West 2016: Missiles and Sod…

Day 4: August 8, 2016

We began our day with a trip to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in Philip, South Dakota. It was on the way to Badlands National Park, which was our ultimate destination for the day.

We didn’t actually tour the Launch Control Center, as that is a few miles down the road and we didn’t have time with our busy agenda for the day.  There are a limited number of spaces on tours each day, for a small per person fee.  The Launch Control Center was active between the 1960s and the mid-1990s, when most of the nuclear missiles were deactivated.  The United States during the peak of the Cold War had about 1,000 active nuclear missiles, and each control center controlled 10 missiles.  So, you can do the math – this was not the only control center.

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Even without going on the tour though, the Visitor’s Center was well worth the stop. Exhibits covered the length of the history of nuclear armament, from the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cold War, the tense periods with Cuba and Russia, and the eventual agreements to move toward disarming nuclear weapons around the world. Several years ago, I toured the Titan Missile Site in Sahuarita, AZ, near Tucson, so I was able to translate that experience without seeing this silo site.

When I toured the Titan site in AZ, I was amazed by the technology that existed in the construction of the silo. On my tour there, a volunteer was asked to try to open a blast door that weighed several tons. It was so well balanced and constructed that it moved very easily on its bearings.

The Minuteman Missile Visitor’s Center had a piece of the Berlin Wall that visitors could touch.

Mom, with a piece of the Berlin Wall

Mom, with a piece of the Berlin Wall

They also had a genuine missile silo toilet – a historic toilet for my collection! You know I had to get a photo of that!  Sadly it was damaged (probably by other historic toilet photo collectors) so I didn’t get to pose properly for the photo.  This one will have to do…


A genuine historic toilet! Unavailable for posing on...

A genuine historic toilet! Unavailable for posing on…

After the Minuteman site, we went just down the road to the Prairie Homestead – a South Dakota State Historic Site. There were two draws to the site – the first was the sod house, built in 1909 by the Ed Brown family. The home also had a later wooden addition; another home that was moved from its original location, and which doubled the size of the original house. It would be difficult to live in sod, which had bugs who would move through it and drop into the home (yuck), as well as the fact that sod walls make for a damp environment and tend to sag over time.

The Brown family sod house - the sod portion on the left was built in 1909

The Brown family sod house – the sod portion on the left was built in 1909


The bedroom in the sod house, showing the sod walls.

The bedroom in the sod house, showing the sod walls.

There were also several outbuildings on the site, including an outhouse, but I’m not sure if the outhouse was original or reconstructed. That didn’t stop me from getting photos of the historic toilet and its perpetual guest. There is a root cellar, and an old well.  The barn has animals, including chickens and goats, which I’m sure would keep the kids busy and entertained if for some crazy reason they got bored watching the more famous four legged residents.

I met a new friend in the Prairie Homestead's double outhouse...

I met a new friend in the Prairie Homestead’s double outhouse…

The other big draw of the Prairie Homestead is that they have white prairie dogs! Staff indicated that these prairie dogs are a separate species, but they aren’t.  They are actually leucistic black-tailed prairie dogs, meaning they don’t have the pigment in their skin, but do have pigmented eyes, so they aren’t albino.  Many species of animals have leucistic individuals, including other mammals (white lions and tigers), reptiles and birds.  These prairie dogs were certainly lighter in color than others that we saw during our trip, and they didn’t have the typical black-tipped tail of other members of their species. The fact that these prairie dogs interbred among themselves causes the genetic mutation to continue.

These guys are so cute!

These guys are so cute!

I loved watching them, and took lots of photos of them popping out of their burrows.  They are so adorably cute!

Which way do we look?

Which way do we look?


A White Prairie Dog (otherwise known as a leucistic Black-tailed Prairie Dog)

A White Prairie Dog (otherwise known as a leucistic Black-tailed Prairie Dog)

These white prairie dogs were moved to the site in partnership with the Oglala Sioux tribe, but if you aren’t interested in seeing the sod house, you can see the white prairie dogs for free just down the road from the gas station.

Look! Three of them in one photo - triple the cuteness!

Look! Three of them in one photo – triple the cuteness!

By the time we left the Prairie Homestead it was lunchtime, but we had so much left to do in our day!

West 2016: Theodore Roosevelt NP Wildlife

Day 2: August 6, 2016

In addition to hiking and exploring the scenery at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, my mom and I also got the chance to do lots of wildlife spotting.  TRNP has a lot of critters, big and small!  Soon after entering the park, we came across the first of many prairie dogs towns.  These guys are so cute!  The little sentries watching out for the others!  They scurry around and chew on little blades of grass.  So much cuteness!  I was absolutely enthralled, and we spent a lot of time just watching the little guys from the car.

A Prairie Dog running!

A Prairie Dog running!

These were some of the first prairie dogs we saw on the trip, but I never got tired of them!  Dear Readers, by the time this trip series is over, you might be tired of prairie dog pictures!

Prairie Dogs with their Sentry

Prairie Dogs with their Sentry

When we got our fill of managed to tear ourselves away from the prairie dogs, we moved on to our next order of business – large animal spotting.  It didn’t take long.  Just a few miles into the park we drove right into our first bison jam!  And we were right at the beginning of the line, so we got an amazing view!  Mamas and babies and big male bison too!  They were literally just wandering down the middle of the road, and were entirely unconcerned by the presence of the cars.

A bison baby trying to bully "Daddy"

A bison baby trying to bully “Daddy”


A brand new baby!

A brand new baby!

My next order of business was wild horses.  A whole herd of wild horses!  Technically these horses are feral horses; animals that that have returned to an untamed state from domestication.  After the Spanish brought modern horses to the new world, some animals escaped or were left and bred and ran wild throughout the West.  The horses in the park are descended from those.  The Park Service did try to round up and remove horses from the park until 1970, when it was acknowledged that they were a part of the cultural history of the park. Now they manage the herds, but mostly let them be.

Wild horses on the hill

Wild horses on the hill

We drove down the scenic loop in the park, and at one point considered driving down a gravel road where my mom thought she remembered seeing them on a previous trip to the park, but ultimately we decided to stay on the main road and there they were! Many of the horses in the bands are paints and blue and red roans, adding quite a bit of color!  They hung out on a hill together and I was able to get some really awesome photos of them.  I have seen wild horses on my travels before, but it has generally just been a solitary horse far away.  This was a great experience, being so close to such beautiful creatures!

I loved the color variations of the horses at the park

I loved the color variations of the horses at the park


Bison wandering

Bison wandering

After finding yet another huge herd of bison, and more wild horses, we made our way back to the exit, and got some photos with the entrance sign.  We headed east to stop at the east entrance of the park, for a special assignment.  During the summer of 1978, when I was two years old, we had been to Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park and had taken pictures of the entrance sign – I really am my mother’s child!  It is a little different now, because it has since become a National Park, but they still had the same sign!  You can see the remaining holes where they removed the metal letters  for the Memorial Park sign…

It looks like I dressed myself - dress shoes with that getup?!

It looks like I dressed myself – dress shoes with that getup?!

So this time we found a nice couple with their kids who helped us pose and create the photos, trying to match them as much as well could to the photos from 1978.  My mom stood in for my brother, so they aren’t perfect, but it was the best we could do as my brother couldn’t go on the trip with us.  I don’t think we did too badly!  Even though I am still really short, I was obviously much shorter when I was two…

Mom got the easier challenge. My dorky pose in 1978 was a hard act to master...

Mom got the easier challenge. My dorky pose in 1978 was a hard act to master…

After our picture taking extravaganza, we had a two hour drive to Belle Fourche, South Dakota; on the way we stopped in Bowman, North Dakota at Windy’s Bar and Grill.  I had a Swiss Mushroom burger and salad, it was very good and very reasonably priced!

Along the drive to Belle Fourche we started seeing the first of many motorcycles that we would encounter on our trip; we were going to be in South Dakota during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally!  We also saw quite a few pronghorn and mule deer.  And one dead porcupine…  It was a gorgeous sunset too!

We passed fields of sunflowers on our evening drive

We passed fields of sunflowers on our evening drive

Gas: $2.35/gal.  – $26.02 for the fill up.
Distance for the Day: 253 miles (4 hours)
Hotel for the night: EconoLodge – Belle Fourche, SD

West 2016: Theodore Roosevelt NP

Day 2: August 6, 2016

I have been itching to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park for awhile; ever since I found out about the park’s history and all the wildlife that live within its borders.  And I was almost there!

We woke up in Glendive, Montana, with the park as the destination on our agenda for the day.  We got on our way and stopped at the grocery store to get a picnic lunch, and then the drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park took about an hour.  The awesome thing about the highways out there is that they are wide open, so we made great time!

We didn’t check out Medora, North Dakota while we were there, but it looked like a fun little tourist town with lots to do for families.  The town has an Old West theme, and lots of entertainment for all ages.  It seemed like a great place to hang out for a few days on a vacation in the area.

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

Once we got into the park, we stopped in at the Visitor’s Center – we got our stamps and postcards, and we watched the park’s movie.  I love watching the park movies.  We also saw Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin, which has been moved to its current location right behind the Visitor’s Center.  Theodore Roosevelt spent $14,000 to establish his cattle ranch in North Dakota in 1883 and the cabin was built during that winter.  He came back out after his wife and mother both died on Valentine’s Day, 1884 and spent time recovering from the loss.

We listened to the Ranger Talk about Roosevelt and his time in North Dakota – the cattle ranch was basically a disaster.  The winter of 1886-1887 was a devastating one and most of the cattle starved to death when they couldn’t get to the grass beneath the snow.  Roosevelt wasn’t there at the time though, having already returned East.  Although Roosevelt didn’t last long in North Dakota, his legacy remains.  The cabin is open for people to poke around in, and there are a couple of pieces of furniture that are believed to have belonged to Roosevelt -his rocking chair and his trunk.

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin - Built 1883

Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin – Built 1883

I found a couple of hikes I wanted to do at the park – although I decided not to do anything too long or strenuous because of time restraints, and the fact that the temperature was in the high 80s that day.  My hikes were an opportunity to see some of my first Badlands views of the trip!  Rather than hiking, Mom opted to stay at the car and do some journaling and sketching while I went off.

The first hike that I did was the Ridgeline Trail – a 0.6 mile (roundtrip) hike that offered great views of the badlands along the ridge.  At this point, as the badlands is just beginning, they are much greener and lush than they are further east.  There was a marked difference in the views here and the badlands that were visible further east when we went to Badlands National Park later in the trip.  The views were gorgeous and it was well worth the climb.  It was very windy here, so my selfies were a bit challenging!

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail


Me with the badlands in the background - Ridgeline Trail

Me with the badlands in the background – Ridgeline Trail


Piddles posing with the badlands

Piddles posing with the badlands

The second hike that I did was to the Buck Hill Viewpoint – it is a 0.2 mile (round trip) climb to the highest point in the park. The view was amazing – there were similarities to the Ridgeline Trail, yet there were subtle differences too.  I could have looked at that view for awhile…

The view from the top of Buck Hill - the highest point in the park

The view from the top of Buck Hill – the highest point in the park


A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

The last hike that I did was the Wind Canyon Trail.  It is a 0.4 mile (round trip) out and back hike with wonderful views of the Little Missouri River, and its oxbow bend (where the river bends in a U shape).  This viewpoint is well known for its fabulous sunsets; I would have liked to have checked out the sunset from there, but since it was the middle of summer, we needed to be on our way before the sun was due to set.  The views of the river and of a large herd of bison grazing in the distance were both spectacular!  I even found a kind man to take my photo at the viewpoint.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.


Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

We saw a lot of wildlife while we were in the park too, but I am saving the wildlife for my next post though!


Theodore Roosevelt National Park History

In 1883, Theodore Roosevelt headed out to North Dakota to hunt bison, who were at that point close to extinction. He fell in love with the bison, hunting, and the rugged extremes of the area.  While there, he decided to purchase the Maltese Cross Ranch – a cattle ranch already being managed by two men, and he left it in their hands. He returned for the rugged solitude after his wife and mother both died on Valentine’s Day, 1884, and purchased and developed another ranch a bit further north. He credits his time in North Dakota as helping to get over the loss and his gut wrenching grief.

Both ranches operated for a couple of years, until a particularly harsh winter in 1886-1887 wiped out most of his cattle, who were unable to get down to the grasses beneath the snow. Although his ranches ultimately failed, his time in North Dakota and his experiences on his ranches guided his later conservation attitudes and policies during and after his Presidency.

After Roosevelt died in 1919, the government began exploring the Little Missouri Badlands to see if there were options for park sites. The CCC had camps in the park between 1934 and 1941, and they made roads and built some of the buildings still in use today. It was designated the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area in 1935, although I have no idea what they were demonstrating.

In 1946 the designation was changed to the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge and the land was transferred to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife. But then President Truman stepped in and established the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park on April 25, 1947. It was the only National Memorial Park ever established – somehow I guess the concept didn’t really take off. In 1978, more land was added to the park and the boundaries were changed, and it finally became Theodore Roosevelt National Park on November 10, 1978. Talk about a roundabout way to get to National Park status!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The park today consists of three units that are geographically separate from each other. The South Unit, near Medora, North Dakota is the most visited unit, and contains a wide variety of wildlife, including bison, prairie dogs, feral horses, coyotes, badgers, elk, bighorn sheep, cougars, white-tailed deer and mule deer, and more than 100 species of birds including golden eagles, sharp-tailed grouse, and wild turkeys. The North Unit is about 80 miles north of the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, which contains the site of Roosevelt’s second ranch, is in between the two.

The climate is one of extremes; the prairie grasslands get very hot in the summer, and winter temperatures are very cold with lots of snow. The Little Missouri River flows through all three units of the park. Wildlife spotting is a popular activity, due to the abundance of large animals in the park.  There are over 100 miles of hiking trails, and visitors can also do back country horseback trips. They just need to be prepared for hot summer weather and little protection from the sun. There are three developed campgrounds in the park; two in the South Unit and one in the North Unit. The sky is known for its dark night skies, and the northern lights are even sometimes visible.

In total, there are 70,446 acres under the protection of the park, and in 2011, it received 563,407 visitors. It is certainly one of the lesser visited parks, due to its more remote location.  I was excited to visit again, because I had visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 1978, shortly before it gained National Park status.  I have the pictures to prove it!  More in my upcoming posts!

Hasta La Vista 2016!

While I can’t say that 2016 has been the best year, it has become a tradition to do the annual year in review.  Although in some ways, I won’t be sorry to see 2016 go, I still have to remember that even with its ups and downs, I do live a truly blessed life.  So without further ado…

  1. My beloved grandmother passed away in February at the age of 98.  She lived a long, blessed life, filled with God, family and good friends, and she was ready to go be with my grandfather again.  I was lucky to have her for the first 40 years of my life, but I will miss her always.
  2. I took a wonderful girls trip to San Diego in April, full of bonding with friends and relaxing in the California sunshine.  We celebrated Allysa’s 50th birthday and saw the sights.  I tried SUP-ping for the first time too!
  3. I did quite a bit of local hiking this year.  I hiked Fragrance Lake twice, the Ozette Triangle at Olympic National Park, and the Chain Lakes loop at Mount Baker.  There is a peace found on the trail that is unmatched elsewhere.
  4. I took a long weekend to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in Oregon and Southern Washington.  We went to a small town rodeo and went white water rafting on the stunning White Salmon River.
  5. My mom and I took a 10 day road trip through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in August.  It was wonderful to spend so much time with my amazing mother, seeing the sights and laughing throughout our adventure.  More posts coming soon!
  6. I completed my 8th half marathon, the Woodinville Wine Country Half Marathon, in September with my dear friend Katie, with our friend Shelley providing support.  Even though the weather sucked, my 13.1 mile slog through rain and wind ended with a new personal record and a definite feeling of accomplishment!  And wine!
  7. My horse and the kitties are all happy and healthy.  Biz is down to just three old man teeth, and gave me a scare recently when he suddenly lost a ton of weight, but he is now on the mend and making me feel more comfortable about him weathering the winter.  At the ripe old age of 29, I am keenly aware that time with him is getting short, but the memories I have with him will last a lifetime.
  8. In November I took a long weekend trip to revisit Astoria, Oregon.  I went to see some old sights and some new, and relaxed over a beer at some of the town’s best breweries.  Even though the forecast called for a weekend of rain, I walked everywhere and stayed completely dry!  The rain began as I got into the car to head home.
  9. I am close to the two year anniversary at my job, and continue to enjoy the challenges and successes.  My staff are second to none.  And the vacation accrual is wonderful, as is the summer schedule!

I didn’t post as much in 2016 as I had hoped to, but still have many posts coming about my West trip, the half-marathon and Astoria.  I am hopeful that 2017 will have me back on a more regular posting schedule, as well as experiencing many new adventures.

Know that I am eternally grateful for all of you that I count as readers, family and friends.  Here’s to peace and happiness in the New Year.  Cheers!

West 2016: Little Bighorn Battlefield NM

Day 1: August 5, 2016

2:30 am comes early.  I know I have said this before, but I so love that 5 am flight, so I am willing to make some sacrifices.  There is just something about flying into your destination, and making it there before 11 am.  You still have most of the day to sight see!

We got into Billings, Montana before 11 am after a couple of easy flights, with enough layover time to get a quick breakfast in Seattle.  We picked up our car, and there was a bit of drama.  We had made our reservation through Costco – then prices dropped so we canceled it and made a new reservation.  Somehow, the car rental agency still had the first, more expensive reservation. It is important to pay attention to these things!

The clerk was having trouble fixing it too after we showed her our confirmation page with the correct, lower price. Eventually we got our car, a white Subaru with extensive hail damage.  It had golf ball sized dents everywhere, and the side mirror housing was ripped off on the passenger side.  We weren’t going to have to worry about any damage we caused!  Which I learned later, was a good thing (hello foreshadowing)!

We stopped at Walmart to buy a cheap cooler for our travels, since we were planning to do lots of picnic lunches on our trip.  Mom bought a camp chair so she could hang out and sketch or journal while I was out hiking at the various parks.  And we had a quick lunch at Subway.

Our first tourist stop was at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  If you don’t know the story, Sioux leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse resisted government attempts to force them onto reservations.  After gold was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the United States broke their treaties with the Sioux and allowed unchecked waves of gold seekers to move to the area.  As a result, many more Sioux and Cheyenne left their reservations to join the Native Americans who were already in Montana.  Custer and his troops were sent there to squelch the resistance.


Me doing my very best Vanna White with the Little Bighorn sign

Custer attacked a village of Sioux and Cheyenne; he misjudged the size of the village and mistakenly assumed that most of the warriors at the village would be sleeping in.  Oops…  The counter attack was swift and decisive.  Custer’s troops ended up retreating to a grassy hill overlooking the prairie and were killed on the hillside.  Of the companies directly commanded by Custer, there was not a single survivor.  Of the approximately 600 U.S. troops involved in the battle, 274 of them were killed.


The hill where Custer and his men retreated to make their last stand

It was very hot the day we visited; almost 100 degrees!  The battle occurred on June 25, 1876 – on what was probably another very hot day.  It would have been very difficult to fight in such conditions.  Custer’s soldiers knew there was nowhere to run; so they made the tragic decision to shoot their own horses to form a defensive barrier.  It wasn’t effective.  It is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of killing my own horse; they must have known at that point there was no opportunity for a victory or for escape.


The gravesite of the horses killed at Little Bighorn. Custer’s men killed their own horses in order to use their bodies as shields.

We checked out the Visitor’s Center, and then ventured out to see the site. There are markers showing where Custer and some of the other soldiers fell.  There are also a few markers showing where Native Americans died, but the Native Americans removed their dead after the battle, so the accuracy of these markers is based on recollections years after the battle. A few years after the battle, the remains of the U.S. Officers were removed from the site and buried with honors at other National Cemeteries – Custer was reburied at West Point.  The enlisted men and scouts were re-interred in 1881 at the base of an obelisk at the top of the hill – 220 men in all.


The black marker shows where George Armstrong Custer originally fell and was buried. His body is now at West Point.


This obelisk marks the grave of 220 U.S. troops and Native American Scouts killed during the battle

Also at the monument is a memorial erected by the tribes to honor the Native Americans who served there.  It is beautiful and moving.  In 1991 the name of the monument was changed from Custer Battlefield National Monument, in order to honor the Native American story.  Although Custer and his men were killed there, it was not a bloodbath directed at killing U.S. troops – rather it was the culmination of a long period of persecution and murder of the Native Americans.  It was kill or be killed for the tribes at that point.


Me with the Native American Memorial

After we toured the battlefield, we listened to the Ranger Talk of what happened there.  He pointed out where people were at various points during the battle.  He talked about which tribes participated on which side of the battle and why.  It was interesting to hear both perspectives and to visualize the movement of both sides throughout the battle.

After Little Bighorn, we stopped to take the first of many photos of prairie dogs who made their home in a colony just outside of the monument.  Yes, I get all of the reasons why these cute critters are reviled, but they totally get a bad rap!  Prairie dogs are critical for a healthy ecosystem.  They provide food for predators like coyotes, foxes and ferrets, their burrows provide homes for those same ferrets and burrowing owls, and the process of burrowing helps to rejuvenate the prairie grasses that the bison need to survive.  No prairie dogs, no healthy ecosystem.  Take that, you prairie dog haters!


A prairie dog at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

We couldn’t watch the prairie dogs too long though, as we still had touristing left to do!  Next up – the Bighorn County Historical Museum.


Planning for The West 2016

In August 2016, my mom and I decided to do a road trip of the west. There are a number of National Parks in North and South Dakota that I have been interested in seeing for some time, and it was time to knock some off of my bucket list!  I am so glad that my mom was game to do this trip with me!

I looked into flying into Rapid City, South Dakota and was surprised to find that plane tickets from Washington State were going to be almost $1,000 each! Ditto with Bismarck, North Dakota. It was time to change the Plan of Action. Fortunately, I found flights for just over $200 per person to Billings, Montana. A bit more driving, but we were on our way!

The second hurdle was hotel prices. I was kind of surprised by the cost of hotels; I get that it was summer, but they still seemed really high for parts of small town North and South Dakota. Once I discovered that our trip coincided with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, it all made more sense… I did ultimately find some reasonable prices for hotel rooms, but it took more research – and we didn’t stay at luxury accommodations…  Good thing my mama is flexible…

The car was another matter. For 12 days, our car ended up costing $497; which, with the exception of Colorado, is much higher than I have seen for my other long trips. Peak summer period, plus I think some of the higher price was due to the fact that the Takata airbag recall had taken so many rental cars off the road – car manufacturers were telling people not to drive their cars and were giving owners loaner rentals at no cost.  That would do it…  We booked a car originally at $525, then rebooked when the price went down to the $497 that we ended up with.  Ouch…

With our flight schedule set, I planned a loop that would begin in Montana and go through North and South Dakota, before moving into Wyoming and finally ending up back in Montana to fly home. I had an ambitious itinerary (don’t I always!) – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park and Devil’s Tower National Monument to start. With the extra loop in Montana for flights, I expanded the itinerary to include Little Bighorn Battlefield, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park. Since we were going to be so close, I also put Jewel Cave National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial on the list!


Our route wasn’t quite what appears in the map above, as Google Maps was not cooperating as I tried to drag its little points around to where I wanted them.  Technology… Sheesh… It is close though, and you get the gist…

I planned a crazy-busy trip, and I was excited to get started!