There really was a little bit of crazy in this trip just because it was so long. We started our plans by talking about camping along the way. That was, thankfully, pushed aside when we decided a month old baby and sleep on the ground are not a good combination. We wanted to spend about 6 weeks on the road but due to some travel plans and an earlier start date for work, meant we had to end a trip a little earlier than we had planned but everything worked out great.
At this point, I will warn you, this is a long post. For those of you keeping track, we left Austin the last day of May, we spent two weeks in the Dallas area with Hyrum's family, spent a few days driving to Utah and spent about 1 1/2 weeks there. On Sunday, July 1 our adventure truly began. We decided to start off a day earlier than we had originally planned. We went ot church with HYrum's grandparents and then drove off into the sunset. We stayed in Idaho Falls that night which worked out great since that put us really close to Yellowstone--our first stop.
Waiting for Old Faithful to erupt
We spent most of Monday in Yellowstone. It was great. Every time we go back I relive the wonder of seeing those things when I went for the first time on our honeymoon. It was fun to show the kids some things that they should remember, at least Hannah. We stopped at Old Faithful first to check out the new Visitor Center and watch the geyser erupt and feed Spencer. The kids loved it. We had gone as a family a few years ago and Hannah thought the whole park was called Old Faithful. This time she understood what was going on and they were so curious and into the experience. We stopped at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, took a few short hikes around some of the pools and smaller geysers.
At the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The sun was really bright.
That evening we spent the night in Cooke City, Montana, just outside the Northeast entrance to the park. I love this city. We spent one night there on our honeymoon and it was so cold that night, in August. It wasn't much better the night we were there this time. It's a tiny city in the shadow of a huge mountain. There is about one road going through the town. They do a big business with snowmobilers in the winter.
Outside our hotel in Cooke City , MT
The next day we drove the loveliest drive I have ever made in my life. It is Highway 212 coming out of Cooke City, the Beartooth Highway. We could have stopped every mile all the way down to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery. The kids were taken in by it as well. We kept hearing exclamations of "look at that snow", "oh that's pretty", and similar things for probably a good hour.
Views along the Beartooth Highway
Our next stop was the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It was hot and the visitor center actually canceled all the walking tours for the day. We looked around the displays and then took the driving tour in our car. Hyrum loves these kinds of places. It was really interesting in the complexity of the issues. So many people fighting for what they thought was right. It made me think about the things I "fight"for and evaluate their importance.
Outside the visitors center at Devils Tower
Our second stop of the day was Devils Tower, WY. It was pretty cool. We were keeping an eye for it as we got close and suddenly there it was looming up out of the landscape. It was hot so we didn't do much but look at it and check out the small visitors center. Hyrum and Jonathan took a hike and we met them down by Prairie Dog Town. While we waited I fed Spencer and we watched the prairie dogs scramble around between holes. It was really fascinating. They were fun to watch. We had seen some on the side of the road on our drive to Utah but here there were tons popping up all over the field.
Jonathan on his hike with Hyrum
This is the smoke from a fire in the area. We weren't in any danger but at one point I was a little concerned that we should turn around.
We spent the night in Custer, SD at a place called the Rocket Motel. It was a nice place. It was about 30 minutes from Mount Rushmore. For those of you keeping track, we went to Mount Rushmore as our first stop on the 4th of July. We got there just as the gates were opening and we were glad we did. It was a pretty cool site. There is a walkway to the main viewing area and it is lined with flags from each of the 50 states. It was a neat place, I highly recommend stopping.
Next was Badlands National Park. We stopped a couple of times but really just drove through. It was a neat drive. It's "flat" prairie for as far as you can see and then all of a sudden there are canyons and hills like you would see in the in southern Utah. We learned a lot about the prairie and how really wild it is. We saw a mountain goat or antelope type of creature but that was about all. We stopped for lunch at one of the visitors centers and then headed back on the road.
We made really good time because we wanted to get to De Smet South Dakota in time to go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead. We made it. We were the last tour of the evening and the people who own and run the site were so kind. We just made it to see the schoolhouse but they stayed and showed us everything even though we were there about an hour past closing time. I drove the dog cart with Spencer and Charlotte along for the ride. Hannah and Jonathan both rode a pony, we turned rope and made corncob dolls. It was a really worthwhile stop. If you are in the area and interested we recommend stopping. It is privately owned and well run. Hannah wanted to go back again and could have spent many hours there.
Next we were headed to Minnesota. On our way there, we drove through North Dakota just because we could and that way we don't ever have to stop there again : ) Our first stop in Minnesota was Lake Itasca, the site of the headwaters of the Mississippi River. We enjoyed lovely weather and lunch by the lake. We started to hike over the to headwaters but found the trail impassable with Charlotte in the kid pack and Spencer in my wrap so we turned around and hopped in the car and drove there.
There was a nice path and display about the Mississippi River and oh so many people. It was kind of funny. There is a rock path that spanned the mouth of the river coming out of the lake. Everyone walks across it. The only problem is that it is very slippery. Hannah had taken about two steps before she plopped into the river. Jonathan made it a bit farther before he landed in the water although I think he just wanted to get wet. Charlotte and Spencer hung out with me on the shore. Charlotte was so desperate to get into the water and eventually she was wet too. We all enjoyed the stop.
Our next stop was just outside Grand Marais, Minnesota. It was a lovely drive. Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 lakes and rightly so. It was gorgeous. We spent a couple of nights there though one day was entirely inside because it was pouring rain. We weren't quite prepared for that but Hyrum still went and hiked the highest point in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain. We enjoyed dinner at Sven and Ole's, a pizza place and local tradition. The Chicken Pesto Pizza was really good.
The boat ride out to Isle Royale
Saturday we set sail and found ourselves on Isle Royale. The fancy french person in me wants to call it Isle Royale but apparently it is pronounced Isle Royal. Kind of silly if you ask me, but I'm not the one who decides such things. We spent two hours on a boat and met a nice couple that were taking a small vacation. We chatted a little and then right before disembarking on the island we found out we have a mutual friend. After our day on the island we hung with them on the boat back. I think Hannah had a nap on Amber's lap and Darren was Jonathan's best friend. It was pretty funny.
Hiking on the Island
The island was gorgeous. It is a primitive island meaning there are only a couple places with flush toilets and otherwise it's all wild and beautiful. You can often see moose and lots of wildlife. We didn't. We met a couple women that had been canoeing around the island for 11 days. A lot of people go backpacking there. We took a little hike and bought some treats and just enjoyed being outside. If you're ever in the area it is totally worth the boat fare.
That night we drove into Canada and spent the night in Thunder Bay. We went to church there the next morning. People were really confused about why we were there. I don't blame them considering Texas is nowhere near Thunder Bay, Canada. The confusion only grew when we told them we were headed to Kapuskasing (a small town in the middle of nowhere). The drive was beautiful though. The weather was cool and Monday morning was chilly. We didn't see any moose which continues to disappoint me. I did decide though that I'd rather not while we driving in Canada because it would probably mean it was in the road and we were going to hit it. There were so many pristine lakes and trees everywhere though.
Monday night, we pulled into the Toronto Area. It was really tempting just to keep going to my parents house, about 4 hours away but we'd had enough. Tuesday we stopped at Niagara Falls. It was pretty quick stop. We were getting tired of the car so I think we stopped for maybe an hour. The kids thought the Falls were pretty neat. We got a little wet because of the mist coming off the water but nothing too exciting. There are a few things to do but we didn't do any of those mostly because we didn't want any of the kids to go in the water. We just can't trust Jonathan or Charlotte not to jump : )
As soon as we were through customs, it was a breeze. Though we were sitting in customs and the customs officer informed us that Charlotte was sticking a raisin up her nose. Sure enough it was there. I pulled it out with tweezers when we got to my parents house. Hyrum headed to Pittsburgh on Friday and got up us set up in our temporary housing while the kids and I hung out at grandma and grandpa's house. Then Hyrum flew to California for some training and I picked him up at the airport a week later. That Sunday we arrived in Pittsburgh.
Riding the gator with Grandma and Brother Wares.
I warned you this would be a long post but, that is our summer in a really big nutshell. It was nice to spend time with our little family. This was something we have been planning for a while, so it was nice to see it happen. The kids were so good and really enjoyed the trip too. We're grateful to our family that let us crash at their houses. We're also grateful for all the friends and family we got to see. The Monster-Mega Road Trip o' Fun was just that but we will remember it for a very long time.