Our Road Trips


Introduction


                                            Artists’ Point, Yellowstone National Park

This blog will highlight the most special places we’ve seen during our travels around the United States.  

Yellowstone National Park, WY

This summer (2010) we were, unfortunately, unable to make it to Yellowstone, but we have done so the two summers prior, and fell in love with the park.  We started in Cody, WY and came into the park by the east entrance.  After passing the beautiful Yellowstone Lake, we ended up in a traffic jam caused by bison, who were just hanging out on the road.  We sat there for half an hour before they decided to clear off the road. (See photo at end of page.)

There are amazing numbers hot spots where there are smaller geysers or mud volcanoes or sulfur pits. There is Artist's Point, “painted” in amazing colors, with its thundering waterfall and the prismatic pools with their fantastic colors and designs.

Even in August, wildflowers are abundant, as is the wildlife.  One of the traffic jams we investigated was caused by an elk lying under some small trees, chewing his cud.  Most of us are in a hurry, even on vacation.  But it didn’t take long to learn that if you encounter a traffic jam there is usually a very good reason for it, and investigation can pay off well.

On our first visit we had to wait a long time for Old Faithful to erupt, but in the end the wait was worth it because the eruption was spectacular.  On our second visit to Old Faithful, she erupted on time, but the eruption was noticeably less than the first time we saw her.  As with all things, the quality of the eruptions varies, and occasionally Old Faithful doesn’t erupt at all.

When we have visited, the park has been teeming with wildflowers and wildlife of all sorts.  We have always seen buffalo at close range.  We’ve been able to watch ground squirrels at close range.  We saw lots of rainbows at the bottom of the waterfall when we walked down Uncle Tom’s Trail in the Artist Point area.  There are many varieties of wildflowers that brighten the landscape.  it is sad to see the areas where fires have raged, because they destroy the current beauty of the landscape.  However, without fire the vegetation in the park would never renew.  Many plants in the park, such as the lodgepole pine have seeds that require fire in order to germinate.  The truly sad sight is all the pines that have been decimated by the pine bark beetle.

On our second visit we left the park by the south entrance/exit, which took us past Lewis Falls, another beautiful area.

As we left the park by the north entrance on our first trip, we were greeted by a beautiful double rainbow, a fitting farewell to such an incredibly beautiful park.

Yellowstone is a place that we hope to be able to visit many times in the future.  It is a place we have fallen in love with, and it is truly a national treasure.

                                                                              

In August, 2013 we were able to return to Yellowstone.  The park is as beautiful as ever, although it is sad to see that the pine bark beetles that are destroying the lodgepole pines are still hard at work with their destruction.  The areas where fires have previously burned are looking good; there is lots of new growth of both wildflowers and pine trees.  On this visit we saw two consecutive eruptions of Old Faithful, which were very timely.  The first time she went off just inside the 10-minute window before the predicted time.  Both eruptions were gorgeous; the second one went on for a very long time.  We walked up the trail to the high viewing point for Old Faithful (Susan didn’t make it all the way up), and along the way encountered this Least Chipmunk, which did not seem to be too disturbed by our presence.  We did again have a close-up encounter with bison, but this time they did not block the road directly.

The only disappointment was that in the afternoon the parking lot for the prismatic springs was so crowded we decided not to stop there.  Instead, we opted to do the Firehole Lake drive, which isn’t long, but does have a number of great geyser features.  The lake is beautiful and has several small geysers that erupt constantly.  This drive was not crowded the way so many of the popular attractions were.  The crowds convinced us that we really need to find lodging in the park and spend several days exploring, so we can see new areas and so that we can beat the crowds to places like the prismatic springs.  It would be great to be able to hike some of the trails that we would otherwise not have time to do.

Another thing we will probably try on our next visit is to enter the park by the northeast entrance, after traversing the Beartooth Highway, which we are told is absolutely spectacular.  We had considered doing it this year, but opted out since the road is currently under construction.

There are additional photos, including Old Faithful, in the photo album.



Original Post August 22, 2010

Grand Teton National Park, WY

As we left Yellowstone in 2009 we headed directly into Grand Teton National Park, another one of our national treasures.  The countryside here is spectacular, with gorgeous mountains, lakes and scenic views.

After spending the night at the Flagg Ranch Resort, we drove through the park in one day, making periodic stops for the scenery.  While still on the John Rockefeller Parkway, before officially entering the park, we spotted this mule deer.  Another fun sighting was a group of Clark’s Nutcrackers pounding away at pine cones in the tops of trees, while we were exploring the Willow Flats area.  We had lunch at the Signal Mountain Lodge, overlooking Jackson Lake.

After lunch we stopped at Jenny Lake, another very beautiful spot (see photo below).

On the advice of our friend Daphne, we stopped at the Episcopal chapel, which has a beautiful view of the Grand Tetons. 

We made a stop at Menor’s Ferry, where there are some historical buildings in addition to the ferry.

Our final stop of the day was the visitor center at the south end of the park.  The building is new and modern, and also provides spectacular views of the mountains.

We ended our day in Pinedale, Wyoming, home of the Wind River Brewing Co., which we have written about in our Brewpub Adventures blog.  The sunset that evening was spectacular, as you can see from the photo.

There are some additional photos in the album for this section.



Original Post August 22, 2010

Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY

Devil’s Tower is a huge monolith that dominates the landscape in the northeastern corner of Wyoming.  We were there during the time of the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD, so there were motorcyclists all over the place, which added a little color to the visit.  The Harley flag over the trading post is a hint that this place is popular with the motorcyclists.  We visited in August 2008.

While we were resting and drinking a bottle of water, we became aware that there were a couple of people climbing up the face of the tower.  If you look closely at these photos you can see the progress of the second person toward the ledge.

There is a nice visitor center at the park that explains the geology of the area, as well as some of the Kiowa Indian legends.  The latter was of interest at least in part due to the fact that the material was written by N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa Indian who taught Susan’s college class in modern continental literature.  

There is not a lot to do here, but it is a great place to visit if you have not been here before.  (And yes, this is the Devil’s Tower which figured prominently in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.)

Do check out the additional photos in the album.


Original Post September 28, 2010

DeGrazia Gallery In The Sun, Tucson, AZ


We decided to visit Tucson again so that we could visit the DeGrazia Gallery, which is located at 6300 N. Swan.  The gallery occupies the property where Ettore (Ted) DeGrazia built a home, small gallery, and chapel in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.  At the time it was an isolated location, but the city has now grown up around it.  The chapel was built of adobe bricks, according to the local tradition of building a chapel to give thanks for the land.  The walls of the chapel are covered with his paintings, and part of the roof is open to the sky.  Its simplicity makes it inviting.  The little gallery is now home to visiting artists at certain times of the year.  The home has been turned into a museum and gift shop.  The museum contains six permanent collections of DeGrazia’s art.

We visited on August 20, 2010, which coincided with Tucson’s 235th birthday.  The gallery was serving birthday cake and ice cream to all visitors who were interested.  The gift shop was well-stocked and the staff were all friendly and pleasant.  There are many items in ceramic or stained glass which are based on original DeGrazia paintings.

One of the most beautiful features of the gallery is the garden.  As with the gallery displays, there is always something unusual to look at in the garden.  The trumpet hung over a prickly pear leaf is just one example.  The fountain, with its beautiful background is another.

For those who are interested, Ted DeGrazia’s grave is located near the chapel.

DeGrazia was passionate about the area he settled in, passionate about his religion, and passionate about the native peoples of the area.  This shows very clearly in the buildings, artwork and the gardens.

Although DeGrazia died many years ago, his passion lives on and can be felt by anyone who visits the gallery and grounds.  The Gallery in the Sun is well worth a visit.  There is something there of interest for almost everyone.  Although the original paintings they have for sale are expensive for most of us, the prints are very affordable.

Further information can be found on the gallery website at http://degrazia.org/Gallery.aspx.  There are also a few more pictures in the album.

                                                                  Chapel

Original post August 22, 2010

Arches National Park, Moab, UT

Arches National Park, just outside Moab, UT is one of the most spectacular places we’ve been.  The rock formations are spectacular, and the scale is huge.  Many of the rock formations have been named (this is The Three Gossips), as are many of the arches (this is the Skyline Arch).

The Devil’s Garden is a major section of the park.  A hike through this area takes you over to the Landscape Arch (pictured below), which is in very delicate condition.    

                                                                    Landscape Arch                                              

There is so much beauty here that it is best shown by photos rather than words.  This park is well worth a visit if you are in Utah!

One caution:  if you go, STAY ON THE MARKED PATHS.  Leaving the paths creates a threat to the cryptobiotic soil, a crust that consists of soil, cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses.   The soil crust takes a long time to form initially, and also to regrow, and destroying it threatens the ecology of the area.

We re-visited the park in August 2013.  It is as beautiful as ever.  The one thing we would like to add to the previous narrative is that this time we decided to explore the Windows area and happened to arrive right at the beginning of a ranger walk.  The ranger, Karen, was wonderful - very bright and vivacious, full of good information, and clearly perfectly suited for her job.  She taught us a lot about what it means to live in the desert, and she also got us to do some thinking about issues to do with the park and ourselves.  After she was done with her presentation we opted to walk the remainder of the one mile path, which gave us some beautiful views.

                                                             Balancing Rock


Original post September 28, 2010

Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT

Canyonlands is a 32 mile drive from Moab; 10 miles on US 191, followed by 22 miles on route 313.  The drive on 313 does not seem as long as it is because there is so much gorgeous scenery along the way, like the huge mesas nicknamed the Monitor and the Merrimack.  Route 313 takes you into the visitor center, which is at the beginning of the section of the park known as Island In The Sky.

We did not have a lot of time, so we just drove out as far as the Mesa Arch and took the short walk over to the arch.  The views here are spectacular.  Canyonlands is a park with only primitive facilities, and it has several campgrounds - one at Dead Horse Point, before you enter the park, and a couple in the park, one of which is in the Needles area, far separate from Island in the Sky.  The park is full of amazing vistas on a grand scale, and it’s worth at least driving into.  The Mesa Arch trail is only about half a mile long, and a fairly easy walk.  This is a park definitely worth visiting.

There are more photos in the album.

                                                                        Susan at Mesa Arch


Original post September 28, 2010

Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse, SD

South Dakota is an amazing state, with much that is worth seeing.  The rolling prairies with the Missouri River are gorgeous.  

Mt. Rushmore is something you see pictures of everywhere, but no photos can truly do it justice. Its scale is literally monumental, and its setting in the Black Hills is beautiful (see photo above).

The Badlands (photo below) are amazing.  They are somewhat reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, but with different colors, and not as bright.  It is definitely a barren landscape, but it is full of fantastic shapes and colors.  

                                                     The Badlands

Crazy Horse monument is far from completion, even though it has been in process for many years.

The progress is so slow that a visit every 5-10 years is sufficient to see changes.  The monument will be gorgeous when completed.  When we were visiting, there was not much that was really recognizable, but a visit to Crazy Horse is great for gaining an understanding and appreciation of the process and amount of work that goes into creating monuments like Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore.

The sculpture shows what the finished monument will look like.  The face of Crazy Horse is easily recognizable already.  The visitor center is beautiful and very informative.

The project is the ongoing work of a family - the people working on it now are the second generation.  How great for a family to have such amazing vision!  Crazy Horse is definitely worth a visit.


We end this episode with a couple of wildlife photos - no visit to South Dakota is complete without seeing a prairie dog or two - or pronghorn antelope in a prairie dog village.

Don’t forget to check out the album for more photos.


Original post September 29, 2010

Wind River Canyon, WY


On the recommendation of our friend Daphne, we drove through the beautiful Wind River Canyon, on US 20, a designated scenic byway.  On the approach you see a large lake, a reservoir created by the Boysen Dam.  There is a railroad track that runs alongside the Wind River, which was being rebuilt when we drove through.  There are several tunnels for the railroad in the vicinity of the Boysen Power Plant.

Wind River Canyon is the wild west at its best.  Wouldn’t you just love to live in this house (photo below) on the edge of the river, which is just barely visible from the road?   


There are more photos in the album.


Original post September 29, 2010

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, on the west side of Tucson, is one of our very favorite places to go.  The grounds of the museum, located in saguaro country, give you a good feel for the beauty of the desert vegetation.  Much of the grounds appears to be in its natural state, looking much like the vegetation of the surrounding area, which is densely populated with saguaros, ocotillos, cholla cacti of several varieties, barrel cactus, prickly pears, creosote bush, and mesquite and palo verde trees.

This gorgeous, cresting saguaro is located on the grounds near the entrance to the museum.  There is so much to see here that it is impossible to do it all in one day.

Besides a wide variety of botanical exhibits, such as the butterfly garden and yucca garden, there is a hummingbird aviary where one can get very close to a variety of hummingbirds.

There is also an aviary with a wide and changing variety of other birds, such as pyrrhuloxias (looks like a dull cardinal, for those who are familiar with eastern birds), bobwhites, teals, quails, doves, etc.  The most fun birds we’ve seen was a pair of black-necked stilts, which came very close as we stood still watching them.

There are also zoo exhibits, which include several big cats, and bighorn sheep.  There are open-country (still fenced) exhibits for peccaries and coyotes, and of course a reptile and amphibian house.  Out in the open there are always cactus wrens, who are fun to watch.  Their name comes from the fact that they build their nests in cholla cacti.

Another aspect of the museum that is always fun is the opportunity to meet some of the creatures, such as birds or tarantulas up close.  The photo here is of an American Kestrel, the smallest of the raptors. Sometimes the docents are giving demonstrations of meteorites or saguaro cactus details.  For instance, did you know that when a woodpecker drills into a saguaro, the cactus forms a hard-shelled ‘boot’ inside, which preserves the created cavity for nesting not only by the woodpecker, but by other creatures as well, once the woodpecker abandons the nest.  They also have shows that teach you about animals.  We went to one about poisonous reptiles, where we were introduced to a gila monster and a black-tailed rattlesnake.  We have also seen a variety of lizards, like this western whiptail.

There is always something new to see or worth seeing again here at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  We have been here only in the summer when it tends to be very hot.  As long as you stay hydrated, and wear a hat and sunscreen, that doesn’t have to be a problem.  In addition, the museum closes at 2:30 PM, except on Saturdays.  

The last time we were there we discovered a replica of a limestone cave that is very well done.  Some of the passages are small, and one person who was feeling claustrophobic had to turn back, but for us it is a great experience.

We will continue to visit whenever we have the chance.  April and September are good times to visit, because that is when the saguaros are in bloom.  If you like nature, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must-see.  So are the rest of the photos in the album.

                                                                         Coyote                                


Original post September 29, 2010


© Susan L. Stone 2015                   rovingstones@me.com