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Road Trip Report - Wyoming & Dakotas

Discussion in 'US - Western States Timesharing' started by Timeshare Von, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. Timeshare Von

    Timeshare Von TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Lifetime in Hawaii (floating 1-52 annual week)
    I recently took what is becoming my annual "mental health rebalancing" vacation, after a grueling 8 months at work. Because a number of folks do a similar road trip from the Midwest, I'm going to include both ends of my primarily Wyoming trip.

    Thurs 5/16 - left Milwaukee around 10am . . . arrived in Badlands NP about 12 hours later. Camped inside the park at Cedar Pass, but ended up cancelling my reservations for the next two nights because their shower house was not open for the season yet.

    Friday 5/17 - enjoyed a leisurely ride through the park, wildlife photo ops include the bighorn ewes & nursery at Pinnacles, several small group of deer and bison very close to the road near the Sage Creek Rim Road intersection on the Loop Road.

    With an audible in play, I needed to pick up lodging/camping near Rapid City. I ended up doing what was essentially a "timeshare style" promo deal at Rushmore Shadows Resort ($39.95 for 3 days/2nights in a cabin). The accommodations were excellent and I would recommend them to anyone passing through. I didn't have to take their 90 minute sales presentation because I wasn't traveling with my spouse. BONUS!

    I had always wanted to stop in and visit the SD Air & Space Museum, right next to the AFB as you approach Rapid City from the east. Timing was perfect as a thunderstorm rolled through that afternoon, giving me something to do while in transit.

    Saturday 5/18 - Woke up to snow flurries as I headed to Mt. Rushmore. It had been more than 25 years since I had been there. Very impressed with build out of visitor services and thankful it was not very crowded thanks to the weather and poor visibility.

    From there I headed to Custer State Park. It was their "open house" weekend, so park admission fees were waived . . . BONUS. I drove the Wildlife Loop Road, saw some pronghorn antelope, and that was about it.

    I also stopped by Wind Cave Nat'l Park and had planned on doing their ADA tour, but became worried with my gimpy knees and the cold weather, so I took a pass on that. (Standing for around 45-60 minutes didn't seem very "ADA friendly".)

    On the way back to my cabin in Rapid City I stopped in Hill City for dinner at the Mangy Moose Saloon. Decent rib-eye steak dinner at a very reasonable price. Again, I benefited from the generally poor weather and early shoulder season.

    Sunday 5/19 - Woke up to snow covered car and grounds. Happy to be moving on to Cody, WY today! Stopped to enjoy the view and take photos at the Black Hills National Cemetery. The lightly snow covered hillside made for beautiful images. Said a prayer of remembrance, and moved on up to Devil's Tower. Just a roll through, really because it was really breezy and cold. Ended up for the night in Cody (for 2 nights).

    Monday 5/20 - Had a great morning with Cody Wyoming Adventures and their 5 hour Wild Mustangs Photo Tour. Through a group on Facebook, I was able to find a "friend" to join me so that I could do this (2 person minimum for tours). Our guide Mike was outstanding, and got us to a decent viewing range of a large band of horses on the McCullough Peaks BLM Wildlife Management Area. Because my camera equipment is a lower end DSLR (think "hobbyist") I didn't get great images, but my friend shared hers with me . . . her professional equipment got crisp up close photographs. This was a highlight of my trip, whether or not I personally got great photos. Well worth the $200/person. Be advised however, that the BLM restricts access on their land to tour operators. They are not able to traverse the entire area, and our best viewing was from outside the perimeter of the fence along Hwy 14 as you approach Cody from Greybull.

    My friend Valerie arrived late afternoon, driving up from Denver. After we turned in her renal car at the Cody Airport, we cruised by the BLM range so I could show her the horses. They were pretty far out, but still visible to the naked eye. From there we went into Powell for dinner.

    Tuesday 5/21 - it was on to Yellowstone, but not before breakfast at Granny's Restaurant . . . my favorite breakfast stop in Cody, or maybe anywhere along this trip's route. We saw some bighorn rams as we drove through the Shoshone Nat'l Forest on Hwy 14 past Wapiti.

    Arriving into Yellowstone from the East Entrance, we were treated to our first brown bear photo op. With the sub-adult known as Snow entertaining folks near one of the turnouts, we stopped to enjoy some time there too. Park rangers were well in control of the area; photogs with large cameras were rude and obnoxious! But we got some time to watch and photograph . . . so we were generally happy.

    The road is still under construction heading into Fishing Bridge, so folks need to allow extra time traveling through that area. Last year when I was in the park, I was saddened by how many big pine trees were being cut down so they could widen the road through this area.

    That night we had dinner at the nice restaurant at Mammoth. It was very good, and pretty reasonably priced.

    Wednesday 5/22 - More time in Yellowstone, including watching Old Faithful erupt. Unfortunate it was so cold as the steam from the volcano made for very poor photos. We saw some black bears around the Tower Junction/Roosevelt area. Also lots of elk seen throughout the park. Most fun was watching a small herd of young bucks :"playing" in a pond about half way between Roosevelt and Mammoth. We also saw the brown bear family . . . "Beryl Spring Sow and her two large (3 y/o?) cubs. They were foraging and rooting around on a hillside, giving a nice show to those fortunate to be able to find a way to park in the area. The park ranger there said it would be any day now that she would kick her cubs out on their own. We felt lucky to observe & photograph them.

    Dinner was outside the park, in Gardiner at the Yellowstone Mine Restaurant. We both had prime rib, which was excellent.

    Thursday 5/23 - My friend had to head back to Denver, so I took her to the Jackson Hole Airport. It was a very early departure from our cabin up at Mammoth. I was shocked to see a smaller black bear walking right down the middle of the road by the Terrace Springs. As we approached, it darted off the road and up and over a hill.

    In Jackson Hole we had breakfast at The Virginian - very good! After I dropped Valerie off, I spend some time in Grand Teton Nat'l Park, looking for moose. Along the Wilson Moose Road has always been reported as a good place to see them, but I had never been so lucky. On this day, my luck had changed. I was happy to have seen a young bull in a small pond, partially obscured by shrubs, plus there were two more further down the road, just lounging on a small grassy area at the edge of the forest.

    I saw no bears in Grand Teton, so I headed on back to Yellowstone. Went back out towards the east entrance to see is Snow was around . . . and she was. Enjoyed more time photographing her.

    My next two nights would be staying in a cabin at Old Faithful . . . it was a convenient location. After I checked in, there were three very large bison coming through the parking lot. Lots of folks acting stupid to get pictures! (My least favorite thing about any of our national parks . . . idiot tourists getting to close to get photos!)

    Friday 5/24 - my last full day in the park. The Dunraven Pass was closed until about midday, so I took the long route up to Lamar (I wanted to cruise through Hayden Valley and then north to Lamar). I was pretty disappointed in the lack of wildlife in both Hayden & Lamar. There were bison herds, but they were pretty far off most of the time. I did get some time with them later in the day near Lamar.

    Best wildlife experience, by far, was watching a small group of bighorn rams grazing and drinking at a pond near the Yellowstone Picnic Area (the road heading north out of Tower Junction up towards Lamar). A group of us were there, when all of a sudden the black bear known as "Cinnamon" came down over the hillside, and crossed the road right in the middle of the group of us. The bear crossed a car length in front of me, and I was able to snap off a quick (and blurry) photo. I was glad I was keeping awareness of my surroundings while there. Other people had no clue until I shouted "BEAR" when I saw it amble down from the hill.

    I also saw a pair of young-ish moose . . . a male & female near the Pebble CG. It was starting to get dark, so the photos weren't the best given how far off they were. This was the first time I had ever seen moose inside Yellowstone, so this was a highlight for me!

    There was also a couple of black bears in this area as well . . . as you moved up towards the NE park entrance.

    Saturday 5/25 - Woke up and headed out of the park via the Gardiner (North) entrance. I had never taken that route out of the park, but was glad my GPS routed me that direction out from the Old Faithful area. I thoroughly enjoyed the routing through Montana and up into North Dakota. Since I was heading in that direction, I planned for an overnight in eastern Montana to set me up for early Sunday morning in Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park.

    I did enjoy a "bowling side trip" at a small family run entertainment center (bowling, movie theater and casino lounge) in Glendive, MT (Joe & Dee's Family Entertainment Center). Met Joe, who was very nice, as well as his son, who was also very nice and talkative about their family business.

    Sunday 5/26 - The long slog home would be lengthened by the time I would spend in TRNP Sunday morning. I was in the park before 8am . . . and didn't leave until roughly 11am. I was thrilled to be able to photograph some of their wild horses, seemingly for hours! Their bands there were smaller (mostly 5-7 horses) than what I had seen in McCullough Peaks. But they were VERY close to the park road.

    I saw NO BISON HERDS ANYWHERE in this park . . . amazing since my past visits had always included time with herds of them. I did see a couple of lone bulls near the Cottonwood CG (where I normally camp when I stay in the area).

    I ran into some rain on and off throughout the drive in North Dakota; and was happy to be out of it by the time I got to Minnesota. The movement of storms east, kept me focused and motivated to want to get home that night! I rolled into Casa Bennett at 1am!

    All in all, another great road trip west! I love the time I get to spend in solitude, with nature. I also enjoyed the bonus time of having my friend Valerie join me for a few days.

    I have posted some photos on my Facebook page, which is public. For anyone interested, please feel free to take a look here.
     
    slip, DaveNW, mpumilia and 1 other person like this.
  2. Passepartout

    Passepartout TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    Thanks Yvonne. Great report on an enjoyable trip. Wishing you many more!

    Jim
     
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  3. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    This is awesome! Would love to see the Dakotas someday! Enjoy every minute! Photos are great!
     
    Timeshare Von likes this.
  4. Greg G

    Greg G TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    Yvonne. Loved reading your trip report and the wildlife photos. You have a knack for being in the right place for seeing wildlife.
    That one where you can see the bears claws was great (among many others). The Black Hills National Cemetery photos with that light snow were perfect
    That is really a neat trip you took.

    Greg
     
    Timeshare Von likes this.
  5. Talent312

    Talent312 Tug Review Crew: Rookie TUG Member

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    It sounds like a great trip. It's fantastic that you saw so much wildlife.
    We're ending a 10-day trip to Yellostone & Glacier NP's today.

    We flew into Helena, MT, spent a week at The Timbers in Island Park, ID...
    then 2N in W. Glacier (raft trip), 1N in Waterton Lakes NP & back to Helena.

    I don't want to hijack your thread, so I'll just say that at Yellowstone, we saw:
    Lots of bison, some walking down the road directly in front of us...
    Also, one bear, one fox, and a herd of deer (at Mammoth).
    Elsewhere, we saw a herd of sheep, more bears, and several elk.

    One major downside: A CC was compromised. There were 3 bogus charges.
    Fortunately, we got notice & cancelled the card. I had another one to use.
    That saved our bacon.

    Tomorrow, back to our unfinished kitchen renovation at home.

    .
     
    mpumilia and Timeshare Von like this.
  6. Timeshare Von

    Timeshare Von TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Thanks for the kinds words folks! I'm glad you enjoyed the trip report and photos.

    And yes Greg . . . I've been pretty lucky to have the sightings I get when in Yellowstone.
     
    mpumilia likes this.
  7. Timeshare Von

    Timeshare Von TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Bummer about your credit card, but glad it didn't adversely affect your trip too much.

    And never a worry about hijacking my posts, especially if sharing great Yellowstone experiences :)

    About the elk, I saw a lot of them too . . . but no calves yet. They seem to have all dropped in the past week or two, however, as stories coming out from there include aggressive Mommas protecting them from predators and humans.
     
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