12

This day started out early since we flew out of Houston Hobby at 7:55 AM.  No problems getting to the airport, checking in, going through security, or getting on the flight.  We arrived in Phoenix right on time; with it raining.  Phoenix doesn’t get very much rain.  In 2006, when we went for my MBA graduation at the University of Phoenix, it rained so much that the area flooded.  On this trip, we ended up leaving Phoenix late due to the weather, and later on in Seattle, we saw pictures of all the flooding that Phoenix was getting flooded after we left the city.  It was just a coincidence, right?

Got to Seattle, picked up the bags, took a shuttle over to the rental car facility, picked out a 2nd car (1st one didn’t have keys), and left for the Museum of Flight.  This museum is a decent one from what we saw.  It is located in the location where Boeing originally started; even includes the original red barn that they began production in.  We saw some good displays of aircraft dealing with history and military.  We didn’t get to see the Space Gallery because it was closed due to being refitted for a Space Shuttle simulator that they received.  This is really the mockup from Building 9 at JSC.  We also didn’t get to look around the aircraft park due to time running out.

Plane at Museum of Flight.JPG

We went by Walmart to get snacks and drinks for our trip.  We got supper at an IHOP near Walmart and then drive downtown to find our hotel.  The hotel had upgraded us to a suite which turned out to be nice.


Day 2 – Saturday, 9/8/12

The second day had us going over to the Seattle Center and starting off with a trip to the top of the Space Needle.  There really wasn’t much of a wait and we were taking the 41 second trip with 15 minutes of arriving there.  Wanda bought herself a coffee and me a hot chocolate from the Starbucks at the top of the Needle.  Yes, they have a Starbucks almost everywhere in Seattle.  We sat and watched the scenery for a while.  Then we made a trip around the top where I took pictures of all the different views.


Our next stop, after returning from the top of the Space Needle, was to go over to the EMP Museum (or as Wikipedia calls it “formerly known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame or EMP|SFM”).  As we walked over to this museum, we realized that there was a lot of people walking by us – they were having a walk-a-thon in the area that day.

The EMP Museum is a very hands-on type of museum where the visitor gets to try a lot of different experiences such as playing instruments, listening to recordings of Jimi Hendrix, or seeing local artists perform.  One of the special exhibits was dedicated to the group AC/DC.  We ended up spending a few hours at this museum; but really enjoyed the science fiction displays.


After grabbing a bite to eat, we then went over to the Pacific Science Museum for a few hours of seeing an IMAX movie about the “Mysteries of Egypt” and looking at various displays.  The movie was interesting as was the insect displays and the Butterfly habitat.


We then returned to the hotel, rested for a couple of hours, and then at pizza at a place called Zeek’s Pizza.  They had a nice selection of microbrews.


Day 3 – Sunday, 9/9/12

The third day found us riding around Seattle on a Hop-On Hop-Off double-decker tour bus.  We have found these to be a good way of getting an overview of the city and seeing some things we wouldn’t get to see on our own.  We went around the loop once for the first hour and then got off when we returned near the Argosy Cruises which was part of the Seattle City Pass that we had bought and used starting on Friday.  We exchanged the passes for tickets and then grabbed lunch at Ivar’s Seafood Bar.  Since we still had a little time, we went through “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” to see their weird items on display.  I ended up buying some fudge there to eat later.



The one hour cruise went around Seattle harbor and gave us a view of the coast line.  A tour guide on the boat provided some good information and commentary throughout most of the trip.  One of the most exciting times for the group was when we can up on sea lions occupying a buoy.


After returning from the cruise, we walked down to the nearby Seattle Aquarium to go through it.  The locals were hyping it up pretty heavily, but I found it to be middle of the road in what it provided.  Not one of the top ones that we have visited. 

We then walked over, used a couple of elevators, to get to Pike’s Place Market.  Talk about a crowded place.  There were a lot of fragrances and sounds all over.  We stopped by the original Starbucks to have a couple of drinks and then stopped by the Hard Rock Café next door to get my required souvenirs. 

Back on the tour bus and we returned to the Space Needle where we had originally started the trip.  This allowed us to walk back to the hotel for a rest and clean-up before supper.  We had reservations at Maria Hines’ restaurant Tilth.  Chef Hines had beat Morimoto on Iron Chef America in 2010 and it seemed like a good place to try.  On the way over, we stopped to visit the Fremont Troll.


The food at Tilth had very strong flavors and textures with the 5-course tasting menu that we tried.  It was all excellent and we cleaned our plates; yes, I ate all the vegetables.


Day 4 – Monday, 9/10/12

The fourth day of our trip found us getting up a little later than planned to go over to the Klondike Gold Rush National Park.  We saw a 25-minute movie on Seattle as the key departure point for the gold rush to Alaska.  The museum here wasn’t very large, but it was free.

After finishing this up quickly, we realized that our next museum was closed on Monday’s and so had to do an alternative attraction.  We decided to drive south to Mt. Rainier and see the National Park there.  After taking the nearly 2 hour drive, with detours required for closed roads, we paid the entrance fee and drove to Longmire to see the museum there.  We then went up to the Paradise Visitor Center for a view of Mt. Rainier’s top, see a movie, and get some items at the café there.  After spending some time there, we returned to Seattle for the evening.




Day 5 – Tuesday, 9/11/12

The fifth day saw us leaving Seattle and driving to the Vancouver area.  When we reached the border crossing, we saw all kinds of emergency vehicles, motorcycles, and people in the median.  Turned out they were having a ceremony for 9/11 remembrance.  The crossing took less than 5 minutes with the Canadian Border Guard asking questions like “where are you going”, “have you been to Vancouver before”, “where are you from”, “how long are you staying”, “do you know anyone in the area”, and “did you fly into the Seattle airport”.  He obviously was waiting for a response back on the scans of our passports.  He cleared us and we continued on to Vancouver.

We actually drove through Vancouver, crossed the river, and went to the Capilano Salmon Hatchery to visit it.  It was a self-guided visit with no staff evident while we were there.  Not a lot to see, but still interesting.

We then continued our drive west to the Sea To Sky Highway and drove up it to see the Shannon Falls Provincial Park (below right), the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park (below left), and then ending the trip at Whistler. Both of the falls were interesting as was the drive through the mountains along the coast.  I wanted to see Whistler since it had been part of the 2010 Winter Olympics.



After looking around the village some, taking some more pictures, we then returned to the car and made the couple of hours drive back to North Vancouver to check into a hotel for the night.

There was one sign during the day that kind of stood out:


Day 6 – Wednesday, 9/12/12

On the sixth day, we got up early and drove to the Gaslight District (old part of town turned into a restaurant / tourist shop area) to get on Funcity Sightseeing’s Hop-On Hop-Off Bus 90-minute roundtrip tour.  From the previous day, and this morning, we determined that Vancouver does not have a highway system in place.  The highways tend to go through neighborhoods and have a lot of stop light traffic.  So it takes a while to get anywhere in the city.

While waiting for the first bus to appear, we did get to listen to the Steam Clock in that area play three times.  It plays every 15 minutes.  The tour driver that picked us up says we were lucky because some days it doesn’t play at all.  We rode the bus around to the Vancouver Art Gallery and got off there.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is supposed to be the 5th largest art collection in Canada.  We must have hit the larger ones on our previous trip to the east part of Canada, because we were not impressed by the size or the collection at this gallery.  Maybe we have been to too many of the world class museums and are getting jaded?  After going through the gallery in a lot less time than I had allocated, we decided to get lunch in the area.  This gallery is in the downtown financial district, so not a lot of choices.  However, it did have a lot of food trucks.  We decided on one of them (Feastro the Rolling Bistro – a.k.a. The Purple Truck) and it turned out fantastic and well worth the money.  I had the Crab and Shrimp Cake and Wanda had the Fisherman’s Pie.



Back on the tour bus (not the same driver) and on through the most of the remaining part of the tour.  We got off at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and took a guided tour of this compound of peace and tranquility.  It was interesting and we both enjoyed the time there.



Caught the bus (with our first tour driver who remembered us) and we were the only people on that leg back to the Gaslight District, where he let us off at the Steam Clock.  Before he picked us up, we had talked about just walking the distance back to the parking garage and mentioned it to us.  As he drove us back, he pointed out one street that was loaded with people sitting/standing/milling about and said that we would have had to go down this street to get there.  That is their drug “area” and has a lot of problems with stealing and mugging.  We probably would have been okay, but glad we didn’t try.

Back to the parking garage and drove back to the hotel.


Day 7 – Thursday, 9/13/12

Our seventh day saw us driving to Stanley Park to visit the Vancouver Aquarium.  We had passed this facility on the bus tour, but wanted to wait to visit it until today.  It is a very good aquarium and worth visiting.  It is a lot better than the Seattle one.  We saw a Beluga Whale show while we were there and they do offer other shows that we didn’t stay for.  We ended up staying about three hours at this aquarium.

We then drove over to another nearby part of the city to see the Vancouver Maritime Museum.  It is a small museum about the shipping and associated aspects involving Vancouver.  It didn’t take long to go through.  They did have an interesting display on pirates.

Next door was the Museum of Vancouver and our next stop.  We went through a temporary exhibit of women’s dresses from the 20’s and 30’s that Wanda liked.  Next was an exhibit on neon signs from the early years of Vancouver.  The rest of the museum was dedicated to the development of Vancouver and some of it was very interesting.  The two tour bus drivers the previous days had mentioned that 25% of the population in Vancouver is of Chinese descent and it became obvious of why this occurred as we went through the museum.  We also saw a very interesting film that had been done in the 70’s on the hippie movement.



Day 8 – Friday, 9/14/12

On the eighth day, we had to pack up our luggage and check out of the Vancouver hotel.  After getting ready, we drove over to the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology.  This has an extensive collection of the First Nation’s history (indigenous population).  A tour was about to start when we arrived, so we joined it.  The tour guide, Crystal, took us through the different exhibits and explained how there had been 31 different tribes in the Vancouver area and that each had their own language and culture.  The tour lasted about 75 minutes; then we explored the museum on our own to see parts that we hadn’t included on the tour.


After finishing with the museum, we started the drive back to Seattle.  At the border crossing, we waited for about 30 minutes this time to finally get to the booth.  The guy asked the normal questions and then asked what was in the box in the back seat?   We had put together a box to mail our souvenirs and other items back home instead of taking them on our second part of the trip with us.  I had left it open in case it needed to be searched, but he was satisfied our answers and let us go.

We need stop a while later at a post office and mailed the box before getting to Seattle.  We arrived at the hotel for the night before flying on to Denver.


Day 9 – Saturday, 9/15/12

For the ninth day, there really wasn’t anything to photograph other than state signs of entering Nebraska and leaving Colorado.  We started off flying from Seattle to Denver.  No issues getting to the airport, turning in the car, shuttling over to the terminal, checking in, going through security, boarding, or flying to Denver.  However, as we landed on the ground and was taxing to the terminal, a young lady had to get out of her seat as we approached the gate.  She had to use the restroom.  The pilot immediately stopped the plane only feet from the gate and we had to wait for the young lady to finish and return to her seat.  Then we had to wait for about 5 minutes before they would open the door.  I assume they had to get someone to the gate.  As far as we could tell, they just gave her a warning as she left the plane. 

Once we arrived in Denver, at their new gigantic airport, we had to find our way to the baggage claim area and wait about 30 minutes for the luggage to catch up to us.  I had heard about the slowness of their luggage system, but didn’t understand until I had to wait for it.  When we received our luggage, we found where we had to go to take a shuttle over to the car rental place to get our car.  Since we would be driving a lot, we made sure to rent a car that had multiple cigarette lighters so we could plug in different items like the GPS, a laptop, etc.  We selected a Chevy Impala with three receptacles.

We drove for about ten miles and stopped to grab a late lunch.  We then started the drive to Scottsbluff, NE where our next hotel was waiting.  We arrived there, checked into the hotel, and then found a restaurant nearby for a late supper.


Day 10 – Sunday, 9/16/12

We started the 10th day by driving to Alliance, NE and seeing “Carhenge”.  Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge and was created by a car sculpture named Jim Reindeers as a memorial to his father who died in 1982.  The replica was created in 1987 with 38 automobiles.  Additional sculptures have been added by various other artists.  The place receives about 80,000 visitors a year, is not normally staffed, but had a locked donation box to receive gifts.

We then left Alliance to do long drive to Wall, SD.  This entailed going through several National Forests, an Indian reservation, and the Badlands National Park on a gravel road (on purpose).  On the way, before getting to the National Park, we sighted an antelope and a flock of turkeys.  Unfortunately, the road was sufficient to get a picture of the antelope at that time.


As we went through the Badlands NP, we were able to get views and pictures of a coyote and some bison.  Very close pictures of the bison.  It was a very interesting and exciting drive at times. 


We reached Wall, SD and stopped at the Wall Drug Store.  I had seen this place on the Travel Channel a couple of times and thought it would be a good place to visit since we were going to be relatively close to it.  Wall Drug Store was bought in 1931 by a couple named Ted and Dorothy Hustead.  They had to find a way to attract customers from the nearby highway and put out signs offering free ice water.  This led to a boom in business and expended to covering several town blocks now.  They still offer free ice water and coffee for 5 cents a cup.  We ate lunch there and explored some before continuing our trip.

We then drive to Crazy Horse, SD to see the Crazy Horse Memorial and Museum.  This is a memorial started in 1948 by sculptor Kroczak Ziolkwski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear to honor Chief Crazy Horse with the largest mountain carving in the world.  It is all done with private donations and the location has been adding buildings to help support the infrastructure for visitors with museums dedicated to the tribe.  The original sculptor is dead and many of his 14 children are continuing the work their father started.

We then drove to Keystone, SD and on the way I was able to photograph a Rocky Mountain Goat sitting on a cliff beside the road.

The objective in Keystone was to visit Mount Rushmore National Monument and we arrived there just before it started getting dark.  After taking some pictures and visiting the museum where we watched a video on the building of the monument, we went to the restaurant there for supper and then visited the gift store while waiting for a National Park Service Ranger led program that started at 8 PM.  The program had to do with why the monument was built, what it stands for, and included a rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance that was done by Red Skelton in 1969 which he had heard as a small boy in school in 1923.  The teacher had been listening to his class recite the pledge and wanted to make sure that they understood what it means.  I have heard this before and it is always moving.  Including it here:

"Boys and girls, I have been listening to you recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it appears that it has become monotonous to you or could it be you do not know the meaning of those words. If I may, I would like to recite the Pledge and give to you a definition of the words.
I----meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.
Pledge----dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.
Allegiance----my love and my devotion.
To the Flag----our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there is respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody's job.
Of the United----that means that we have all come together.
States----individual communities that have united into 48 great states. 48 individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose, all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common cause, and that's love of country.
Of America.
And to the Republic----a republic, a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
For which it stands!
One nation----meaning, so blessed by God.
Indivisible----incapable of being divided.
With Liberty----which is freedom and the right of power to live one's life without threats or fear or any sort of retaliation.
And justice----The principle and quality of dealing fairly with others.
For all.----which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine."

Skelton had also stated after saying this pledge, “Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our nation, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance "under God." Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said, "That's a prayer" and that would be eliminated from schools, too?”

After finishing the story, a dedication to all the veterans there was held by having them go down to the stage area.  A group of the veterans helped lower the flag and fold it up.  The Ranger then thanked the veterans, held the flag, and asked each to approach it, touch it, and state their name and service to the country.  Many of them we from the Vietnam War time period though there was one from the Korean War and several that had just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

We ended this evening and went to check into our hotel for the night.


Day 11 – Monday, 9/17/12

The eleventh day started with eating breakfast at the hotel in Keystone, then leaving the hotel, filling up with gas (the car was dirty due to driving through the Badlands National Park on a gravel road), and getting a car wash.  We then drove to Sturgis to visit the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.  Without a rally going on, Sturgis looks like a lot of other small towns in the area.   When we arrived inside, there was an elderly couple at the counter talking to the woman behind it.  As we approached, the couple went off to another part of the museum.  As we paid the admissions, the woman mentioned that the man of the couple (named Leo and Phyllis) was the owner of a 1952 Black Shadow Vincent motorbike and it was on loan to the museum.  They liked to come by and talk to people about motorcycles.


The man is Leo Splinter and he has owned the motorcycle since it was sold in 1952.  He had planned on buying an Indian, but the dealer had run out of them and had gotten one of the few Vincent being sold in USA that year.  The last time he rode it was in 2002 which is the year he loaned it to museum.  I believe he said he is 86 now.  As we talked to Leo and Phyllis for about 15 minutes, he told us several stories about the motorcycle and his trips across country with it.  It turned out that this motorcycle held the record for the fastest time of a production motorcycle.



The museum was interesting with a lot of different motorcycles and some of the history involved with them.  It even gave a history of the rally and how it began in Sturgis.  We spent about an hour in the museum before continuing on our trip.


The next stop was the town of Deadwood, SD.  The town seemed to be a good place to visit due to it being the subject of a series on HBO that we had watched.  A tour by a company called Tour Deadwood was about to start when we arrived in Deadwood.  We found a parking garage quickly and bought some tickets for the tour.  It was on an old school bus, lasted about 90 minutes and went around the town where the driver/tour guide pointed out important places in the town.  The one we spent the most time at was the Mount Moriah Cemetery.  This is where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.  According to the driver, Wild Bill and Calamity Jane were not involved in real life and only met in passing once while they were alive.  The whole story of a relationship was made up by the town council to get more tourism to Deadwood.  After the tour, we thought about eating in Deadwood, but decided to go down the road a bit first due to the lack of cheap options there.  Talking about it later, we decided that we really don’t have a reason to go back to Deadwood.



We ended up stopping in nearby Spearfish at a KFC / Long John Silver combination store and had lunch there.  We then continued on into Wyoming and made a stop at Devils Tower National Monument.  It took a little longer than planned due to road construction in several places where there was only one lane on a two-lane highway open, so you had to stop and wait for an escort car.


Devils Tower is a location used in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977 and was the first location designated as a National Monument.  It was the location that selected people would try to model and then were drawn to for a meeting with aliens when they arrived.  The actual monument is significant location to surrounding indigenous tribes.  When we stopped, it was an effort to make it to the base of the monument where some benches are located.  Wanda decided to rest there while I was going to walk the 1.3 mile route around the base.  I figured it wouldn’t be that much of an effort and shouldn’t take long; but I was wrong as I got back to Wanda about an hour later.  I did see two teams of climbers attempting to make the summit.  I was tired and sweaty by the time I got back and ended up having to sit and rest for a while.




The rest of the day was spent driving to Sheridan, Wyoming to spend the night.  We saw several antelope along the way and arrived at a Candlewood Suites just after dark.  A quick stop at a local Chinese buffet, New Dragon Wall, ended the day for us.



Day 12 – Tuesday, 9/18/12

The twelfth day started with a stop to fill up the car with gasoline and then going by a Starbucks for some coffee before we took some more back-road highways for the trip to Yellowstone.  We drove to Burgess Junction and stopped by Bear Lodge Resort for a great breakfast and rest stop.  These two-lane roads went up/down/around mountains and had a lot of fantastic scenery going through the Bighorn National Forest.  We did end up having to stop for a flock of sheep with a couple of sheep dogs guarding them.  A sign at the Bear Lodge Resort had warned about keeping away from the sheep and the dogs due to the aggressive behavior of the dogs in guarding the sheep.  We didn’t have any problems, but the couple on the motorcycle in front of us did receive some growls from the dogs.



The next stop was in Lovell, WY at a ranger station for the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.  They had some displays set up explain the area and what was available for visitors.  They also offered movies on request in a small theater, but we didn’t take the time to watch any.


We continued on to Cody, WY where we then stopped for about three hours at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  This location is part of the Smithsonian Affiliation program and is made up of five different museums in the same location: Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indians Museum, Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Cody Firearms Museum, and the Draper Museum of Natural History.





We visited the Plains Indians Museum first and then decided to eat lunch at their café.  The visit then continued with a visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum and then the Draper Museum.  We finished the visit with a quick walk through the Whitney Gallery and last the Cody Firearms Museum where they have close to 5,000 different firearms.  The Gatling gun is a favorite of mine, but they had quite a few interesting models on display.




We left Cody for the final leg to Yellowstone.  At the East Entrance, we showed the America the Beautiful annual pass we had bought at Mt. Rainier and the ranger provided us with a map and schedule for the park.  She asked us if we had a place to stay, and when we answered we did in West Yellowstone, she said that it would take us 2 ½ hours to get there if we don’t stop.  The speed limit in the park is a maximum of 45 miles per hour with good reason.  It should also be noted that Yellowstone was the first location identified as a National Park.


We very quickly saw an American Bison here in the park and throughout the next few days would end up seeing them all over the park.  One of the rangers later on, when we were in a group activity, would ask if anyone had not seen one.  No one indicated that they hadn’t, but she went ahead and turned around and pointed to a couple about a hundred yards behind her.



We stopped at Fishing Bridge for a rest stop and to look around the visitor center there.  We took the route by Canyon Village and Norris Junction on the way to West Yellowstone.  On the way, we ended up pulling over to take some pictures of an elk herd that was a bit off the road.  We also saw a few more bison along the way.





We reached West Yellowstone and checked into the Holiday Inn that we had reservations at.  We decided to go by and fill up the car that evening and then grab some food at an Arby’s to take back to the hotel for the evening.


Day 13 – Wednesday, 9/19/12

The thirteenth day was actually our luckiest day.  It made the whole trip for us.  We started off driving the southern loop toward Old Faithful by stopping at a lot of the attractions along the way.  Seeing the small geysers and mud pits were interesting.  We arrived at Old Faithful in time to listen to a ranger briefing on the geyser and then see it erupt.


After seeing a film on the wonders of Yellowstone, we decided to eat lunch at the Inn’s restaurant where they had a buffet.  After eating, we did some shopping looking for souvenirs for the kids.  We then headed east on the lower loop with a stop at Grant’s Village and then turned north toward Canyon Village.  After passing Lake Village, we noticed a large amount of cars pulled off the road and everyone looking off to the east across a spur of the Lake.  It turned out to be a black bear sunning itself, which I had to use a long-range lens to get a picture.  We watched it for a while before continuing on.


There were a couple of stops by the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” for some pictures.

We stopped by Canyon Village at their grill for a snack of ice cream, humus and vegetables, and an Old Faithful beer.  After finishing our snack, we turned back west as we had traveled the previous day.  This time, we ended up seeing another large group of cars parked, but couldn’t see what they were watching.  I asked a woman and she said “wolf”.  We pulled over, but we still couldn’t still see anything.  I pulled out my long-range lens and was able to catch one good shot of the wolf before it disappeared from the elk carcass it was eating.  We then continued on with our travelling.


We decided to stop at the Dragon’s Mouth Spring for a look and had a surprise meeting with another tourist – Darth Maul.



Soon after passing Madison, we came across another group of pulled over cars, but this was immediately evident of what the subject of the people were.  There was a very large herd of bison; some of which were in the middle of the road.



When we got back to West Yellowstone, we grabbed some food at McDonalds and headed back to the hotel.  Around dark, we drove back into the park to see a ranger presentation and video on the Wonders of Yellowstone being held in an open air amphitheater at the Madison Area Visitor Facilities / Campground.  As the ranger was giving her welcome speech, we heard a screeching of brakes from the main road and then a crash could be heard afterwards.  It sounded like someone had hit something like a tree or an animal.  The ranger quickly radioed headquarters to let them know to send someone to investigate and get instructions.  She was told to continue her program and they would have someone there to investigate.  Never did find out what happened.



Day 14 – Thursday, 9/20/12

The fourteenth day saw us traveling to Norris Junction for a stop at the Norris Geyser Basin and the Museum of the National Park Ranger.  This morning was cold and still in the 30’s as we started in the day.  The car even warned “watch for ice on the road”.  I never had a car do that before.


The big attraction at the Norris Geyser Basin is the Steamboat Geyser (below left) which constantly is having small eruptions, but has also had the tallest eruption of any of the geysers; but that hasn’t been matched since 2005.  It was difficult to see a lot of the attractions here due to the steam coming off of the different water sources.  An example was Emerald Springs shown below (right).




After the basin, we stopped by the Museum of the National Park Ranger.  It is a small museum located in the original military outpost.  There are several displays about the history of the rangers in here along with a small theater for watching movies about the park.  We stopped and watched a 20 minute program on Yellowstone.  A retired ranger named Frank was the volunteer at this location.  I asked him if had served at Yellowstone, but it turned out that he had spent his career at locations in the Northeast part of the country, including the National Mall area.  He wanted to find other employment after leaving the park service, but the economy was keeping him from finding anything that his experience would apply to.



Lunch was at a grill at Mammoth before we came down on the east side of the upper loop.  The major locations are basically on a figure eight in Yellowstone.  Mammoth is on the northern end of the top of the figure eight and is the park’s headquarters.  By the time we arrived in Mammoth, it had gotten up close to a high in the 60’s.  We then went on down to Canyon Village for another rest break and a snack.  Wanda got an ice cream sandwich, which she ate in the car, and I got a beer that we put in the cooler to take back to the hotel for the evening.


We drove back to West Yellowstone in the mid-afternoon and decided to see an IMAX movie about Yellowstone and its history.  It was insightful story into the region.  Afterward, we decided to drive the seven miles west into Idaho for a quick look around.


We did notice a lot of bison around West Yellowstone; though these are very colorful in nature.




Day 15 – Friday, 9/21/12

The fifteenth day had us starting at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center before leaving West Yellowstone for our trip to Denver, CO.  This center takes in grizzly bears and wolves that otherwise might be destroyed and uses them to help educate the public.  They had an interesting film on what happened to the park when the wolves were all exterminated and how they determined they had to reintroduce a pack of wolves to keep the elk from overrunning the park and eating up all the young growth.  This helped explain why we didn’t see the large herds of elk that had been present when I visited back in the 70’s.  We spent several hours at this location.  One of the things that they do here is perform “container tests” for manufacturers using their bears.  If it can stand up to a Grizzly trying to get into it for a total of 60 minutes of actual contact, then it passes their test.  They use sensors to count the contact minutes and food inside the container to attract the bears to it.



We then drove into the park and headed south on the lower loop since we would be leaving through the South Entrance.  We stopped by Old Faithful again to grab lunch at the grill at the Snow Lodge and then continued the long drive through Yellowstone and into the Grand Teton National Park (which also had a maximum speed of 45 mph).


We stopped in Dubois, WY for a break at the Bighorn Sheep Center.  It is dedicated to promoting BigHorn Sheep and had quite a few displays on them.  It also had a 20-minute film on BigHorns that we watched before continuing our journey.



Our supper stop was at a Taco John’s in Lander, WY.  Taco John’s is similar to Taco Bell, but is marketed as a West Mexican food chain.  It was decent, but still fast food.  We then drove to Rawlins, WY for the night.



Day 16 – Saturday, 9/22/12

The sixteenth day had us going from Wyoming into Colorado, where we took a rest stop at the Welcome Center.  This place had a small museum for Colorado in it as well as a statue dedicated to Abraham Lincoln since the road was the Lincoln Highway that stretches from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast.

Lunch was a Subway in Ft. Collins, CO and then we finally reached Denver.  Since it was early afternoon, we ran over to Golden to visit the Colorado School of Mines’ Geological Museum.  This was another interesting small museum where we stayed less than an hour for our visit.


Nearby was Coors Beer where tours are given, so we headed to the tour parking lot and ended up waiting 50 minutes in line before boarding a shuttle.  The tour is free as is the “taste” of half a glass in the middle of the tour and the three full glasses at the end of the tour.  It is also a self-paced tour using audio guides.  Neither Wanda nor I could handle 3 ½ glasses of beer during the tour, so we stopped when we reached our limit.


One of the shuttle drivers had mentioned that since the College of Mines was only a couple of blocks away, and the tours / beers are free, they have quite a few regulars from the student body; some even make it every day.

After the tour, we headed downtown Denver to stop by a promenade area for supper at Maggiano's Little Italy and some more souvenirs at the obligatory Hard Rock Café.  We then headed for the hotel for a check in.  


Day 17 – Sunday, 9/23/12

The seventeenth day ended without incidence seeing us return our car, go through the Denver Airport, fly to Houston, get our luggage, and take a taxi back home.  Still seemed like a long day.





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This site was last updated 12/09/12