How we spent our summer vacation

In May and June of 2004 we spent three weeks driving to California for Mike's graduation. Because that's a long way from Ann Arbor, we decided to meander a bit and see a few things that were on the way. To the extent that Montana is on the way from Ann Arbor to LA.

This is the sight seeing page. Go here for family and friends, including graduation:

This was early in the trip, so we weren't being very selective:

Blue Earth

The sign was cool. Unfortunately we didn't realize we were only a couple of miles from a fifty foot statue of the Jolly Green Giant. But we did get to see the Corn Palace:

The Corn Palace

Contrary to the impression one can get from their press, the building is not actually built entirely of corn husks, but the murals (that do wrap around to the sides) are. And they're redone every year.

It's hard to get pictures of things you don't realize are coming, so I don't have a picture from the next morning when we came over a hill to see what looked like a small mountain floating in the air. A mirage? No, it's the sky reflected in the Missouri river. But we're going 80 mph (that's withing the legal limit out there) and there's really no place to stop...

But when you do know things are coming:


It's obvious how the Badlands got its name. But even there there's green:

Green Badlands

Of course we had to do Mt. Rushmore:

Mt Rushmore

But nearby is the Crazy Horse Memorial, which right now looks like this:

Crazy Horse Memorial

But will look like this:
             Crazy Horse Model

in another 50 years maybe. It's been in process since 1948. Mt Rushmore could fit in the forehead.

We'd heard how spectacular the Badlands are at sunrise, but didn't get there till late morning. So we decided to try our next stop early. Unfortunately it was a morning where there was no sunrise (a lot like Michigan) but as we're driving across dull flat country in the gray gloom we see in the distance:

Approaching Devil's Tower

Closer up, Devil's Tower looks like this:

Devil's Tower

The little yellow spot near the bottom is a climber.

A bit northwest and we're in our first serious mountains (if you're from Michigan you think the Black Hill's are serious mountains, but after some time in the Rockies you know better):

Bighorn Mountains

In Powder River Pass it was still winter on May 24:

Powder River Pass

Coming down out of the Bighorns you come to one of our accidental discoveries, :

Ten Sleeps Canyon

The picture doesn't convey coming over a ridge and finding yourself looking down into this miles long (ten sleeps journey) canyon.

Central Wyoming is a desert struggling to be ranch land, but after you get a ways you come to the Shoshone river, which is dammed here to create the Buffalo Bill Reservoir in Cody, Wyoming:

Buffalo Bill Reservoir

Following up the canyon takes you to the east entrance to Yellowstone. In Sylvan Pass it was still winter; Sylvan Lake was still frozen:

Sylvan Lake

But down in the valley the animals are enjoying spring. We took this picture because we "knew" we couldn't get a closeup of bison:

Bison Herd

But then we found out what the signs about animals in the road meant:

Bison close up

It did not attack the car when the flash went off in its face. Nor did these elk seem to mind Diane being 5 feet away:


Of course we had to see Old Faithful. We waited for an hour and then with this picture:

Old Faithful

the batteries in the camera died.

In Utah, you have to visit:

The Mormon Temple

Like much of the west, southern Utah is spectacular in a way that makes spectacular seem ordinary. This, for instance:

Hurricane, Utah

Which is just along the road in Hurricane, Utah. Of course just down the road is Zion Canyon National Park:

Zion Canyon

The river here is the Virgin River, that joins the Colorado just before Lake Meade. But just across the border into Arizona it drops off another plateau into the Virgin Gorge which is just as spectacular (although not as green). But it's not a park, it's just the right of way for Interstate 15; there's no place to stop and take pictures. So much of the west (and not just the west, if you've ever been in the Keweenaw Peninsula, for example) makes you feel like there could be a national park everywhere.

Like, this is just at a rest area in the Mojave Desert:



On the way back we spent three days with friends in Santa Fe. We avoided touristy Santa Fe, but their church, Santa Maria de la Paz, is worth a look:

Santa Maria de la Paz


We spent most of the time at their cabin on Winsor Creek in the Santa Fe mountains. We'd been there once before 22 years ago, and it's still what I see when I try to imagine heaven:

The cabin     more cabin

We spent most of Friday climbing to the top of Hamilton Mesa (it was only 3 mi, but some of us are old). The trail passed some nice views (the Pecos River is down there somewhere):


At the top of the mesa there's a meadow with a nice view, too (the two middle peaks are Pecos Baldy 1 & 2, I think):

Pecos Baldy