More Natural Beauty: Yellowstone & Grand Teton

Continental DivideWe slept in a little this morning and awoke to a clear blue sky and a warmer morning than yesterday. We unhastily packed up our camp and ended up leaving the campground slightly about ten minutes later than checkout time.

Our main goal for today was to see Old Faithful. We drove across the park to the site, crossing the continental divide several times, and were fascinated to see how much infrastructure there was in that part of the park. The roads were like freeways, which had not been true anywhere else in the park. There was a TON of parking, and several different buildings containing shops, restaurants, museums, etc. It was obvious that this is the most visited part of Yellowstone.
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The Wonders of Yellowstone

Last night was a long, cold night sleeping on the hard sloping ground, so I was actually glad when the alarm went off at 8 am. We got up, got dressed, took down the tent, and got going. Although we’re staying in Yellowstone for two nights, we are actually camping in two different campgrounds.

Yellowstone River flowing through Grand Canyon of YellowstoneThe nearest Yellowstone destination to our campground was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, seemingly referred to most of the time as simply “the canyon”. The Yellowstone River flows through this canyon and forms two major waterfalls, the Upper and Lower Falls. First we drove to the rim of the canyon and took a short boardwalk-and-stairs hike down to the Upper Falls. We were right above the falls and it was exciting to see huge amounts of water rushing down. We got out of there just in time – a tour bus was discharging its passengers as we were getting into our car.
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Climbing the Rockies: MT to WY

Crow Community Baptist ChurchThis morning Dave and I got up just in time to say goodbye to Heather, who was on her way to Idaho. We had french toast for breakfast then got ready for church.

I thought we’d have time to pack everything up and load the car before we left for church, so we could just leave immediately after church, but we ended up leaving earlier than I thought we would (because Dave and Dave had to get there early to get the music organized), and we weren’t even close to being packed and ready. So we all piled into the minivan and drove down the interstate to church.
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Just Hanging Out in Montana

Hanging out in MontanaWe awoke in a warm dry bed to a sunny morning in Hardin, Montana after sleeping like rocks all night. I got up and showered and went into the living room to discover that our friends were all up, and getting ready to go over to Kristen’s parents’ house for breakfast. I left Dave and our friend Heather behind to finish getting ready, and rode over with Dave & Kristen and the babies. Breakfast was delicious and relaxing, and it was fun to hang out with Kristen’s parents for a while.

It took us all a while to motivate to decide what to do with ourselves that day. Heather hadn’t even yet fully decided to spend the day in Montana – she is on her own cross-country road trip (no website for her, sorry) but her itinerary is much less predictable. Kristen convinced her to stay by proposing that we all float down the Bighorn River for an hour or so. We were all excited about this idea, so we packed a picnic lunch and drove to the river in three separate cars (our Focus, the minivan, and a truck loaded with watercraft) so we could have transportation at both the put-in and the take-out.
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National Parks & Other Prairie Sights: SD to MT

Campsite at KOA in South DakotaAt about 3 am I woke up because the tent was making very loud noises. In my dream state, and not knowing what time it was, for some reason I thought it was the campers next to us walking through our campsite and tripping over the tieline holding the fly down. After it went on for what turned out to be hours, I ultimately realized it was just the wind battering our tent. Not long after that, the rain began, and continued through morning. From inside the tent it sounded like a torrential downpour, and as we slept, Dave and I both wondered what was going to become of our day in South Dakota.

I finally got up a little after 8 am to scout out the situation. When I stepped out of the tent, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually wasn’t raining as hard as it sounded from inside the tent – it was really just slightly harder than a sprinkle. After stopping in the bathroom and putting in my contacts, I went into the store/office to ask the woman who runs the campground what she knew about the forecast. All she did was look it up online to find that the forecast was cloudy and scattered showers with a 40% chance of rain. That wasn’t helpful for the moment, but it did give me hope that just because it was raining in Belvidere didn’t mean it would definitely be raining in other places… say, the Badlands.
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Corn Fields Forever: MN to SD

Mall of AmericaNo visit to Minnesota would be complete without a visit to – you guessed it! – the Mall of America. It’s very important that we experience Middle America in all its glory, so we decided it would be worth taking the time to go to the Mall of America and seeing at least a bit of it.

So, after getting ready and saying goodbye to Chris & Kate, we found our way out of their neighborhood, passed the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and arrived at the largest shopping mall in the country. We arrived at the perfect time – it was just before 10 am, the non-holiday opening time for malls everywhere.
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More Midwestern Adventures: IL to MN

Dave at Katie and Matt'sLast night, after we finished posting our last entry and left Borders, we went to meet up with our friends Katie & Matt at their condo. We got the tour of their spacious new condo, and then went out to dinner at a pub called Charlie’s. They had a great selection of beers (and cider!) on tap and a good menu of nouveau comfort foods. After dinner, we went back to Matt & Katie’s apartment and – with the help of their friends DirectTV and TiVo – watched baseball and the Olympics.

This morning Dave and I got up a bit early in order to say goodbye and thanks to Katie & Matt before they headed off to work. Then we got ready and were packed and out of the apartment by 9 am.

Unfortunately, getting out of Chicago was not as easy as getting out of the apartment. We made a few wrong choices at the beginning, then missed an offramp, and to make a long story short, it was 10 am before we were reasonably on our way out of the city. We were SO not happy. Then the rain started just as we finally got onto 90 East. Luckily at least that didn’t last too long. And once we finally put some miles between ourselves and the city, though, our moods lightened.
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