Monday, June 14, 2010
From Minnetonka to Yellowstone!
I apologize for the lack of updates on the trip. The past few days we have been camping and haven't really even had cell phone service, much less internet access. I guess I will continue with the end of our visit in Minnesota. We got a bit of a late start because I had a phone interview and Melanie had a lot of stuff to do on her computer. We had lunch with Taylor at the 5-8 Diner, which is famous for it's burger called the Juicy Lucy. They're burgers with the cheese on the inside, and it oozes out when you bite into it. We all tried them, and they were quite delicious! After leaving Minneapolis, we decided to travel west to Darwin, MN, which is home to the world's largest ball of twine rolled by one man. It's HUGE! It was about 11 feet wide and is encased in a little house to protect it from the elements. We stopped by a local saloon for a bathroom break and the waitress told us that he probably did it because he was so bored and there was nothing else to do but roll twine for several hours a day. That waitress might be one of my favorite people we've met so far.
Since we ended up going farther west, we took mostly back roads through Minnesota to get into South Dakota. It was fun to see lots of farmland and such. However, once we crossed the border into South Dakota, the main road was closed, and our GPS had us weaving in and out of dirt roads around these farms until we finally made it back to a paved road and into a little town. I got really stressed out on the dirt roads because I had no idea where we were and I was slightly worried about the van getting stuck in some muddy parts. Although we did see a fox, which was pretty cool. We drove through the night to the Black Hills, all the way on the other side of the state. Sadly, we did not get to stop at the world famous Wall-Drug, which Taylor told us is quite similar to South of the Border (for all you I-95 travelers). But that turned out to be the least of our worries. We overestimated our speed with driving and our arrival time wasn't until 2:00 in the morning, but really 3:00 for us because of the time change, and we got lost because we thought we had taken the wrong road, when in actuality we just didn't drive far enough on it. When we finally saw a sign for our campsite, we started going along this road with some of the craziest turns I've ever seen (we later found out parts of it were called "Pigtail bridge" because they curl like a pig's tail). The road also had 3 one lane tunnels, and we encountered a mountain goat in the middle of the road who would not move. We managed to drive around him though. Melanie decided to name him Syrup because he was licking a syrupy substance on the road. So after driving back and forth on the road about 3 times, we finally made it to our campsite around 5 am. We set up our tent without stakes and grabbed our sleeping bags to collapse for a few hours.
When we felt we had slept a decent enough amount, we got back in the car and, at the advice of the campsite manager, drove to Custer State Park. We went on a three mile hike called the Lover's Leap loop, which had some great views! Although the park ranger told us it was a nice stroll, we definitely had to jump over this creek about 15 times as it snaked along with the trail. It was still pretty fun though! We then took the "Wildlife loop" drive around the park and saw a variety of animals, including buffalo (what the park is famous for), prairie dogs, pronghorns, and burros! Some of the burros came up to our car and stuck their heads in the window in hopes we would feed them. Then from the park, we rode the Needles Scenic Highway to Mt. Rushmore. We called it the Needless Highway because we thought that's what the sign originally said. The highway had a lot of cool rock formations that looked like fingers and the Needles Eye, which was the topmost point and looked like the end of a needle where you would thread it. Our day ended at Mt. Rushmore. It turned out to be a lot smaller than I had always imagined it, but I decided that it only looks smaller since you're seeing it at a distance. We went back to the campsite for an early dinner so that we could get some sleep at a decent hour. Before we went to sleep I suggested we put the stakes down on the tent since it was raining some and getting windy. It proved to be a good life decision because large gusts of wind blew during the night, and I feared the tent would get blown over even with the stakes! We survived though!
The next day we took another scenic drive out of the Black Hills to get to the highway on the way to Yellowstone. We drove through Deadwood, which is a historic town that was illegally settled by outlaws during the Gold Rush. It's home to Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. In fact, they apparently do reenactment's of Hickok's murder....it was an interesting town. We made it into Wyoming and saw, well, not much. There's pretty much nothing in Wyoming. Gas stations and rest stops are few and far between. We did stop once though to see Devil's Tower, which is a giant rock that towers over the plains. I now like to call it "Devil's Elbow" though, because Harrison accidentally called it that when he was making notes for his journal. So yeah, pretty much nothing in Wyoming...until we got closer to the Rockies! We drove through the Big Horn mountains, which were absolutely gorgeous! We also took a scenic drive into Yellowstone toward the East entrance. We stopped at a gift shop in Cody, and the people there gave us free samples of buffalo sausage and sarsaparilla. We contemplated going to a rodeo, but decided it was best to just get to the campsite. I did get some cool earrings in a $5 grab bag though! Yellowstone is BEAUTIFUL. We came in around a lake and through some towering cliffs. We even got into the park for free since the entry station was empty! We checked in and set up camp.
One thing we didn't anticipate for this campsite was the cold. It was FREEZING. I woke up several times in the middle of the night and had only somewhat irrational fears of getting frostbite on my toes. It did snow a little! We managed, though. I really wanted to go see Old Faithful, so that was our first stop of the day of our tour around the park on Friday. In addition to watching it, we also walked around to see some of the other, smaller geysers. Apparently there are actually other geysers that are more predictable, but I guess they just found Old Faithful first. They all released a lot of steam that felt nice but smelled like sulfur. We also visited the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which was absolutely gorgeous! We also saw more buffalo and a moose! And we checked out the mud volcano area that had geysers that spew mud out instead of just water. All-in-all, the day was excellent. We finished off the night with Melanie's potato/carrot fire-cooking experiment that turned out to be quite tasty! We also slept much better because we bundled up for the night!
Well I'm going to stop here, but I do have a few more things to share as I am now in Oregon and have to tell you how I got there. However, I want to explore my hostel a little, so I will finish updating later!