StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
2/14/24 5:20 p.m.

Once upon a time about 7 years ago or so...

My mother's 60th birthday was coming up, and she had always talked about going to Yellowstone National Park, but had never made it.  I decided that 60 was quite an accomplishment (especially in her case), so I came up with the idea of an epic road trip from Maine to Montana and Wyoming and back, with a few stops on the way at a couple of other fabulous national parks. I decided that we would take my car...a 2000 Audi TT with a manual. That last word is important. I took 2 1/2 weeks off of work and saved my pennies for a year until I had enough to make it a great trip. We went in July, her birthday is the 15th, and let me tell you, that was probably the only major mistake of the trip. Still, totally worth it.

Here is the get-away vehicle in question:

2000 Audi TT Coupe

So with the TT packed to the brim with our luggage, backpacking gear, snacks, and of course our awesome hats I got us for the trip... more to come on that later... we set off chasing the sunset out West.

Now I have made some road trips before, and I love to drive, but something I didn't really take into account was the fact that my mother doesn't drive a stick. So, it was a lot more driving than I've ever done prior, and on the way out it wasn't too bad, but by the time we were on our second day driving home it was difficult and we ended up pulling over and getting a hotel early. Note to self, make sure your copilot is also a driver. wink

Strangely the first place we stopped that was cool enough that I wanted to take pictures was a rest area on a major highway in Wisconsin. We pulled over for a trip to the ladies room, and to stretch a bit. I noticed a sign saying there were walking trails with a scenic view, so we decided to check it out. I've never been to Wisconsin before, and I'm not really sure what I thought it would look like, but it wasn't this:

My mother enjoying the view:

A beautiful state and very nice people. Honestly, I didn't meet too many people who were'nt great on this trip. So moving along we find ourselves getting tired and ready to stop for the night. A quick search on my phone shows me there's a Hilton in Fargo, ND nearby, so we swing in for the night. Luckily, it just so happens that the best Tex Mex restaurant I've ever been to is right around the corner walking distance. If you find yourself in Fargo for some reason and need some dinner, I would suggest Paradiso, assuming it's still there. The place is decorated with great murals, tons of plants, stained glass windows, water fountains and the food was great. The drinks were strong, which was lovely since I only had to walk back to the hotel. laugh

Paradiso in Fargo, ND

Stay tuned! In the next episode there will be an epic pee break, painted canyons, wild mustangs, and the most adorable rodent ever. yes

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
2/15/24 5:29 p.m.

Welcome back boys and girls! laugh

 

Last we left off we were in Fargo. Now we were headed west on 94 in North Dakota headed to Clyde Park, MT. I had to pee. I'm a woman and we do that. My mother had just fallen asleep for the first time on the trip about 15 minutes before I found a sign stating there was a rest area ahead, and then a sign that said "Painted Canyon" and that was about it. I pulled us over and got out to visit the ladies room, when I looked around a bit and realized what a crazy thing I just stumbled upon. I said screw the bathroom I'm going to wake up my mother. She gets out of the car and was totally mesmerized by the view.

Painted Canyon North Dakota

The picture below was a panorama I took with my camera, so I'm not sure how it will come out on here, but it's cool.

Panorama of Painted Canyon North Dakota

There just happens to be a Park Ranger at the rest area talking to the various tourists coming through. I went over and she had all kinds of fossils, minerals, animal bones, etc. and was doing a show and tell kind of thing. It was fun, and I got a crash course on the area as well. Apparently if I went off the next exit we would be in Modera, ND which is the gateway to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In the spirit of transparency I had no intention originally in stopping here, but the day was getting late and I realized we were still very far away from our destination that day. So, in the spirit of 'berkeley it' I pulled into this cute little touristy town and we got a hotel for the night at a place that I don't think exists anymore. I think it was called something like "the Roosevelt"or something, but it was very nice with fancy dining (which neither of us were prepared for, we ended up at the only bar in town eating bar food...not a bad thing). There is a loop road that is highly recommended through Theodore Roosevelt's Park. We decided to take a spin since it was still relatively early in the afternoon. The first thing we encounter were rodents. Ok, cute rodents. Ok, very cute rodents...

Prarie Dog Town

The things are just ridiculously cute, and the noise they make??!!! Ugh, don't get me started. So, anyways, there we are on the side of this loop road staring at these cute prarie dogs and marveling at the enormous size of their "town". It went for as far as the eye could see. It was a veritible city. But, there in the distance, there was something probably much cooler but maybe not as cute as these guys.

Wild Mustangs

Wild mustangs were grazing and then trotted off in the distance. And there we are, fascinated by rodents...

Also off in the distance was this:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Then moving along we ran into some traffic:

Bison and Calf

The only time we saw other cars in the park was when this mamma bison and calf were taking a stroll down the road. We later saw this gentleman walking along:

The geography itself is amazing, the wildlife is beautiful, and the people in the area were very helpful.

Stay tuned for more scenic photos and other adventures.  Be well!

Dneikirk
Dneikirk New Reader
2/15/24 6:02 p.m.

Here for this! Very similar to a trip I took in college driving my GF from PA to Glacier. We stopped at paint canyon (like a miniature black hills) and TR, but it was just a national grassland back then. 

Slippery
Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/15/24 6:09 p.m.

Following!

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
2/16/24 7:59 a.m.

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen! laugh

 

We wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and excited for the final leg of our journey to Clyde Park, MT (6 hour drive from Modera, ND per Google) where we were staying during our vacation at a cool old Victorian style house (the only one within a thousand miles it seems). A friend of a family member has plenty of extra space and invited us to stay for as long as we wanted. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the house and the authentic Victorian decor, especially the over-sized claw foot tub, but by the time we would reach the house every night it was pretty much shower then directly to bed. Too much fun!

We arrived early enough in the day that we figured we would head to Yellowstone for a brief look around and bit of a walk to get the kinks out. We entered the park by the North entrance near Gardener, MT, about an hour from where we were staying. This road will drop you off shortly at the ranger stations, gift shop (get bear spray outside the park, cheaper), and a bunch of other buildings, some with food and ice cream.

Strange slash in the mountains outside of the North gate of Yellowstone in Gardiner, MT:

Right past all the buildings are Mammoth Hot Springs. The very first hot springs/geysers we had seen in real life, and it was epic. Tiny piece of the huge area that Mammoth is aptly named for:

I was fascinated by the water running over the yellow rippled surface of the spring. For anyone who did LSD in back in the day, it was trippy for sure. wink At this point we have walked the many boardwalks around Mammoth Hot Springs and at one point I realize I'm huffing and puffing way harder than I should be. I look at my mother and realize she's breathing hard too. Oh yeah, altitude change. While the mountains of New Hampshire and Maine are beautiful, they are no where near the distance from sea level that this park was. We decided to call it a day and take it easy so we would have time to adjust.

I wish I had more pictures of Mammoth Hot Springs, but I did get some interesting videos. I might upload them to YouTube to share if enough people indicate they are interested.

Stay tuned for our next episode where we really start to explore the park and get some good scenicy pics!

 

preach
preach GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/16/24 4:33 p.m.

An aside to this fantastic story:

Right before they left, with Mrs. preach worried about her old car and possibly the money the trip was tapping, I found a 951 Porsche for $8000. It was a lawyer sale car and about 1/2 price at the time for a 944 turbo, but the guy needed the cash for representation.

I was all over it, until I asked for permission to get it and Mrs. p said "There better NOT be another Porsche in the yard when I get home." So I did not buy it. Worried about money or that I have so many cars I do not know her reasoning.

2.5 weeks later she comes home victorious after an awesome trip and exclaims: "Wow, I cannot believe there is not another Porsche in the yard."

It sold the day before she said that for <$8k. My Opel projest would have loved a 951 for a base.

Lesson learned: Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness after you buy something.

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
2/17/24 3:23 p.m.

I cannot tell a lie, the above is true. blush

 

Back to our regularly scheduled thread. Our second day at the park we decided to go a little further in and do a quick spin to see what we really wanted to see. I had the trip planned out sorta, but left a lot of room for ad lib fun. Before we get too far though I wanted to mention, some of the pictures of animals look like they are very close, and with the exception of 2 times in the car we were very far away and using zoom. The two exceptions were when a bison was suddenly around a turn and we had to patiently wait for it to mosey off. The second was three young rams that sprung up out of nowhere...but you'll see that later. Now that the disclaimer is over, back to the fun. Today's installment is the waterfalls edition, just for you Mr. preach, as an apology for the 951. wink

"There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm."-Theodore Roosevelt

The massively impressive 132 foot tall Tower Fall. 

 

The next falls are in Yellowstone Canyon, and this has been said about them, "N.P. Langford described the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in this way: “A grander scene than the lower cataract of the Yellowstone was never witnessed by mortal eyes". It's damn impressive I'll tell you that. The canyon itself, with it's (surprise) yellow stone, is a beautiful sight on a sunny day. It practically glows. First some pics of us:

The elusive StilettoSS (a.k.a. Mrs. preach) rarely seen in the wild. wink

Now for the actual cool pics:

 

Looking the other direction:

The best part about all of these waterfalls is they are pretty easily accessible for anyone, wheelchair friendly, etc. Resting spots are spaced out well, so definitely bring the whole family.

Next up is the Upper Falls, which has a great viewpoint that kind of hangs over the edge of the waterfall from the side to really give you a good shot of the millions of gallons of water rushing by at high speed. Just above the upper falls, if you walk (walking only) across "The Canyon Bridge" (helpfully engraved on the bridge itself) you will see these two clumps of rocks jutting out of the river, with some sad and desperate looking bonsai on them. For some reason I really liked this picture:

The little road with "The Canyon Bridge" just follows the river for about a half mile then disappears into the forest.

This is another point where I wish I could embed video, I have some great videos of the water roaring over these falls that really show the epic scale of the water. If I end up with them on YouTube I will add the links to this thread. It is a nice reminder of the massive power inherent in nature and how even something as simple as a drop of water, when in mass, can shape the earth around it. Falling in would not be advised.

These falls were throwing so much fine mist that they made a pretty rainbow just below them.

On the walk back to the car from one of the falls we came across this guy grazing in a sunny patch of meadow in the forest.

Stay tuned for our next episode! Stuff will happen, things will be seen, terrible food might be eaten!

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

 

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
3/3/24 10:01 a.m.

Now back by popular demand! (sorry about the delay folks)

Next we spent a day exploring the geyser basin. The large crowd was a bit disappointing, and this was pre-covid, so I can't imagine how it is now. Despite that we enjoyed walking the boardwalks and seeing the sights. As we arrived Old Faithful was in action already and I wasn't able to get my camera out quickly, but it is really a pretty amazing sight. Some of my favorites:

Excelsior Geyser is so pretty, amazing blue water with spooky looking steam wafting from the surface. It would have been really cool to see some of these at night I think, but harder to photograph. Nature sure does have some pretty colors in it's palette.

Can you imagine coming across a 'dormant' geyser and suddenly it erupts with a massive explosion? Happy I wasn't on the boardwalk in 1985.

Little side story. When we got close to the Grand Prismatic Pool, there was a beautiful Asian woman who had set up a big camera on a tripod on the boardwalk (mostly in the way). She was posing in the most ridiculous ways for the camera, clearly very in love with the subject of her pictures. I'm not the selfie type, but I couldn't help but feel inspired by her to take a quick selfie of us:

Look at those stylish bitches! Nice hats right? I got the hats so we would have an easier time finding each other and hopefully keep a little sun off our heads. They ended up the perfect place to put all our fancy Parks pins. laugh

On to the main event, below are some of the best pic I could manage of the Grand Prismatic. The whole thing is much larger that I had thought, and it was difficult to find a place where I could get a shot of all of it from the boardwalks:

Heading form the board walks to the woods, we took a short walk to the top of the ridge in the background and found some pretty flora along the way. There was this white thistle, which I didn't even know was a thing. We have the purple variety around us at home, but nothing like this one. Being Scottish I have a special place in my heart for them:

If you do the short walk into the woods you come across Solitary Geyser, which has some nice seating and is just a nice quiet spot. Good place to take a break:

So I mentioned terrible food in the last post. I have very few complaints about the park and surrounding area, but I have to say going out to eat is an issue at least near the North entrance (Gardiner). There was a pizza place that we didn't stop at since it seemed to always be closed and a BBQ place (the terrible part), and that was about it. If I were interested in starting up a restaurant that would be the ideal place.

 

In our next episode, we will visit Lamar Valley and do some wildlife watching. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
3/13/24 4:47 p.m.

Welcome back boys and girls!

After talking to some locals about the best place to go we decided to go to Lamar Valley at dusk to do some wildlife watching. Driving the road that goes along Lamar Valley we came across a butte, and decided to stop and check it out.
Driving through the valley at sunset view:

And another:

A picture of my mother looking radiant, with the TT in the background:

This sign was helpfully next to the soda butte:

The random soda butte in the middle of the valley was hiding a cool surprise. Here is a road facing shot of the butte:

As cool as it was, it wasn't the most amazing sight after days of amazing sights. Not much to see, until you walked around the back side:

Behind the butte was a colony of swallows living on the side of the butte itself. They were flying in and out of their mud nests with amazing speed; while also catching bugs coming out for the night. Another time I wish I could just post a video.

Moving along we saw a small herd of prong horns in the valley.

Walking along solo was this guy:

As we drove on we ran into some slow moving traffic:

If you continue to follow the road the river beside the road enters a steep gully, which perched high above the rapid water, was a bald eagle nest. We couldn't see the fledgelings, but at least one parent came to visit serveral times.

The gully:

Going a little further on, we came across the first real herd of bison we had seen. There were a surprising number of calves among the herd.

Thus ends the latest installment of our adventure! Next episode, we discover a mountain man in the middle of nothing at all! Stay tuned!

11GTCS
11GTCS SuperDork
3/14/24 6:16 p.m.

In reply to StilettoSS :

What a great trip! I'm really glad I found this thread, moar please!

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
3/15/24 3:37 p.m.

Thanks! It was a great experience, my first time west of the Mississippi, but really it was mostly for my mother. She had dreamed of going for decades and never got around to it. I just had to make it happen for her, she may not be a perfect mom, but she's perfect for me. heart Ok, mushy stuff over. Now on to a random road side find...

Traveling on, Shields River Valley in Montana is beautiful, peaceful, and pretty removed from civilization at least where we were. So, when driving down a minor state route I spotted something...it looked like a statue...in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road. Well, guess what, it was.

First, Shields River Valley helpful sign (near absolutely nothing, keep in mind):

And a few feet away there was this guy:

Not sure if he's waving hi or hitchhiking, but his name was "Thunder Jack", so named by a local first grade class. Very cute! laugh

And here is what the plaque has to say:

So, a little art, a little history lesson, and a little odd location choice. wink

 

Just a short one today, but much more to come! If you think it's been good so far, just wait for the free ice water!

 

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
3/15/24 3:49 p.m.

Just came across these maps, figured I'd share just because they are neat-o. cheeky

First is a just a modern topographical in sepia:

This one is from 1915. Pretty amazing detail, kinda of fun to compare the two.

Ok, nerdy map stuff over... wink

 

Next episode we drive very far, in mid-July, with no air conditioning in my car, during a particularly hot summer. "I'm meeeeeeeeeelting! Meeeeeeelting!"

 

StilettoSS
StilettoSS New Reader
3/16/24 12:52 p.m.

Hi again folks!

Our adventure in Yellowstone was at an end, but the journey home and more adventure was on the way. From Clyde Park, Montana to our next destination, Wall, South Dakota, is about a 600 mile trip. We set off with tears in our eyes and an Audi TT cram packed with gear, luggage, and a million souvenirs.

Now, I think I failed to mention early on in this thread, but my Audi's AC died shortly before the start of this trip. I figured we would manage, but mid-July in the west was a tad warmer than I had anticipated. We were in the high 90s for the majority of the trip. So, when signs started to pop up on the side of the highway letting us know that we were 200 or whatever miles from Wall Drug, and that they had "Free Ice Water!", suddenly ice water sounded pretty good. Like "Free Diamonds!" kinda good…

When we finally arrived in Wall it was mid-afternoon. We took a walk around Wall Drug Store, which if you have never been to, it’s worth seeing. More nicknacks, baubles, kitch, etc. than you can imagine. Also includes free ice water, which was the best tasting water I have ever had after many hours in a hot car.

Jackalope below for those who don’t know what one is:

Another neat thing at Wall Drug is they have a working Zoltar! the fortune telling machine. If anyone grew up in the 80s and remembers the movie "Big" with Tom Hanks wishing to grow up, it was a totally cool thing to play with. I don't remember what my fortune said, but I'm sure it was something like "don't eat yellow snow"or something else just as life changing.

Now on to the main attraction, we took a short cruise from Wall Drug to the park. At this time it's late afternoon, but we didn't have much time left on our trip and I was determined to see this:

"This broken country extends back from the river for many miles and has been called always be Indian, French voyager and American trappers alike, the Bad Lands."-Theodore Roosevelt

The 'mako sica' as the Native Americans called it back in the day, just shows up out of nothing. Miles and miles of mostly flat grassland (which was very dry and golden-colored when we went) suddenly gives way to plateaus, ribbons of jagged stone curtains jutting into the sky, and massive myriads of canyons. I immediately imagined crossing the country in a covered wagon a la Oregon Trail style, and coming across the Badlands unaware. Oh E36 M3! The park alone is 244,000 acres...

We entered on the north side of the park, and drove the Badlands Loop Road stopping a few times to see the sights and going for short walks (daylight was waning fast).

First stop was pretty much right before the entrance. There is a viewing area that had a view like this:

The scope is hard to imagine let alone take a picture of. The Badlands extend past the horizon, so it looks like there is no end to it.

Some nice Asian tourists took a picture for us. The wind was whipping across the plains, with nothing to slow it we were getting pretty battered. That's the excuse for our hair...no really...

The ribbons of stone I mentioned earlier:

T

This spot was at the entrance with a little boardwalk into the canyons. It's also a trailhead for a trek that goes deep into the Badlands, but we were not prepared nor had the time for it.

Helpful sign:

We didn't encounter any rattlesnakes, but it was fun to think they could be right under the boardwalk getting a little shade. surprise

To offset the canyons, here are the plateaus. Some easy listening that came to mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj8UbmdV7bk

Going into the canyons for a closer look from inside:

And a closeup of the stone. It's very porous, like Swiss cheese, but hard:

I'm going to stop here, but there is much more to come of the Badlands. Stay tuned!

 

 

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