Yellowstone and the Black Hills

WE ARRIVE SALT LAKE CITY  Friday May 20, 2011

We flew in to Salt Lake City, the capital and most populous city in the state of Utah. At 6 p.m., our Insight Tour group gathered in the Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown Hotel with our Tour Director Lynne and fellow travelers for a welcome reception and light buffet.

Afterwards the Peters’ family walked to Temple Square, and then took the guided tour of the conference center including its 21,000 seat auditorium. Our Mormon guide showed us through the conference center and on up to the roof which is a landscaped park. The park was created so that the Mormons’ neighbors in the apartments above, don’t look down on an ugly bare roof. We then went down through the building where we saw displays of the history of the Mormon religion and oil paintings of the Mormon elders.

Lynne gave us all an orientation tour of Salt Lake City by bus, driving by the historic Temple Square. We had lunch in Garden City, Utah at a wonderful little family-run restaurant serving soup, pizza, and salad. We then traveled across the Oregon Trail and visited historic Jackson Hole, Wyoming where we saw one of the largest arches of shed elk antlers.,_Wyoming

That afternoon, we checked into a log cabin cottage with walkways surrounded by snow. The main lodge has floor to ceiling windows looking out at Jackson Lake and the stunning peaks and glaciers of Grand Teton National Park. Hotel: Jackson Lake Lodge (FB)



We took a bus tour of Grand Teton National Park, stopping to admire the incredible views at Jenny Lake. Lunch at the Pioneer Grill.

That afternoon, we entered Yellowstone, established in 1872 as the world’s first national park and known for its unique geothermal activity, spectacular landscapes, and abundant wildlife. Old Faithfull greeted up with a 120 ft. high eruption. Fortunately the wind blew the steam away from us for an unobstructed view of the eruption.

Right after that, we joined a local guide for a fast paced informative boardwalk circular stroll through Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin. This was followed by a guided tour of the historic lodge. Hotel: National Park Lodges (FB, D) and dinner at the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room.

We walked among the geysers in Yellowstone National Park and watched them erupt. We saw colorful bubbling mud pots (Fountain Paint Pots).
We viewed free-roaming herds of buffalo, deer, elk, and bears in their natural habitat. Next, we experienced the roar of the Lower Yellowstone Falls as water thundered down the steep canyon walls.  Photographers love to replicate this view which was originally painted by Thomas Moran on the first exhibition of Yellowstone. His paintings convinced Washington to make Yellowstone a national park.

Lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs after walking around the natural limestone terraces. On our way to the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, we were fortunate to spot a Grizzly and her cub digging in the snow several yards off of the main road. We stopped and some got off to take pictures.

That evening, we arrived back at the Old Faithful Inn just in time to see another eruption of Old Faithful. This one was not as high as the eruption the day before, demonstrating how lucky we were with our first observance. This time the wind blew the plume off to the side, so it was not nearly as spectacular as our first sighting. We couldn’t help but smile when people left before the eruption. Did they really think that Old Faithful had let them down?

Departed Yellowstone and travel through the Shoshone Canyon and Absaroka Rocky Mountains to the historic Wild West town of Cody. Lunch at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, built in honor of one of America’s great western legends. We particularly enjoyed the photographs of Yellowstone behind the gift shop because of their amazing clarity.

Devils Tower – In the early days, local farmers had climbed it by driving wooden pegs into the rock walls forming a ladder.  Later, other climbers successfully reached the top using modern methods. One time, a man parachuted down and landed on the top, but then he could not get down.  Food was dropped for him from the air.  Nowadays, you’re not allowed to drive any pinions into the rock.  You can only use human handholds, and climbing devices that don’t leave any trace when they’re removed.  (FB,DA)

We continued across the Great High Plains to the Black Hills of South Dakota. In Deadwood, we took Kevin Costner’s Original Deadwood Yellow School Bus Tour and then explored this once lawless town with a local expert. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane made this town famous during the gold rush of the 1870’s.

We continued on to Custer State Park, famous for its beautiful landscape and abundant wildlife. Buffalo grazed on the park grounds. Hotel: The State Game Lodge (FB,D)


We started the day at Crazy Horse Memorial, dedicated to all Native Americans, and the world’s largest sculpture. The Crazy Horse monument is a fantastic display of perseverance.  It was started by a one sculptor– now his whole family has taken over the task.  They will accept no government money.
We visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt dominate the Black Hills. Compared to the Crazy Horse Memorial, it appeared relatively small.  We had lunch in a large stone building, and then we hiked along the boardwalk for a closer view.

Back at Custer Stat Park, we got into six passenger open Jeeps with a guide who took us down the paved road and then off to a relatively smooth dirt road trying to find buffalo and elk.  We saw some in the distance and various other birds.  The rain came down for about 20 minutes, but I used the provided blanket to block the rain.  We pulled into a meadow where they had lots of outdoor tables, as well as tables under a shed roof.  We had a dinner of steak or chicken, along with beans, coleslaw, and potato salad.  There was live Western music provided by a pair of cowboys. (FB)

We left South Dakota to travel across the grasslands and high plains of Wyoming. Stopped at historic Fort Laramie, a former frontier outpost of the U.S. Cavalry built along the Oregon Trail and witnesses to the sweeping saga of America’s western expansion in the 19th Century. We continued to the Wild
West town of Cheyenne, one of the great railroad junctions in America. Lynne provided an orientation tour. The bus dropped us of for an hour of sightseeing. Hotel: Little America Hotel & Resort Cheyenne (FB)

We traveled south and climbed high into breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park,
across the Continental Divide and over Trail Ridge Road to follow the beginnings of the great Colorado River. We could only drive part of the way because the road wasn’t completely cleared due to the record high levels of snow. We stopped for lunch in the quaint town of Estes Park. We drove on to the Mile High City of Denver and viewed the city’s highlights on an orientation tour before arriving at the hotel. In the evening, we had our celebration and farewell dinner at the hotel and took our group photo. One of the members of the group stood up and stated that he had taken over 49 tours in his life, and that Lynne gave us the best tour of any he had ever been on. I agree. Even when flooding caused a change in the tour Lynne and Anson, put together an alternate route and we were all happy. Hotel: Denver Marriott City. Center.

DEPART DENVER   Sunday  Day 10
The tour ended with a departure coach transfer to Denver International Airport.

(C) 2014 John A Peters

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