Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jackson Hole!

"Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs."
~Susan Sontag

Prior to my trip to South Dakota and beyond, I had never been to Wyoming. Crazy since it's one of Utah's five neighbors (six, if you count New Mexico's corner meeting up at Four Corners - a place I'd like to go someday) and I've been here a little while now. So less than two weeks after returning from the South Dakota trip, KDJ and I went on my ward trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Wyoming, twice in one month!

On our way, we saw these huge beautiful clouds. Pretty quickly when we saw the gray smoke, we realized they were plumes of smoke coming from a nearby forest fire. We stopped to take pictures because the view was unlike any I'd ever seen. It was getting worse by the second. I said a silent prayer for those firefighters and prayed that no homes were being destroyed. It was just so big and it seemed so close.

As we continued on to Jackson, we were winding further and further away from the fire, until we couldn't see it at all. We spent two days/nights in Jackson. We wandered around downtown.

We couldn't pass up the opportunity to pose in front of the antler arch.

We hung out at the pool at our resort, The Snow King Resort, and played cards. (No pictures of that.) We also went to dinner as a ward at Bar J Chuckwagon in Wilson, WY. It's a western supper and music show, taking you back to the Old West with ribs and beans for dinner and authentic cowboy entertainment.

One of my favorite things to do is take a ski lift up a mountain during the summer. So we took the scenic chair lift up the mountain.

The views from the top were stunning.

Can you see why I like scenic chair lift rides?

On our last day in Jackson, we drove north a bit toward the Tetons and to try to see some bison. Although KDJ refused to let me drive down a narrow dirt road to get an up close and personal photo with the buffs, we were lucky to get some good views of both the mountain range and my buffs... from afar.

This trip made me realize a few things. 1-Don't rely on your cell phone camera to take great scenic shots or they'll be a little blurry. 2-Jackson is actually really fun and relaxing. 3- My car gets excellent gas mileage 4-Yellowstone National Park is really not that far and I should go. Next time, I'd really would like to go all the way north and see Old Faithful!

(Written July 14, 2013)

Monday, June 18, 2012

South Dakota and beyond. Day Five: Custer State Park and Drive Home.

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."
~Martin Buber

After checking out of our hotel, we drove to downtown Rapid City and walked around the City of Presidents, which is a series of life-sized bronze statues of former U.S. Presidents. The statues are pretty cool and it's a quaint downtown.

Of course, I had to find George (Washington) and give him a kiss for old-time's sake.

We also wanted to drive by Mount Rushmore one more time on our way out of South Dakota. In doing so, we got a little "lost" and ended up on a very curvy road through Custer State Park and the Black Hill National Forest. It was BEAUTIFUL! So beautiful that we hardly took time to take any pictures. Thanks to Katie for the few we have.

Brian kept apologizing for getting us "lost" because he knew that it would cause us to arrive back in Salt Lake City later than planned. I really didn't care because it was one of the most beautiful stretches of road I've ever been on. I think it's called Needles Highway. Not sure, though. We were "lost" remember? At one point we were on a paved path through the trees, only wide enough for one car. (I think there was a corresponding path a way off for cars going in the other direction, but we couldn't see it.) It really felt like heaven. There wasn't another car in sight during the stretch of the road and I felt like we were in some sort of fairy land because it hardly seemed like a car should even be there.

It was a perfect surprise and really proved to us how incredibly beautiful The Black Hills area is. Really stunning and very much worth the trip. Worth the crazy hot windy! weather we experienced driving back home across Wyoming. We stopped in Wyoming only long enough to get gas a few times and in the thriving metropolis of Casper, we called Shepherd and sang to him for his birthday! Something that probably won't ever happen again. The call from Casper, not the singing. :)

Next time, I'd like to got to Badlands National Park also. I seriously had no idea South Dakota had so much to offer!

(Written July 13, 2013)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

South Dakota and beyond. Day Four: Devils Tower.

"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember,
and remember more than I have seen."
~Benjamin Disraeli

On Sunday, we attended sacrament meeting at an LDS ward in Rapid City, which was fairly near Storybook Island, a children's storybook themed park with free admission (thanks, Brian!), where we had planned to eat our picnic lunch. Unfortunately, they don't allow food and beverages inside, so we walked across the street and found a picnic table underneath a tree and ate there before we made our way through the park.

Storybook Island's mission, as stated on their website, "is to provide a free, safe, educational environment for those young in years, or young at heart, to experience the power of imagination."

It was a hot day, but we had fun roaming around.

After we got our fill of playing around, we set out for Devils Tower, which is actually in northeastern Wyoming, about an hour an a half from Rapid City, SD.

It really is a site to see, even from far away. Teddy Roosevelt designated Devils Tower the nation's first national monument in 1906.

The tower stands 865 feet high and is actually the core of a volcano which has been exposed for millions of years.

There are rocks and boulders at the base of tower which are broken pieces of columns that have fallen from the sides. It's kind of strange because there is a whole lot of nothing surrounding the tower. Just trees and land.

We walked around the base of the tower along the 1.3 mile "Tower Trail," Along the way, I was given the Native American name, "Shady Face." I bet you can guess why. Although the tower is open every day of every month of the year for climbing, the month of June has been established as a voluntary closure for all climbing routes on the Tower out of respect for Summer Solstice and traditional cultural activities of American Indians.

The voluntary closure has been implemented each June since 1996, and has proven successful: the average number of climbers in June has seen an 85% reduction. Despite this request to respect the traditional cultural activities of the Native Americans, people still climb. In fact, that day there were at least three or four people climbing. It definitely looked pretty intense.

Our country is chock-full of amazing natural geological formations. This was just amazing to see.

That night we planned to go back to Mount Rushmore to attend "the evening program" and see the monument at night.

We gathered in the amphitheater for a short patriotic program, with the monument in the background. Sitting behind us was a family with a little girl named Emery. She was about four or five and was very surprised (as was I) to hear that there was someone else named Emery.

At the end of the presentation, all members of the audience who had served or are currently serving were asked to come up on stage for the lowering of the U.S. flag. I was a little surprised at how many there were. There were over 50, I think. As they left the stage, they each touched the flag and spoke their name. their branch of the military, and what war (if any) they served in. There were veterans from every war since WW II. It was really moving. Even little Emery's dad got up on stage.

(Written July 13, 2013)