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:
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:
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
Of course we had to do Mt. Rushmore:
But nearby is the Crazy Horse
Memorial, which right now looks like this:
But will look like this:
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:
Closer up, Devil's
Tower looks like this:
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):
In Powder River Pass it was still winter on May 24:
Coming down out of the Bighorns you come to one of our accidental
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:
Following up the canyon takes you to the east entrance to Yellowstone.
In Sylvan Pass it was still winter; Sylvan Lake was still frozen:
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:
But then we found out what the signs about animals in the road meant:
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:
the batteries in the camera died.
In Utah, you have to visit:
Like much of the west, southern Utah is spectacular in a way that makes
spectacular seem ordinary. This, for instance:
Which is just along the road in Hurricane, Utah. Of course just down
the road is Zion Canyon National Park:
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
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:
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):