Before delving into the specifics of observation and nuance, it would make sense to present the broadest possible outline of the past couple of weeks. So the following constitutes the short answer to the question, where have I been? The accompanying pictures are presented in click-to-enlarge style.
Tuesday, 16 August: Embarkation
Having acquired a small rental car and minimal provisions, my Dad and I strike westward Tuesday morning. There's not a tremendous amount to see on I-90; highlights include the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, and a 50's-themed ice cream parlour. We stop for the night on the banks of the Missouri, camping near where the Lewis and Clark expedition stopped.
Wednesday, 17 August: Side Trip the First
Wednesday we leave I-90 to drive through the Lakota Sioux reservations, including Wounded Knee, site of a 19th century massacre and a 20th century seige of Sioux Indians. Next, north to the Black Hills were we make camp in Wind Cave NP.
Thursday, 18 August: Wind Cave
Thursday we decide that the Wind Cave area has enough sites of interest to merit spending a day there. The day includes a Mammoth excavation, the Wind Cave, and the monument of Crazy Horse, which is absurdly grand.
Friday, 19 August: Turning North
Every national and state park of any size in this area has its own buffalo herd. I approve. 2005:08:19 11:14:05
On Friday, we head north out of the Black Hills, by way of Mount Rushmore (kitschy) and Deadwood (kitschier). This day takes us into Wyoming, ending at Devils Tower or the Bear Lodge, depending on who you ask.
Saturday, 20 August: Northern Side Trip
The USGS calls it Devils Tower. The local tribes have always called it the Bear's Lodge (or similar). 2005:08:19 18:35:35
Leaving our friendly local igneous intrusion, we head into Montana to visit Little Big Horn. The plan was to head across into the Big Horn Basin, but it's getting late. So we backtrack and stay in the Big Horn mountains.
Sunday, 21 August: Basin Hopping
This Yellowstone elk got tired of being stalked by photographers, and decided to show off instead. 2005:08:21 20:42:29
Fresh out of the Powder River Basin, we cross the Big Horn today. A stop at the great medicine wheel is in order (Where The Eagles Land in the native languages). As the day ends we roll into Yellowstone.
Monday, 22 August: Yellowstone Country
The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. This park is given to drama, but it is frequently deserved. 2005:08:22 12:52:37
Monday we drive the upper Grand Loop. This parallels the Yellowstone River for much of the way, so we stop for many waterfalls. Also, wildlife and geology abound. After sunset we squint as Old Faithful erupts by twilight.
Tuesday, 23 August: Hydrothermal Day
Deposits of sulphur and other minerals, thermophile bacteria mats, and the like give Yellowstone its colorful reputation. 2005:08:23 13:17:30
Tuesday we drive south through the geyser basins, then continue on to the southern exit and down the length of the Teton Range. Camp is the southern tip of Grand Teton NP. We make a side trip to the Jackson Hole public library so Dad can dump accumulated spam emails.
Wednesday, 24 August: Blowing Town
The so-called Cathedral Group contains the three tallest peaks in the Teton Range, and about half of its dozen or so glaciers. 2005:08:24 11:30:03
Since I fly out of Denver early Thursday morning, Wednesday we must cross many miles. Like 500 or so. Leaving the Tetons, we hop from Jackson Hole to Pinedale and make a quick run through the Museum of the Mountain Man. Then it's across the flat basins of southern Wyoming, turning south at Cheyanne, and hitting Boulder at sunset. Dinner with a poet Dad is publishing, then a few hours in an airport motel mostly spent repacking our gear into checkable luggage.
Thursday, 25 August: Flying
And as the sun rises we return the car in Denver, lug our tired selves into the airport, and go our separate ways. And here I am, back in Minneapolis.