Out West: Relatives and Parks

After over 30 years of comfortable sleeping in a bed, my wife agreed to sleep on the ground. To say she is tolerant and kind is an understatement.

By Jim Dickens

I am getting better at cadence now and we drove over two thousand miles without exhaustion. I am now learning flexible planning which allows you to more easily exceed expectations. Having a great vehicle like the Honda Ridgeline and your lovely wife with you helps a great deal as well.

Lori and I were married 31 years ago by her Uncle Dick a revered member of the Presbyterian clergy. He brought calm and confidence to the tense marriage process and Lori and I have a special place in our hearts for him. He and his wife Nancy and some of their family live way up northwest of Duluth. We visited there first, an easy traffic free 9 hour drive.

Joanie and Steve’s Lake House

We stayed at son, Steve’s, and wife, Joanie’s, lake house. Son, Tim, showed us his fishing expertise. Uncle Dick and Aunt Nancy are still reassuring and wonderful. A big thanks to the Steve and Joanie for their warm hospitality of cousins they haven’t seen for years. I am now a big fan of cruising on a pontoon boat. I hope we keep in touch and we can return the hospitality, perhaps in Switzerland.

We left Minnesota after a couple of days and struck out for South Dakota’s Badlands and Black hills. My wife camped with me and even helped set up the tent. The Badlands were thankfully more lush and cooler than last time I was there. The hiking was good and we got to see lots of large mammals which Lori likes most. Her favorite is the sea otter and she has decided prairie dogs are land otters.

We arrived just as the Sturgis Biker Rally was beginning and the parks were filled with unmuffled motorcycle engines blasting the wildlife away from the road. We’d avoid that next time. In the Black Hills, Mt Rushmore was under construction but still worth viewing including childhood nostalgia from previous vacations. Camping got us going to bed at dark and awakening at sunrise avoiding a lot of traffic and noise. However, we did have dinner at a biker filled bar, the Wagon Wheel, served by a tender with a Bucket of Blood Bar t-shirt. Good people and good pizza!

Earlier this year, I purchased an Annual Pass to the national parks. So on our way to Cody Wyoming we took a detour to the Devil’s Tower National Monument for quick look. Because we had the Annual Pass it was no problem just to stop in.

On to Cody, WY and then Yellowstone. No grizzlies but bison, deer, elk, prong horn, wolves, black bear and river otters.

One great thing for me happened as I’m a little green. Forty four years ago when I first visited, Yellowstone’s fishing bridge had numerous large cutthroat trout rising. When I returned as an adult they were gone due to invasive species. This year, because of intense conservation some returned, fantastic!

Fishing Bridge cutthroat trout rising to a fly

We stayed in Gardiner and Big Sky then headed to see our brother in law, niece and nephew in Boise. We used our Annual Pass to do a fly by at the Craters of the Moon National Park.

In Boise, our brother in-law was was a gracious host. I took his son, our nephew out for a day’s fishing on the Owyhee river. Very cold water, very hot air and three golden eagles added to fishing for very large and strong brown trout. Meanwhile, Lori joined our nephew’s wife and their four children, keeping them cool and happy on a 100 degree day. Only one injury required treatment, a split lip. A thank you again for warm hospitality from our family.

Lori flew home from Boise and I drove the truck to Bozeman to store until I returned in September. I camped along the way in the Gallatin National Forest. Camping by yourself takes some getting used to and camping by yourself not in a campground in grizzly country is even more intense. I awoke at 4:30 in the dark to great horned owls calling to each other. Before I drifted back to sleep an animal larger than a squirrel walked near the tent. No more sleep and out at first light. I intend to stay in campgrounds from now on although I bet the stats say humans are more dangerous.

Scary camping Gallatin National Forest

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