Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bison, Elk, and Wolves. Oh my!

We've had quite the adventure this week.  We drove up to Sheridan, Wyoming on Monday to see Diane and Lloyd (more of the extended cousins) and have a nice pit stop for the night.  Here's a little sample of our drive from Cheyenne to Chugwater, WY.  To say that Wyoming is a bit breezy would be a rather large understatement.

We only had a slight diversion on the way up to visit Sierra Trading Post where I made out like a bandit on a new pair of mountaineering boots!

Tuesday morning we drove all the way up and over to Bozeman, spending the day walking around downtown and visiting every gear shop to be seen.  We managed to time our visit in between snowstorms and only had a little drizzle in town.  We had dinner at a great restaurant where Curtis had his first Elk burger and we stayed with friends of friends (thanks guys if you're reading this!) in town.

Some of the eastern Montana scenery

Downtown Bozeman

We rose bright and early Wednesday morning to get to Yellowstone.  

Yellowstone River on the way into the park

Bison near the entrance

Elk lounging

As we drove further in, we got to see the bison even closer!

The northeast side of the park was pretty snowy, and higher in elevation, so we really got to experience Yellowstone in winter.  Here's one of the valley viewpoints:

This was our turnaround point

Not sure which peak this was, but it was so pretty

Driving back through the Lamar valley, there were people all lined up with scopes and cameras looking out in the distance.  We assumed they were just waiting for wolves to pop out, but then we saw something move way off in the distance.  The wolf pack!  We pulled over and I could zoom in this far with my big lens:

See those lumps in a row to the left?  Those are wolves!

Here's a digital zoom in: Can you see them all curled up in the snow?

One of the people with a scope and a HUGE telephoto lens let us look through his gear to get a close up.  I got to watch one wolf chomping on a snowball while the other one next to it yawned and curled up.  I guess they'd been a bit friskier before we got there since there was a fresh carcass nearby for munching.  I couldn't believe how far away they were; the guy we talked to said that was the closest he'd ever seen them.  So much for watching them walk by the truck!

On our way back out, we stopped at Mammoth to take a peek at the hot springs.

They were beautiful, but boy did they stink!  Not exactly something you want to hang out and take a dip in.  Here are a couple more shots of the river valley on our way out of the park:

We left Yellowstone and drove all the way back to Sheridan in time to have dinner with Diane and Lloyd.  We stayed there one more night and then Diane came down to Buffalo with us where we met up with more cousins!  Ric and Sharon live in Buffalo next to their son Micah and his family.  We set off as a group to visit Micah's daughter Maggie's school where they were having a dinosaur museum, then headed out to Bighorn National Forest for some snowshoeing.

Diane and Sharon

Sharon and Curtis

Can't see the Tetons, but it was still lovely

Later that night, Ric and Sharon took us out to explore downtown Buffalo.  We went to the Occidental Hotel for a jam session at the saloon.  It was amazing!  I walked in and finally understood why everyone loves the west.  The musicians were great and the hotel was beautiful.  Sharon and I even had an impromptu tour of the huge building.

The packed saloon

The old barber shop turned gift shop


We hit the road first thing Friday morning for our looooong drive back to Boulder via South Dakota.  Our long drive wasn't helped by the fact that I left my brand new boots behind at Ric and Sharon's and had to turn around and drive all the way back to fetch them.  It put us about an hour behind schedule.  Oops!

One last look at Olsen place as we left

So we drove four hours all the way over to Keystone, SD to see Mount Rushmore.  Biggest. Disappointment. Ever.  Sorry to all of you Mt Rushmore fans, but the whole thing was just one big letdown!  The park service let a private concession service build an enormous parking garage, awkward museum, and lots of unnecessary stonework to have a nice little viewing area.  And of course that meant a ridiculous parking fee.  Not an entrance fee, mind you, because that would have been covered by our National Parks pass.  They skirted around it by calling it a parking fee and blocking off all potential parking areas within a reasonable walking distance.  It wasn't a good start to say the least.  And I have to say, it was all much smaller than I pictured.

The pictures make it look huge!

But doesn't this make it look puny?  Maybe it's just me.

This was my favorite view on the way back to town.  Maybe I liked it more since it was free parking there :)

We saw the Crazy Horse Monument on the way by, but didn't feel like paying the $20 to see it from a slightly closer perspective so we just enjoyed the view.  From there, we drove the long 6 1/2 hours back to Boulder where we settled back into the apartment.  We had planned to meet Jesse in Denver, but got back much later than we ever imagined and couldn't bring ourselves to get back in the car, so we're headed out now to drive down to Denver and hang out for the night.  More later!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On the road again (test run)

We're getting restless again, so we're headed up to Wyoming this week to visit family in Sheridan and hopefully do some extra sightseeing up to Bozeman, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore.  There's a bit of snow in the forecast, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that it won't slow us down too much.  We'll head out Monday and come back to Boulder Friday night to meet up with Jesse on his visit to Denver.

This week will be our trial run for hitting the road again for real.  We're planning to leave here in early March to continue our travels and maybe find some warm weather down in Utah and Nevada before we head all the way up to the Pacific Northwest.

It's been pretty restful here since I last wrote.  I finished painting/renovating Lynne and Brandon's house so I've been able to work on some drawings this week and my little stitching project.  Curtis and I went snowshoeing up to Brainerd Lake last weekend and watched longingly as all the other people out there skied past us.  I've never missed my skis so much!

On Sunday, we had a nice trip up to Longmont to have dinner with extended family on Curtis's side.  His cousin Russ lives here in Boulder with his wife Leslie and their two daughters, and we all drove up to Longmont together Sunday night to have dinner with Russ's parents.  It was great to get to spend time with everyone and learn more about that branch of the family.  Of course I forgot to take a group picture, per usual. 

I did some serious baking for Valentine's Day on Tuesday, complete with some of my typical blunders.  It's not easy to whip together gourmet treats when more than half of my baking supplies are in a storage unit.  So I mixed up the ingredients for a pumpkin roll and spread it all out in the pan, with waxed paper all lined up and ready.  When I went to put the pan in the oven, it was too big for the tiny stove!  So I had to dump it all out into a much smaller pan, but it still came out super tasty--if not a bit huskier than usual.

I wanted to make a pumpkin pie too since I never got to make one this fall (thanks Dad for supplying the canned pumpkin).  I didn't realize until just before making the crust that I didn't have a pie plate.  And I was making the crust when it finally hit me that I don't have a rolling pin with us.  So after experimenting with a sea salt container (almost made a salty crust), nalgene bottle (lid loop got in the way), I settled on a can of beans to roll out the crust.  I won't pretend it was my best.  And I ended up using one of my little 8" round cake pans that we use for our mini pizzas on the road that worked just fine.

Here they are together in all of their makeshift glory

That's all for now.  I'm sure I'll have plenty more photos to share after our trip this week.  And I'll do my best to get some family snapshots too :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today is my Dad's 60th birthday!  The whole family will be gathering to celebrate while we think Happy Birthday thoughts from here in Boulder.  Maybe I'll just read a little bit of The Story of Christa McAuliffe in honor of Dad today :)  Happy Birthday Dad!

We got a good batch of snow over the past few days so we had a little sledding adventure here in the yard on Saturday.  We can attest to the fact that when you don't have a sled, cardboard works just fine.

Our lineup of test sleds.  Stick with the cardboard.

My classy finish

Last run of the day!

That morning I went out for a little stroll to see the scenery.  I ran into these guys hanging out in the neighbor's yard.

And here's one of the truck finally feeling at home again.