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
We rose bright and early Wednesday morning to get to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone River on the way into the park
Bison near the entrance
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!