Devils Tower

Driving through the countryside of northeastern Wyoming a most unusual sight rises up through the trees and fields surrounding it. Devils Tower stands like a megalithic monument dedicated to an ancient race of giants.

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You couldn’t ask for a better location. It looks much closer than it really is.

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Standing at the bottom and looking up you realize just how mammoth this rock pillar is.

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After visiting the Tower we bought the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind to watch with the children. Willow still carves the Devils Tower out of her mashed potatoes. By the way if you want to buy the movie wait and buy it in the park’s gift shop. It’s twice as expensive at the Devils Tower Trading Post.

 

 

Grand Teton National Park

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In our final month in Wyoming we visited the Grand Teton National Park. It was not our plan to begin with, we had been to Yellowstone twice and thought that would be the end of it, but after hearing person after person say, “Yes, Yellowstone is nice, but have you seen the Grand Tetons ?” Everyone seemed so enamored with the park, we had to see it for ourselves.We were not disappointed.

The Teton mountain range was named for the Teton Sioux Indians who lived in the area and they have a look about them that is different from any other mountains I’ve seen. As though they’ve grown up over night, like mushrooms.  Or some giant dropped them where they stand.

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The scenery was so breathtaking that we came back a second day and spotted this adorable little guy.

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Sacajawea

Ever wonder what became of Sacajawea after her famous trek with Lewis and Clark? She is resting in peace in the Sacajawea Cemetery on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

Sacajawea Cemetery Sign

On our way home from the Grand Teton National Park we went in search of Sacajawea’s final resting place. Upon entering the reservation we stopped at a gas station and asked for directions. They seemed clear enough; pass Chief Washakie’s monument, follow the road to the left and turn on Cemetery road. Simple right? Well, you can see where this is going. We couldn’t find the road and it was getting dark. We had to find the cemetery and quick, so back to the same gas station asking again for directions. Thankfully a woman from the reservation offered to lead us right to Sacajawea’s Cemetery.

Sacajawea Cemetery

It wasn’t exactly what I expected. Aside from being located off a gravel road in the middle of nowhere it was also seemingly untended and overgrown with weeds and grass. But this in no way squelched the enthusiasm of standing where this magnificent woman is buried.

Burial Plaque

If you click on this photo you can read the burial information.

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This gravestone was erected in 1963 by the Wyoming branch of The Daughters of the American Revolution.

Baptiste Charbonneau

The baby boy that Sacajawea carried and nursed throughout the 6000 mile journey with Lewis and Clark.

Bazil Adopted son of Sacajawea

Adopted son of Sacajawea.

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A beautiful memorial to an amazing woman. She is holding a sand dollar.

“This sculpture represents a truly remarkable young Lemhi Shoshone woman who has just made a journey of 3000 miles with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and is viewing the Pacific Ocean. The sand dollar is significant, as it was given to Chief Washakie. He wore it with honor in many historical pictures.” http://www.yellowstonepark.com/2014/05/sacajawea-secret-gravesite/

Big Horn Polo Club

Polo is a two thousand year old sport, believed to have been started in China or Persia and was played for the purpose of training cavalry. The British took up the sport when they saw it being played in India and brought it to the West. And the game has been played in the Sheridan, WY area for over 120 years.

“Big Horn is known across the country as THE place to find promising young horses, thanks to the number of breeders and trainers who make Big Horn their home. Along with Flying H Polo Club next door, which hosts some of the top-rated players in the world, this part of Wyoming has become a polo destination for many in the game.”   http://www.thebighornpoloclub.com/polo-history.html

Big Horn Mercantile

The town of Big Horn had a population of only 500 in 2010, with one mercantile and a restaurant or two it’s a mere speck on the map, but in 1984 this minuscule village played host to the Queen of England when she came to visit relatives and buy polo ponies during a North American tour!

 

Sam Mavrakis rings up a sale to Queen Elizabeth II at the Ritz Sporting Goods in Sheridan, 1984. Sheridan County Museum.

While we were in Wyoming (not to buy polo ponies or visit any noble relatives) we had the opportunity to watch our first polo match. I was tremendously excited; especially after finding out the Queen Elizabeth connection, interestingly enough told to me by a Walmart cashier as though I should have known this fact already.

I really have no interest in sports but this was different. The surroundings were beautiful, the horses were magnificent, and the players wore nice uniforms and didn’t tackle, fight, or curse; or at least you couldn’t hear them if they did.

 

Children at polo match

Oliver, Lucy, and Willow. The temperature was nice, but the sun was brutal.

Big Horn Polo Match

Big Horn Polo Match

Big Horn Polo Match

If you ever make it to this part of Wyoming be sure to spend a Sunday afternoon in Big Horn watching a polo match.

 

Yellowstone

Yellowstone park may only be second to the Grand Canyon as the most iconic family vacation spot in America. And like the Grand Canyon people come from all over the world to see it. Being there with so many other tourists, hearing so many other languages gives you the feeling of being some place extraordinary and indeed it is.

Every inch of it is a feast for the eyes and the soul. As I look through the photos that I took while there, I am stirred up with admiration again.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake. The children could have stayed here all day.

Yellowstone Lake

I’ve never seen a lake with clearer water.

The park boasts a great deal of wildlife; from bears, both grizzly and black, to moose, wolves, and bison. With well over 4000 of them, no matter what animal you hoped to see you are bound to see bison.

Yellowstone Bison

Yellowstone Bison

“Discovered in 1870 by the Washburn Expedition, Old Faithful geyser was named for its frequent eruptions — which number more than a million since Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872. Old Faithful erupts about every 60-110 minutes depending on the duration of the last eruption, shooting water up to 140 feet into the air on average.” (http://www.yellowstonepark.com/natural-wonders/old-faithful/)

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We all know about Old Faithful, but did you know that 60% of the WORLD’S geysers are to be found in Yellowstone?

Wooden walkways lead you through geysers fields (not sure if that is the appropriate name) where if you choose to rebel against the posted warnings and step even a foot onto the surrounding ground, you could break through the crusty surface and be burned alive by the boiling water beneath. A place such as this more then justifies the leashes that some people put on their children. Thankfully Lucy was too small to walk.

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Yellowstone Geysers

Yellowstone geyser

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These lovely little flowers were growing just feet from the above geyser.

Yellowstone geyser

orange geyser

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The contrast of environments within Yellowstone is astounding! Mountains, lakes, boiling pools, geysers, forests, prairies and more.

children at YellowstoneYellowstoneI could post photo after photo and never truly express the vast beauty of Yellowstone. I hope you get visit yourself some day.

 

 

The Occidental Hotel

The historic Occidental  (pronounced like an overly posh ‘accidental’) Hotel in downtown Buffalo, Wyoming is (to my surprise) one of several hotels with the same name. There is even an Occidental, California. I was perplexed by the name so I looked it up in the dictionary. It means western or having to do with the western hemisphere. But you probably knew that already. 🙂

The hotel is over 130 years old and has played host to people like Butch Cassidy, Teddy Roosevelt, and Calamity Jane. Much of the architecture and some of the decor are original.

Very Victorian.

The Occidental

On Thursday nights The Occidental Saloon is full-to-overflowing with Bluegrass music fans. If you would like a seat while enjoying the jam you had better arrive at least two hours early.

I’m not a Bluegrass fan, but it’s a fun place to go with the family and the musicians are very talented.

The Occidental Hotel

Wildflowers of Wyoming

Roving through the Big Horn mountains in June is like stepping into a wildflower calendar and thanks to the torrential downpours we received in May the Big Horns put on a blazing display of color that would rival any fireworks show on earth.

Wildflowers of Wyoming

Wildflowers of the Bighorns

While driving we could hardly progress from one point to the next for all the calls to pull over and photograph yet another glorious scene.

Rock and bluebonnets

There are flowers of every color but I am very partial to the blues and purples. You can imagine how I felt when we spotted this field blanketed with little purple flowers.

Purple Field

Before the day ended I had filled my phone with pictures. So I hope you like wildflower photos because you are about to be flooded with them.

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Sorry I don’t know their names, but if you happen to, please comment.

Blue flowers

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little blue flowers

purple flowers

orange flower

yellow centered flowers

white flower

dark blue flower

yellow flowers

small white

 

wild flower bouquet

Earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom. ~Terri Guillemets

Arizona to Wyoming

On a cloudy, rain-soaked morning we packed up and left Arizona heading to our summer destination in Buffalo, Wyoming. Jim plotted our journey with the punctiliousness of an expedition to the North Pole.

Because of Lucy we decided to take a week to travel with days of driving no longer than six hours. Jim planned for nursing stops and had mapped out all the gas stations that we could easily navigate. He also found interesting roadside attractions along the way.

Our first attraction was in Hatch, New Mexico known for its hot peppers.

Hatch, New Mexico

Hatch, New Mexico

Hatch, New Mexico

On day two we stayed in a KOA in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This was the best campground of the entire trip. The children played on the playground and in the games room.

KOA Santa FeThe next morning I convinced Jim we should go into Santa Fe and do some site-seeing before resuming our trip. We were told there was a parking lot downtown where we could park our camper, we just had to find it. After several wrong turns we ended up on a dead end street and that is where, after maneuvering a 35ft camper attached to a 12 passenger van backwards down a narrow street between parked cars, Jim earned the well-deserved title of Master Driver with Expert Skills of Driving in Reverse. It was a sight to behold, but one I hope I won’t have to behold again.

After making our way through New Mexico we headed into Colorado and stopped at Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum. Not so much a museum as a small one room house packed with clown themed paraphernalia.

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Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum

Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum

Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum

I’m still having nightmare about this one. 😉

Finally in Wyoming we stop at our final roadside attraction, the Chugwater Soda Fountain. Wyoming’s oldest operating soda fountain and the only reason to stop in Chugwater.

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Chugwater Soda Fountain

I have never been to Wyoming and had you asked me where Yellowstone Park is located I would have hung my head and admitted that I had no idea. And if you would have told me that it is in Wyoming I might have questioned your geography because when driving through eastern Wyoming on I25 you could have more easily convinced me that I was on the surface of the moon.

Wyoming is the least populated state in America and parts of it are extremely flat and bare, but as you get closer to Buffalo the ground begins to rise up in rolling green hills and in the distance the snow covered peaks of the Big Horn mountains appear on the horizon.

Big HornsThis breathtaking land is where we will be spending our summer.