Northern Utah – National Parks Road Trip – Day 11 – Golden Spike National Historic Site & Salt Lake City

Monday morning had us going south from Jackson Hole, Wyoming before heading off to the west on a small state highway reaching a town called Freedom on the Wyoming/Idaho border. If ever there was a town that looked like a stereotypical redneck Idaho/Wyoming town it was Freedom. You had the feeling everyone was carrying a gun for ‘Freedom’. But we proceeded through without incident and made our way into the mountains past Tincup Mountain. As we were sailing down the canyon next to a creek we came around the corner to find a herd of sheep on the road, and some dogs attempting to control them onto the hillside, which eventually they did. Little did we know this was a precursor of things to come.

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A few miles further and we could see in the near distance a herd of cattle being driven down the road, lead by the farmer in his pickup truck. We had nowhere to go and asked a rancher what to do. He answered just drive slowly and the cows will go around us. The ranchers were on ATVs, in trucks, and on horseback moving a large herd. We inched forward and the cows worked their way around us but one brown cow stood stubbornly in our path and would not move. The stubborn animal stared at us only a few inches from the hood of our car. Then unexpectedly the stubborn cow started licking the front of the car. She seemed to enjoy licking the car swiping her tongue back and forth across the front of the car while the rest of the herd moved along the side of the car surrounding us from all sides.

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The cow licked the car hood and front grille working her tongue to eat the bugs stuck to the car while we laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. When she had enough bugs we inched ahead still laughing at the odd incident. The ladies at the end of the herd pulled up and asked if we were ok. Still laughing, we replied we were, just not something that happens to you in Ohio, or most anywhere else I have ever been. Later I had the opportunity to stop and inspect the car afterwards to find cow slime over the hood, taking a photo as evidence.

By mid morning we arrived in the small resort town of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for a rest stop. Two buses of Korean tourists were finishing their baths in hot spring water pools which they believe to be therapeutic. The staff informed us they get many bus tours coming up from Los Angeles to Yellowstone from the Asian community and they all make a stop for a soak. It was a nice facility and the hot spring pools did not smell like rotten eggs like Thermopolis, however since we experienced hot springs before we moved on to Interstate 15 towards Utah.

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We took a detour from our itinerary to see the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah. The spike represents the last spike to complete the first transcontinental railroad joining the Central Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska and the Union Pacific Railroad from Sacramento, California on May 10, 1869. Pressure from Congress forced the two companies to reach an agreement on a meeting place. After negotiations they finally decided to meet at the midway point at the end of track for each railroad company, which was at Promontory Summit.

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Promontory means the high point projecting into a body of water. Leland Stanford tapped four ceremonial spikes commemorating the event where the two railroads met. The actual golden spike is at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The Golden Spike site is part of the National Parks system displaying two working replicas of the train engines with tenders for the ceremony. The replicas #119 and Jupiter are nearly exact to the originals in style. The replicas are ornately painted and have brass bells and fixtures. The original locomotives were outmoded and sold for scrap long ago.

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We drove the auto tour that allowed us to trace the railroad noting important points of interest along the way at Promontory. Noted points such as the last climb, the parallel grading, cuts, and areas blasted to make this remarkable engineering project were marked on the trail. A memorial stood at one of the interest points honoring the Irish and Chinese laborers who worked on the rails. We drove the entire west and east stretch of rail line and saw a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake in the distance from the rail bed high point.

We got into Salt lake City about 3 pm to check into our hotel room at The Little American. The room had an excellent rating on Trip Adviser but when we entered the room it seemed as if we time warped to the 1950’s. The bath had very old fixtures and pink ceramic tile everywhere. The bed had a fluffy pink country flair to it and a very stained pink carpet. We left the hotel to explore the city wondering if we could get a beer in a city populated with Mormons who vow against alcohol. We found the Beerhive Pub and stopped for a beer, which we found amazing that a pub was about a block from Mormon Central. I had a Red Rock Honey wheat that was very good. Then we went to a Scottish store called The Edinburgh Castle looking for a mug for Beth. The store did not have a mug but did sell, tams, hats, kilts and other Scottish items.

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Then we came upon Temple Square, the location of the Mormon Tabernacle Church (temple as it is called here) which is only opened to Mormons.  A visitor center displaying a model of the temple showed the multiple levels of the temple that seemed to set a hierarchy for seating. Mormon women at the temple dressed in western 19th century clothing of bonnets and long skirted gowns assisted tourists and people who have made a pilgrimage to the temple. The display model also had cows at the lowest level in the temple facing outward in a circle. We learned that the twelve cows represent the twelve tribes of Israel. As we walked away from the temple, we noticed that many buildings were associated with the Mormon church and saw its influence throughout the city. Overall it was a surreal experience, sort of like a bad movie where everything looked like paradise before they took you hostage and brainwashed you – but perhaps I just watch too many movies, but best experiencing none the less after a stop at the Beerhive Pub.

We walked toward the Capitol building but it started to rain so we ran into an H& M store and shopped until it stopped. We found good traditional Utah fare for dinner, well perhaps not, but it was an excellent Italian restaurant, Michelangelo’s. The fettuccini dinner  and spicy pasta were excellent. As we ate, a movie was being made across the street. Actors were dressed in winter apparel and cotton batting lined the sidewalk as snow while Santa acted in the Hallmark movie.

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Idaho and Wyoming – National Parks Road Trip – Day 10 – Yellowstone to Jackson Hole

Another early start found us at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. As usual the early start allowed us to avoid the crowds for some excellent views, along with the other dedicated morning photographers. Why buy a postcard when you can take the picture yourself.

Since we missed it the day before we returned to the Norris Geyser Basin and began our hike along the boardwalk through the back basin. Steamboat Geyser fumed so high and huge that it could be seen from most of the back basin. This geyser erupted last year and it was evident of the violent destruction that was left for us to see. As we toured we found many other geysers vending significant steam. The hot water from the earth combined with the cold air of 35 degrees created a steamy low-lying atmosphere.

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The loud gurgling sounds of the geyser from Puff N Stuff was a visitor’s favorite as well as ours. It is caused by steaming vents in the earth among the dead trees in the white sulfuric basin gave an eerie feeling and a creepy setting. The tour continued on the other side of the basin where there were more geysers in the Porcelain Basin. This basin is more open and the area was crowded with tourists, along with a number of geologists and park rangers hiking back to where we had been carrying technical equipment for analysis.

Warning sign inform tourists not to toss debris into the geysers (morons of the world unite) as exemplified in the Minute Geyser located in Porcelain Basin, which was damaged by tourists and now no longer erupts as it once did nearly every minute. Over the years, tourists clogged the geyser with twigs and stones that they tossed into the geyser.

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The Artist Paint Pots turned out to be our last stop in Yellowstone. The loop surrounding the paint pots was disappointing due to the lack of variety of colors that decorate the pools, primarily due to the overcast day. You could however see a variety of pools, or paint pots, nestled in a hillside with mountains in the distance.

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Our plan was to go to Midway Geyser Basin while heading out the south exit toward Grand Teton’s, but instead we got stuck in a huge traffic jam. Sunday was much busier with tourists than the previous days. After an extended period of no movement I gave up, turned around and exited the West Entrance.

As we proceeded on the West Drive we came across a magnificent elk wading in the river. Everywhere in Yellowstone you see wildlife you see traffic jams, including our last as we were exiting, this one caused by a bison  walking in the middle of the road and refusing to move aside. As motorists inched around the bison, it came to be directly in front of us so we shot a photo from our windshield of the bison’s butt moving very slowly almost as if it meant to do this just to say he owns the place. Eventually the bison moved off the road allowing us to leave the park.

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We ended up in West Yellowstone, Montana at noon and stopped for lunch at McDonald’s. From here we drove south across the Continental Divide again and west into Idaho. The view of large mountains was spectacular and we passed many, potato fields which I had not seen before. We followed Idaho State Route 32, also known as the Grand Teton Scenic Highway.

We crossed Teton Pass back into Wyoming to reach our hotel in Jackson Hole. Since there was still plenty of daylight we drove into Elk Range outside of Jackson Hole to spot wildlife but were unlucky on that adventure so we went back to explore the town. The center of Jackson is Antler Park, named for the unusual arches made of elk antlers at the four entrances into the park.

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Surrounding the park are a number of art galleries. Life-size bronze sculptures of Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, George Washington, and elk stood outside a gallery and seemed to be a popular spot for tourists to pose with the statues. The town is well known as a resort for its outdoor adventures but our stop was to take in a short visit and overnight on our way to Salt Lake City.

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We chose to have dinner at the Gun Barrel Steak and Game House fitting for the western aura of Jackson Hole. The restaurant use to be a western museum and taxidermy shop and it shows from the many animals mounted on the walls. The restaurant also had a full-sized stuffed bison named Wyatt, and a 1800’s buffalo coat owned by Hank Williams, Jr. We were game to try the game on the menu so we had a sampler of elk steak, bison prime rib, and venison bratwurst, as well as elk medallions; I had mixed results with my dinner. Game meat is not fatty and needs to be eaten slightly rare so half of the medallions were overcooked and tough. The waitress brought two more medallions and only one of them was tender but I had enough to eat and it was a good experience to have eaten in a nice restaurant. The evening was cool, but the day had been long so we called it a night.

Yellowstone – National Parks Road Trip – Day 9

As noted previously our hotel room was very new, having been open only two weeks. The hotel was committed to and designed for conservation. A free water bottle refill station was situated in the lobby of the hotel and the room key card was used to power electricity while in the room and shut off when you left the room to eliminate waste. The room also had a theme of teddy bears since Teddy Roosevelt was known as such a conservationist and so engaged in establishing the national park system. Even the bath soap was shaped into teddy bears. When we awoke the electricity was not working and had to take a shower in the dark. It was also cold enough to see frost on the car. The car temperature read 31 degrees.

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The agenda for this day was to take the South Loop. The cool morning allowed for some light fog to develop along the river, and in the valley’s, and with our early start it was peaceful and not crowded. After a couple of brief stops along the river, the lake and the Continental Divide, we arrived at the parking lot for Old Faith, being able to park in the first parking space next to the walkway to the geyser

The visitor center at Old Faithful has the expected eruption time for all of the geysers in the valley. It is highly recommended to pay a visit to them as you arrive, it greatly increases your chances for successful geyser eruption viewing. First up was for Old Faithful for 9 am but only saw a small baby eruption which happens occasionally. So we went off to have a breakfast of ham and cheese bagels at a coffee shop. Ugh, not the best breakfast but no other choice.

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The guide said next up was the Daisy Geyser, which showed us a a powerful eruption. This was most impressive, addition to the . It made me look forward to seeing Old Faithful later on. We walked the path behind the geyser where we met girls from Paris, France. Together we watched Old Faithful erupt from a distance but got a nice view of the full plume of water gushing upward.

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We hiked the upper geyser basin before returning to the lodge for lunch. For the afternoon we walked back toward the geysers to see the Grand Geyser but it did not erupt, so we made our way to the Riverside Geyser that erupted for twenty minutes. As the group of people sat on benches watching the eruption two Bikini top middle-aged women posed in front of the geyser saluting with open arms. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of these women. This photo became the photo of the day with the caption of “All hail the geyser gods“, which to this day is the most requested photo I have ever taken.

On our walk back to the main lodge we passed Castle Geyser which was erupting, which lasted for a very long time. Once we returned to the lodge we found seats on the porch and chatted with two Ohioans waiting for old Faithful to spew. This time Old Faithful erupted at full force. Having completed the tour of the geyser basin we headed out to complete the South Loop.

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Up next; Biscuit Basin. This thermal basin is particularly volatile and unpredictable. An earthquake occurred nearby decades ago and Sapphire Pool erupted violently blowing away the large rock biscuits around the crater. Biscuit Basin was named for those biscuit-shaped mineral formations. We crossed a creek so clear that you could see colorful pools of blue, orange, and red bacteria. The pools bubble and steam in orange bacterial mats. Thermal microorganisms thrive in the clear pools. Toxic gases exist sometimes with dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide in some hydrothermal areas.  The park has a smell of rotten eggs and a burning sensation lingered in our throats at times. Just beyond Biscuit Basin was Midway Geyser Basin where we were able to photograph rivers coloring the banks of the geyser. The area was jammed with cars so we skipped seeing Midway Geyser.

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The last stops of the day were at Great Fountain Geyser to see the most predictable geyser in the lower basin. The Great Fountain Geyser usually peaks between 75 and over 200 feet high and erupts every 9 to 15 hours. The next eruption was expected much later in the day at 10:30 pm so we moved on not seeing activity here. Just beyond was a visit to the Lower Geyser Basin to see the Fountain Paint Pots and the Fountain Geyser that erupted with two smaller geysers called Clepsydra (Greek for water clock) and Spasm Geyser.

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The Fountain erupts every 14 hours and we were lucky to see it. It was the best geyser with the most explosive eruption spewing for 30 minutes. We also saw many steaming vents and thermal pools. As we watched the geyser’s activity and felt the spray, we talked with Grace and his wife, Elizabeth, from Basel, Switzerland. Grace has been to all the lower 48 states and his wife was visiting the USA for the first time. From here we drove to Firehole Canyon to see a narrow canyon with a nice waterfall. The canyon was so narrow it restricted vehicles to only cars on a one-way street. Steep cliffs lined the road and river.

Dinner was once again in the cafeteria, followed by more star gazing.

Yellowstone – National Parks Road Trip – Day 8

Breakfast at the Best Western was eggs with a smell of rotten eggs (from the hot springs not the kitchen). We left Thermopolis before sunrise passing more smelly hot springs.

Our destination today was one that has been long awaited – Yellowstone. It was about a 3 hour drive to Yellowstone, passing through Cody on the way. Cody is full of cowboy motif, much of it for Buffalo Bill, culminating with a large rodeo grounds on the west side of town.

Just west of Cody we passed a strange structure known locally as the Smith Mansion, built by local resident Lee Smith.  He had no plans, he just built what he felt was correct for the wilderness around him, ending up with a 75′ high structure that looks like a tornado already hit it. He lived in it while building it, with no running water or electricity. Unfortunately he was killed when he fell 12′ off the mansion while working on it. Also of note is the giant pile of antlers that make an entrance.

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As you continue west from Cody you pass through a number of tunnels before running along the Buffalo Bill Lake. The drive is said to take two hours, although we made it in significantly less time, arriving at the East entrance to no lines.

We arrived at Yellowstone National Park at 9 am, and with no line we were quickly rising up to Sylvan Pass (8300 feet elevation), which had significant evidence of forest fires in recent years. Continuing further we came up on Yellowstone Lake. Parking along the lakeshore was a treat – the lake itself is beautiful, but it also gave us our first view of thermal vents, and a herd of bison.

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Just ahead was the services area known as ‘Lake Village‘, where we stopped at the visitor center to purchase our park membership. Checking out the collection of items offered, the rangers suggested that we buy bear spray if we plan to hike the trails. This made us a bit nervous but we passed on the bear spray anyway, buying a t-shirt instead. Style ranks over safety.

Our route took us north of Lake Village along the Yellowstone River, where we saw more bison, before arriving at the Mud Volcanoes. A boardwalk provided up close access to see the churning cauldrons and Dragons Mouth Spring. Dragon’s Mouth was a cave-like area that spewed steam and a low roar. Just across the road was Sulfur Cauldron, another fascinating thermal feature.

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I had made reservations at the recently completed lodge in Canyon Village, where we arrived around noontime. We were able to register for our room, but unable to drop the bags, that would wait for later. After a quick lunch at the Canyon Diner we headed back out to continue our tour.

Our afternoon was spent driving the North Loop of the park through Dunraven Pass to see Tower Falls, Calcite Springs and a canyon with high cliffs and even a bit of lava flow.

Arriving at the north end of the park we found Fort Yellowstone. This town served as an army post with many original and restored buildings. A family of elk grazed on the lawn at the Old Yellowstone Post Office. Kentucky Bluegrass was planted long ago and a favorite of the elk.

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Just above the town is Mammoth Hot Springs, a large complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine, which resembles blocks of ice stacked in tiers sloped on the hill. Spurts of water and steam erupted from the crevices of the springs. The white calcium carbonate created from the water travelling over limestone beneath the earth gave an eerie alien look, with the algae living in the warm pools tinting the travertine shades of brown, orange, red and green. We spent most of the afternoon hiking up and down the terraces and along the boardwalk viewing the amazing odd landscape.

Continuing south on the loop road we arrived at the Golden Gate, with the impressive bridge around the waterfalls. The bridge was the most difficult engineering project in the park built up to that date. Further along we saw the billowing smoke from a forest fire. The park rangers allow the fires to burn out and the smoke and fire continued for days, closing some roads.

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Before our return to Canyon Village we went to the north rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and walked the six hundred foot drop to the viewpoints in the canyon of the falls, before returning back up the hill again. A second viewpoint at Inspiration Point in the same area provided a more comprehensive look at the Lower Falls, without 1000 steps round trip. They did however, have numerous ‘no drones’ signs.

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One challenge in the National Parks are the lack of dining, resulting in overcrowded restaurants. The one in Canyon Village had a 1.5 hour wait for a table, so we opted for a casual dinner at the cafeteria since the restaurant at our end of the park had an 1 1/2 hour wait to be seated. Afterwards, we drove out at night to look at stars. We met a couple from Philadelphia at the spot we chose to take in the stars. We sat until about 9:30 chatting with them and saw thousands of bright stars in the dark sky.

Wyoming – National Parks Road Trip – Day 7 – Bighorn Canyon, Legend Rock Petroglyphs and Thermopolis

Day 7 began in the early morning, leaving Billings to go south to Wyoming. After passing through a few small town we reached Lovell, Wyoming, home of (among other things) Pryor Mountain Mustang Ranch. Just at the edge of town is a small visitor center with information and photos of the ponies.  The range is a refuge for a significant herd of free-roaming Mustangs, called “wild horses”, located in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming. The horses run freely through an open range of nearly 40,000 acres which is the first protected refuge dedicated exclusively for Mustangs; it lies within the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The visitor center host, Linda, has named each wild horse and would identify them as she showed us their photos. After providing us some excellent guidance, she sent us on our way.

After a short drive, we arrived at the entrance to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, where Pryor Mountain is located . While we did not see wild mustangs running through the cliffs and valleys, we did see beautiful colorful mountains on the winding road along the way. Our first hike on a trail up a cliff lead to a great viewing spot, but we were unable to spot the wild horses. The 40,000 acres gives the horses a lot of land to roam without being seen.

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Further into the park we went back into Montana, noted by a small wood sign. Our picturesque drive rose more than 9400 feet in elevation as we made our way into the mountain range. Just ahead we reached a parking lot for the Devil Canyon Overlook. Little did we know when we got out of the car we were coming up on a 1000′ drop to the lake at the bottom of the canyon. Other than the Grand Canyon this view is the most impressive canyon we have ever seen. We stood breathlessly at the overlook trying to capture a photo of its exquisiteness.

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When we told Linda that we were headed for Thermopolis she asked how much time we had, as there was a scenic route and a fast route. We opted for the scenic route, and are very happy that we did. As we left Bighorn Canyon we were greeting with very colorful mountains, lakes and rivers, and excellent curving roads.

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US 14A ascends the Big Horn mountains, peaking out in a pass at over 9400′ elevation, continually providing overlooks. Once we reached to alpine valley at the top we reached the turnoff to go back down the mountain. After descending a four mile stretch to a rest area with walkways at Shell Falls, a spectacular waterfall in the Bighorn National Forest on Shell Creek. The falls drop 120′ over the granite rock.

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The town at the bottom of the mountain is Greybull, Wyoming. As it is the only town for miles they had a good selection of restaurants for such a small town; we opted for lunch at Historic Hotel Greybull, built in 1916, with a small dining room. The small dining room was very busy, and we enjoyed a casual lunch before continuing south.

First stop after our arrival in Thermopolis, Wyoming was the visitor center. I had two venues I wanted to see while there; Legend Rocks Petroglyphs and the Thermopolis Hot Springs. Once again the visitor center attendant, Kay, was very helpful and recommended we go to Legend Rocks first as it closed early.

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We drove the 20 miles or so out of town, down some dirt roads before arriving at a small gravel parking lot with a cabin and a huge RV. The cabin/office was open but unattended – we picked up a pamphlet and headed out. Heading down the hill we found 15 separate sets of petroglyphs and pictographs made by Native Americans. We carried the pamphlet outlining where to find the rock art because some of them were faded and hard to see. Marker 3 had etchings that were 11,000 years old while others were 6,000 to 8,000 B. C. Elk, bison, people, turtles, rabbits, hawks and dark figures with short arms were carved in stone. Some art was painted. After completing our tour we returned to the car and headed back to town, passing through an oilfield called Hamilton Dome, complete with vacant buildings.

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Arriving back in Thermopolis we found that the hotel I had made reservations at, a Best Western, was in a restored building in the Wyoming State Park that contained the springs. After checking in we walked over to the hot springs, where it constantly measures a temperature of 135 F degrees as it spouts out of the earth and is has a rotten egg smell due to the high sulfur, magnesium, and carbon dioxide content of the water. People flock to Thermopolis believing that the hot spring water has healing power. The hot spring supply here is not from magma but trickles down from the surface into deep fissures in the rock where it is heated and then resurfaces through the spring. The walk to the spring to see the bubbling water surface then slowly flow over flat surface rocks to a public bath and pool was scenic, but smelly.

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We ate dinner at the Safari Club of Days Inn. The dining room was decorated with hundreds of stuffed animal heads mounted to the walls. These animals were from hunting exploits of the owner, Mr. Mills, who personally bagged 85% of all the animals displayed. How do I know this, well it is bragged about on the inside of the menu. It felt creepy sitting underneath taxidermy heaven. It was a Noah’s Ark of the animal kingdom on display for all to see. Elk, tiger skins, leopard skins, fish, bobcats, swordfish, deer, bear, and more were mounted. Perhaps it was the decor here that was famous because it sure wasn’t for the taste in food.

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Our Best Western hotel had a hot tub with water from the hot spring. We spent about 15 minutes soaking in the hot tub of green-tinted water, then about 30 minutes taking a shower to get rid of the smell.

It was a great day, difficult to choose which was the best moment, Bighorn Canyon or the Legend Rocks Petroglyphs.

Western Nebraska – 2012 Road Trip – Day 11 – Carhenge, Scotts Bluff & Toadstool Geologic Park

Monday morning, we set off for the rest of our vacation, the scenic route home. We headed north into Wyoming, going past Cheyenne, before heading east across the prairies for the Nebraska border.

 

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As we crossed into Nebraska we began to see sunflower fields and interestingly unexpected sandstone hills and towers.

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Not far from the border we came to the town of Scottsbluff and the Scotts Bluff National Monument, an important landmark on the Oregon Trail.

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The park contains multiple bluffs which rise over 800 feet above the plaints, and is located along the south side of the North Platte River; the monument is composed of five rock formations named Crown Rock, Dome Rock, Eagle Rock, Saddle Rock, and Sentinel Rock.

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To get to the top you drive the Summit Road. This 1.6 mile drive features scenic views and the only three vehicular tunnels in the state of Nebraska. Once at the top there are some short trails with overlooks of the surrounding town and countryside.

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Back down on the prairie there is a wagon to show what life was like on the Oregon Trail, as well as Park personnel who explain what the trip would’ve been like.

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About 20 miles east of Scottsbluff we came to Chimney Rock, a prominent geological rock formation rising nearly 300 feet above the surrounding valley.

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Northeast of Chimney Rock was, for me, the highlight of the trip – Carhenge!

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Carhenge is a replica of England’s Stonehenge located near the city of Alliance, Nebraska, in the middle of a prairie.

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Instead of being built with large stones, Carhenge is formed from vintage American automobiles, all covered with gray spray paint. It was built in 1987.

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Carhenge replicates Stonehenge’s current “tumble-down” state, rather than the original stone circle erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. In addition to the Stonehenge replica, the Carhenge site includes several other sculptures created from autos covered with various colors of spray paint.

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Travelling northwest through the Oglalla National Grasslands we made our way to the Toadstone Geologic Park, a very nice example of ‘badlands’ in the far northwest corner of Nebraska near the borders of Wyoming and South Dakota.

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The formations throughout this park are very interesting, a precursor of what was to come in South Dakota.

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As we left the park and continued down the dirt road we were stunned by what we saw next, airplane fuselages on a train rolling along the prairies. Apparently Boeing has the 737 fuselages built in Wichita, Kansas, then ships them to Renton, Washington for completion.

 

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After our long day we looked forward to our motel for the night. I had found a place in Custer, South Dakota called the Rocket, a 1950s retro-themed motel. Dinner was at the Sage Creek Grille, then we crashed for the night.