Thursday, October 6, 2016

Days 10 and 11: Rolling Home

Birch Island Lake

There isn't much to see between the Badlands National Park and home, but there are friends. We stopped in Worthington, MN, to see Jonathan and Lois Larson. He is pastor of Indian Lake Baptist Church. She was a high school friend of Steve's. Lois's mother (age 93) is a dear friend and neighbor of Mom's.

Worthington is an amazing community expecially in these days of xenophobia in America. Once an all-white northern European farming community, it now has a major hispanic population, a significant black population and large Asian population. Whites are the minority. Most of the Asians are Karen refugees from Burma who have arrived in the past 8 or 9 years. The Karen (Ka-WREN) people group were converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century by Adoniram Judson, a Baptist missionary. So where did the Karen decide to worship when they settled in Worthington? Indian Lake Baptist Church. The church and the community have embraced the newcomers. The Karen now have their own worship service since most of the adults don't speak much English. Their service goes on for hours. On Wednesday nights there is an extensive kids program. At Lois's invitation, I spoke to a dozen lively (and talkative!) Karen teens about living between cultures. Lois herself was born in China and grew up in Japan before coming to Cambridge at the age fo 14. The Karen teens were born in refugee camps in Thailand; their parents were mostly rural farmers in Burma. So all of us know what it is to feel like a stranger. I told stories about my own frustrations with places that are, as our daughter Erika expressed it in junior high, "all white and they speak English. It's so boring!" I ended with the Hebrews 11 verses about seeking a better country, not the one from which they came, but heaven. Those are the verses I focused on in my novel Between Two Worlds, and the kids seemed to identify. Meanwhile, Steve spoke to a group of white seniors who have seen their community change completely and discovered new opportunities to minister.

After a lingering breakfast, we headed northeast through Marshall, where Steve's dad grew up. His mom has been working on a family history we hope will be ready by Christmas, so it was fun to review stories, pass the family home, and find the site of the G. J. Hardy and Son Grocery where Hardy's Peanut Brittle was invented in the 1930s.

The current Bike Shop is the former G. J. Hardy and Son on Main Street.
We stopped for lunch at a Mike's Cafe on the way out of town. Inside we discovered that it had been founded in 1936 and originally located downtown. Although Mom didn't remember being there herself, she did remember people talking about going down to Mike's. While we studied the pictures of Marshall in the old days on the wall and tried to pick out the store, a man overheard us talking and introduced himself. He turned out to have been a friend of Steve's cousin "Jimmy." So it was a fun stop. The food was good, too. We were very glad we hadn't settled for Taco John's! 

Dropped Mom at her house and made it home a little after 6. Tonight we will sleep in our own bed! So until the next adventure...

Door Trail, Badlands

Thank you, Lord...
for good friends.
for the riches of many cultures.
for people you began preparing for Worthington two hundred years ago.
for the eager teens in Lois's Bible study.
that we "happened" to stop at Mike's for lunch.
for safe driving through many miles.
for keeping our home safe while we were gone.
for the colors that remain on the trees here at home.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Day 9: Badlands National Park

America's Best Value Inn
Kadoka, SD

I already have 75 pictures of the Badlands in my photo library. I really don't need to take more even if it is a beautiful day. Only if there is something really unique. That was my intention when we set out this morning. So I only took 35 more. Maybe I should say I only kept 35 more. I deleted some. But this place is so fascinating! Steve says the first time he was here as a child, he thought he had landed on the moon.

Here we are driving across endless grasslands.

Then all of a sudden they drop away to this.

We entered at the Pinacles Entrance south of I-90 and took the gravel road west past a prairie dog town that was more of a metropolis. In fact, it went on for so long with cute little rodents (yes, Pat, they ARE cute) sitting at the doors to their holes or scampering around after whatever it is they eat (seeds?), that it began to feel like driving up the east coast from Washington to Boston! Let's just say they have a large gene pool to draw on.

We lunched at the Conata Picnic Area. It was so windy, I got to use the South African table cloth weights I have been carrying in the picnic basket for ages. The wind was sharp enough that we chose the sunny end of the table, although I think you were supposed to be able to turn the table in whatever direction you needed for shade.

We have been here before (witness the 75 pictures already in my Badlands file), but mostly we have driven and stopped at overlooks. This time I told Steve I really wanted to do some of the short hikes at the east end of the park. Mom stayed in the car where she had a good view, and we took off. Cliff Shelf Nature Trail circles the top of a slump that slid off one of the cliffs some time in the remote past and created a basin where trees grow. By circling clockwise instead of counter clockwise we had fewer stairs to climb. The area is pretty lively with tourists, but we still heeded the signs.

The end of the Window Trail was within sight of the car, but still quite a view.

The best was the Door Trail at the far end of the same parking lot. Steve says it was worth the price of admission, which for seniors like us, isn't much. Let's say instead that it is definitley worth the time. (The sign says to allow an hour. We spent about that, but could have spent more.) It is a door right into this incredible moonscape. Visitors are free to scamper where they will, but numbered poles guided us across the labyrinth to an this view. 

It's one thing to view from the road; it is quite another to be down there, a part of the landscape. The walk is level. Although the ground is riddled with eroded ditches, there is no place to fall more than a few feet. I couldn't stop thinking of my grandsons scampering here and there exploring to their hearts content. (Yes, Bella, I know you would explore too, but here we wouldn't have to worry about the boys breaking bones! Just rattlesnakes.)

Back at the parking lot, when I turned around, there was this.

Time to move on.

Thank you, Lord ...
for awesome views.
for a husband who gets excited about beauty.
for a mother-in-law who doesn't mind waiting in the car.
for the colored layers of rock.
for the guys who built the road.
for neat places to walk.
for partial sun throughout the day.
that my life is not as difficult as the homesteaders who came here in the 19th c.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Day 8: Custer State Park

Comfort Inn
Custer (Crazy Horse), South Dakota

Rain or mist all day. It wasn't supposed to be that way by the forecast, but that's the way it was. We started with the movie at the visitors center. Spirit of Tatanka, narrated by Kevin Costner, has fabulous photography, some of it filmed by drone. We have loved seeing the park in fall, but some of the spring meadow pictures (buffalos rushing through the wildflowers) made me want to come back in spring.

The buffalo roundup was this past weekend, so most were corralled in the south of the park. (The film showed a previous roundup, which would have been fabulous to see, but we would hate the crowds.) We took the wildlife loop anyway. The scenery was beautiful, and we saw deer and prairie dogs. The buffalo corrals are huge, and we did see them there.

The film also showed kids feeding apples to wild donkeys. We didn't feed them apples, but we did come upon a whole herd of donkeys. (There are at least another half dozen among the trees to our right.)

Returning to 16a, we took the Needles Highway. Views were not what they would have been with sunshine.

We picnicked outside Hole-in-wall Cave, perfect size for a four-year-old to explore, if I had had one with me. :-)

The higher we went, the more we were closed in with fog. That was it's own mysterious experience.

A car comes through the tunnel at the Needles.
We looped around on 89, retraced our route on 16a and went up Iron Mountain Highway. Neither one of these road goes anywhere anyone NEEDS to go. They were designed specifically to view the fabulous terrain. The tunnels and curly-cue turns on the Iron Mountain Road are fun. The clouds had lifted somewhat, and we glimpsed Mount Rushmore from Norbeck Overlook. (Wish we could get that man back as a senator to do conservation and reign in Wall Street as he did in the '30s.)

By the time we got down the mountain, it was raining steadily, and we decided to give it up. Steve went and soaked in the hot tub. Mom and I took naps.

Steve also looked on-line for a place to eat supper. We had passed too many closed places on Main Street. We decided on Pizza Works and couldn't have been happier. The pizza was delicious although not nearly as much cheese as Wisconsin people put on their pizza. The building was a former opera house turned movie theater turned pizza place in the 1990s. They had historic pictures all the way around the room, and the staff takes an annual picture in costume at one of the old-time photo shops. Here is one of the then-and-now posters. At the left you see the court house. The next building is the opera house/Pizza Works.

Steve checks out one of the posters

Hard to avoid reflections on this photo of the hall as an opera house.

Thank you, Lord ...
for safe driving in rain and fog.
for the beauty of the photography in the movie.
for cute little prairie dogs.
that this is not our first visit here and we can picture it in sunshine.
for the chance to view these rocky spires in fog.
for pizza in a unique place.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Day 7: Jackson, WY, to Custer, South Dakota

Comfort Inn
Custer (Crazy Horse), SD

Raining. I’m very glad yesterday was our only day in the Tetons, not today. We can see snow on the upper peaks. Dark clouds can make cool pictures, but it takes sunshine AND dark clouds to work. None of that this morning. As we came over the continental divide the raindrops on our windshield made the kind of splat that says they weren't liquid whne they left the cloud.

A few miles out on US 26, when we could still see the mountains looming behind us, we came upon police cars, lights flashing. A wrecker was pulling a dead bison from the ditch. Just ahead was a black SUV with the front bashed in. Steve pointed out that it was the same area where we saw a police car pull someone over yesterday, presumably for speeding. Although it’s hard to imagine not seeing something as large as a bison in the road, in the gray of morning rain it is just possible.

Yesterday’s scenic route south was pleasant, but not exciting. Today’s end of the same route—east on US 26—was spectacular, driving through a canyon with rugged hills all around. Theoretically the scenic part ended in Dubois (still don’t know how the locals pronounce it), but the land around and beyond was stark, carved cliffs with layers of yellow, gray and red stone. Rain and no scenic pullouts mean no pictures.

The weather cleared mid-morning and we had sunshine for our amble across grasslands. We chose to go north and take in the bit of Black Hills north of I-90. We had never seen Devil’s Tower although Steve’s sister Patty had raved about it. It rises out of the grassland and rolling hills, visible for miles.

 We didn’t go into the monument grounds. No time for the walk around the base. Have to go back. It really does look like a huge tree stump.

The land just beyond on 24 was worth seeing, but after that our route was nothing special, just a connection to the beauty of Spearfish Canyon, which we didn’t have time for since it was getting late. Our hotel reservation was way to the south in Custer. We drove as long as it was light and then stopped for supper just north of Hill city in a place with lots of cars—Horse Creek Inn. Melt-in-your-mouth prime rib in a golden-panelled hill-country atmosphere. Just what you would hope for in a restaurant here, as Mom said. She and I split an prime rib and added a salad. Perfect. 

Tomorrow it is off to explore the Black Hills scenic drives. We have been here before so there is no pressure to see it all and no hurry to get out in the morning.

Thank you, Lord…
for safe driving in the rain.
for layers of rock colors.
for grasslands.
for lots of antelope sightings.

for a fabulous dinner.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Day 6, afternoon: Hiking Lake Jenny

It was pretty gray and drizzly when I left Steve and Mom at the hotel in Jackson and headed back up hill to the park. It was still threatening when I reached the southern end, but by the time I got to the south end of Lake Jenny, it was looking more hopeful. Then I found construction like we hit at Inspiration Point in Yellowstone. The trail was routed away from the lake around whatever refurbishing they are doing.

I left the car at 2:40 thinking I would aim for Inspiration Point and then see where I was time wise . The trail around the construction crossed a bridge and a gravel parking lot, but soon came back to the lake where I found lots of wonderful glimpses through the trees.

Lots of fellow hikers at this point, including families with young kids. A hiker I met later said the south side of the lake (where the road is) isn't nearly as nice because views are blocked by trees except the Lake Jenny Turnout where we (and everyone's brother and cousin) stopped yesterday).

After about an hour I came to a waterfall.

That was where the trail to Inspiration Point was supposed to take off, but--it was closed for reconstruction. Sigh. I walked a bit further and came to an alternate route via Cascade Canyon. How could I resist? I could see a rocky outcropping just a bit above me, so I figured that was probably it. After 15 or 20 minutes of climbing I figured that wasn't where I was going, but there was another outcropping, a bit higher and quite a bit bigger ahead, so that must be it. You know the curve of a mountain hide the top so you keep thinking you are almost there, but you aren't? But by that time you have invested so much energy that you can't just give up and quit. Well, that's how it was. BTW, while the walk around Lake Jenny was slight ups and downs, Cascade Canyon was only up. Steeply up. Too steep for someone who turned 65 last week. (I realized later that I saw an Aussie couple who were maybe 50, but otherwise all hikers were the age of my kids or younger!)

I came around a corner and was surprised to find two deer. One moved away just out of sight (I could still hear her), but the other was totally unphased by my presence.

After a while I was flagging. I asked someone coming down how much further. 10-15 minutes. 10 minutes later I asked someone else. About 20 minutes. There was something wrong there, but like I said, by then I had invested too much to turn back.

I was on the flat about a quarter mile out when it started to rain. Not much, but I knew I needed to hoof it. It had taken me two full hours to this point. I took one quick picture  to prove I had made it.

By this time, the rain was definitely coming down. A major clap of thunder reverberated between the peaks on either side of the canyon. I dug out my fleece and wind breaker from my backpack and hunched over my phone to call Steve. "I'm gonna be late. You and Mom go get supper and bring me a doggie bag."

"You've got the car."

"Oh, yeah."

I told myself I wouldn't stop on the way back, the faster to get home. But then the sun came out.

And when the sun comes out after rain, there are rainbows.

It didn't take me two hours to get back, but it was evening by the time I was walking along the lake. The views had a whole different feel.

The way was muddy in places, but it didn't start to rain again until I was crossing the parking lot to the car. God is good. Very good. Major thunder clap to remind me so.

7:20 PM before I got back to the hotel. Good thing we had another round of Completes for dinner in the room.

Thank you, Lord...
for holding off the rain.
for enchanting lake views.
for the strength to climb.
that it didn't rain the whole way down.
for rainbows.
that I didn't slip in the mud.
for an understanding husband.

Day 6, morning: Grand Teton National Park

Jackson was totally fogged in when we set out. Glad we did. The fog lingered in Jackson well into the day although it was clear further north. We took the road toward Kelly along the Gross Ventre River. This is an elk reserve, but we didn’t see any elk. We did see what we later learned was prong-horned antelope. The fog lingered here and there in crevasses and over the stream.

We turned north on Mormon Row. There was once (1880s?) a thriving Mormon community here. According the the guide book this is where some of the classic pictures of the Tetons are taken with old barns.

There was certainly a large group of photographers around to catch the early morning light. I was struck with how, instead of jostling like the tourists at Lake Jenny, these patiently waited their turn while one of there number got down on his stomach to catch a reflection in a puddle. They even backed up to be sure their long shadows didn’t get in his picture. Note to self: this is definitely a place to come in the morning for the light, but maybe a little later when my own shadow isn’t to long. Or else bring a zoom lense that will let you reach beyond that long shadow.

The other picture spot the guidebook mentioned was Schwabacher Road. Wow! I couldn’t stop shooting. Every few steps there was another angle, another view.

Also got great reflections at Oxbow Bend Turn out. The fall colors add so much.

We had driven the Park Road yesterday, so we could stop in different places today. Potholes turn out had a plaque explaining that as the last ice age ended, icebergs left behind formed potholes. Some filled with water and some turned into little islands of trees. This broken off pine was on the edge of one of those islands.

We went back to Kelly and drove up Gross Ventre Rd. It climbed a narrow valley with yellow aspens in the bottom. We picnicked along side the road. No table, but a beautiful spot.

It was threatening rain, but we drove south on one of the scenic byways in our book. Nice, but the most spectacular part of the route was definitely around the park.

In the afternoon I left Mom and Steve to watch the football game and went off hiking. So again today we have two blogs. :-)

Thank you, Lord ...
for sunlight on fog.
for stirring vistas.
for reflections.
for authumn leaves.
for a patient husband.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Day 5 afternoon: Grand Teton National Park

Golden Eagle
Jackson, WY

We were surprised to sail right into Grand Teton National Park without showing our card. We were headed south. Later at the southern end of the park we saw a line of people stopping to pay or show cards at the entrance. Not sure why we were never asked from the north.

The weather has been off and on all day, but it was completely overcast by the time we reached Colter Bay Village. At the visitor center we watched the 30-minute movie Yellowstone Aflame about the huge 1988 fire. It was expecially striking after seeing all the recovered fire damage in Yellowstone and coming through the recently burned out area. I kept visualizing Windlifter, Blade Ranger and the others from Simeon's favorite movie, attributing their personalities to the planes and vehicles fighting the 1988 fire.

It was still cloudy and cold when we came out, so instead of picnicking, we ate at the local restaurant. Expensive with slow service, but by the time we came out, the sun was shining!

Here's our first view of the Teton Range.

We turned off US 89 to take the park road. Our Secrets of the National Parks book suggested Signal Mountain. We thought Mom would enjoy the hike. Okay. So we drove up, and she only hiked the last 200 feet.

But the view was worth it.

Turned off toward Jenny Lake, the Lake Louise of the area.

Sunshine was coming and going, and Steve wanted to take the Moose Wilson Road, a beautiful backroad through the forest in and out of the park. It came out at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the famous ski area. We only got a splattering of rain.

Steve accuses me of always wanting to know what is around the next corner when I hike. He wants to know what is up the next road. When we reached Hwy 22, instead of turning east toward Jackson and our hotel, we turned west toward the town of Wilson and Teton Pass. It really was worth it.

Now we are settled in a grossly overpriced motel (3* room for 5* price), but that's what you get in a tourist community still in high season. I plan to have Mom's leftover caesar from lunch with cheese and crackers for supper.

Tomorrow is more exploring the area.

Thank you, Lord, ...
for sunshine sometimes.
for these spectacular mountains.
for Mom's spunk.
for yummy imporvised supper.

Day 5, morning: Yellowstone

Golden Eagle
Jackson, WY

 This was our last morning in Yellowstone. We backed up, ate another great breakfast at our Best Western Desert Inn, and headed east into the park. The bad thing about staying in West Yellowstone is that you are driving east (into the sun) to the park in the morning and west (into the sun) to get back to your hotel in the evening. That into the sun part is a pain. I suppose we could have hung around the hotel until later, but there is too much to see--including the early sun on the mist along with the elk in Madison River.

We were headed south toward Grand Teton National Park. The plan was to stop at places we missed yesterday on our way. Of course, there is way too much to see and it wasn't possible to see everything we had missed. 

We took Firehole Canyon Drive, a one-way side road up a canyon with a waterfall. Wonderful views and even a swimming hole among rock pillars above the falls. I HAVE to go back in summer and swim there!

Here is one of my favorite mud holes at Lower Geyser Basin.

The real name it turns out is Red Spouter, on a sign at the far side. It emerged after an earthquake in 1959. Midway Geyser Basin was completely closed in with fog. Mom sayed in the car, but we didn't go far. Just a short distance down the road the Biscuit Basin had blue skies.

We did run into stopped traffic. Quite a herd on both sides of the car.

Kepler Cascades was spectacular and right by the road--an easy walk for Mom, but she said it needed a sign saying, "View in the afternoon" since it was in the shade this morning and pictures not worth sharing. We headed south with no more stops.

We left the park for national forest land. We saw lots of evidence of past fires in Yellowstone, but today we went through an area of recent damage. 

The ground was still black and clean-up vehicles were pushing around fallen logs just like in grandson Simeon's favorite movie Planes: Fire and Rescue. By tonight's TV news, I think it is still going on. Simeon, we need Dusty to come help! 

By lunch time we were into Grand Teton National Park. So, today has two posts.

Thank you, Lord, ...
for sunlight on the misty river.
for elk in the mist.
for canyons and water falls.
for those placid bison among the cars.
for firefighters protecting our forests and towns.
that more didn't burn.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Day 4: More unexpected adventure

Great Western Desert Inn
West Yellowstone, MT

I knew this would be an incredible day. There was so much I wanted to show Steve. We started east along the Madison River. The mist rose from the warm water into the cold morning. Steve joked that we couldn’t leave before he saw his bear. We saw a big horned sheep yesterday—in the shadows where we would definitely have missed it if there hadn’t been a half dozen vehicles stopped all looking the same direction. But so far no bear or elk. Lots of bison. Bison are sort of like impala in Africa—as awesome as the first sighting is, before long it is “just another...”

At Madison we continued east along the Gibbon River. Stopped at Gibbon Falls, but too long a walk to be worth the effort for Mom. She did get out at Beryl Spring. It’s right on the road. The steam was so thick in the cold it was as if the boardwalk went into some magical fantasyland.

We left her in the car for Artists Paintpots. We remember that being a bit far for her last time we were here, but I wanted Steve to see the colors. The day was often cloudy so the colors weren’t as cool as I remember, but still beautiful. I tried some videos this time.

Turning east at Norris, we took the sideroad to Virginia Cascade. Very narrow, one way, drop off to the right. Not much time to see the falls because there was no place to pull off and another car behind. (Must be way worse in high summer!) But super cool.

At Canyon Village we turned south. Steve was duly impressed with the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

At the Grand View along North Rim Drive, I decided to take the trail to Inspiration Point. Steve and Mom would drive—only the trail was blocked. “Closed for construction.” I dashed back to the road in time to see the back of our car rounding the corner out of sight. I started out walking the road, but when I came to the sign that said “Inspiration Point closed for construction,” I turned back, thinking they would come looking where they dropped me off. But they didn’t. Cell service is terrible in the park. How do you contact someone without a cell phone?!?

I had a couple bars so I sent a text to both Steve and Mom, saying, “I’m where you dropped me off” although I had little faith that they would get it. Then I thought maybe I should start walking after all. This time I got a ride. Sure enough the car was parked at the blocked road to Inspiration Point. Except Steve wasn’t there.

Mom told me he had started down the road to meet me (as he supposed) coming across on the trail. Did I mention that it was threatening rain?

I started walking down the road. It was beautifully isolated, and easy walking since it was paved. Then I saw it ahead of me, crossing the road.


And me without my bear spray! (Back home with my zoom camera.) All I could think was poor Steve is missing this! Except he was just around the curve in the road, having found the trail blocked at the Inspiration Point end as well and hoping I had walked the road instead. North Rim Road is one way and it would have taken a long time to go all the way around.)

So the time searching for each other wasn’t wasted, and it never did more than shower during the day.

And later we saw elk. (When a bunch of cars are pulled off the road and people are all looking the same direction, it’s a pretty good clue.) This one was right in the middle of the Gibbon River where it empties into the Madison, but pretty far away for a picture without zoom. Then a little further down the Madison we didn’t need cars and people to show us (although they were there) because the elk were right on the road as easy to spot as bison.

Between the bear and the elk we stopped at Old Faithful. Surprise, surprise! It erupted faithfully. We had a while to wait, so I hiked the trail that goes around that geyser, getting views of lots of other phenomena. There are more than 50 geysers on the hill behind.


After Old Faithful, I took another trail and ended up at Castle Geyser. Before I got there, from across the basin, I could see someone in a red jacket out on the thermal crust, clearly trying to take pictures of Castle Geyser from a different angle. Then I heard someone with a Grandpa Hardy voice yelling, "Get outa there!" and “illegal.” Steve had walked a different way and saw it was a Chinese woman. She may not have spoken English, but climbing over a barrier to an area where no one else is walking was dumb even if she couldn’t decipher the elaborately illustrated signs about breaking through the crust to boiling water. Sorry. No pictures of that adventure.

We were ready to head for "home," but couldn't resist exploring Firehole Lake Drive. At Firehole Lake (by no means the only interesting stop along the way) the steam poured over us like a Turkish bath.

Tonight we ate microwaved Completes with raw veggies in the room. Steve just went for a soak in the hot tub. I plan to join him.

One of the features on Geyser Hill with Old Faithful in the background.
Thank you, Lord...
for bear and elk sightings.
that there was no incident with the bear on foot.
that we found each other WITHOUT cell phones!
for this fantasyland of hot springs and geysers.