National Parks Tour: Traveling Home

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Another early morning and we have no coffee in the room. I just don’t understand the reasoning. If the hotel had a 24-hour coffee shop, I would be fine with going down to bring a couple of cups back but we were again just out of luck. I think Treasure Island could do better.

Chuck and I disagreed about how early to leave for the airport. I wanted to be there at 8:00 as our flight was to leave at 10:00. He wanted to be able to use our breakfast coupons at the hotel restaurant. It didn’t open until 7:00. Al had told us that there would be taxis lined up outside the hotel but with the road construction, it would be at least 45 minutes to get to the airport.

I acquiesced and we were down at the restaurant at 6:50 to be the first in line when they opened. I thought if we miss the plane, Chuck could just deal with the logistics of getting us home. Luckily, the service was fairly fast but I didn’t have much of an appetite because of my nervous travel stomach.

Felt strange having to go back to the room and collect all of our bags as I’ve been so used to having them gone and only dealing with the backpacks. We went outside to the taxi stand and there were NO taxis – zip, zero, zilch. The attendant said there used to be taxis waiting but since Covid and the Vegas crowds being sparce, he would have to call us one. My travel stomach did a huge flip/flop.

I guess it was less than 10 minutes before one arrived but it felt longer. There was road construction but the taxi driver knew how to skirt around it and had us at the terminal in 15 minutes and not 45 minutes. Okay, feeling better.

Luckily our bags weighed in about the same. We weren’t selected for TSA pre-check for this flight either so I was very distraught when I saw the very, very long line. I couldn’t find the CLEAR kiosks at all. There were no signs. We got in the line but I finally found someone to ask and they pointed to the wall where the kiosks stood. We ducked under the ropes and went to the kiosks. We were quickly at the front of the line.

I was prepared with my shoes off and laptop out. The TSA agent said to put my laptop back in the backpack. What? I got scolded for not having it out of the bag fast enough at the other airport. She said, “well each airport is different.” Really? I thought it was supposed to be the same TSA rules for every airport. And they wonder why people get frustrated.

This time it was Chuck’s backpack that got held up in screening. They sent it through twice but never opened it. I had taken some of my camera accessories out of the backpack and put them in my checked bag so maybe that is why my backpack went through okay.

We got to our gate at 8:50. Chuck was right. We did have enough time. Stomach has now settled down.

The gate area was crazy though. It was one big seating area and there were three gates. Each gate had a flight leaving within 15 – 30 minutes of each other. Each gate attendant was calling out information. I had to just stop listening and just start concentrating on the boarding screen that was in front of our gate to know when our flight and section would be called.

Neither Chuck nor I understand why people stand up and crowd the gate area waiting for their section to be called. When your section is called, you have to push your way through the crowd to get to the check-in. If everyone would stay seated until called, it would be so much easier. But I have never seen that scenario happen – ever.

Our gate agent also kept calling for volunteers to check their carry-ons as it was a full flight and they were going to run out of overhead space. They weren’t offering any incentive except that the bag would be checked free. So, unless you already have a checked bag you have to wait for when you arrive, you are not going to give up your carry-on.

We were finally seated at 9:50. We still have one more SNAFU. Chuck thought he had pulled his earbuds package out of his suitcase and put them in his backpack. When he opened it, he realized he had pulled out his sleep mask. They had similar packaging. I gave him my earbuds and was just going to read my book but instead he bought a pair of earbuds from the flight attendant.

The plane was full. Chuck and I sat across from each other in aisle seats. I watched the action movie “Wrath of Man.” It was okay. I watched a couple of sitcoms after it and soon we were touching down.

Our shuttle home was right on time. This ride was not as peaceful as the one we took coming to the airport two weeks ago. There were two people right behind us carrying on a very loud conversation with personal details. I was glad when they got off on one of the early shuttle stops. I have never understood people who put all their drama out there for everyone to hear. I put my earbuds in to try and drown them out but it only slightly muffled their conversation.

Once we got back to the shuttle office, we got all the suitcases in the truck and headed for home. We hoped all would be well at the house and it was. Our cat scolded us for being gone although it looked like he had gained some weight under the care of the sitter. Think the sitter was generous with the treats. Initial sorting through the mail and the trip is a wrap. We’ll deal with the mound of laundry tomorrow.

Final Thoughts

There were pros and cons about this trip just like there is with any travel –

Minimum travel planning details to worry about – one contact person to deal withTime schedule set by Company – no days to just rest and relax
Able watch scenery, sleep, read, or talk and not worry about trafficNo spontaneity for starting/stopping when and where you wished
No hassle with hotel check-in or check-outNo real in-depth time at any one place
See a lot of places in relatively short amount of timeEarly mornings
Learned a lot of information about places we sawGood tour director is a must.
Met a lot of nice people – very polite, on-time, considerate of each other, and followed the rules of masking and hand sanitizingWould have been aggravating if any of the passengers had been habitually late, chronic complainers, or rule breakers.

While cruising is still our favorite form of travel, we really did have a good time on this trip. We would absolutely consider traveling with a Globus tour again.

We had some issue with ankle swelling, dry skin, and lower oxygen levels in the high elevations but they quickly cleared up once we got back to the lower elevations. We need to be mindful of those issues for other travel.

I do think I would do what others did and bring more snacks to eat on the bus and use my lunch times more for wandering around the towns instead of eating meals. Help to get more exercise and keep me from gaining vacation weight.

This Mindy’s Memories journal is now complete.

National Parks Tour: Zion National Park to Las Vegas

Monday, September 13, 2021

Breakfast at the hotel was a mad house. There were six buses of people to be fed. We were told there would be the restaurant and two extra rooms to eat. There weren’t any extra rooms. Luckily, we did find a table for two in a corner.

We didn’t leave until 7:40. We stopped for gas about 8:45. I went across the street to a diner that Al recommended for their pie slices. The place was called Thunderbird Café and their sign said – “House of the Ho-Made Pies” – weird endorsement. I chose a slice of Thunderberry pie. It tasted like blackberry to me.

We stopped at Zion National Park at 10:30. Being a tour bus, we were able to go into the park as far as the Zion Lodge. Al said that if you arrived in a car and didn’t have reservations at the Zion Lodge, you had to park at the Visitor Center and ride one of the shuttles up and down the shuttle line.

Once we were parked, we received a sack lunch and took a park shuttle to the last stop on the shuttle line – Temple of Sinawava. We found a spot by the creek to sit and eat.

After we finished our lunch, we strolled down the riverside walk a into The Narrows for a short way. The Canyon had a lot of red from the sandstone and white from the limestone. It was a pleasant walk. There were a lot of trails to choose from and we could spend several days here. I really feel my pictures just didn’t capture the scope of the Canyon.

Once we were back to the Lodge area, I had a chance to look through the gift shop for my Christmas ornament. At 1:00, we started for Vegas. We turned our clocks back once we crossed into Arizona. Got to Nevada about 2:00 and arrived at the Treasure Island hotel at 3:00. When we left Bryce this morning it was 40 degrees. When we arrived at the hotel, the temperature was 108 degrees. Sweltering.

Al gave us all drink coupons and reminded us that the farewell dinner would start at 6:00 in one of the conference rooms. Four of us went to Gilley’s to use our drink coupons prior to the dinner.

The dinner was very nice. We toasted each other and Al and Wade for a great trip. We shook hands and hugs all around. I was glad to see the number of people who did tip Al and Wade for their excellent service.

Al sat at our table for dinner and it was interesting to hear about life as a tour director. He was leaving the next day to go back to Idaho to start a new tour beginning at Custer State Park. Wade had a couple of days off and then would be driving another tour group on this exact route. He said it was one of his favorite routes. I hope both of their next groups are as good as ours was.

After we left the conference room, six of us played some slots. Did much better than before the trip and was able to recoup about half of our money back. Travel day tomorrow so we were still up to the room by 10:00.

Up Next – Traveling home and final thoughts

Travel Trivia

Zion National Park, Utah

Originally established as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909, the monument eventually became Zion National Monument in 1918, and finally Zion National Park on November 19, 1919. It is the most popular of Utah’s five national parks.

The person who is credited with naming the place “Zion” is also the same person who, in 1863, settled the canyon floor – Isaac Behunin.

The first year that tourists arrived here by way of automobile – 1917.

Underneath the ground in Zion lies a natural spring. It’s estimated that the water takes up to 1,000 years to reach the surface and show itself through the surfaces of the rock.

One of the park’s few endemic creatures is the Zion snail. It is one of the smallest snails in the world, often measuring at less than ⅛ of an inch. Despite its petite stature, the Zion snail’s foot in comparison to the rest of its body is the largest in the world.

Unlike the Grand Canyon where you stand on the rim and look out and down, Zion Canyon is usually viewed from the bottom looking up.

The Olympic Torch passed through the park in 2002 while on its way to Salt Lake City.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia, Zion National Park Literature, and Globus

National Parks Tour: Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunday, September 12, 201

In Vegas, the room had no coffee. Today, we had coffee in the room but it was all decaf. I understand that Mormons consider caffeine a drug but I wouldn’t think that a major chain hotel would only provide decaf coffee. I feel it was probably just an oversight of the hotel staff.

We had our bags ready by 7:00 and went to breakfast. Again, we were sharing the breakfast area with another tour group – Collette. Most of the breakfast items had been picked over and the kitchen was not keeping up with the demand. I just chose oatmeal. They did have regular coffee but it was very weak.

We left the hotel heading to Bryce Canyon. Soon, we passed a large copper mine.

I-15 was taking us south. We had one rest stop at a typical trucking-type place; however, this one was unusual as it had a small petting zoo on one side of the parking lot. It was not open but some of the animals were wandering around their enclosures. You really wanted to stay upwind of it. Al said the couple runs it as a rescue place and the town helps support it. I would have liked to have found out how they rescued the camel.

Interesting scenery as we continued our journey – wide-open greenish plains with mountains now in the distance, many herds of pronghorn antelope, many herds of cows, and one lone bull that looked like he was out of the fencing and was standing next to one of the access roads. He appeared to be studying how he could get to the large bales of hay that were stacked near a barn.

At 12:30, we got to the Ruby Inn’s complex. I say complex because the Best Western Ruby’s Inn was on one side of the road and Ruby’s Cowboy Buffet, Ruby’s Diner, and Ruby’s General Store were all along the other side. In addition, there was place near there called Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill where they offered dinner and a show. My understanding is that they also had an RV park not far from the hotel. According to the literature, our hotel is the nearest one to Bryce Canyon.

Al and Wade left us to take our bags over to the hotel. They said we could choose the Buffet or the Diner. Chuck and I chose the diner. You do have a monopoly when you can charger $10 for a hot dog and fries and the line to get them is out the door.

We entered Bryce Canyon at 1:30. During our time there, we had two different stops to view the Bryce Amphitheater. The first one was at Sunset Point and the second one was at Bryce Point.

The Canyon was nothing like I have ever seen. So many different formations, arches, and hoodoos (a column or pinnacle of weathered rock). Colors of red and white. Some formations looked like people to me.

There were many trails either around the rim or down into the Canyon. We also saw people on horseback riding into the Canyon.

I walked part of the way down the Wall Street which is part of the Navajo Loop Trail but it was steep and had no railing so I didn’t go far.

Some people did walk the entire Navajo Loop Trail and they were hot and sweaty when they returned. I think it would be better to try it in the mornings.

On our way back, we stopped at the Visitor Center so people could shop and/or get their National Parks passport stamped.

We got back to the Hotel at 4:15. We relaxed for about an hour and then six of us took the hotel shuttle over to the Cowboy Buffet Restaurant. I had the soup/salad bar. Chuck had the full buffet and said the brisket was excellent. We both said we should have had water instead of the wine.

Once we got back to the hotel, we were able to sit outside near the pool and talk with some other couples until about 8:00. We have an early day tomorrow. Bags and breakfast ready at 6:30.

Next Up – Zion National Park

Travel Trivia

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

This Park is named after Ebenezer Bryce, who started ranching the area in 1875. Upon showing the canyons to visitors, he is said to have remarked, “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

Bryce Canyon is a collection of giant natural amphitheaters along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, since it was not formed from erosion initiated from a central stream, is technically not a canyon.

The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and pinnacles called “hoodoos.”

The Paiute in the area developed a mythology surrounding the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. They believed that hoodoos were the Legend People whom the trickster Coyote turned to stone.

Bryce Canyon offers world-class stargazing due to its exceptionally high air quality and long distance from sources of light pollution.

Prairie dogs were wiped out from the area in the 1950s. In the 1970s, they were reintroduced.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia, Bryce Canyon National Park literature, and Globus

National Parks Tour: Jackson, Wyoming to Salt Lake City

Saturday, September 11, 2021

We had our bags out at 7:00 and went to eat breakfast at the Hotel restaurant. It was extremely busy with one other Globus group there also. At least the kitchen was being able to keep up with the demand and did not run out of food. There were plenty of seats to be found also.

The Rustic Inn is by far the nicest hotel we have stayed thus far on the trip. It was spacious. It had luxury toiletries and bathrobes. The cups were actual glass. The large shower had a regular showerhead and a rain fall showerhead. The bed was very comfortable with an assortment of pillows to choose. Rooms ran from $350 – $550 a night from the literature that I saw.

Today, being the 20th anniversary of 9/11, once we settled into the bus, we all had a moment of silence to honor all who perished and the ones who continue to serve and protect our freedom and safety.

First thing we saw when we drove out of town were two bald eagles. Wish I could have gotten a photo but they were too fast for me. Also, there is a lot of road construction and the roads right now are very rough and bumpy.

At 10:00, we took a quick photo stop in Afton, Wyoming of the World’s Largest Elk Horn Arch.

We also saw another Sinclair gas station. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a Sinclair but I have seen several on this trip. I truly thought they had gone out of business or had been bought by another company.

At 10:30, we crossed into Idaho. We traveled through Montpelier where Al told us that in 1896 two men, Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Longabaugh, robbed a bank in Montpelier. They stole cash, gold, and silver which in today’s standard would be worth about $500,000. He said Robert and Harry also loved to rob trains and did many times. He said there was even a movie about them – Butch Cassidy (Robert) and the Sundance Kid (Harry).

Our bus didn’t get robbed thank goodness but we were slowed down to a crawl because of a so many cyclists on the road. I think it must have been some sort of race/marathon.

We stopped in the town of Paris, Idaho for a photo opportunity of a Mormon Tabernacle and to say that we had officially been to Idaho. I guess if I never get to Paris, France, I can always say I’ve been to Paris, Idaho.

We followed the coast of Bear Lake into Utah. We stopped so we could get some photos of this Lake. It had the most beautiful Caribbean blue that I have ever seen for a lake.

We were now in Logan Canyon following the Logan River. We are seeing more and more Fall colors in the foliage. We stopped in Logan for lunch at 12:45.

This stop had to be the oddest stop for lunch so far. Al said we would be parking between two grocery stores and each had a deli where we could choose lunch items. He said he especially recommended the sushi. When we got there, one of the grocery stores had closed down. We all piled into the one grocery store. The deli did have some hot items – chicken tenders, etc. but there were only a few cold sandwiches, etc. I just bought a bag of small chocolate chip cookies from the bakery. Chuck bought some of the chicken tenders and a small container of green beans. We had our bottles of water and shared the food.

Logan seemed like a good size town. I think Al could have found a stop with restaurants or fast food places near. Either there are few places that could handle a bus or because Al really likes the sushi at this grocery store.

At 3:30 we arrived at Salt Lake City and stopped to view the State Capitol. We parked near the Mormon Battalion Monument. According to the signage, the monument commemorates the sacrifices made by 500 Mormon pioneer volunteers who joined the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War. The 100-foot rose pink granite and bronze monument was sculpted by Gilbert Riswold and dedicated in 1927. Figures appear on all sides of the monument, chronicling different periods of the Battalion’s history: the Enlistment, the March, the Discovery of Gold in California, and the Arrival of the Pueblo Detachment at the Capitol.

As I was walking around the monument, I was startled to see a lone person holding a U.S. Flag. He stared straight ahead and never said a word. I assume he was paying tribute to 9/11.

At 4:30, we arrived at the Radisson downtown. There was a lot of construction going on all around the hotel especially at Temple Square.

Four of us decided to walk to the Red Rock Brewing Company for dinner. Two different phones with two different directions. We decided to follow one of the phones. We should have followed the other. We walked about 5 long blocks out of our way.

We did get there and able to be seated outside. We were lucky because 10 minutes later a very big crowd showed up so our wait would have been much longer. Chuck had the halibut and I had the shrimp salad. After our meal, the walk back to the hotel was much quicker since we were going the correct way.

Some people were disappointed we were not going to see the Great Salt Lake. Al said it was not really worth seeing and it smelled. That is not how I remembered it from 1972 as I wrote –

Tuesday, August 1, 1972 – It was dark when we got up and I only stayed awake long enough to see the Great Salt Lake. I woke up again to see Mom catch the sun rise over the Great Salt Desert. We all hope it comes out on the film. Driving on the Great Salt Desert the sand reaches out for miles and seems to go to the edge of the mountains.”

Next Up – Bryce Canyon National Park

Travel Trivia

Salt Lake City, Utah

Due to its short distance to the Great Salt Lake, the city was originally named “Great Salt Lake City.” The word “great” was dropped from the official name in 1868.

Salt Lake City is home to the first Kentucky Fried Chicken. Harland “Colonel” Sanders’ original restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, was called Sanders Court and Café. In 1952, Sanders franchised his chicken recipe to his Utah-based friend Pete Harman. Harman changed his own restaurant’s name from Harman Café to Kentucky Fried Chicken after people lined up down the street to order his new Southern-fried menu item. The original KFC still stands at the corner of 3900 South and State Street—about 1500 miles away from Kentucky. 

Located just west of Temple Square, the Family History Library is the largest genealogical library in the world. It is run by the Mormon Church and is free of charge and open to the public. 

United States Postal Service Remote Encoding Facility, where mail bearing unreadable addresses is sent to be deciphered, is located in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City is home to Loftus Novelty, the United States’ leading manufacturer of rubber chickens.

Salt Lake City is the only U.S. capital with three words in its name.

According to Kraft Foods, Salt Lake City is responsible for the world’s highest JELL-O consumption per capita.

Utah – The Beehive State

In the beginning, Utah was inhabited by the ancient Puebloans, Navajo and Ute. Another group of Native Americans, the Navajo, settled in the region around the 18th century. In the mid-18th century, other Uto-Aztecan tribes, including the Goshute, the Paiute, the Shoshone, and the Ute people, also settled in the region.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to arrive in the mid-16th century. European trappers and fur traders from Canada and the U.S. explored some areas of Utah in the early 19th century.

In late 1824, Jim Bridger became the first known English-speaking person to sight the Great Salt Lake. Due to the high salinity of its waters, he thought he had found the Pacific Ocean; but then learned it was a giant salt lake.

Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Over the next 22 years, more than 70,000 pioneers crossed the plains and settled in Utah.

In 1848, the Mormon settlers’ crops were saved from a swarm of crickets by several flocks of native seagulls, who devoured the crickets over a two-week period. This event was regarded as a miracle by the Mormons, and the California seagull was subsequently named the state bird of Utah.

Utah became the 45th state on January 4, 1896.

Utah features three distinct land forms – including the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Ridge Region.

The largest raptor to be unearthed in the world was in Utah. The 23-foot-long predatory dinosaur was named Utahraptor. It had curved claws that were about 9 inches long, and a preserved claw that was recovered had a length of 8 inches.

Utah is home to the largest independent film festival in the country, the Sundance Film Festival.

The nation’s first transcontinental railroad was completed in Utah. The Golden Spike National Memorial Site at Promontory commemorates the event.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia, State of Utah Literature, and Globus

National Parks Tour: Jackson, Wyoming

Friday, September 10, 2021

The room was hotter last night than the night before and I didn’t sleep well. Tossed and turned and just got up at 4:00. We got our bags out at 7:00 and walked back over to the Old Faithful Lodge for another try at breakfast. Chuck got the same hot breakfast jumbled in the box. I chose yogurt and fruit.

Some of our fellow passengers were again eating their breakfast outside waiting to see Old Faithful in action. Chuck decided to join them. Too chilly for me, I opted to go back to the room and eat. Besides, my dessert from last night was waiting for me – cheesecake, yogurt, fruit, and coffee – breakfast of champions.

At 9:00, we made our last stop in Yellowstone. We stopped for a photo opportunity at the Continental Divide and Isa Lake. Al told us that the water on the west side of the Continental Divide flows west toward the Pacific and water on the east side of the Continental Divide eventually flows toward the Atlantic.

We left the Park and got on the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway heading toward the Grand Teton National Park.

Our first photo stop was at Jackson Lake. The lake was way down. Al said it has been dammed up to supply water for the farmers. We saw some Sandhill Cranes walking in the shallow water.

I would have liked to have been able to stop at Jackson Lake Lodge to see the changes from 45 years ago when we took a family vacation to Jackson Hole. Though I cannot recall if I wrote about the trip, the old photos I found brought back fond memories of the Lodge cabin, the chuckwagon cookout, the hiking, and the river rafting trip.

At 11:00, we stopped at Jenny Lake for another photo opportunity. I have fond memories of Jenny Lake too.

Our family hiked the trails there in hopes of seeing wildlife during our vacation. We did see small creatures like the chipmunk that stole my Baby Ruth candy bar during a rest break at the Falls. We finally did see a moose. He was wandering around the Ranger station when we got back.

I thought my memories were playing tricks on me as today we stopped at the Lake’s edge to look at it but I remember riding a ferry shuttle. Al said that yes there is a daily ferry shuttle that runs east and west to the Cascade Canyon trailhead. It just saves time and energy if hiking that trail is what you want to do. Glad to know I was remembering correctly.

Our last stop before we got to Jackson was the Chapel of the Transfiguration Episcopal. It is a log chapel built in 1925 with spectacular views of the Teton Mountain Range. It can seat 65 people inside and there is outside seating. A unique point was the window inside the chapel that framed the mountains perfectly. We took some time to say a prayer of thanks.

At 12:30, we arrived in Jackson, Wyoming. We parked in the Visitor Center lot and Al told us that he and Wade were taking our bags to the Rustic Inn and would be back to pick us up at 3:30. We were free to eat and then explore.

Elk Antler Arch

Six of chose to eat at The Bunnery. It is mostly known for its breakfast offerings but Al said it had a great bakery. I got the vegetable soup and a piece of carrot cake. Another member of our group got the largest apple turnover I have ever seen. Chuck got a large chicken sandwich and skipped dessert. Al was right – the bakery goods were delicious.

Once we were finished, the group split up to look at different shops. Chuck and I commented about the number of motorcycles in town and the flags lining the streets. I also noticed signs that said cars had to be off the street by 3:00. I assumed they were having an early memorial parade for 9/11.

I was wrong. They were preparing to honor one of their own – a 20-year-old Marine who was one of the 13 recently killed in the airport suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. His body was to arrive at the airport and then police-escorted through Jackson to the funeral home. Nobody was quite sure what time the procession would arrive but I hoped we would be able to pay our respects.

Just as we were leaving the parking lot, police were closing off streets but Wade knew enough back roads to get us to the hotel. Each room was a separate little cabin with its own front porch. Ours overlooked a little garden. The most expensive cabins overlooked a creek in the back. Each front porch had two Adirondack chairs and a small table.

Chuck and I relaxed in the chairs until we heard the sirens and we knew the procession was coming. We walked to the street to join the community and other members of our tour group to bear witness to the sacrifice of this young man for the freedom of all of us. He left behind a wife and an unborn child. There was not a dry eye on the street once the procession had passed.

We were not very hungry nor did we have that much energy to walk back downtown for dinner. We decided just to have appetizers at the Lodge restaurant. Jackson is a very expensive town. Appetizers and wine were almost $100.

We walked back to our room via the Nature Trail that took us around the pond and along the creek. Just as we arrived at the cabin, the skies opened up and we had the first hard rain we have had this trip. As we were sitting there enjoying the rain shower from our covered porch, a few of our fellow passengers were running hard to their cabins but still got soaking wet.

Next Up – Traveling to Salt Lake City

Travel Trivia

Grand Teton National Park

The Grand Teton National Park was established both in 1929 and then again in 1950. The former protected the mountain ranges as well as the lakes near the valley base and the latter expanded the park parameters to include all the adjacent valley area.

The Teton Range is thought to be the youngest mountain range in the Rocky Mountains, with its formation beginning between six and nine million years ago.

The Park has a total of 12 glaciers. Teton Glacier is the largest of all of them.

The Park has 242 miles of hiking trails.

The Park has some of the most ancient rocks found in any American national park.

Sixty-one species of mammals have been recorded in Grand Teton National Park, including the gray wolf and the elk.

Over 300 species of birds have been sighted in the park including the calliope (pronunciation: kə-ˈlī-ə-pē) hummingbird, the smallest bird species in North America, as well as trumpeter swans, which is North America’s largest waterfowl.

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson is a town, while Jackson Hole refers to the entire valley—which also includes Teton Village, Wilson, the Aspens, Moran Junction, Moose, and more.

Jackson Hole was originally named Jackson’s Hole for Davey Jackson, a mountain man who trapped in this area during the late 1800’s. “Hole” was a term used in that day to describe a high mountain valley.

Jackson had the first all-woman city council in the US. They were elected to office in Jackson in 1920.

The four iconic antler arches on Jackson town square each contain about 2,000 antlers and weigh almost 12,000 pounds.

John Wayne’s first speaking part was in The Big Trail, filmed in Jackson Hole in 1929. It also is reputed to be the first time Wayne rode a horse. In addition, there have been over 15 feature films shot on location in Jackson Hole including: Shane (1953), Any Which Way You Can (1980), Rocky IV (1985), and Django Unchained (2012).

Whitewater rafting is thought to have been invented on the Snake River in Jackson in 1811.

The National Elk Refuge, located just outside the town of Jackson, is the largest established elk preserve in North America.

National Parks Tour: Yellowstone National Park (cont.)

Thursday, September 9, 2021 (cont.).

The next scheduled eruption for Old Faithful is estimated for 5:27. There are plenty of spots on the benches right in front of it but there is no shade. We decided we were going to wait instead of going back to the Lodge. We also chose to sit in a shady spot under a tree that is fairly close to the action. A large tree limb and a tree stump kept us from having to sit on the ground.

There are several geysers in this area including Castle Geyser and Grand Geyser. You could see their steam in the distance. The Park staff keep an outside sign updated with the names of the geysers and their estimated times for eruption – key word being “estimated.”

While we waited for Old Faithful to put on its show, one of the other geysers erupted and we could see some of the spout from where we were sitting. As the time got closer to 5:00, more people started showing up to occupy a space on one of the benches. A few, like us, chose the shade of trees a little farther back.

At 5:18, Old Faithful made its appearance. First you could see more steam, then you saw it start to bubble, and then it exploded. People clapped and cheered. Round of applause for Mother Nature.

Video of Old Faithful

According to Park literature, Old Faithful erupts between every 40 and 90 minutes with an average show of 4 minutes. The water temperature is around 200 degrees F. The height of the spout is determined by the water table. The spout is usually higher in the Spring when the water table is at its fullest. It was named in 1870 by Nathaniel P. Langford, a member of the 1870 Washburn Expedition-who named many of the thermal features of the Upper Geyser Basin. The geysers erupt because Yellowstone National Park is a volcano.

Even though Yellowstone National Park actually blowing up has little chance of occurring in my lifetime, the information in the Visitor Center was sobering – The volcanic eruption of Yellowstone could be expected to kill as many as 90,000 people immediately and spread a 10-foot (3-meter) layer of molten ash as far as 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) from the park. The volcanic ash would block off all points of ground entry, and the atmospheric ash and gases would stop most air travel. Sulfuric gases released from the volcano into the atmosphere would mix with the planet’s water vapor. The haze of gas would dim the sunlight and also would cool temperatures. Falling temperatures would decimate crops and throw the food chain into disarray. Shiver.

But, until catastrophe does happen, we will continue to clap and cheer as Old Faithful allows Yellowstone to let off some steam.

The show over, we head back to the Lodge restaurant to use our dinner coupons. I ordered the Wild game Bolognese and Chuck ordered the Bison short-ribs. Dinners came with salad and dessert. Everything was boxed up and bagged so again we took it all back to the room. The food was excellent but the portions were very large. I’m saving my dessert for tomorrow morning. In retrospect, we should have used one dinner ticket on Wednesday night and one dinner ticket on Thursday night and split the meals. Live and learn.

The room felt hotter than the night before. I hoped it would cool down as much as it did last night. I worked on getting my photos to download. Chuck read. If you like to watch television, you are out of luck in these rooms. No TV. Better have something downloaded to a device. As I mentioned, my Verizon network was okay but I heard others say they had no service with their provider. I never was able to connect to any WIFI.

Next Up – Jackson, Wyoming

Travel Trivia

Yellowstone National Park

It is the world’s first national park.

The park is located within 96% in Wyoming, 3% in Montana, and 1% in Idaho.

Yellowstone is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

There are more than 300 active geysers in the park.

There are 92 trailheads that access approximately 1000 miles of trails.

Yellowstone hosts aroundfour million visits each year. More than half of these visits happen during June, July, and August.

More people are hurt by Bison in Yellowstone than are hurt by bears.

Wyoming – The Equality State

The Crow, Arapaho, Lakota, and Shoshone were some of the original inhabitants of this area. The land that is now southwestern Wyoming became a part of the Spanish Empire, and later Mexican territory, until it was ceded to the United States in 1848 at the end of the Mexican–American War. French-Canadian trappers from Québec and Montréal ventured into the area in the late 18th century. John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, itself guided by French Canadian Toussaint Charbonneau and his young Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, first described the region in 1807.

The region’s population grew steadily after the Union Pacific Railroad reached the town of Cheyenne in 1867 and it soon became a territory. Wyoming became the 44th state on July 10, 1890.

Wyoming was the first territory that gave women the right to vote. On September 6, 1870, Louisa Ann Swain of Laramie, Wyoming became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election.

In 1902, James Cash Penney, the founder of the J.C. Penney Stores established his first store in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

The first female governor in American history was elected in Wyoming. Her name was Nellie Ross and she was the wife of Wyoming governor, William Bradford Ross. After her husband died in office, she was elected to finish his tenure.

In Wyoming, it is against the law to wear a hat that interferes with other people’s view in theaters or places of amusement.

Forty-eight percent of the state is owned by the US government. The federal owned holdings include an Air Force Base in the capital city, the National Grasslands and the famous national forests.

The Wyoming pronghorn is the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere. These animals can travel at speeds of 60-70 mph.

The horse on the Wyoming license plate was modeled after “Old Steamboat” – a bronco in the early 1900s that was said could not be ridden.

A person may not take a picture of a rabbit from January to April without an official permit.

Bigfoot has been allegedly sighted several times in Wyoming in the Wind River Mountains, Yellowstone, Teton Forest, and Snow King Mountain near Jackson. The only known monument in the United States built in honor of a prostitute is located south of Lusk, Wyoming. Called the Old Mother Feather Legs Shepard Monument, it was erected in 1964.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia, Yellowstone National Park literature, and Globus

National Parks Tour: Yellowstone National Park

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Al was right. This morning the temperature was 39 degrees. First time I have had to wear my jacket. I slept well as the room was nice and cool.

First thing we noticed when we came outside was that one of the bear-proof garbage receptacles was open and garbage was all over the ground. Crows were having a good time picking through all the mess. A Lodge staff member was coming from another direction with a bag and yelling at the crows to go away. Guess someone didn’t lock the receptacle correctly or the bears have gotten smarter.

We walked across the parking lot and passed the Yurts to the Old Faithful Lodge. Some members of our group were outside eating their breakfast waiting to see Old Faithful erupt. I told Chuck I would rather eat inside. Well, that was not an option. Big signs – no eating indoors at all.

The line was cafeteria style. I ordered some oatmeal with brown sugar and a side order of bacon. They put the oatmeal in a round container and the bacon in another round container. Chuck ordered the scrambled egg breakfast with a biscuit. They put the eggs, sausage, and potatoes in one small cardboard box – no dividers – and put the biscuit on top. We got coffee out of the machine. We gave our breakfast tickets to the cashier and she gave us plastic to-go utensils and a bag.

We decided to walk back to the room with our breakfast. Even though we walked fast, our food still cooled off. Chuck’s food was all jumbled together in the box. It looked gross but he said it tasted okay. My oatmeal was the consistency of cement. Bacon, a trailmix bar, an apple and coffee for me today.

At 8:45, we were on our way to our first stop – the Fountain Paint Pot in the Lower Geyser Basin. Al had two warnings for us – (1) stay on the boardwalk – don’t step on the ground as it could collapse and you would be severely injured or killed by the scalding water and (2) protect your electronic gear from the sulfa steam. I brought my rain cover for my camera. Chuck wore his rain jacket instead of a heavier jacket.

The area had a desolate lunar look to it. The ground looked like a crust and steam was coming out of cracks.

As we were walking around the area on the boardwalk, a woman in our group tripped and fell. Luckily, she landed on the boardwalk and didn’t fall into the crust. But she had a hard time getting up and she was hurting. Al and her husband had to help her get back on her feet. Found out later that she had both knees replaced because of arthritis. I hate that she fell but I noticed that she was wearing open-back sandals. Why would you wear them? Al had told us to wear good walking shoes today as we would be on some uneven terrain. My definition of good walking shoes were my tennis shoes.

Then, just before we made it all around the boardwalk, she fell again. She went down hard and I was afraid she had busted her wrist trying to catch herself. Tripped with those sandals again. When Al and her husband got her back on the bus, another person had some Tylenol to give her. Al offered to get her to a doctor but she refused. I bet she will be bruised up but at least she didn’t sprain or break a bone.

On our way to our next stop, Al spotted two wolves in the Gibbon river. Luckily, we didn’t have any traffic behind us so Wade was able to go very slow while we snapped pictures. One ran away but the other one took his time getting out of the river and just looked at us. Magnificent. Last time we saw a wolf was on the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Alaska.

Our next stop was the overlook at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We had wonderful view of the Falls and the Yellowstone River.

We stopped for lunch and restroom break at the Canyon Village Center. We decided to pick up sandwiches and chips at the grocery store side instead of going to the longer line at the grill. Glad we did because the members of the group we sat with got food at the grill and were disappointed in the taste. You would think someone couldn’t mess up a grilled chicken sandwich but she said it was rubbery. Our sandwiches were good but the prices are crazy – $20 for two sandwiches, chips, and a bottle of water. The group said their meals were even more. Jeez.

After lunch, we stopped for a photo opportunity at Hayden Valley. There were Trumpeter swans in the river.

Our next stop was the Yellowstone Lake Lodge. We walked down to the lake to admire the view. Al told us that Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in the Park. The lake is 7,732 feet above sea level and covers 136 square miles with 110 miles of shoreline. While the average depth of the lake is 139 ft, its greatest depth is at least 394 ft. Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 ft in North America.

Our last stop before heading back to the Lodge was the Artists Paintpots. Al warned us about the ground again and to stay on the boardwalk. This area did not have the same overpowering sulfer smell like this morning. I thought all the different pots were very interesting. Some were colorful, others muddy and bubbling, and others were holes of bubbling water – all shapes and sizes.

Before we got back to the Lodge, we saw a bison sleeping by the side of the road. Why was he sleeping there? I guess because he could. Who is going to tell him to move?

Once we arrived back at the Lodge, Al said that according to the schedule Old Faithful should be erupting about 4:15. We would have time to drop our stuff off and go to the viewing area. At 4:00 we were walking to the area and encountered a big crowd coming toward us. Old Faithful erupted at 3:53. We missed it. What to do? Go ahead and have an early dinner and see it later or just find a spot and wait until the next scheduled eruption?

National Parks Tour: Sheridan to Yellowstone National Park

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Breakfast started at 6:30 for us. I say for us because there was another tour group at the same hotel and they were to start at 6:00. Of course, they weren’t quite finished when we got there. And, the kitchen couldn’t keep up with the demand so there were empty pans when we lined up. I gave up and got some coffee and fruit and found us a table. That example is why I keep trail mix bars in the backpack.

Chuck was not to be deterred and was able to get some hot items. He brought me some bacon and a pancake. The bacon was good. The pancake was tough. How do you make a tough pancake? Could have used it as a dog chew toy.

When we got back to the room to finish getting ready and grab our backpacks, I heard a room key being inserted. I thought it was housekeeping so I opened the door. I don’t know who was more startled – me or the couple who thought our room was their room. They jumped back so fast I am glad that they didn’t fall over the railing. Once they realized what had happened, we all had a good laugh.

We left at 7:45. Al is still doing the temperature check and we are all wearing our masks. So far, so good. Nobody has gotten ill.

We traveled through the Big Horn Mountains. Lots of cattle grazing on the mountain sides. Al told us that the ranchers will be moving the cows down the mountains to corral and sell pretty soon.

At 11:30, we stopped in Cody, Wyoming for lunch. Cody was the home of Wild Bill Hickock. Al told us about several restaurants that he recommended. Chuck and I saw a Chinese restaurant that we decided to try when Al let us “scatter.” We were tired of sandwiches.

Even though this restaurant was not on Al’s list, it was an excellent buffet. Nobody else from our group was there but it was packed with local people. While we were getting our food, Wade came in. He was surprised to see us. He said it was his favorite place and he came every time his routes had him stopping in Cody. We told him Al should put it on his list of recommended restaurants. Wade said he wanted to keep it for himself.

Little more walking and some retail therapy and it was time to get back on the bus.

Continuing toward Yellowstone Park, we stopped for photos at Sunset Basin and a rest stop at Cooke City, Montana. Al said since we got to walk around and look at the Visitor Center, we can officially say that Montana is a state we have visited if we are keeping count. Driving through or flying over doesn’t count.

We followed the Gardner River to the north entrance of the park. As we came into the park, we were greeted with hundreds of bison grazing in the valley surrounded by the mountains. Welcome to Yellowstone!

Unfortunately, we passed an accident. A car had flipped over. The park ranger and ambulance were there. Al guessed that they may have hit an animal or swerved sharply to miss one. He said that an animal encounter was the cause of many accidents on these roads. That, and drivers who get distracted by the scenery. Another reason for taking this guided trip – my only job is to look out the window.

At 5:00, we arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs Village to visit the Travertine Terraces. Al told us that terraces are formed from limestone. Thermal water rises through the limestone, carrying high amounts of the dissolved limestone (calcium carbonate). At the surface, carbon dioxide is released and calcium carbonate is deposited, forming travertine, a chalky white mineral forming the rock of travertine terraces. Colorful stripes are formed by thermophiles, or heat-loving organisms.

When we walked the boardwalk from the parking lot to the Terraces, my first thought was that it looked like a frozen cascading waterfall. You could see the steam seeping through in the various areas.

As we got closer to the Terraces, I was wondering why nobody was at the very end of the boardwalk. They seemed to be clustered at the middle. Getting closer, I found out why.

A park ranger was holding everyone back from going any farther up the boardwalk. Why? Because a big bull elk had decided he need a soak in one of the thermal pools at the base of the Terraces. The ranger said the elk is known for his bad temper and would charge people or cars at any random time. Well, I didn’t blame him, nobody wants to be disturbed when soaking in a hot tub after a long day of foraging.

Heading back toward the Visitor Center, we encountered another Park Ranger running around telling people to get back. Seems another large Elk had wandered in from the valley and had decided that the plants and grass at the Visitor Center was just what he needed for an early dinner. He was massive. Why anyone has to be told to “get back” is beyond me. I finally got some decent elk pictures from a safe distance.

Traffic was very slow in the park. We finally got to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge at 7:00. It is the Lodge that is within walking distance to Old Faithful so a very nice location. Al said it is the luck of the draw on which Lodge a group gets so we were a lucky group. He also reminded us that, due to Covid and staffing, Yellowstone had very limited in-door dining and that most venues were order and go. He gave us tickets for breakfast for 2 days and dinner for one night. We can get dinner at the Snow Lodge but will have to walk to a different location in the morning to get breakfast. He also told us that the temps in the morning will be in the 30’s or 40’s.

Like Custer State Park, these room are small. I was looking for the air conditioning thermostat as I thought the room was stuffy. After studying the gauge on the wall, I realized that the room had no air conditioning. It was confirmed when I opened one of the closets and found an oscillating desk fan. I opened the one window in the room. If the temps do drop tonight, the room will be okay. If not, I will be in for a restless night.

Al had also warned us that the Internet was spotty to non-existent but I haven’t had any issue with the Verizon network. I have not been able to connect to any WIFI.

The room also had one can for garbage but it was divided into 3 slots – recycle, compost, and garbage.  Hadn’t seen that kind before.

We got in line to order our dinner as it is now closing in on 7:30. The lunch at Cody long gone. We split a sandwich and an order of chicken wings. You could take it outside or take it to your room. We went to the room. Too many hungry crows outside – size of roosters.

We have a full day in Yellowstone tomorrow. We have to be on the bus at 8:45 which is later than normal but Al is trying to compensate for the fact we have to get over to the other venue for breakfast and then back to the Lodge.

As I forgot to include trivia yesterday, it is below:

Travel Trivia:

Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood was established in 1876 during the Black Hills gold rush. Most of the early population was in Deadwood to mine for gold, but the lawless region naturally attracted a crowd of rough and shady characters. A mostly male population patronized the many saloons, gambling establishments, dance halls, and brothels. These establishments were considered legitimate businesses and were well known throughout the area. Famous visitors to Deadwood during this time included Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane.

The tradition of spreading sawdust on the floors of bars and saloons started in Deadwood due to the amount of gold dust that would fall on the floor at any given time. The sawdust was used to hide the fallen gold dust and was swept up at the end of the night to be sifted for the valuable dust.

Deadwood gradually evolved from a wild frontier town to a prosperous commercial center, due in part, to the construction of the railroad.

During the 1920s, gaming became illegal but continued to operate behind closed doors. With the repeal of the Prohibition Act in 1935, gambling once again flourished in Deadwood until 1947, when it was officially closed. Prostitution remained a business until the 1950s. Gaming once again became legal in Deadwood in 1989 and continues to bring in tourism to the area.

In 1961, the entire city of Deadwood was named a National Historic Landmark.

Sheridan, Wyoming

The city is named in honor of General Philip H. Sheridan, the Union cavalry leader who served during the American Civil War.

It is the 6th largest city in Wyoming

The arrival of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad in 1892 boosted Sheridan’s economic status, leading to the construction of the Sheridan Inn, where Buffalo Bill Cody was once a financial partner. The Sheridan Inn is now a National Historic Landmark.

By 1910, an electric streetcar line, one of the only in the state, connected the mining towns of Monarch, Dietz, and Acme to Sheridan. A top destination is the Sheridan Rodeo, which began in 1931. It is widely regarded as one of the top rodeos in the nation. It draws 25,000 guests to its annual, weeklong western celebration and performance each July at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds.

National Parks Tour: Custer State Park to Sheridan, Wyoming

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Frustrating morning. Got up earlier than I needed so I could transfer my photos from my camera to the laptop. Kept getting an error message. Will need more time to figure out what is going wrong.

Breakfast at the Lodge restaurant was slow again and Chuck said the breakfast potatoes were cold and hard. I think they are short-handed just like everyone else.

Bison were in the parking lot again this morning milling around but not anywhere near the numbers as yesterday. We asked some of the hotel workers if yesterday’s stampede was a normal occurrence. They said it only happens occasionally – no rhyme or reason. Really fortunate that we got to see it.

We left at 8:00 and got to our first stop – Deadwood, South Dakota at 10:30. We parked on Main Street in front of the Midnight Star which is a hotel and casino once owned by Kevin Costner. Al said Kevin still shows up from time to time. I was really hoping that today would have been one of those times but no Kevin sighting for me today.

First thing we did was get on an open-air converted school bus for a 30 minute guided tour around the town and up to Mt. Moriah “Boot Hill” Cemetery. Our driver/guide was very funny as he told stories of Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, Jack McCall, and Seth Bullock and pointed out buildings and places such as the Bullock Hotel (reportedly still haunted by Seth) and Mr. Wu’s Casino.

Many of the buildings still have the old facades including Bullock Hotel keeping the Old West look at least on this Main Street.

After the tour, we walked up and down Main Street. I loved the HBO series and the follow-up movie Deadwood so I found all the information interesting. If you saw the series, you know why I didn’t want to eat at Mr. Wu’s casino.

I wanted a Christmas ornament, so I went into a couple of stores. From the front window displays, I should have known that I was not going to find a Christmas ornament. Lots of black leather, chains, and different sized knives. If you are easily offended, you don’t want to go in and read the t-shirts. Whew.

Finally found a general store that I thought would be promising. It had candy and toys in its display windows. No t-shirts except Hello Kitty and Unicorn ones. When I asked about Christmas ornaments, she said they had just gotten a shipment and showed me what she had. I bought one.

We then went across the street and ate lunch at Mustang Sally’s. We split an order of chicken strips and fried mushrooms. Glad it was a nice day so we could sit outside. Others of our group chose this restaurant also.

Once we left Deadwood, we got on Interstate 90 and watched the scenery until we reached our next photo opportunity/rest stop – Devil’s Tower. First time I became familiar with Devil’s Tower was in 1977 – it was featured in one of my favorite movies – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Chuck told me he had never seen the movie. We definitely need to rectify that cinematic oversight.

On our way to our next rest stop – Gillette, Wyoming – Al put on a video about bison and wolves of Yellowstone. As in all nature films, I never know who to root for – I didn’t want to see the baby or weak Bison get killed by the wolves, but I also didn’t want to see the baby wolves go hungry. Sigh.

We are seeing more green fields and the Bighorn Mountain Range in the distance. We passed coal mines, trains, and many Pronghorn antelopes. The sky is very hazy I assume from the California/Oregon wildfires.

We arrived in Sheridan at 5:00. Our hotel (Best Western Sheridan) is in downtown Sheridan, walkable to many restaurants. However, I would say that is its only redeeming feature. Pretty shabby room but it was clean and the water pressure was good. There were several nicer and newer looking hotels farther out from downtown. Globus should tell those other hotels to pool their resources and start a downtown shuttle so they could switch venues.

We did walk to the Cowboy Café for dinner with two other couples. Decent diner but they were out of all beer except Budweiser – said the Sturgis motorcycle rally and Memorial Day wiped them out. I asked for a glass of zinfandel. I should have just had water. I did enjoy my meal of the Greek Salad. Chuck had a bison sausage and elk sausage with mashed potatoes and broccoli. He really liked it. I thought the sausages were too spicy.

Al had told us that we should check out the historic Mint Bar while we were downtown as it has been in business since 1907. So, we went there after dinner.

I was pretty taken aback by all the stuffed and mounted animals including an 8-ft rattlesnake skin with 27 rattles. The bar is made of pine paneling and the booths are cedar. The Mint also has a display of 1860’s era guns and many old photos depicting early Sheridan. Definitely a unique place.

I thought one of the interesting stories was that during Prohibition, the owners turned the Mint into a soda shop but had a hidden speakeasy in the back.

This bar was certainly not a place to order a Mudslide or Appletini so I was trying to decide on a beer from their very long list. Meanwhile, Chuck had struck up a conversation with two young men who had given us their seats at the bar so our group could sit together. They moved to the end of the bar and sat next to Chuck. Turned out they were from Tennessee and were in Wyoming to hunt antelope. They insisted we should try “Speedy Goat” beer. They said the locals call antelopes – speedy goats. We tried it. It was okay but no Blue Moon. They were very nice young men.

After we were finished with our beers at the Mint, we walked back to the hotel. All along the sidewalk there were different types of sculptures on display. One member of our group was an artist, so we stopped and admired each of the pieces.

Next to the hotel was a Dairy Queen that was doing a booming business with cars wrapped all around the building. The dining room was not open. One member of our group really wanted some ice cream. We told her to just get in the car line and walk up to the window. She declined. Oh well, no ice cream for her.

We have to have the bags out tomorrow no later than 6:45 so we had to call it a night. Very early day for us tomorrow.

Next Up – Yellowstone National Park

National Parks Tour: Buffalo Safari & Cookout

Monday, September 6, 2021 (continued)

We got back to the Lodge at 3:00. We had to be ready to go on the Safari by 4:00. Al told us to be sure to bring a light jacket because it would be cool once the sun went down. It is so hot right now, it is hard to believe I will need a jacket.

Exactly at 4:00, several open-air trucks pulled up. The man getting us all organized into one of the trucks handed us each a straw cowboy hat and a bandana.

Chuck ended up in the seat next to our driver. Our driver’s name was Chuck. They both had the same sense of humor, so we were laughing quite a bit.

As we rode, the truck at the front was in radio contact with the ones following. When animals were spotted, we were alerted so we could pull over or go slower. In between animal sightings, Chuck gave us information about the Park and the surrounding area.

He emphasized that the Park keeps close tabs on the bison herd because the Park can only sustain a certain number of bison (currently 1300 – 1400), based on the condition of the grassland and how much food is available. Part of that management is the yearly Buffalo Round-Up every September. He was very enthusiastic about the round-up and said everyone should attend at least once.

He showed us where they were setting up for this year’s Round-Up. Besides the Park staff and long-time riders, twenty volunteers are also chosen through an application process. Even the Governor takes part as a rider.

The riders herd the bison into corrals where they sort out 200 – 500 to be sold or donated, vaccinate the new members of the herd, brand the new calves, and check the cows for pregnancy. It takes about four days to work the entire herd. However, the visitors can leave the area once all the bison are corralled usually about noon. Visitors need to be in the Park by 7:00 a.m.

The auction takes place in November. All monies raised go to the management of the Park. In 2019, it raised over $600,000. In 2020, it only raised a little over $400,000 but given the circumstances, they were pleased. They are hoping to be back to 2019 results this year.

We soon came upon a herd of bison. I think he was expecting more excitement from us, so we had to tell him what we saw this morning. However, it was fun to see them so close from the truck.

We did get animated when we saw our first pronghorn antelope up close. We had seen several from a distance in the bus and on this ride, but this one was just standing by the side of the road and didn’t move as we all stopped, stared, and took pictures. He was ready for his close-up.

Next, was a large prairie dog town. I had a hard time getting pictures. They were quick to jump into their burrows. A few brave ones would poke their heads out to check us out.

We saw deer. Chuck said to start counting the deer we see from now until we get back to the Lodge. His current record is 45 deer spotted.

Just before we arrived at the chuckwagon cookout, we saw a flock of turkeys.

Once we got to the cookout spot, we sat down at one of the picnic tables and listened to the musicians sing some country western songs. We were not the only group at this cookout. I estimated at 150 people in all. This set-up was similar to the cookout we had at Monument Valley.  We had tickets for the dinner we chose – steak, chicken, hamburger, or vegetarian. We each chose steak again.

When the grills were ready, they had us form two lines. We found ourselves in the front of one of the lines. Score! We were served baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, watermelon, and a cookie. Then we handed our ticket and given the main dish we chose. We had a choice of water, tea, or lemonade. Very good meal.

By the time we were finished, it was getting dark, and Al was right – it was getting cool. Once we loaded back into the truck, Chuck gave us lap blankets.

On our way back to the Lodge, we kept counting deer even though it was getting harder and harder to spot them. We were getting close to his record.

Just before we got to the Lodge, a call came from the first truck that they had spotted an elk. But by the time we got there, it had run up the hill. I’m still holding my record of zero pictures of elk.

However, just before we turned the corner into the Lodge, we spotted deer number 46! New Record! Yay us!

It has been a fun day. Tomorrow is a travel day, so we need to get the bags ready to go. I shouldn’t have any trouble sleeping tonight.

Next up – Travel to Sheridan, Wyoming

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