“The Earth has music for those who listen.”
– George Santayana
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My lovely Grandmother lives on a mountain, in a little town called Bonanza. Bonanza is at the very bottom, middle-ish, of Oregon. You can see Mt. Shasta (a summit in California) from the tippy-top of the mountain my Grandparents live on. It’s also in an area widely referred to as a tundra because of its volcanic dirt, and the dryness of it. It’s also super dusty. Yuck.
In any case, my Grandparents are the greatest attraction to the town. So, we packed up my Mom’s Blazer with my sister Kayla, her boyfriend Dilin, my Mom, and Collette and I. Oh, and all of our bags! Then we set out for a cross-country adventure. We drove highway 90 from Minnesota, through South Dakota, stopping by Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone, then cutting down through Montana and Idaho before arriving in Oregon.
Driving with my two-year-old was a small challenge, though I’m sure she did better than most other children her age on a long road trip. She got stir crazy in the back seat, which of course led to more stops that we might have normally made if we were on our own, and that was okay. The real challenge, was the travel DVD player my Mom bought for Collette. Yes, Frozen is a great movie (one of my favorites), but it does become a horrible movie when it’s watched over, and over, and over, and over again. We bought her several other movies to watch on the trip; learning DVDs, Finding Nemo (which used to be her favorite), we even bought Fern Gully! Who remembers that?! Oh, yea, my sister and I are probably the only ones. Fern Gully was our Frozen back in the day, but nope, Collette wanted nothing to do with it. So, more Frozen it is. Once that rest stop (that would normally be avoided without the kid) came into view, we were practically clawing our way out of the car before it even stopped. And if there was a slide, there was an all-must-participate mentality from Collette, so we were all forced to go down the slide (even though my sister was the only one of us who fit on the slides).
“Let’s get those sillies out!” was the theme for all of our stops!
The drive through South Dakota was… interesting. It’s quite a boring drive for the most part, but the stops added a little fun to it. We stopped at a place in Mitchell, South Dakota called the Corn Palace. It’s an old movie theater that’s been turned into a tourist trap, to put it simply. They decorate the outside, and inside walls with corn murals. They start out with a big piece of ply wood, then draw a simplified picture, then attach (I’m assuming with some sort of glue) different colored dry corn husks to it. The inside of the place has little stands and shelves with random touristy items all over. For example, we bought a stuffed corn husk that says “Corn Palace” on it. Unfortunately, they were redoing the outside, so we had to come in through a side door, and didn’t get to see the outside in all of its glory. Overall, it was a nice little place, and maybe in the future I’ll have to stop by to see if they have that year’s corn murals done. After visiting the Corn Palace, we stopped at a gas station to fill up the Blazer, and found a cool rabbit statue to mess around with. It had a saddle, and stairs to get onto it. Of course we took pictures on it.
After riding the unmoving-bunny, we made our way to Mt. Rushmore. Now, I’d never been to Mt. Rushmore, and I’d only ever seen photos of it, so it was nothing like I was expecting. The drive up there was beautiful, and was some of the best scenery we saw on our whole trip, even with the sudden down pour of rain that we ran into half way up there. There was a cute little town called Keystone on the way up, that I recommend visiting if you’re in the area. Once we made it up to the top we paid our parking fee, and scrambled out of the vehicle. Collette was probably more excited than any of us, she has a weird rock obsession currently.
We climbed the stairs to find the visitor’s center and a massive walk-way with large pillars and flags along its entire length. At the end of the walk-way they have a giant amphitheater, and a walking trail that takes you right under the carvings. Seeing it for the first time, I was both in awe, and a little frustrated. It was so amazing to finally see it in person, in all of its beauty, but it was nothing like I thought it would be. I was expecting it to be huge! It looks so big in photos because most of the pictures just zoom in on the actual faces, and don’t show the scenery around the mountain. There’s nothing but rocks under the carving, which is all of the rock that was carved away to make the faces. This was fascinating because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of the monument that shows the blast zone underneath it. I was blown away (see what I did there?) by the amount of rocks still resting just under the faces. For some reason, I had assumed most of it had been hauled away, or that more trees had grown back, but it’s just rocks, a really big, cool looking pile of rocks.
After doing our little posed picture session, we walked the trail under the blast zone. It was nice, but crowded. We were able to look back at the amphitheater from the complete opposite view than we had before. We didn’t walk the entire trail, just a little part of it, and then went back. Looking up their noses wasn’t super thrilling for us.
We made our way from Mt. Rushmore, to the rest of South Dakota, and then through Wyoming, until we reached the East entrance of Yellowstone. Driving through the entrance, we paid our fee and received our pass (which by the way, is good for 7 days). Less than 60 seconds after driving through the entrance, on the road in front of us, was a black bear. Just minding his own business, strolling across the road, holding up traffic, as if he was trying to reach his daily goal of cars stopping to see him. Unfortunately, I was not prepared, due to the whole being in the park for less than a minute, so I didn’t get any great photos of him, which is okay. As we drove down the road for a while, we passed many natural spring waterfalls flowing right out of the rocks, directly next to the road. It was so stunning, that I just watched as we drove by them, forgetting about my camera all together.
There were a lot of deer along the way, some of them were just hanging out, others were doing their “dark-thirty” feeding. In some places, several cars were gathered on both sides of the roads, and upon driving closer we could see why. Most of the spots were we saw this, there were large elk, either resting, or grazing right next to the road. The first one we saw was bigger than the bison we saw (which was crazy because the elk I’ve seen in Arizona are tiny!), and the second time we stopped, there was a cow elk resting about 10 feet from a grazing bull elk who was roughly 5 feet from my camera lens. Don’t worry, we were safely tucked into our car. But, the woman in the car in front of us got out of her car, less than 10 feet from a bull elk, and knelt on the ground taking his picture. She was using a tiny little point and shoot camera, with the flash on. This woman clearly had no respect for the danger she could have been in. I’m sure the animals at Yellowstone sure get used to seeing people gawk at them at all hours of the day. But, what people didn’t seem to understand, is that Yellowstone is home for these animals. It belongs to them. When you overstay your welcome, or stretch your boundaries just a little too far, they will put you in your place. Let’s go back to the woman who got out of her car, to kneel on the ground directly in front of that bull elk. She placed herself into his personal space, and stuck herself between roughly 700 pounds of potentially angry bull elk, and a car. Does anyone else see the danger in that? She was so close that she wouldn’t have had the time to react, and could have been seriously injured, or possibly killed with the right placement of antlers. She wouldn’t have seen it coming. She did eventually go back to the safety of her car.
(By the way, out of respect for the animals, and due to my own personal experience with camera flashes and wild animals, I did not use my flash for any of my photos in the park)
After driving the bottom half of the circle, we found Old Faithful. Around the geyser was a long board walk, with benches. The walk-way made its way around several other geysers as well, and went right past the massive lodge that stands at the park. We waited for almost an hour for Old Faithful to do her thing, but in the end it was worth it. We met a lot of fun people while we waited, which was amazing. Most of the people we met were families on vacation, who were spending the week there. We lived vicariously through their stories of the things they got to see throughout the week (since we only had the day). Once we were done with Old Faithful, it was dark, so it was time to leave. I was so excited to hopefully see a moose, I didn’t even care if I got to get a photo, I just wanted to see it, that I was almost in tears leaving the park without seeing one. But, I got over it fast when we were making our way out of the park and saw a fox crossing the road.
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Thanks for reading the first part of our trip!
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All photos by me,
except the ones of me, which were taken by either my sister, or my Mom.