Guadaloupe Mountains National Park

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Just a few miles south of Carlsbad Caverns is another great National Park, Guadaloupe Mountains.  We planned for a whole day here but the weather was windy and cold, so we got it done in an afternoon.

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We started at the Visitor Center, very small and packed when we got there. We grabbed our Junior Ranger packet and headed into the museum area.  We watched the film and then wandered the visitor center.  This Junior Ranger was pretty challenging, lucky for us a couple of college girls finished theirs up and gave my kids a pamphlet from the McKittrick Canyon Geology Center, luckily this answered the questions we couldn’t find anywhere. Thanks girls!!!!

We learned a ton here. This National Park celebrates the Guadalupe people, the desert environment, its beautiful canyons and the highlands. We took a short stroll around the Pine Springs Visitor Center, it was very windy and cold so we wrapped it up quickly and headed out.

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We stopped off at the Frijole Ranch to do some hiking.  We parked in the lot and headed out. Dad stayed in the car to study so it was just the kids and I.  It started to warm up a little and once we got moving we were able to shed our coats.  Trails are a little rocky and uneven.  The park map states this trail, the Smith Spring trail is a moderate (I agree) 2.3 mile roundtrip trail. It was a great easy trail to get out and get our blood pumping.  Kids and I enjoyed this hike, must needed fresh air break!  I wish we could have done some more hiking here. We might need to revisit in a warmer month.

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We did manage to earn our Junior Rangers and not only did we get the badge we also got this sweet patch to go with it.  I LOVE when we earn patches.

 

Guadalupe Mountains was a beautiful park, we really enjoyed our time here.  I think you could do this park in 1/2 day to up to 2 days depending on how much hiking you are interested in.  Gorgeous area, have you been here??  What was your favorite hike?

We are heading to El Paso in the morning!  Up next Chamizal National Memorial. Check back on the blog for more.

Oklahoma

OOOOOOklahoma where the wind comes sweepin down the plains.

….  Did I just age myself??

Well, we have checked yet another state line off of our list.  This Oklahoma sign is at the Rest Area/Visitor center on I-35 South heading into Oklahoma from Kansas.  What a great sign and a nice place to stop at.  I prefer these rest stops over a truck stop any day, unless I am looking to add to my magnet or shot glass collection. Very clean, free coffee (you’re going to need it if you are driving the whole way through this state, not much to look at) and friendly staff full of info.

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We spent 1 night and a day here in Oklahoma on our National Park Trip Season 3-Spring Break.  Check out our blog post.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Until the next stat line sign!  What state line sign is your favorite??

We are looking at getting all 50 🙂

 

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Next up on the National Park Trip Season 3.1, Chickasaw National Recreation Area.  We arrived last night and stayed at Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center. If you aren’t camping in the area this is the place I highly recommend, it is a beautiful facility with amazing views. No breakfast but we enjoyed a little diner in town called The Poor Girls Cafe. Now off to the park 🙂

Water is the attraction at this rec area.  Whatever its form is- springs, lakes, streams, or waterfalls this place has it all and it is gorgeous. We went in early spring and I can only imagine how beautiful it is in summer when all the flowers are blooming and the foliage is present.

We started our journey at the brand new Visitor Center on the corner of Hwy 7 and Hwy 177.  Grabbed our information booklets, junior rangers, got a passport stamp and a ton of great information and we headed to the park.

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Visitor Center

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The park entrance is just one block south of the visitor center and it didn’t take long before we were out of the car exploring.  It is a driving path through the park with pull offs until you get to the Nature Center (unless you are camping).  The campgrounds were closed so we didn’t get to explore.  They looked great, I would like to come back here in late summer/early fall and stay at the campground.

Little Niagara was a great stop to explore and get some hiking in.  Nice big parking lot and a must do stop if you are coming here.

We ventured over to the Travertine Nature Center, we were informed at the VC this place had more passport stamps, and they did. We got a really cool buffalo one.  It doesn’t take much to get us excited. See stamps at the end of this post (I’m going to make you wait).

From here we did some hiking to see the Springs: Antelope and Buffalo.  Both were beautiful.  The hiking trail is easy and follows the stream the whole way.  Not much wildlife out the day we were there but we did manage to see a Nine-banded armadillo, which was cool for us Iowans.

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Nice picturesque stops along the way. Really great place to enjoy the outdoors.

Next stop was Pavillion Springs.  This spot is known to be the fountain of youth.  Both Hunter and I took drinks out of it, Gunnar wanted nothing to do with it because of the sulfur smell. I am hoping it works because these kids have the opposite effect on me.

We headed down to the bison viewpoint to see if we could spot any buffalo but we didn’t have any luck with that.

Vendome well was neat as well. But these cats are hungry.

We went into town because I wanted to grab a couple bottles of wine from the winery.  We got roped into a tasting while there and had so much fun here, we ended up all eating lunch at the winery.  Great little stop for sandwiches and a few moments of adult time.  Wine is great, employees fantastic and atmosphere relaxing.  Kids ate their sandwiches and worked on their Junior Rangers while we sampled the great wine. We ended up getting 12 bottles instead of 1. Oops. I highly recommend The Rusty Nail Winery, what a great stop!!

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Back to the park so we can be sworn in as Junior Rangers.  Another park down. We are now heading into Texas and New Mexico. Next park will be Carlsbad Caverns but not before we have some alien encounters in Roswell, New Mexico. Check out our New Mexico blog for info on that.

Last but not least, here is our usual. Magnet, Passport Cancellations and Junior Ranger.

Until next time.  I hope you enjoyed our visit to Chickasaw National Recreation Area.  Have you been? What was your favorite part?

George Washington Carver National Monument

img_2800Spring Break 2018- National Park Trip Season 3.1 has started!! This is the first stop of many on this trip heading toward the Southwest Region of the National Park Passport Book. This stop is in the very bottom of the Midwest Region.  I knew this place was going to be interesting to us because George and I have somethings in common.  We are both Iowa State University Alumni and scientists.  He also has a quote that is by far one of my favorite quotes in the world today!

“It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, not the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. these mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.”

We all need to be reminded of this every once in awhile. 🙂

Our trip started at the visitor center.  It was amazing to learn all of the things George Washington Carver accomplished in his lifetime.  We knew him well for his peanut work.

The Visitor Center was full of fun things to do. We grabbed our Junior Rangers and set out to watch the film.  It was a very interesting film on how George was so determined about earning an education he had to move several times (by himself as a boy) to find a school that would take him.  He later attended Simpson College (with a major in Art) and later transferred to Iowa State University to pursue a degree in Agriculture.

There is a nice display of wildlife and flowers in the area.  Several of the items that George discovered could be made from peanuts and an absolutely beautiful laboratory for budding young scientists to explore.

I couldn’t pry mine out of here.

Next we took off on the beautiful 1 mile self guided loop.  We started out the North of the visitor center and immediately found the bust of George Washington Carver.

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Next was the cemetery where the owners and family of George are buried.  George never knew his father and his mother was kidnapped when George was a boy and never found.

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We walked into the timber, over streams and along tall grass prairie (mastering the double piggyback ride) to the house the Carvers built in 1881. George didn’t live here but he did visit it.

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We walked past Williams pond and on to Carver Spring.  Next up was the Statue of George as a boy. Sculpted in 1960 by Robert Amendola.

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We walked past a sign designating the house that George was born in.

Back at the visitor center and our Junior Rangers are done.  The boys were sworn in as Junior Rangers and then the Ranger gave us some really cool stuff.  The boys got these super nerdy  and cool Ranger hats.  The whole family received backpacks with reusable water bottles. This was awesome!!

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A few pics with our new super cool hats and we are off to Oklahoma for the night.  Chickasaw National Recreation Area in the morning.

Junior Ranger badges, magnet and Passport stamps √

Missouri

Missouri State Line sign.  One we have seen many many times.  It is only a few hours south of us.  When we stop to take our picture at this state it is usually in the same place. I-35 South at the Visitor Center.  Take the first exit after the state line sign and there is a perfectly safe place to get your Missouri State line sign picture taken. This is a really neat Rest Stop/Visitor Center. There are iron/steel cutouts of buffalo and wild west animals here. Very clean and the ladies are always friendly inside.

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This stop was from a trip to Texas for Thanksgiving, unfortunately it was not from a National Park trip.

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This time was from National Park Trip Season 3.1 Spring Break.

National Parks Sites we have visited in this area are as follows: (Click on link to view post on each site)

George Washington Carver National Monument

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

 

I will continue to add to this post as we visit more. Be patient 🙂

Grand Teton National Park

I took advice from  a coworker on Grand Teton National Park, they said “you can just drive through the Tetons, they really aren’t any big deal”.  This was quite possibly the worst advice ever!!! This place was majestic, but I am a mountain addict.  I live in the plains and farmland of Iowa so mountains get my travel adreneline up and pumping.  I could travel through mountains for the rest of my life and they would still amaze me. We did plan a day for this park, but I could have stayed and enjoyed it for at least 4 or 5 days.

We had stayed at Headwater’s Lodge and Cabins at Flagg Ranch the night before, we had just done our Yellowstone stint and it is a great in between location for both parks.  We are doing the day at the Tetons and heading back to the lodge for another night.

Morning started early with some bowls of cereal on the deck of our lodge and straight into the car, I love that early morning mist and smell of the outdoors. I do try to enjoy it every summer morning, when life doesn’t get in the way.  First stop was the Teton sign heading into the park from the north side.  Once again we lucked out with another great traveler being there at the same time and willing to take our photo.

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It then felt like we drove for miles with beautiful overlooks of Jackson Lake.  There wasn’t an entry station for the Tetons coming from Yellowstone so we swung into Colter Bay Visitor center to pick up a map of the park.  Great little visitor center, we got our magnets, stickers, Junior Ranger packet and cancellations at this stop.

Continuing on down the main park road this takes you to a fork in the road. We turned right to Jackson Lake Junction (this is just going to be a big loop). We stopped at Jackson Lake Dam because, well damn you can get some pretty dam good pictures here. 🙂 It is gorgeous in the early morning light. I don’t think you could take a bad picture here, even it you were trying.

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We spent a lot of time here enjoying this panoramic view of the lake. So calm and still in the morning, it was lovely.  Next stop was the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.  This was a pretty cool place, not much info on this, we walked around and inside. There was an absolutely beautiful stained glass window in here that my kids enjoyed looking at.

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We turned on the next road on the left and drove up Signal Mountain Road, elevation 7727 ft.  What an amazing view of the Tetons from up here.  Very peaceful and enjoyable, the beauty of getting up early is that there was nobody for miles and we had the view all to ourselves the whole time we were up here.  Bonus after being around thousands of people at Yellowstone. There is a trail you can follow down the hill to get great pictures of this viewpoint.

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Back down the mountain and out onto the main road again.  Next stop was Mount Moran Turnout, the park is starting to fill up.  This right here is why I lust after mountains, look at all of the colors starting from the bottom all of the way up to the sky.  Nature surely is amazing.

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Off we go heading to Jenny Lake.  We turn on the one way road at the North Jenny Lake Junction and soon find out we are not alone at this park.  This is where everyone has been this morning as we enjoyed the peacefulness.  Parking lot at String Lake was completely full by 10 am when we arrived.  From what we could see this was a hot spot at the park.  We were not able to stop but the scenery driving by was breath taking, not to worry the next stop we were able to do was just as awesome. We continued on and pulled over at Jenny Lake overlook, there was actually parking available!  This spot, was spot on. Amazing views of the lake under the beautiful mountains.  I could live here, or just visit more often. Check it out.

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After enjoying this view for awhile we hopped back in the car and headed to Jenny Lake Visitor Center.  Car and people explosion.  There were cars parked for miles and no parking spots anywhere to be found.  Unfortunately we hit the park when Jenny Lake was under construction.  Our only choice was for me to drop the kids off and send them into the visitor center with all of our passports to get the cancellation.  This was a huge bummer because I was looking forward to a Jenny Lake boat ride and hiking to Inspiration Point. Next time I guess, the good news is The Tetons are on the way out west from Iowa to other parks, so it is possible to come back and enjoy this place again. Kids got the cancellations and we headed out to our next stop, Craig Thomas Discovery and Moose Visitor Center.  Plenty of parking and no crowds here, it was nice.

We walked around the discovery center and enjoyed the displays. This place has a great gift shop as well, we got more cancellations and enjoyed the low crowded area.

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Next up was lunch at Moose Junction. Crowded but not so bad that you couldn’t find a spot to park.  We ended up choosing Pizza Pasta company, low budget and great food.  You line up and order your food, go sit and they bring it to you.  We found a great seat outside on the patio overlooking the tetons. Great service, our food was delish and the beer hit the spot.

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Even the Yellowstone beaver is enjoying our lunch stop.

 

We are back in the car and heading north on 89.  This will be the circle that takes us back to Colter Village, where we started.  This highway has a few turnouts to stop at and get some great panoramic views.  It was very hazy there due to wildfires in and around Montana but still fantastic.  We hit Blacktail Ponds overlook and Snake River overlook.

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Cunningham Cabin stop was nice to get out and stretch our legs. Great little walk down the the cabin and very peaceful.  Enjoying the silence of nature the whole way down and back. Cunningham cabin is one of the best surviving examples of a homestead cabin. The site of an 1892 shootout. A band of self-deputized locals sought to root out rumored horse thieves.

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Took a left at Moran Junction, came back into the park at Moran Junction.  We took some time to just sit and relax at this part of the park.  We pulled over and parked at (I think) Oxbow Bend turnout.  We hiked down the river, I sat and enjoyed the view while the kids were busy skipping rocks and hanging out with other kids their age.  We got some great photos up above the river.  It was getting hot, and kids wanted to get in the water.

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We headed up the road from Oxbow and turned left onto a gravel road. Followed it to a gravel parking lot and parked in the shade.  The kids changed into swim trunks in the car and I got a book and enjoyed a nice break in the shade while the kids burnt off some energy.  No one around for miles 🙂

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After our energy burning session we drove back to Colter Bay Village, it was time to check in for our dinner ride. At this point my mom has decided she doesn’t want to ride a horse tonight. LOL.  She is having flashbacks of Bryce Canyon trail riding.  When I went to ask about getting money back the lady was very nice and put my mom on the wagon dinner ride. Which like the name implies you ride a wagon out to where the meal is served.  The rest of us are riding a horse.  When we got there my mom was really unsure about this.  The horses headed out first and then the wagon left to meet us there.  The kids and I had a good time on horses on the way and learned quite a bit of information on the Tetons, snow, bears and other wildlife.  Out trail boss was very easy to listen to and had a great personality! He even stopped to take pictures for us 🙂

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We arrived at our dinner spot, tied up the horses and were really surprised to see a very happy grandmother.  She was elated!  She had so much fun on the wagon ride she couldn’t stop talking about it.  I would recommend this for anyone who would like to experience this dinner ride but is unwilling to ride a horse.  The spread was amazing: steak, beans, potatoes, corn, cornbread and a really nice salad bar. Dessert was apple crisp.  All of this under the Tetons. You won’t go hungry on this trip, for food or scenery.

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We sat around the campfire for awhile listening to others stories and travels.  We had a great group of people with us from all over the U.S. traveling to different parks.  We hopped back on the horses and set off back to the ranch. This way we experienced trail riding. Most of the way there was road riding.  It was beautiful.  We even stopped for a beautiful sunset photo.  What a great way to end the ride.

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Back at the ranch the kids got to unsaddle their horses (they were already pros at this) it was fun to watch the others do it.  Fed some treats and we were off to a campfire Ranger talk.

An evening ranger led talk at Colter Bay ampitheater(9 p.m.) rounds off our evening at the Tetons.  It was a presentation on bear safety and the various birds found at the Tetons.  This was a really interesting talk and our park ranger was passionate about birds and their safety.  Who knew I would be interested in bird safety?  Kids got their Junior Ranger program signed and finished.  We will stop back by here in the morning to receive the badges.  For now we are beat and need to hit the hay!  Back to Flagg Ranch.

Tomorrow we make our way towards Glacier National Park with a few stops along the way. Check back to see more of our adventures.

 

Yellowstone National Park 3

 

Here we are at Day 2 in Yellowstone, we had a great night sleep at our wonderful cabin Sacajawea at Shoshone Lodge and campground, I just wish we would have planned a day to stay here relax and enjoy all the offerings they had, perhaps on another trip.

6 a.m. Rise and Shine.  We were packed up and ready to go at 7 am.  We entered through the east entrance again and took our time enjoying the beautiful drive into the park.

Fishing Bridge

Stopped to fuel up and grab some munchies here. Made a quick stop to the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center to get our Passport Cancellations. This visitor center/gift shop is pretty small, we looked at a few of the exhibits and then proceeded with the itinerary.

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Off to find Potts Hot Springs Basin-FAIL we never found it despite driving around the area several times.

We pulled into West Thumb and stopped at the Information Station Bookstore for yet another Yellowstone Passport Cancellation. Did a quick Lake Overlook and ran back to the car, much more exciting things ahead.

Next stop the Continental Divide

 

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There was a huge line of people getting their picture taken at the sign headed west so we just pulled into the eastward sign.   There are plenty of CD signs in the park you won’t miss them.

Kepler Cascades

This place was a beautiful stop on the 17-mile drive from West Thumb heading into the Old Faithful area.  Low crowds and lots of photos.

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Now we are off to Old Faithful area.  It has its own exit, I felt like I was on an interstate, in a National Park??? So weird.

Old Faithful

We parked at the Old Faithful Inn, Grandma hopped on the Old Faithful Inn tour while we went up to the Observation Deck to view the eruption.  Here we waited about 10 minutes before Old Faithful did its job.  That was pretty good timing!

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This must have been around 11 am.  We went downstairs and waited in line for about 2 minutes for the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room, what a beautiful place! We really enjoyed eating here, the atmosphere was amazing and the food was fantastic! We learned a mistake from yesterday and timed our meal so we didn’t waste a minute.

From here we strolled over to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, went through the center, did a Junior Ranger program, strolled through the NP Haynes Photoshop, back to the visitor center and we received our Junior Ranger Patches. Not without first reuniting a poor lost kid with his mother, apparently, she beelined it for the geyser eruption and didn’t pay attention that she lost her 4-year-old, after about 20 minutes she came back for him.

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We were on our way to get Huckleberry ice cream back at the Old Faithful Inn when Old Faithful erupted again for us.  We snapped this quick picture and headed for ice cream to beat the crowd!

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The Huckleberry Ice cream was everything that we dreamed of.  Absolutely worth it and delicious.  We sat outside and enjoyed the scenery and ice cream, the day was perfect for it. I really wanted to rent bikes and ride through upper basin but couldn’t talk my cohorts into it, add it to the list of things to do “next time”, that list is really adding up.

Black Sand Basin

Back to the car and off we go only about 1 mile northwest of Old Faithful. This place was fun; springs, geysers and our first elk sighting! The binoculars we brought finally came in handy, thanks, dad.  The kids were mesmerized by the elk and I was mesmerized by the pools.  So beautiful, the springs and geysers were fun to just watch along with the elk.

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I could have easily stayed here all day!!

Fountain Flat Drive

Grand Prismatic Spring, this is it. This is what we have been waiting to see.  The most famous spot at Yellowstone was it worth it???  Yes, it was.  The only thing I wish we would have done is to walk up to the overlook, but the parking lot was full.  The parking here at this time of day was horrendous, so be prepared! Make sure not to miss this spot it is really amazing.

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Firehole Lake Drive

This was just ok, not too impressive.  Low crowds and pullovers for pictures.  A nice break from not getting in and out of the car, a small road off of the main road.  The kids loved this part because I let them take pictures of this set of geysers while standing in the car and taking the pictures out of the moonroof. A little trick we learned here at Yellowstone National Park.

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Madison

We drove up to Madison to add a cancellation to our passport. To our surprise, it was not crowded and really peaceful.  Not a soul around at the Visitor Center, so we wandered around and enjoyed the silence. A great break from all the crowds and traffic.  So serene and empty. This is how I imagined Yellowstone would be.

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Firehole Canyon Drive

This road, off of the main drag was beautiful, one of the best parts of the park. We were expecting to go swimming at the Firehole swimming area, but as per usual with Yellowstone, it was packed and there was absolutely nowhere to park.  With a little better planning now that we have experience with the park, we will come here earlier and make sure we swim and relax.  It looked amazing, I was a little upset we missed out on this experience.  We just keep adding to our list of things to do next time!

With the west side of Yellowstone under our belts, we headed to Flagg Ranch, our destination for the next 2 nights.  The drive through south Yellowstone was absolutely gorgeous, is there any spot here in the park that isn’t??  We did manage to find a prettier setting for another Continental Divide sign.  The picture below was taken on our way back through, this spot had a lovely little pond covered with lily pads and some information about the Continental Divide.  I recommend this stop over the above one.

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We checked into Flagg Ranch and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Ranch as well. Next up is Grand Teton National Park!  Overall we enjoyed Yellowstone immensely.  It was so pretty with so many things to do, it would be impossible not to want to come back!  We really enjoyed the wildlife, the geysers, the springs, the visitor centers, and everything minus the crowds and a few grumpy tourists.  I am already planning our next trip here (in my mind). So with 4 full pages of cancellations, over 300 photos and a lifetime of memories, I will say Yellowstone was a success with our family.  Lots of hours spent researching and planning was not wasted.  I hope with this blog it will help someone out there to plan their trip or just enjoy watching us.  Please let me know if you have any questions at all.  Don’t miss out on my other two blogs on Yellowstone either.  What is your favorite part of this park??  There are so many great ones.

Cancellation Success, we are missing a few. Museum of the National Park Ranger and Snake River Ranger Station.  But, alas we will be back 🙂

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Thanks for visiting.  Don’t miss out on all the other National Park posts I have!! Feel free to send me suggestions on parks I need to visit!!

 

 

Yellowstone National Park 2

Welcome back, everyone.  This blog post will be our afternoon at Yellowstone following blog post, Yellowstone National Park Part 1.  We pick up after a wonderful lunch at Roosevelt Lodge.

We are heading to what will be, my favorite part of the park 🙂  The Mammoth/Norris Country.  First stop, Albright Visitor Center.  This place is its own community!!  It has its own Post Office and looks like a bustling town, it’s absolutely gorgeous I bet even more so in winter.  We managed to find a parking spot near the post office and walked over to the Visitor Center.  This place was great!  We spent about an hour to hour and a half in here getting our cancellations, browsing the gift shop, looking at the exhibits.  I went into the basement to check out more things but my kids were enamored by the buffalo exhibit.  They watched the film of people getting trampled and flung into trees at least a dozen times. Apparently, it never gets old, according to them. Not sure the video was made for entertainment. After we sized ourselves up to the Buffalo we went and rode the bear at the Post Office.  Lol, this kid cracks me up! Our energy is still going strong at this point.

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We wandered our way over to Mammoth Hot Springs. We did the Upper and Lower Terrace Loop.  Lots of people but we found everyone to be extremely friendly and patient.  We took lots of pictures here, it was truly like another planet. We loved it so much that I am convinced if we come back we will stay in this part of the park. It was Fascinating!!  We also enjoyed a drive through the backside for more springs and geysers.

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Off to the Museum of the National Park Ranger, by the time we arrived, it was closed.  We were only off by about 5 minutes so I am putting a timestamp here around 5 pm.  We are 10 hours into our day already. Next stop Porcelain Basin/Emerald Spring in Norris.

Norris is the area of Yellowstone that was a former US Army outpost. It gets its name from the park’s 2nd superintendent Philetus W Norris. We stopped off at the Norris Information Station/Bookstore for a cancellation and possibly a map of the basin, no luck on the map, we are going to wing it. Managed to get our cancellation.😀

A mile of boardwalks loop through the Porcelain Basin.  It’s past 5 pm and the crowds are dying down, we are almost the only ones out here walking the boardwalk. Porcelain Basin is the park’s hottest basin that is exposed.  We walked to the Museum and through it coming down onto the right side of the basins, here we found the following:

Porcelain Terrace Overlook

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Black Growler Steam Vent

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Crackling Lake

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Whales Mouth

Whirligig Geyser and more:

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Now back through the museum and over to the Back Basin area:

Steamboat Geyser

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Emerald Spring

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Back in the car now and heading South. Next up is Artist Paint Pots. We parked the car and went on a nice .7 mile walk with great views, hot springs, and mudpots.  To our surprise, we met some nice folks from Kirkman, Iowa, where one of my best friends grew up. It’s a small world out there, I love it!! Time to head back to our cabin, it has been a long but beautiful day.

Artists Paint Pots

IMG_1916IMG_1914IMG_1915 On the drive home we pulled in to see the Mud Volcano but no one was interested in getting out except for me!  I would say the day was a success!

Mud Volcano

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That is a wrap for this post.  Check back for Yellowstone National Park Part 3!! It gets even better, I promise. 🙂

Bonus:  We caught a Buffalo swimming across the lake on the way back to our cabin that evening!! Highlight of the day 😍😍

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Until next time!!

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

IMG_1801Every year we head down to beautiful Eminence Missouri for the Cross Country Trail Ride with our mules, for a week of trail riding through this gorgeous landscape. This year we decided to venture out of the campground/trail system and see what the National Park system had to offer, we weren’t disappointed!!

The Ozark NSR is 134 miles in length, it contains Karsts, springs , caves and rivers. There are several places to go and we didn’t cover everything. We did enjoy it so much we have decided that next year we are going to pack the kayaks and go out to enjoy what we missed this time.

Here is what we managed to fit in this year.

Alley Spring

The first stop we made was at Alley Spring. Home of the beautiful Alley Mill, old school house, trails, caves to crawl in and an Old General Store/Visitor Center. We headed straight to the Visitor Center to grab our passport cancellations, junior ranger book and information pamphlets. This Visitor Center is really cool, it doubled as an old general store.

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We drove down to the parking lot to walk to Alley Mill. The Mill is gorgeous! It also has its own cancellation! 🙂  Take a walk around to see all the old equipment and machinery. Under the back porch is a turbine pit that holds the turbine. The first floor is where the grain entered the Mill, was put into bins and elevated to chutes connected to milling machines, here you find those machines. The second floor contains a swing sifter.

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Take a walk on the trail around the Mill, it’s not far and it is beautiful!! It even has a few caves for kids to crawl into! Who doesn’t love a good Cave!!

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This spring has an average daily flow of 81 gallons!

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We skipped the school house this trip. A little secret here that not many people know about is the warm springs swimming area. This is found past the campground and down a gravel road into a parking lot and then a short walk to the beach. If you are here in the summer this is a great place to cool off at without many people!! The kids loved jumping off the rock and swimming here when we brought them in the summer.

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Round Spring

This spring was beautiful!! A short walk to this from the parking lot. Round spring was created when a cavern roof collapsed, part of the roof still remains as a natural bridge under the spring.  Round spring has an average daily flow of 26 million gallons.

Fun fact: Spring systems can be thought of as caves in development!

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People have been visiting round spring for 10,000 years! We didn’t get to Round Spring cave on this trip because it is only open in summer months.

Rocky Falls

Rocky Falls is located about 14 miles Southeast of Eminence.  This place is gorgeous in any season. It is an example of a shut-in, a river naturally confined in a narrow channel. In the summer you can swim here. This time we just walked the trail up to explore the top of the falls and enjoyed it from the bottom.

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Blue Spring

This spring was my favorite. There was a great short hike to get back to the spring. This spring is 310 feet deep which boasts that if the Statue of Liberty stood at the bottom her torch would be under water. Wow, that’s deep! The color of this spring comes from dissolving minerals.

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Absolute walk of beauty all the way to the spring and back.

Two Rivers

Two Rivers is exactly what you think it might be, two rivers. This is where the Current River and the Jack Forks River meet up. We actually ride here on our mules every year. This is by far my favorite ride in this area. We pass through Shawnee campground and through a field that houses the Missouri Wild horses. Tons of river crossings and beautiful scenery the whole way! When you get there, this is the view that awaits you, absolutely stunning!

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The rivers here are crystal clear, with a deep green hue where they are deepest. Set against a beautiful blue sky and rolling hills of trees this is a place you just want to keep coming back to!

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We didn’t get to all of the stops along the Ozark Scenic Riverways but we checked a few off. We will be back in the years to come to enjoy all of them. I did happen to get a few cancellations, all of these were located at Alley Springs visitor center besides the Alley Mill.

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I hope you all enjoyed our trip to the Ozark Scenic Riverways. Have you been there? What was your favorite part?

Thanks for visiting, until next time, enjoy your travels.

Yellowstone National Park 1

We have made it to Yellowstone National Park, what a trek across Wyoming, I can’t tell you how beautiful this state is, you must see for yourself.

We are staying at Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch, this is located about 3-4 miles east of The East Entrance of Yellowstone.  What a great place!!  I honestly think this is a place you just come to and stay put, maybe venture to Yellowstone a few days  during a week long trip but this place has tons of things to do or you could just stay and relax, depending on how you like to travel.  Us?? We put in 2, 14 hour days to get everything we wanted done at Yellowstone, and only used our cabin to sleep and shower.  The first evening we arrived we hung out by the campfire, played some baseball with other guests and chatted with some folks hanging out by the fire, relaxing! This is the way to do it.

The next morning we were up and going by 7 am.  I heard that the park gets busy fast and parking lots are usually full by 10 am.  Our first stop was 4 minutes away at the entrance sign. Luckily another family was right there with us and took our photo. It turned out fantastic! Everybody is awake and ready to go!

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We got our map and park newsletter and were off on our 1st adventure.  When you enter the park from this end, it is quite a drive to any of the frequent tourist stops so be prepared to be in the car for a good 30-60 minutes, depending on how well you manage curves and if you get stuck behind RVs.  It is a beautiful drive so just sit back and enjoy. We drove the East Entrance Road all the way to the T intersection and took a right to follow the Grand Loop Road, this follows the Yellowstone River and there are plenty of wildlife to keep you occupied on the long trip.  Our favorite were the buffalo, it was amazing how big these guys were and you were practically on top of them.  We got some great pictures just sitting in the car!! On the way back that night we even got to watch one swim through the water and get out to cross the road!  This was by far one of the coolest things we saw!

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South Rim Drive

Just up the Grand Loop Road was the South Rim Drive.  We turned here to get some pictures of the Artists Points.  This place was starting to get really packed by 10 am and was almost nearly impossible to get a picture.  Be patient, those pictures here are worth it 🙂 See!!

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Next up was Uncle Tom’s Trail, it was closed for construction 😦  Looks like we will have to come back 🙂  LOL!!!

We headed up a little further to the North Rim Drive.  Here we checked a few things off of our Itinerary!  Lots of great viewpoints along the way and interesting educational signs to go with.

Brink of Lower Falls

We hiked down this trail to see the waterfall from the top.  Pretty, but packed, we expected this.  Yellowstone is not for people who don’t like crowds, esp. in July/August.  Just be prepared and plan well.

Lookout Point

Park your car and walk a few steps to this.  Puts in to perspective how gorgeous and huge this park is.

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Grand Viewpoint

Ever wondered why it’s called Yellowstone.  One glimpse of the Grand Viewpoint and I am betting you figure it out!  The kids loved it here! We got to see a golden eagle flying over this, pretty sweet and a memory we won’t soon forget.

Canyon Visitor Center

This place was fantastic.  We watched the short film, wandered around the exhibits, got our Junior Ranger booklet (here it costs $3 but instead of a pin you get a patch).  Visited the gift shop, purchased a few items, including Yellowstone Passport Stickers and got our Canyon Village Cancellation. There are lots of things to do in this village. Shopping, education, and food.  Great place to stop!! We didn’t take too many pictures here because we were busy enjoying 🙂

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Tower Falls

We did the short hike to the top to get an overview of the Tower Falls.  Beautiful as far as the eye can see.  Our pictures don’t do this justice.  We did not do the lower trail to see the falls, this group was getting hangry!

Next up was our lunch stop!

Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room

We got hungry at a bad time, lunch time.  We had about a 45 minute wait until a table was ready.  We wandered over to the gift shop and looked around, then we found a seat on the porch and worked on our Junior Ranger books.  The time went by fast and we were seated.  The food was really good and the wait staff fabulous,.  This place was gorgeous to look at!  In no time at all we were full and on to our fun-filled afternoon!!

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We took a quick stop off at the Tower Junction Ranger Station for yet another cancellation for our passport!  This one had a Tower Falls stamp as well! Kinda hard to see but I love when there are extra stamps. ❤

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I’m going to end here for the day now and do a separate post on the afternoon, otherwise this post will get very long.  We put in 2 very long days here and there is so much information I don’t want to bog you down with.  Let me know if you have been to Yellowstone and have must do’s that I may have missed! We tried to get everything in on this trip.  Check back for Part 2, and Part 3.  This park is huge it will take awhile to get through everything.  Enjoy!