Saw More of the West

After visiting Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower we headed across the Rocky Mountains to Yellowstone National Park.  The first night we stayed in the Mammoth Springs Lodge.  The room was VERY small and had a bathroom down the hall.  The Mammoth springs were very fascinating.  As the steam and water push their way to the surface, they bring various minerals with them that form interesting terraced structures or form multi-colored pools.  Below is a picture of one of the multi-colored pools.  You can see all the steam rising up from the nearly-boiling water.
Steam Vent at Yellow Stone
One of Many Multi-Colored Pools at Geyser Basin

Of course we saw Old Faithful Geyser.  Old Faithful is not as clock-like reliable as it once was because of an earthquake in the 80’s that changed the underground “plumbing” of the geyser area.  Still, if goes off every 90 minutes or so.  Not far from Old Faithful, however, is a much more impressive geyser, the Grand Geyser, which blows about every 11 hours.  We were lucky enough to catch the 15-minute, 40-feet tall event.  Tremendous!

The next two nights we stayed in one of the cabins in Old Faithful Lodge.  These too were quite small.  Bathrooms and showers were in another building.  It was fun going to the bathroom in the middle of the night with a flashlight hoping to not run into a bear or moose.  In the evenings we gathered in Old Faithful Lodge at a small table in the common area.  From there we had a picture-window view of the gyser.  Since it was cold in the evenings, it was good to be inside.  We had bought a brick of cheese and a box of crackers and played dominoes all evening while watching the occasional geyser eruption.

Dominoes in Old Faithful Lodge
Each Evening We Gathered in Old Faithful Lodge for Cheese and Crackers, Dominoes, and a Great View of Old Faithful

 One of the best things we did at Yellowstone was get off the beaten path.  We took a three-mile hike to find the Fern Cascades.  The trail head was not well marked, but the trail was.  We saw no other people for three hours as we hiked through the woods and found the “falls.”  In fact it was so quiet, the kids and I started singing Kingston Trio songs to ensure we didn’t surprise a bear.  We left Yellowstone after three days in the park.  On the way out the South gate toward the Grand Tetons, we passed by the waterfall shown below.  There was a lot of dead-fall stretching two thirds of the way across the river below the falls, so of course, the kids had to climb out on it.

Buck at Water Fall
This is Me in Front of a Waterfall Not Far from the South Entrance to Yellowstone.

 We saw elk, deer, beaver, sheep, bison, and bear in Yellowstone, but we didn’t see any moose.  Finally on our second day in the Grand Teton National Park we saw a moose during our float trip down the Snake River.  We also saw three bald eagles perched in trees.  The views in the Grand Tetons were superb.

Moose
Moose Seen from Float Trip Down the Snake River in the Grand Tetons National Park

 After visiting Candy’s brother in Boise, ID, we headed to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  We only had a day and a half there, which was about a day too short.  This place was probably the most scenic of any of our stops during the trip.  Incredible views and hikes.

Surdu's in Rocky Mountain National Park
Surdu Family in Rocky Mountain National Park

 On the hike, Candy and I kept a leisurely pace while the kids rushed ahead and climbed rocks.   Below is a picture of a hiding place that Sam occupied at one point.  The four-mile hike began at about 9500 feet and climbed to over 10,000 feet.

Sam
Sam Found a Hidey Hole During our Hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park

 From the four-mile hike we took another three-mile hike to a waterfall.  The picture below shows Candy near the base of the falls.  She and I stopped to take some pictures.  The kids kept climbing.  We looked up to see Sam dancing on a cliff just over the top of the falls — on the other side of the river.  It was too late to do anything about it.  We didn’t know how they got across, and they couldn’t have overheard me over the water if I had tried to call them down.  On the way back, however, Sam slipped on a rock and fell up to her chest in ice-cold mountain water.  Fortunately the water was only a foot deep there, so she didn’t get swept over the falls.  You can imagine the conversation with Tommy about poor choices that followed.  We let Sam stay in here ice cold, wet clothes until we made it back to the parking lot; we figured she’d remember the lesson better that way.  🙂

Candy
Candy Near the Base of the Waterfall Where Sam Took an Accidental Swim

 From Rocky Mountain National Park we stopped in Ft. Leavenworth, KS, and then spent half a day in Hannibal, MO, learning about Mark Twain’s boyhood and seeing many of the sites that inspired Tom Sawyer.  The trip through the caves was intersting.  We also spent a couple of hours at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.  The next day we stopped at a truck stop for gas and drinks.  A man in the truck stop had just won a prize from the claw machine.  Since his kid didn’t want it, he gave the chicken hat (seen below) to Tommy.  He wore it all the way home, including trips into gas stations and restaurants.

Tom with Chicken Hat
Tom with His Prized Chicken Hat

It was a great trip.  We have lots of photos and memories.  It was great quality time.  The trip home felt rushed, because I needed to get back to work.  While the trip was already 17 days long, another three days would have made it feel more leisurely, and we would have arrived more rested.