My favorite places out west
In approximate order of visitation, en-route
These are in no way meant to be a tour of the park, but are only a
journal of sorts, of my various trips from Milwaukee. I hope to
put together a real guide to the park when I get some time. For
guides, see some of my links.
Crossing the Mississippi takes the traveler to what has
traditionally been known to generations of Americans as "The
West". First come the fields and the prairies, then the sparse
scrub of the high plains. Finally there are the mountains,
rivers, waterfalls, and scenic views of The Rockies. Throughout
this wide geography are scattered jewels. Jewels like The
Badlands, Wind Cave, The Black Hills, and Devil's tower, as well
as the crown jewel of them all, Yellowstone Park. Also along the
way are the man made attractions, places like Wall Drugs, Mount
Rushmore, and the countless tourist traps, "museums", and other
roadside attractions. The highway system itself, and the
services and infrastructure that support it are a marvel.
Traveling by road takes you through slowly enough so that
you can see the transition, both geographically, and culturally.
This is the area known as "Fly Over Country" to those who
consider the eastern seaboard, and the west coast to be the only
important parts of the nation. To this mindset, the West, and to
a lesser extent, the Midwest, are only important to the degree
that they connect, and serve the needs of the two coasts. What a
pity, and what a tragic loss. People who see the middle portion
of America as mere connective tissue between the vital organs,
are denying themselves the experience of the true heart of this
country. These are the buffered zones, the places were the food
is raised, and the Earth is mined or drilled. Oil wells, and
cattle crossings dot the countryside. Slower to change, and
slower to be swayed by trend, fashion, and novelty, this is the
distilled culture of the last 150 years of America. People are
in relatively short supply here, and thus valued more highly
than in the populous coasts. Individuality is easier in these
places, and is less admired because it is more common. Self
sufficiency, diligence, responsibility, and honor are not goals
here, but are expectations.
This is the land of the cowboy, the explorer and discoverer,
the trailblazer, and the pioneer. History is alive here, and
exerts a strong influence. There are also motorcycle rallies,
old hippie communes, indian reservations, and artists colonies.
There is room out here for every sort of eccentricity, and life
style. There is even room for the old virtues, and culture, once
common everywhere, that made this country what it is today. The
major industry of most of the west, is tourism. This is one of
the favorite destinations of those wish to "get away from it
all." People who come here from other parts of the country, seek
to discover something basic about their nation, their culture,
and themselves. Those who are open to the experience, and are
able to adapt their plans, and their expectations, will find
what they seek. The others, will never understand, and will
continue to see this as fly over country.
A solitary trip via my trusty Honda 750.
A two week jaunt through the veins of the country, and into it's
heart. I left with four changes of clothing, a tent, a sleeping
bag, a couple of cameras, and lenses, and less than $200. Poorly
planned, and poorly financed, it is one of my great memories. I
returned tired, broke, wind burned, and happy. Coming back into
town with less than $10 in my pocket, I spent it on the first
good meal I had eaten in days. In retrospect, I would not change
a single detail.
The photos are not as vivid as some of my latter efforts. This
is due, in part, to the cloudy conditions which prevailed
through most of my first trip, and also due to the photos having
sat in albums for 20+ years, before being scanned in.
Minnesota & Dakota
|The Mid West merges into the West.
|Wall Drugs & the Badlands
||Bumper stickers, and road signs, all over the world, point to
this famous spot in the middle of nowhere. The most famous drug
store in the world, along with some of the richest fossil beds, and
the most rugged, and alien terrain.
||The first, largest, and perhaps best of all the national parks.
Brought my brother along this time, and the two of us
made the trip in a fair degree of comfort in a conversion van.
There were changes, of course, but the essence remained.
A couple of weeks relaxing and showing off "My West" to my
little brother. More money, more comfort, and some companionship
|The gateway to the West, or so it seemed to me upon my arrival.
Bluffs, eagles, and the mighty Mississippi.
||A little bit of Las Vegas out in the middle of nowhere. No
gambling, but an obvious tourist trap. A place to stop in the midst
of fly over country. This is also the middle of "cowboy country" the
||Desolate, mysterious, and fascinating. Beautiful too, though it
is a subtle beauty. Open expanses, and wonderful skies at night
|The Black Hills
||Paradise. The indians (pardon me, I mean native Americans)
believed this area to be sacred. I can easily understand why.
||The Black Hills
||The only major political figures you will ever see, who won't
want your money.
||A great plug of scaled volcanic rock.
|Yellowstone national Park
||What is there to be said about this amazing place.
Geysers, mountains, rivers, and lakes, buffalo, bear, and elk. All
gathered a mile or two above sea level. Amazing.
My Friend Megen and I wander around the west.
We left at the end of July, for a couple of weeks in the
mountains and prairies. This time it was in a station wagon.
This is a very proper vehicle for a couple of middle aged
adventurers. We did considerably less camping, and made a bit
more use of motels, and other lodgings, than I usually do. The
sense of adventure is not gone, it has just come to appreciate a
bit of comfort. I have tried, on this my third journey, to
correct some errors, and be a bit more precise about places, and
Familiar Teritory/the River
|Crossing the great river always makes me feel like some sort of
pioneer. Though there will be many miles of dull flatlands ahead of
me, I know that the mountains of the West beckon.
||Heading out of the flatlands, and into the edge of the West.
||A little country town, formerly typical in the U.S., but getting
to be a rare, and welcome sight these days.
||Sit down, relax, light up.
|Eastern South Dakota, and Sioux Falls
||Nice city, great park, pleasant decent people. There are worse
places to spend your time.
|The Western river, and environs
||Rivers, hill, range, and snakes. Everything you would expect out
at the Missouri River. (No jackalopes though)
|Wall, and the Badlands
||Uh oh, this place again. Too much time, and too many pictures
taken, in the heat of the July Prarie.
|The Black Hills
||This is an amazing area, seeming somewhat out of place among the
high prarie. Hills, forests, rivers, and great little towns.
||Another visit to America's favorite rock stars. The Presidents
again, but this time in completely new surroundings. The entire
place has been remodeled and enlarged since my last visit.
||Monument in the making. This huge structure was started decades
ago, and is slowly grinding (and blasting) along.
|Devils tower, and the range
||Close encounters, and solitude.
|Mountains, canyons, and passes.
||Tensleep canyon, and the Powder River Pass.
||One of the treasures of the Western mountains.
|Yellowstone Lake, and the West
||Been there, Done that, but somehow it is always just a bit
|Old faithfull, and
the Upper Basin
|The Stereotypical view of the park
|The Lower Geyser
|The Norris Geyser
|The strangest of the geyser basins
|Lewis Falls, and the
|Very pretty area
|The Hot Cascades
|The Firehole River boils.
|Mammoth and Gardiner
|A huge mountain of calcite
|Yellowstone's Own version of the Grand Canyon
|Your geuss is as good as (or perhaps better than)
|Despite tourists, and the NPS, this is still a great
Just a little side trip.
In the summer of 2003, I took my first trip ever to the Grand Canyon. On the
way out, I took trusty (and
legendary) Route 66, but on the way back, I swung north
through Utah. we passed briefly through Yellowstone Park,
spending two days there. There were few changes, but it did give
me a chance to try out my new digital camera, and to show the
park off to my mother, and brother. This was a surprise for all
of us. I had not planned on returning here for at least five to