Friday, August 26, 2016

Iowa Family

After we left North Dakota, we spent time visiting Bryce's family in Iowa.  Once again, I did a terrible job of taking photos!  My only excuse is that I was enjoying everyone and it felt awkward to whip out the camera.

(Lana and Russ in their classic cars)

We spent two nights (in the Airstream) on Lana and Russ' farm.  We always love spending time here. They were kind enough to host a lunch and we were able to visit with Joyce's family, Bryce's cousin, Brian, Gina and Eldred.  And of course, the children's 2nd cousins!  That evening we went with Brian to Keystone and had delicious BBQ.

We also visited Jeff and Matt, Bryce's cousins, and Matt's children.  After Matt and Jeff's, we went to Joyce's farm where I got to tour the chicken coop and gardens!  We also played a rousing game of Peanuts with Jennel and Mary.  Harris and Grace won, which might just go down in the history books.

It was during this time in Iowa that Harris cemented his love for four wheelers.  He has kept up a monologue about getting one for Frog's Hollow ever since.

Our last stop in Iowa was to see Bryce's sister and family.  Our entire trip, we were so excited to meet Leah's new baby girl, but baby Eloise had different ideas!  Three hours after we left, we got a text that she was checking into the hospital and several hours after that, Eloise was born!  I still can't believe we missed it!

Grace and Harris had a lot of fun playing with their darling cousins, and we had so enjoyed visiting with Ben, Leah and Aaron!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

New Salem, North Dakota

After Theodore Roosevelt NP we entered the “visit family” stage of our trip!  From the park, we made the short drive to New Salem, North Dakota.  Here we met up with Al’s brother and sisters!  I’m sad to report that we did a terrible job of getting photos of family.  We got so involved with visiting that we didn’t take pictures at all.  The only photo I got was the one above of Bryce’s Grandpa with Bryce and the children.  We got two really wonderful visits in with him and at 94 years old this man is sharp as a whip!  

Kathy, Al’s sister, and Pat took the children in the combine while he was harvested Spring Wheat (what flour is made from).  I was thrilled for the children to get such a hands on view and education about where our food is coming from.  

Duane (Al’s brother) and Karen were kind enough to host us and Jessie's (Bryce's cousin) family for dinner that evening and we adults got to visit while the children ran around.  The next day, Duane took us to visit Grandpa’s wind tower.  These things are huge!

Duane also took us to the coal mine where Jessie, his son, took us on a wonderful tour of the coal mine.  I’d never seen anything like this and it was quite an education.  The scale of everything is what I found so astounding.  The sizes of these machines are unbelievable.  Grace commented that it was like seeing toys they played with when they were little in a sandbox but a million times bigger!

We were able to get in several of the machines and ride with the operators as they moved earth and transported coal.  Again, wonderful to see where much of our energy is coming from.

Bryce was also thrilled to get to visit with his cousins Chad and Chase.  Kathy, their Mom and Al’s sister, hosted a gathering but, again, I got no pictures!  We made a trip to see Salem Sue, the world’s largest Holstein cow!  

And a trip to New Salem wouldn’t be complete without going to visit the old farm homestead.  

Next stop…Iowa

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park surprised me in many ways.  It was beautiful, lush and full of wildlife!  

Many credit Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President, with being the biggest influencer of land conservation in our country.  In all, Roosevelt placed approximately 230 million acres of the US under protection.  It was here, in the Badlands of North Dakota, that Roosevelt escaped to after the loss of his wife and Mother (on the same day).  He spent years living the life of a ranger and saw how humans were affecting both land and wildlife.  We were able to tour his one of his cabins that he lived in during this time.

It was here that we saw more wildlife than at any other park!  We saw wild horses, a coyote, bison, mule deer, a badger, and lots and lots of prairie dogs!

 the prairie dogs were so fun to watch

 not a great picture but this is the badger

We were only able to visit the South Unit on this trip, but I would definitely like to come back to visit the North Unit and Elkhorn Unit.  We drove along the Scenic Loop Drive and stopped and hiked the various trails along the way.

Next Stop... Family

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Devils Tower

The next day, after a great lunch in Spearfish with some of Bryce's family there, we decided to take a side trip to see Devil’s Tower.  This is one of the most bizarre things we’ve seen on our trip!  It’s a volcanic formation that rises 867 feet above its base and, while there are three working theories on to how it got there, we do know that it is an igneous intrusion.

The Shawnee have a legend of the vertical fissures being made from a giant bear trying to get a girl on the top.  

While we walked the trail around the base of Devil’s Tower, we got to see a number of people climbing the formation!

Beautiful Native American prayer flags were also around the trail.

Next stop... Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mt. Rushmore

After we left the Rocky Mountains we landed in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We had only planned on one night in this area, and I really wish that we had allowed for more time.  There was much to do in the area and we will most definitely want to try to make it back to spend more time here.

Once we were at our campsite and set up for the night, we headed straight up to Mt. Rushmore so that we could see the Monument in daylight and also see the evening presentation. 

Mt. Rushmore was originally conceived as a tourist attraction to help bring visitors to South Dakota.  Sculptor Gutzon Borglum spent 14 years creating his masterpiece, dying shortly before work was completed.  The four presidents represented are George Washington (founding father), Thomas Jefferson  (an expansionist), Abraham Lincoln (worked to keep our country together) and Theodore Roosevelt (a conservationist).  

The majority of the work on the mountain was done with dynamite!  Looking at the faces of the Presidents it is impossible for me to imagine how they were able to do such fine work on the granite.  Every detail was thought of including Roosevelt’s glasses and Lincoln’s beard.

Bryce has always had an affinity for Thomas Jefferson and learning that he came up with the first recipe for ice cream cemented the deal!

The evening program was inspirational, patriotic and reminded me what great Presidents did for our country!  I loved that at the close of the program they invited any past or present military personnel to come up and help take the flag down.

Next stop... Devils Tower

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park

The best part about our time in Rocky Mountain NP was that we got to camp with Bryce’s parents!  We were able to eat dinner together and visit around a campfire which was really, really lovely.

We fit in two different hikes, the first hike being in the Beaver Lake area.  We hiked to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and finally up to Emerald Lake where we saw a mountain lake fed by snowmelt!

We also hiked the Great Basin area where we were able to view several awesome waterfalls.  

We drove Trail Ridge Road and saw some truly majestic sights.  It was here that I confirmed that I could never be a Ranger because I would be constantly annoyed at people.  Even though there were signs every where stating that the tundra was fragile and to please stay on the trails, people were walking on it to get pictures or to take a wildlife photo.  It drove me crazy!  We even saw a gentleman trying to carry away a rather large piece of quartz (it’s a federal offense to take even so much as a small rock from the Parks).

Our campsite had a really beautiful view of the mountains.  Al and Marilyn were only one campsite away!

A weasel in our campground

Next stop... Mt. Rushmore
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