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Great American roadtrip – July 2007

Places we visited

  • Great Basin National Park (NV)
  • Golden Spike National Historic Site (UT)
  • City of Rocks National Reserve (ID)
  • Minidoka Internment National Monument (ID)
  • Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument (ID)
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument (ID)
  • Big Hole National Battlefield (MT)
  • Glacier National Park (MT)
  • Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada)
  • Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (MT)
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (MT)
  • Pompey’s Pillar National Monument (MT)
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park (both north & south units, ND)
  • Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site (ND)
  • Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (ND)
  • Devils Tower National Monument (WY)
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial (SD)
  • Jewel Cave National Monument (SD)
  • Wind Cave National Park (SD)
  • Crazy Horse Memorial (SD)
  • Badlands National Park (SD)
  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (SD)
  • Wounded Knee Massacre (SD)
  • Pipestone National Monument (MN)
  • Homestead National Monument (NE)
  • Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (KS)
  • Harry S. Truman National Historic Site (MO)
  • Fort Scott National Historic Site (KS)
  • Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (MO)
  • George Washington Carver National Monument (MO)
  • Pea Ridge National Military Park (AR)
  • Fort Smith National Historic Site (AR)
  • Oklahoma City National Memorial (OK)
  • Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (OK)
  • Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (TX)
  • Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (TX)
  • The Simpsons House (Henderson, NV)
  • Salem Sue, the largest Hereford Cow statue in the world
  • Wall Drug Store (Wall, SD)
  • Geographic Center of the United States
  • Deadwood, SD
  • Vole Buffalo Jump


Here are the incomplete blog posts from the trip:

Day 7: Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 23, 2007

July 13th, 2007 – Our day started at 8am today. We had planned on a shower this morning prior to heading out but had a change of plans when Scott found that there was a line (4 deep for men, 2 deep for women) for the showers. So instead we bought some snacks at the camp store and headed out. Going through customs was an interesting experience. They asked us questions such as “Where are you going? How long? Where are you from? What do you do for work?” That last question was kind of weird. They looked at our passports and then let us go on through. We arrived in Waterton Lakes NP around 9:30am. At the visitor center we got our customary stamps and suggestions for hikes.

Our first stop in the park was at the Cameron Lake area. We took a hike to a very small lake that was basically not worth the effort. Not only were there tons of bugs but the lake itself was not very scenic. We then walked along Cameron Lake. This was worth doing although it is completely touristy. The highlight for Kim was getting to eat in the historic Prince of Wales where she was able to have tea in Canada. This hotel is very impressive and well worth a visit. While we were eating we noticed an elk hanging out right outside the dining room. It appears this is a daily thing. Kim had the Colcannon soup which was very delicious.

After taking some pictures of the outside of the hotel, we headed over to another waterfall hike. The waterfall was nice but frustrating for pictures because the viewing platform was int he way if you tried to take pictures forma distance. We made it through customs again. We were impressed that the customs agent knew what our license plate meant (SNDVLS1). On our way back into Glacier we found out that the Iceberg Trail, which we really had wanted to do was closed due to rangers seeing 7 grizzlies on or near the trail.

We arrived back at camp early and We had picked up some firewood so Scott attempted to make a fire ala Survivorman but was unsuccessful. It took some time but we finally got a fire going. Scott tried using his flint and matches but neither worked so we had to resort to good ol’ lighter.

Day 6: Whitefish, MT to Glacier NP

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 22, 2007

July 12th, 2007

After approximately sleeping for 6 hours in the car, we woke up around 6:30am and headed into Glacier National Park. As we entered the park, we decided to drive the Going to the Sun road to look for a campsite for the next four nights. We took pretty much an instant dislike to both Apgar and Sprague Campgrounds. We decided on space 73 in the Rising Sun campground.

On the way to Logans Pass Visitor Center we spotted a mother mountain goat and her baby. This was very cool! Not only was this the first wildlife of the park but the first time seeing mountain goats. Kim was very excited to get some pictures. We spent several minutes watching and capturing the moment on film. It was amazing to watch the baby scampering around. After some time at the visitor center, we went back to shower at the Rising Sun camp store. The showers are amazingly cheap ($1.25/ea) for 8 minutes. When it has been awhile since you showered 8 minutes is a lifetime of hot water! The only strange thing is that there there is only one shower for each sex. It would seem that a park like this would have more amenities than one shower each.

After getting all nice and clean, we had lunch at Two Dog Flats restaurant where again Kim was appalled to see that Bison meat was being served in a National Park. It is so wrong to allow this to be on the menu. During lunch, we determined how to spend the few days we have at Glacier in order to maximize the time. We continued on the Going to the sun road and decided to hike the falls trail. This hike was well worth it. Virginia Falls is amazing and is a wonderful end point. The hike was tiresome for both of us, probably due to the whole sleeping in the car the night before thing.

After the hike, we drove over to the Two Medicine section of the park. This felt like the longest drive ever. In this section we did a short hike to a little waterfall then drove to the lake for a quick view. On the way out we passed a black bear on the side of the road but when we turned around to go back and see it more clearly the bear had scampered away.

We made our way back to our campsite and made chili. While we ate, Scott downloaded our pictures to our travel hard drive so we’d actually be able to take pictures tomorrow. We did not have a campfire tonight as firewood was $6 for a tiny bundle. Maybe we’ll find a cheaper bundle tomorrow. It’s 11:40pm and time for bed. We are in need of a good night’s sleep. Let’s hope that happens.

Day 5: Craters of the Moon NM to Glacier NP

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 21, 2007

July 11th, 2007

This morning we found ourselves up and breaking down camp at 6:30. We were heading out to the Cave Trail by 7:40. We decided to skip some of the “caves” and focused on Indian Tunnel, which is a lava tube tunnel. At the end point of the tunnel, we had to climb out through a small hole. Kim was not to keen about this, mainly because it was painful to use your knees as leverage because the lava is so sharp. But we both made it and enjoyed the little excursion. We opted to forgo anything else on the trail and instead used the extra time to stop into the visitor center, which had been closed yesterday by the time we had arrived. We got our necessary passport stamp as well as paid for a park patch, which was currently out of stock. We provided a self-addressed, stamped envelope so hopefully they actually mail the patch to us seeing as we paid for it.

We headed north on 93 toward Missoula and we saw our first Arizona plate on the trip. It was nice to see others venturing far away from home. Not too far into Montana, we stopped at Big Hole National Battlefield. We arrived just in time to join up with a ranger led hike on the Siege Trail. This was a great opportunity as we learned a lot about the battle and had a pleasant ranger as our guide. We were both very impressed with the park and look forward to coming back to take in one of the other hikes. Scott stated that Big Hole was the “best place I’ve seen so far.” We had a few minutes to spare in the visitor center but had to pass on the orientation video as we are trying to get to Glacier NP tonight. It is a LONG drive from here. Because of the distance we had to cover, Scott decline Kim’s offer to drive because she drives too slow.

We had to make a stop in Missoula to take care of some unexpected errands. First we stopped at Staples to purchase the correct size labels to use for our NPS Passport stamps. We had purchased a package of labels prior to leaving but today at Big Hole NB we realized the package had been mislabeled. Once that was taken care of we stopped at REI to see if there were different sleeping bag pads we cold purchase as we realized last night that the sleeping bag pads we had with us make a very annoying noise against the tent fabric. An REI employee recommended that we buy a blanket from Target, so that was our next purchase. Scott had to check his work email to ensure that things were going OK so we spent some time at a Kinko’s before eating dinner at Arby’s.

After gassing up at Costco, we headed on to Whitefish, MT. On the way we crossed over the 2000 mile mark on our trip. We were getting so tired that we decided to just sleep in a rest area near Whitefish instead of trying to find a campsite at midnight. The rest area we made our “bed” in was basically a parking lot in front of tennis courts. Very strange location. It is very late and we are very tired. We hope that we can get some sleep.

Day 4: Hagerman Fossil Beds NM to Craters of the Moon NM

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 20, 2007

July 10th, 2007

Today we got up at 8:30am and took advantage of the free continental breakfast in the motel lobby. It had OK food. At least there was a variety to choose from. At 9am we did a much needed load of laundry and checked out of the hotel at 10:45. After gassing up, we purchased groceries for the next few days. In the restrooms of the grocery store they had interesting signs for the employees. In the girls restroom, placed above hooks, Kim found a sign that read something like: “All aprons must be removed and hung up here prior to any employees using the restroom.” In the guys restroom Scott came across a sign that stated “Employees who do not wash hands after using the bathroom will face immediate termination.” We would like to know how they enforce either of these rules. Maybe some bathroom voyeurism?! After the grocery store adventure, we went to see Shoshone falls. After a brief preview of the “falls,” which is really just a dam that happens to have water falling from it, we decided it was not a view that warranted paying $3.00 to see. We tried to locate Twin Falls but was unsuccessful in doing so.

The first planned stop for the day was at Hagerman Fossil Beds NM. The main question we both have is “where are the fossils?” The visitor center is extremely small and inadequate for actually informing the public of what the national monument is supposed to be for. It also is housing a display for Minidoka Interment NM so it is possible that is a reason for the poor quality- just plain not enough space. The title of the monument is deceiving because aside from a skeleton replica of the miniature horses for which the monument is named, there is really no other mention of the fossils during the scenic drive. The main focus of most signs seemed to be about the emigrant trails (i.e. Oregon Trail) and markers depicting where the wagons passed through on their way to places such as the Oregon territory. While the monument visitor info states the emigrant trails are clearly marked by white markers, we found it extremely difficult to see where the trail would have been for most of the scenic drive. It was a disappointing experience and we both feel that we will never have to go back to this particular park.

Next on the day’s journey was a stop at the nearby Minidoka Internment NM. This was a surprising place. While there is hardly anything left to remind us of this internment camp, we both felt that it was an important site and worthy of preserving. We only wish it had been protected prior to the rest of the land being developed by farmers etc. It is amazing to see how huge this internment camp was when you are faced with what remains. It is unfathomable that this happened. It is a small site but worth a visit.

We ended our day at Craters of the Moon NM. We arrived around 730 at night and found a decent campsite (#33)in the park’s lone campground. It is located on a hill of sorts and provides a pretty cool view of the lava flow. We decided to go do the loop road, which is the main focus of the monument. We were able to accomplish most of this before sunset. We set up came and made our dinner of grilled cheese, pineapple and pudding for dessert. Our dinner conversation ended something like this:

Scott (after looking up from enjoying his pudding): “What am I Kermit?”

Kim (after putting down her empty cup and taking spoon out of mouth): “Because I’m Miss Piggy?”

Laughter ensued because a) we are tired and b) we are tired. After cleaning up the campsite it was bed time. We are in for an early day tomorrow so hopefully we get a good night sleep.

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Day 3: Great Basin NP to Twin Falls, ID

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 6, 2007

July 9th, 2007

Today didn’t start as early as we probably would have liked but we were in the car by 8am. This is pretty good considering how tired we both were. We filled up in Baker again and headed for Golden Spike NHS, which is located on the northern edge of Great Salt Lake near Promontory, UT. Unfortunately in order to get to Golden Spike we had to drive on the “loneliest road in America” but only for a short period. This road could also be called “lots of dead deer” road. When we finally arrived at Golden Spike we were disappointed to see that they had already started pulling the engines apart so we missed out of the famous picture of the engines touching where the last spike was driven in, completing the transcontinental railroad.

NOTE: It is always disturbing when you see man made things that destroy the area around protected sites. Golden Spike is not immune. On the way into the NHS, we couldn’t help but see the gravel quarry. It completely mars the landscape and is very out of place. Scott plans on making a formal complaint.

At Golden Spike NHS, we had the opportunity to see where the golden spike was driven into the railroad. Unfortunately there is not golden spike there now. It is commemorated with a plaque. But the essence of what it meant to the westward expansion of this country is still achieved. This was a very important part of the history of the US, whether welcomed or not.

After a quick turn on the east leg of the auto tour, we left Golden Spike and made our way to City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho. As we attempted to get on I-84, we almost got t-boned by a guy in an RV (damn RVers) who never even looked right as he started across the road from the off ramp. Luckily Scott has really good reflexes and we live to tell the story. Not far up the interstate from Golden Spike there is a display of missiles which Scott found necessary to stop at so we did.

City of Rocks visitor center was closed by the time we arrived but we opted to take the drive through the reserve anyway. NOTE: we missed out on getting our passport stamp so we’ll have to send for it. The drive was all right. Nothing really spectacular. We have to give them credit as there were a ton of campsites. It is obvious that this location is used for car camping and rock climbing. Kim did not really get the “city of rocks” idea but then again she wasn’t traveling this country in a wagon train either. We found the drive frustrating as there were no descriptive signs at any of the stops so you just kind of guessed as to the significance. We managed, mainly due to Kim’s error in reading the park map, to miss Register Rock, where it would appear emigrants engraved their names as they made their way west. While that was a bummer, we are glad we can mark this site off our lists of places and never have to come back.

We got into Twin Falls, ID around 10:30pm. After checking into our hotel, which by the way has its own cat named Bo that likes to hang out in the lobby, we headed to Shari’s for a late dinner. While the food was good, albeit expensive, the atmosphere of having a quiet, relaxing dinner was spoiled by a group of obnoxious teens who appeared to feel they owned the restaurant.

At 1am we are still awake. Scott has sore leg muscles which required use of IcyHot and Kim needed sunburn relief after a fiasco the other day at Great Basin in which she managed to get a sunburn even though she wore sunblock. Never before did she have a hand print on her arm. But the best thing of all, even though we’re still awake, is that we finally got to take a shower! Showers are not overrated!!!

Day 2: Great Basin NP

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 6, 2007

July 8th, 2007

Today we were up and adam at 7am and in the car by 7:25. After some debate we decided to remain at Baker Creek Campground tonight. The only issue we had was that we did not have the exact amount for the camping fee ($12 per night). So we improvised and wrote a note to the camp host pleading our case that we WOULD be paying for another nights stay. The note read something like this:

“staying a 2nd night but only have $20 bills. getting correct change.”

We placed this note at our campsite and by 7:36am we were on our way to the trail head. En route we stopped at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center to purchase our America the Beautiful NPS Annual Pass. Due to an advertisement in the parks newspaper, we were able to get a cave tour for free so we saved $10. It was a process in order to do this, as yesterday when Kim had made the reservations for the cave tour, they actually ran the credit card. So the ranger today had to do an credit of the full amount and then do two separate transactions- one for the free tour and one for the paid tour. It was worth the trouble. While we were at the visitor center we got the first NPS stamp for the trip and christened our new NPS Passport Explorer Edition binder. After purchasing our traditional pin and patch, we had enough money to make the exact amount for our campsite. So we headed back to the campground and paid the camping fee.

Finally at 8:34am we actually headed to the trail head, arriving at 9am. We started the hike at 9:15am and ten minutes later we branched off for the Bristlecone-Glacier trail. At 10:45 we completed the Bristlecone trail. This was an interesting section as you get to walk through an area with the oldest known trees, some dead and some very much alive. We stopped to have a snack prior to heading on to the Glacier Trail. At 11:30am we arrived basically at the end of the trail- or what we decided was the best spot to stop in order to actually see the glacier in the pictures. We figured that if you were any closer no one would understand what the picture was of. It was very cool seeing the glacier. It is the only one in Nevada, go figure.

On the way back toward the car we decide to take the trail to Teresa Lake. Both of us agree that Teresa Pond is a much more appropriate name for this lake. It was very obvious that the water table was extremely low. Scott took a few minutes to relax and soaked his feet in the alpine lake. Kim was not so brave. While eating a snack, we were joined by another couple who took in the scenery. We learned from the couple that these weird little bugs that look like twigs in the water are called Caddis flies. The female of the duo was extremely excited about the find.

At 1pm we took off to complete the Alpine Lakes trail. Not long into this part f the hike we decide that we should have just gone back the way we had started the hike. This way was taking a lot longer than we wanted it to. Or maybe it felt that way because we were tired. The second alpine lake on this trail is much more impressive than the first, which makes completing this trail worth it. We get back to the car at 2pm and are glad for the air conditioned car.

By 2:30pm we are back at the visitor center and get ready for the cave tour. There was a brief introduction to the cave which included the cave rules- i.e. no touching! It amazes us how many people touch the cave after hearing the harm our human oils do to the cave formations. Maybe its like when someone who has their arm in a sling says for people not to touch their arm and everybody seems to go ahead a touch the arm with the sling on it. Weird. The cave tour was pretty good. Lots of neat formations. Very interesting history of the cave. Some people reading this may have heard of Lehman Caves National Monument which is what Great basin National Park was called initially. We both enjoyed the tour which lasted about 1.5 hours.

Afterwards, we headed into town to get gas. It is a very small town and only can afford two pumps with no building, just vending machines. But they can afford to charge $3.41 per gallon which is the most expensive gas so far. We notice that the town has all this weird artwork all over- on fences and in yards. After filling the tank up halfway, we decide to check out the Great Basin Visitor Center which we were unable to see yesterday due to getting in to the park so late. We quickly realize there really is not much to see and spend very little time in the center.

We head back up Wheeler Peak to take in the view points and exhibits that we could not do earlier in the day. As we drove to Mather overlook we saw a small group of deer maybe elk chowing down on some of the foliage. On the way down the drive to our campground we saw lots of rabbits and deer. Once back at the campsite we take a stroll over to Baker Creek to snap some pictures. It was a nice way to end the day at Great Basin.

By 8:30 we were done preparing and eating dinner. Scott attempted to take pictures of the night sky as Great Basin has the best night sky in the country- free from light interference so that you can actually see the milky way. We saw so many stars and Kim got possibly her first view of the milky way. Very cool. By 10:30ish we were in the tent, ready for a good nights sleep.

Day 1: Phoenix to Great Basin National Park

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 2, 2007

July 7th, 2007

Today was a very long day for us. As usual, despite all our best intentions, we went to bed sometime after 3am and got up at 5:20am. Needless to say we were very tired as we started our three week trip. To commemorate the beginning of our trip we took a picture of the two of us standing outside the car after we went through McDonald’s drive thru to get two bags of ice. That’s right- we went to McDonald’s for ice! For future reference, having two bags of ice on your lap is not a nice feeling, especially with rivulets of water running into your lap. As we transferred the ice to our cooler, we decided to go through Las Vegas instead of St George on our way to Great Basin. The main factor in this was the fact that Scott had a work issue to take care of and would need to utilize a Kinko’s. This led to Kim driving from around Circle City, Az to Vegas while Scott finished up his work. In case anyone was wondering, yes there is a Nothing, Az and the population is 4. Scott has pictures to prove it.

As we drove into Nevada from Bullhead City and passed the “welcome to Nevada” sign, we decided to take pictures of the state welcome signs to document the progress of our trip. We also decided to take photos of every time we complete a 1000 miles on our trip.

Prior to entering Vegas, we made a little side trip into Henderson so Scott could see the Simpson house that, while no longer painted in Simpson colors, still has the Simpson door. We almost got killed during this endeavor, as while we were in a construction zone, cars coming towards us failed to obey all the “keep right” signs and instead decided to drive in the lane we were rightfully supposed to be in. There was a lot of honking and Kim had a death grip on the steering wheel, hoping no one would actually hit us. We made it safely to the Simpson house and the rest is history.

We had lunch at Denny’s in Vegas, giving Scott the time to finalize his work before he went to Kinko’s to email it out. While Scott took care of his work business at Kinko’s Kim made the reservations for the Lehman Caves tour at Great Basin National Park for the next day.

Finally we make our way into Great Basin. Just outside the park we believe we saw a red fox run across the road which was pretty cool. In the coarse of the evening as we tried to find a campsite we would see approximately 10 rabbits who thought it would be fun to play chicken with the tires on our car. Why do they wait until you start to pass them to run across the road?! Don’t worry, we did not hit any animals. Due to our long ride today, we decided that cooking at camp was out so we checked out the local dining options and settled on T and D’s restaurant. The pizza was decent but it took forever for someone to come take the order. There was another couple eating dinner next to us form which Scott received helpful information on what hikes to do int he park.

It was dark when we finished dinner which made it difficult to see what kind of campsites we were looking at. The sign at the entrance to the park indicated there were vacancies in all the campgrounds so we made our way up to the Wheeler Peak campground only to find that the campground is actually full. So we made our way back down and ended up finding a site in the Baker Creek Campground. It was midnight by the time we got the campsite set up and were int he tent.

This was a ridiculously long day and we hope that the rest of the trip is not like this!!

we’re home!

by KIMMIE on AUGUST 2, 2007

We are back from our three week vacation and already busy at work. We had a blast traveling over 8300 miles through 17 states and 40 plus -mostly National Park Service- sites. Obviously there are lots of pictures and stories to share. Instead of trying to write a summary of the three weeks, the plan is to release daily trip updates with links to where to find the pictures. Please check in regularly for new trip logs. We look forward to sharing our experience with all of you.

places we hope to visit this July

by KIMMIE on JULY 2, 2007

As we travel across the US, putting anywhere from 6000 to 9000 miles on our 2006 Forester (which already has like 44000), here is a list of the places we will be visiting:

  • Great Basin National Park (NP)
  • Golden Spike National Historic Site (NHS)
  • City of Rocks National Reserve (N Res)
  • Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument (NM)
  • Minidoka NM
  • Craters of the Moon NM
  • Big Hole National Battlefield (NB)
  • Glacier NP
  • Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield NM
  • Theodore Roosevelt NP
  • Fort Union Trading Post NHS
  • Knife River IndianVillages NHS
  • Devils Tower NM
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Wind Cave NP
  • Jewel Cave NM
  • Badlands NP
  • Pipestone NM
  • Homestead NM of America
  • Harry S Truman NHS
  • Nicodemus NHS
  • Fort Scott NHS
  • Brown vs Board of Education NHS
  • Fort Larned NHS
  • Tallgrass Prairie N Pres
  • Washita Battlefield NHS
  • Alibates Flint Quarries NM
  • Sand Creek Massacre

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