The Great American Road Trip — Hiking to the Periodic Spring

While visiting Grand Teton National Park, we chose to stay in the small town of Alpine, Wyoming about an hour south of Jackson. Have you been to Jackson? What a mess. Bumper to bumper traffic, nowhere to park, people everywhere. And, outrageously expensive. So, we took ourselves to Alpine where we found a lovely AirBnB with a fantastic porch with wonderful views of the Star Valley. Thankfully, we did, as otherwise we would have never heard of the Periodic Spring.

Along the trail to the Periodic Spring.
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The Great American Road Trip — The Critters of Grand Teton National Park

We had high hopes for wildlife spotting in Grand Teton National Park. And, we saw deer within 15 minutes of driving into the park. That sure seemed to bode well.

A deer in Grand Teton National Park.
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The Great American Road Trip — Fall Colors in Grand Teton National Park

When we booked our trip to Grand Teton National Park, we didn’t even consider the fall colors. But, we managed to hit them at their mid-point and at their peak and it was absolutely spectacular.

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The Great American Road Trip — Hiking in the Grand Tetons

Are those of us that know us sitting down? Because I am going to let you in on a little secret. One of our favorite things about Grand Teton National Park was the hiking. Yes, hiking. We’ve become quite the little hikers. Which is crazy, given that I am the biggest klutz in the world and can stub my toe in my own house. I even carry my own backpack. Of course, the only thing in it is “my” stuff — Robert carries “his” stuff and “our” stuff. Works out great for me. Not so great for Robert.

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The Great American Road Trip — The Critters of Yellowstone

So, my number one goal when visiting Yellowstone National Park was to see critters. Bears and wolves, especially. Especially bears. Well, the quest to see bears and wolves was pretty much a complete failure. We saw one bear for about two seconds on our drive into Yellowstone. And, we saw a wolf on the side of the road illuminated by our headlights at about 4:30 in the morning for about one second. Not exactly what we would call good sightings. And, as a friend told me, if there aren’t photos it didn’t happen. So, apparently those sightings didn’t happen at all.

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The Great American Road Trip — The Geothermal Features of Yellowstone

So, when you think of Yellowstone National Park, what do you think of? My mind immediately goes to wildlife. And, we saw some incredible wildlife in Yellowstone (more on that next time). But, you know what just might have been even more interesting? The geothermal features.

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The Great American Road Trip — The Lamar Valley

In the realm of stupid decisions, our decision to book a six hour guided walk in Yellowstone in September has to be right up there. First, it was 28 degrees when we started the walk. Do you know the last time we have been in 28 degree weather? Well, we didn’t either. Our blood has thinned to the point that 70 degrees can seem cold. Second, our house is basically at sea level. The Lamar Valley is over 6000 feet. What on earth made me think a six hour walk at elevation would be a good time? By the end of the walk, I felt like we were on a death march, just putting one foot in front of the other. And, finally, to make matters worse, we had to get up at 4:30 am, drive on mountainous roads in the pitch black, all while keeping an eye peeled for wildlife. Thankfully, the open range cows were all still bedded down as we drove past them, the coyote was faster than a speeding bullet as it dodged between our car and a truck going the other direction, we saw the deer in the road with plenty of time to stop, and the wolf (yes, the wolf!!!!) was a good doggie and sat on the side of the road until we passed.

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The Great American Road Trip — Rapid City to Cody

So, when we were planning our road trip to Yellowstone, I somehow got the bright idea to spend a few nights in Cody, Wyoming. Stupid, stupid girl. There isn’t actually much to do in Cody itself — at least nothing we wanted to do (the Buffalo Bill museum is supposed to be good but the whole point of this trip was to be in the relative safety of the great outdoors). I planned a stop in Cody for two reasons, both of which were complete busts. First, I had heard that the Buffalo Bill museum did bear watching tours. Wrong-o. Maybe they did one time, but not anymore. And, I wanted to see the wild horses that live on BLM land outside Cody. Sounds really cool, right? Well, the tour I contacted had no covid protections in place. None. We weren’t about to get in a bus with a bunch of other people who may or may not have been vaccinated, who may or may not have been feeling a little sick that day, and who were most definitely not going to be wearing masks. Of course, that said, the stupid hotel we booked in Cody catered to old people on bus tours who refused to wear masks so we probably should have just gone ahead and taken the wild horse tour. What is a little more potential exposure, right? And, we wanted to go see the rock paintings at Pictograph Cave State Park. But, they were underwhelming, to say the least. Faded and pretty much impossible to make out. Bottom line, staying in Cody was a really bad idea.

Three mountain goats in Spearfish Canyon.
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The Great American Road Trip — Graffiti Day

So . . . the big draw near Rapid City is a giant piece of graffiti better known as Mount Rushmore. We have no idea why. Some dude who, at a minimum, had ties to the KKK and published anti-Semitic writings and who, at worst, might have been a supporting member of the KKK basically defaced a beautiful mountain on land claimed to be sacred by Indigenous Americans. Sounds nice, right? Sounds like something everyone should see, right? Sounds like an amazing piece of Americana, right? Well, we went, because we kind of felt like it was stupid to be so close and not see it, but I wish we hadn’t. Why this is a cherished landmark in the U.S. I have no idea. So, we aren’t posting photos of it.

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
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The Great American Road Trip — Sioux Falls to Rapid City

If you are traveling to Yellowstone from Minneapolis (and we were), you pretty much have to make the trek from Sioux Falls to Rapid City. It isn’t the most entertaining drive, but it is far from the worst (ahem, Texas, I’m looking at you).

This little guy was at Falls Park and the sun was hitting him just right to make for the best shot we got in Falls Park.
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