Western National Parks
Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon

Travels from Minnesota through the Western National Parks:  October 1 to October 18 
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)

Subjects:    Travels to Nebraska    Bowring Ranch / Wounded Knee    Mt. Rushmore    Custer State Park    Crazy Horse Monument    Through Wyoming    Yellowstone    Fly Fishing    Through Washington    Mt. Saint Helens    Marbles in Lake Oswego

This update finds the Rich Family traversing the U.S. from Minneapolis all the way to Lake Oswego near Portland, OR.  The trip went directly to Battle Creek, NE on business to form a partnership between Pinnacle West Corporation, Denny's company, and the BEST bank in all of Nebraska, probably the entire U.S. for that matter:  Battle Creek State Bank.  See the update for a picture of this great bank.  

From that point, the Riches wound their way north and west to see spectacular Western scenery and some great National Parks and Monuments, most notably, Yellowstone National Park.  Traveling later than the peak tourist season is great, in that there are fewer tourists to impact our experiences.  However, October weather is something to be considered.  The Rich Family Odyssey has been blessed with good weather everywhere we have gone, with a minor exception in Mt. Rainier National Park, which was mostly IFR all the way.*    Anyway, enjoy the pictures and dialogue.  If you have questions, or would like to send us a message, DON'T HESITATE, and click on:  Send e-mail.

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One of our favorite days was one of fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park on the Firehole River.  Jennifer was already a fly fishing 'expert' but Stephanie and Denny needed some lessons.  Here is Stephanie getting outfitted with her gear with help from Mom and our great guide, Chuck.  Stephanie got her boots on over her waders and learned quickly how to cast a fly rod.  She caught the two biggest Rainbow Trout of us all!  Of course, like all good fly fisher-people, we released all the fish we caught (this is the law in Yellowstone) to grow and be caught another day.  

Stephanie has written an informative paper on Yellowstone National Park.  Click on Schoolwork to read her report and see a few more pictures.  She did a great job in researching and reporting on the first National Park, Yellowstone.  Latest maps can be seen by clicking on New MapsPrevious maps are archived to make downloading easier. 

* IFR means "Instrument Flight Rules", pilot-talk for conditions when you can't see much through the clouds. Special safety and orientation instruments in the cockpit help you travel safely...in this case it was those shiny yellow lines on the road!

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Travels to Nebraska

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Once we left Minnesota, Jennifer detoured us through Northwest Iowa to visit a lovely place called Spirit Lake, which you see in the background.  Actually, it was not so spirited or clear due to the fertilizers that the farmers now use wash into this lake causing a very large algae bloom making the edge of the lake very gooey and green.  Because of this, people there actually hoist their docked boats out of the water to escape the algae.  Later, we went through a nice tourist town and larger lake near there called Okiboji Lake, which was very clear and quite nice.  
If you click on the next picture, you will see more clearly see Denny's sister and business partner, Nancy Harmon, standing in front of Battle Creek State Bank in Battle Creek, NE.  This is the best bank in all of Nebraska and a new partner for Pinnacle West.  The next picture shows Stephanie, Nancy and Jennifer celebrating Jennifer's birthday party in Norfolk, NE which is where we stayed while visiting Battle Creek.  Norfolk (best known as Johnny Carson's hometown) is 13 miles east of Battle Creek, NE and has a very nice public campground.

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Bowring Ranch / Wounded Knee

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As we traveled along the way to our destinations in the west, we made a few interesting side trips.  One was to the Bowring Ranch in northern Nebraska, which is a place where they have captured a lot of the history of the early west and kept  the ranch intact much as it was at the turn of the 20th century.  In the museum, there is a display shown in the next picture depicting the killing of the hundreds of thousands of buffalo (or, more accurately, bison) that roamed the plains in the nineteenth century to the point there were only a few hundred left. Not a great tribute again to the white man.  Stephanie took a picture of a well painted windmill that was used to pump water. Other windmills would be used to generate electricity for charging batteries to keep houses and henhouses lit with bright light.
Wounded Knee, SD is the place that in 1890 the U.S. Army killed between 150 and 300 unarmed Indian men, women and children when they were trying to contain the Indians and settle them on to reservations, usually in Oklahoma.  In this case, a shot rang out from an unknown person, causing panic.  The soldiers began firing at the Indians indiscriminately and killed many. This picture shows the mass grave and memorial to those Indians who died.  This was truly the Indians 'last stand' and very sobering.

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Mt. Rushmore

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One of America's favorite memorials is Mt. Rushmore, outside Rapid City, SD.  The memorial, sculpted by Gutzon Borglum in the 1930s and 40s shows four presidents: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as fathers of our country, Abraham Lincoln as the President who kept the nation intact, and Teddy Roosevelt as the president who had the vision to lead us into the twentieth century as a world leader.  A new visitors center has been built in the last few years and is quite informative and spectacular (showing flags of all US states and territories), in addition to the monument itself. Inside the visitors center, Stephanie gets some instructions on carving stone, much like the monument would have been carved.  Jennifer and Stephanie pose at the base of the mountain.  It really is something to see up close.

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Custer State Park

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We traveled from Rapid City along a route through Custer State Park.  Along the road, we encountered some terrific engineering in a series of bridges that crossed back on themselves, called Pigtail Bridges.  If you click on the picture of the historical sign, you can read about how  C. C. Gideon created them.
The pictures below show some of the wildlife that we saw on our trip through Custer State Park.  It was quite a display and the most fun we had on our trip viewing wildlife.

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The first picture is of a little doe mule deer (notice the big ears, hence the name) which we saw many of.  Next, you can see a herd of wild donkeys. Then we had an opportunity to see and photograph many, many antelope sitting and grazing near the road. South Dakota's large buffalo herd (as seen in Dances with Wolves and other western movies) roam here and are shown in a corral after the annual fall roundup the week before.  The park sells some of the buffalo to help provide funds for the park and to keep the buffalo herd size managed. Some big horn sheep hugged the road.  Even a wily lone red coyote was traversing the grass near us.  Finally, you can see that the mule deer are so plentiful that they even come right down to the visitor's center at Wind Cave National Park and eat the grass.  A small buck poses for the camera thinking we might give him something to eat.  We didn't.

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Crazy Horse Monument

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Following our tour of Custer State Park, we made a side trip and a stop to visit the ever growing Crazy Horse Monument.  The picture shows the model that the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, made to show how the very large mountain monument would look when finished.  You can see the mountain in the background with the completed head and the start on the pointing arm (actually larger than a football field).  Ziolkowski died a few years ago, but his wife and 8 of his 10 children are working full time to complete the mountain monument, commissioned by an organization of Indian tribes. There is no target completion date, but real progress is being made, all without a single dollar of federal or state tax money to help.  The fighting stallion horse sculpture is one of Ziolkowski's most famous and is displayed at the monument.

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Through Wyoming

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As we left Rapid City and traveled through the Black Hills on our way to Wyoming, we encountered the first of the winter snow falls.  It was quite gorgeous, as you can see.   Betty, our RV, and our Jeep, in tow, get very grimy while traversing through some sloppy snow left on the road.  Washing becomes a frequent necessity this time of year!
Next, you can see a picture of Devil's Tower National Monument in eastern Wyoming.  After becoming famous in the movie, 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' it was really great to see it up close, and from the bottom instead of the usual views from a distance.  The next picture shows Stephanie on the rock field below the monument where rocks have fallen off over the millennia.  When you go there, read about the Indian legend of the giant bear who scraped the tower with his claws chasing his Indian prey.

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Here is Steffi in a normal pose while we travel down the road.  The only thing missing from her is Java, our cat, who is usually in her arms in this pose.  

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As we passed through some fabulous Wyoming scenery on our way to Yellowstone, we got many views of some fabulous canyons and rock formations.  This is shown as we traveled west from Buffalo, WY through Tensleep Canyon.  Amazingly, an eagle (we think) flew right along Betty while we went through the canyon for a half mile of so.  We had time to snap a few pictures of him/her alongside.  

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Having made our way through Wyoming to Yellowstone, we had a fabulous time touring and seeing a lot of gorgeous scenery, geological sites, and great wildlife.  We assume most of you reading this have been to Yellowstone, so we are not going to publish a ton of pictures.  Stephanie has written a wonderful paper which is published in her Schoolwork section.  If you haven't been there, GO!  We highly recommend September or, in our case, October, because the crowds are mostly gone and all the good things are left, including fall color!!

The first two shots show some typical hot springs and fumaroles, with the second picture showing how Yellowstone changes all the time, including making new hot spots in the parking lot.  Buffalo are everywhere, but not usually crossing the road as you see here.  A large bull elk, in rutting season, is seen here going after quite a few cows that are busy crossing the Madison river shown in the next picture.  Notice how much the new growth of Lodgepole Pine is seen under the burned trees from the 1988 Yellowstone fires.  There are so many, it looks like they were planted, but they were not.  It is just Mother Nature doing her work.

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The first picture is of Celestine Pool in the Fountain Paint Pot area. Next picture is a typical mudpot which looks exactly like like gray boiling paint.  Next Red Spouter's fumarole is also a red mudpot in the spring when the water table is higher.  Stephanie and Denny overlook some hot springs in the Lower Geyser Basin and see a typical geyser erupting continuously.  The last picture shows the color of many of the hot springs as a brilliant blue.

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Here are a couple of geysers in the Lower Geyser Basin followed by a shot of the famous Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts every 85 minutes or so with a large amount of water.  Not shown are the large crowds gathered around to watch the event.  Even in the fall, there were probably 300 people watching this.

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In West Yellowstone, MT there is a set of cabins that have some great carved figures on top of them.  Click on the picture for a better view.  Next, Stephanie sits and watches Gibbon Falls on the Gibbon River.  At Beryl Spring, you can see the 'snow' on the nearby trees if you click on the picture.  It really isn't snow, it is condensation that has frozen from the steam of the spring.  The temperature was getting down to zero to 10 degrees each night so you can see why the steam froze on the trees... something you would never see in the summer.  At the Norris Geyser Basin, you can see all sorts of hot springs and geysers. The first picture makes it look as if the whole hill in the background is on fire.  The last spring is Echinus Geyser.  It erupts every 1 to 4 hours after the pool fills up.  We waited a long time watching the pool fill up, but finally gave up without seeing the spectacular eruption.  Maybe next time.

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There is also a lot of other beautiful scenery in Yellowstone.  Tower Falls on Tower creek flows into the Yellowstone River.  Next is Lower Yellowstone Falls as it falls into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

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Fly Fishing

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As we said in our introduction, we spent a day fishing on the Firehole River. We were very busy catching fish and learning the finer points of fly casting as taught by our guide, Chuck.  So, we didn't have time to take pictures of all the fun in the water, even though we wish we had.  Here you can see Stephanie getting her rather large waders on.  Jennifer is happy to be outdoors and ready to fish.  Lastly, Stephanie poses with Chuck back in Yellowstone after a great day.  Stephanie caught two fish, Jennifer caught one, and Denny caught four.  We could have caught a lot more, but learning the fine art of watching the fly for a hit and then gently setting the hook takes some practice.  We will definitely do more fly fishing in the future... the next time possibly in New Zealand in January.

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Through Washington

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On the way to Oregon, we passed through the great little town of Sandpoint, ID.  Here is a shot inside the terrific Coldwater Creek store, where Jennifer and Stephanie got a nice shopping fix.  Next, you see the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in central Washington.  It produces power for over 6 million homes and is used largely to supplement electricity demand from Chicago to San Diego.  The last picture shows very large pump motors (the power generators look just like these pumps) which are used to pump water out of the river up to a very large holding reservoir called Banks Lake which is used to provide irrigation water for much of central Washington, producer of 75% of the country's apples and garden seeds.

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Another nice stop along the way was in Leavenworth, WA.  This is a town that has remade itself from a declining logging and rail town to a beautiful village in European Bavarian style.  It is really well done. You can see the main street and lastly a May Pole over an art show.

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We have had delightful weather for most of the Rich Odyssey.  Very rarely, have we had clouds or rain. However, on the day we went through Mt. Rainier National Park, there were lots of clouds and we could not see the top of the mountain.  Nevertheless, the scenery was great when we were not IFR.  The last picture shows the path through the clouds which leads to the trail to the top of the mountain which is 14,410 feet high. 

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Our campsite near Mt. Rainier was in a beautiful town called Mossy Rock on Mayfield Lake.  Stephanie is enjoying a nature trail on the way to the lake which was just down the hill from our RV.

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Mt. Saint Helens

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Another fabulous sight along our way was a visit to the Mt. Saint Helens Volcanic National Monument in southern Washington.  As you may recall, Mt. Saint Helens erupted in 1980 and caused a major change in the geography around the area especially on the north side of the mountain which was entirely blown away.  In the first picture you can see the top of Mt. Saint Helens shrouded in clouds and can also see the new Coldwater Lake which was formed when the mud flow dammed up Coldwater Creek.  Another picture of Mt. Saint Helens from the Johnston visitor's center shown in the next picture.  This center was opened in 1997 and has many informative displays in addition to the spectacular views up close to the mountain.  It is on Johnston Ridge named after a USGS geologist who was killed there when the mountain exploded.  Lastly, if you click on the picture, you can get a sense of the power of the blast by looking at the remains of the trees that were once growing everywhere here.

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Marbles in Lake Oswego

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Finally, our arrival in Lake Oswego south of Portland, OR gave us a few days' respite parked in Jennifer's brother's (Mike and Deb Marble) driveway enjoying a fine time with them and other friends and relatives.  The first picture shows Denny, Ilene with Stephanie on her back, niece Abbey Marble, Deb, Nana (Pat) Marble and Mike Marble.  Jennifer, Nana and Mike.  Lastly, one of many fine dinners we enjoyed was a group birthday party for the five fall birthday honorees.

We are now on our way through California from son Tim's home in San Francisco to sister Nancy Harmon's house in Highland, CA in the LA basin.  Then we will turn east and make some last stops on our way to Colorado.  We will be home from around November 15 to December 1 when we will embark on the around the world part of the Rich Odyssey. Stay tuned for itinerary updates in the coming weeks!