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  1. #31

    Default Theodore Roosevelt NP - Painted Canyon, Scenic Drive & Junior Ranger

    Sunday, 9/13
    Start: Medora Campground, Medora, ND
    End: Cottonwood Campground (NPS), Theodore Roosevelt NP, Medora, ND

    Before the campground shut for the winter I was able to get a load of laundry done, should take
    us home. They had 96 units to leave today! The manager very nicely made available 2 washing
    machines, she was busy washing linens from the rental cabins.
    We drove out to the Painted Canyon unit, at exit 32 on I-94, about 8 miles east of Medora. We
    hiked the one mile loop. It was getting very warm by the time we finished at noon. We decided
    to stay in the area another day.

    Painted Canyon




    We went back into town and the park and got a campsite at Cottonwood Campground, about 5
    miles inside the South Unit. After eating lunch we did the 36 mile scenic drive in this area. We
    loved watching the active prairie dogs, most out away from their burrow openings. Along the
    drive we saw some single bison and a couple of wild horses. We went back to the visitor
    center so I could complete the Junior Ranger booklet. As I was older than 14 I had to complete
    all of the activities. As always, I learned several interesting facts about the park.

    Junior Ranger presentation


    Seemed like a good idea to go into town and get ice cream, it was 85 degrees. After a bit of
    driving around we finally found the only place in town serving ice cream. What a deal - a single
    scoop was much more than just a scoop. We wondered if it was an end of season scoop!
    Before heading back to camp we did some letterboxing in the area. With our North Dakota finds
    that leaves 3 states for me to find a letterbox; Delaware and West Virginia (Summer 2016) and
    Hawaii (date undetermined).

    Back to camp for dinner and a quiet, cooling evening.

    Passport Stamps
    Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Painted Canyon
    Bonus
    Bison - small

    Wildlife Sightings
    Bison
    Black-tailed Prairie Dog
    Horse - wild

    Common Grackle
    Common Raven
    Turkey Vulture
    Song Sparrow
    American Robin
    Mountain Bluebird
    Last edited by Pmount; 10-23-2015 at 04:47 PM. Reason: add link

  2. #32

    Default North Dakota Travels

    Monday, September 14
    Start: Cottonwood Campground, Theodore Roosevelt NP, Medora, ND
    End: Lake Sakakawea State Park campground, Pick City, ND

    Drove into Medora for breakfast, found only one cafe open; Medora is a small town. Enjoyed a
    good, basic cafe breakfast before leaving town. Our goal today was to visit Fort Union Trading Post National Monument and make our way toward Knife River Villages NM. Fort Union is north of Theodore Roosevelt NP, along the MT/ND border. I always enjoy visiting Fort Union, it is a re-creation, but the location along the Yellowstone River, near the confluence with the Missouri River gives you a sense of its isolation in the 1800s.

    Fort Union Trading Post NHS




    Driving in this part of North Dakota takes you through the heart of the gas/oil fields. I was taught that if you can't say anything nice about someone or something you should say nothing at all. I have nothing to say, or in this case, write.

    On our way to the Knife River area, located in central ND, we stopped at Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge. The ranger on duty was very friendly. Besides the standard Blue Goose stamp they had a stamp with a Cedar Waxwing in the center, none seen while in the area. We stopped for dinner in Buelah at a Chinese Buffet. Nothing fancy, but clean and the fresh vegetables tasted very good.

    We camped at Lake Sakakawea State Park, near Pick City. The lake is part of the Little Missouri Scenic River. We saw a few interesting birds, but the highlight was seeing a Thirteen-lined
    Ground Squirrel
    . When looking up to identify ground squirrels along our travels I have always hoped to see one, but had not until today. It was too wary to get a picture. Also seeing pheasant as we came into the park was pretty cool. Sightings like these are why I am a big proponent of camping as much as possible along the way. I would argue for some, the extra cost, if having to rent an RV and gas consumption, is worth it. Our best animal sightings on this trip, and others have been while camping.

    Passport Stamps
    Theodore Roosevelt National Park - North Unit
    Fort Union Trading Post NHS - Williston, ND
    Lewis and Clark Nat'l Historic Trail - North Dakota

    Bonus stamps
    Bighorn Sheep pictorial (very attractive)
    Visit Williston, ND - Boomtown, USA
    Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge - large print, Cedar Waxwing
    Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge - standard Blue Goose

    Wildlife Sightings
    Bison
    Pronghorn
    Black-tailed Prairie Dog
    Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

    Turkey Vulture
    Common Raven
    American Crow
    Gull - 2 different species
    Ground Sage Grouse
    Hairy Woodpecker
    American Robin
    Western Meadowlark
    Cormorant
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Rough-legged Hawk
    Wild Turkey
    Swallow
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Great Blue Heron
    Canada Geese
    Mourning Dove
    Pheasant
    Last edited by Pmount; 10-24-2015 at 10:53 PM.

  3. Default

    You were so lucky to get a campsite at Capitol Reef. We got there at 9:30 am on Sept. 22nd which was a Monday morning and the place was a mad house and was filled by 11:30 am!

    We love BBQing the pears from the orchards so I always bring sugar and cinnamon! YUMMMM.

    I'm a little late reading your report and only up to August 30th so far. We just got back from our trip a little over a week ago. Enjoying your report.

    Utahtea

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Pmount View Post
    Zoom lens distance! Definitely further than the minimum required 25 yards.
    Pat
    I'm still VERY JEALOUS of your moose siting. We spent 6 days and nights at the Colter Bay Campground a couple of weeks after you and FINALLY on the last day just minutes before we were going to leave an area know for moose we finally spotted two but we were no where near as close as you were.

    Utahtea

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Pmount View Post
    Wednesday, September 9
    Start: Baker Hole Campground, West Yellowstone, MT
    End: Mammoth Hot Springs Campground (NPS), Yellowstone NP, Mammoth, WY

    Hmmmm, it appears all of the people
    without school-age children are out and about, and waited until after Labor Day to travel.
    Our time in Yellowstone overlapped your time. We arrived at West Yellowstone a couple of days before our reservations for Madison Campground starting on August 31st. We had given ourselves plenty of time to make it here so we arrived two days early. We stayed at a private campground about 14 miles from the park entrance and since we had so much time we decided to do a day trip to Mystic Falls.

    We had wanted to do 14 days at Madison but there were three days in the middle of our stay that were already booked up and we made these reservations back in late May. What was odd was we could get Labor Day weekend, but Tuesday Sept 8th, Wednesday Sept. 9th & Thursday, Sept. 10 were the dates we couldn't get a campsite at Madison. Turns out there was an airstream gathering that took up 26 spaces and what also didn't help was one of the other campgrounds closed after Labor Day. Our plan was to go to Mammoth but since there was road construction we decided to splurge and stay in West Yellowstone close to the park entrance.

    We were in Yellowstone till Sept. 13th and to me it was more crowded than any summer we spent there years ago. We've been here at this time of the year several times but this was the worst for crowds! We were in one bison jam that took 1 1/2 hours to move just 10 miles! Next time we're going to go a couple weeks after Labor Day!!! One explanation for the crowds seems to be the cheep fuel prices.

    We went from Yellowstone down to the Grand Tetons then Capitol Reef, Kodachrome Basin and Zion. We just spent a lot longer in each place than you did.

    Enjoyed your report.

    Utahtea

  6. #36

    Default

    A couple of comments based on Utahtea's replies:
    Yellowstone - it looked like the week before Labor Day was also a good time to be there. Most Western schools are in session and for schools starting after Labor Day the families were probably back home getting ready for school.
    National Parks - Grand Canyon reporting a 25% increase in visitors this year. Yellowstone Association newsletter reported a 17% & 18% increase in June & July, respectively.

    Several articles have cited an increased marketing effort overseas. And everyone is predicting record-breaking crowds in 2016 due to the Centennial, with the marketing of 2016 Find Your Park.
    For those planning trips next summer, plan accordingly.

    There are 408 NPS sites, many that are less crowded, some just as impressive as the big draws. Also National Wildlife Refuges, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management are great places to visit, as well as State and County parks. Too many places, too little time!

  7. #37

    Default Devil's Tower National Monument - Wyoming

    Tuesday, September 15
    Start: Lake Sakakawea SP, Pick City, ND
    End: Belle Fourche Campground (NPS), Devil's Tower NM, Devil's Tower, WY

    Light rain just as we were waking up, still able to sit outside and enjoy breakfast and another
    sighting of the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel! At the state park office we got the North Country Trail passport stamp; this trail is the longest trail in the US.

    We went to Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. As we arrived several school buses were arriving. All week they are hosting 4th graders from around the state; today they were expecting 400 plus. The activities they had set up were very interesting; earthen lodge building, atlatl throwing (yep, with pointed ends!), mountain man demo, Native American flute playing and art project. While taking some photos of the sunflowers in the garden the flute player came out and we started talking. He, Keith Bear, has played all over the world and comes here every year for this week. He has clan ties to Sakakawea and blood ties to Sitting Bull. He first took up flute playing in Flagstaff, AZ.

    Knife River Indian Villages NHS






    This year, as part of the National Park Service's Centennial celebration, families of 4th graders can receive an annual park pass ($80 value). The pass will be good until 8/31/2016. Share this information with anyone you know with a 4th grader in the family.

    The rest of the day was spent driving back southwest through North Dakota, South Dakota and back into Wyoming to Devil's Tower National Monument. The campground was quite full, but we found a nice spot. Just past the entrance board there is a pile of cut firewood with a sign indicating it was free, but not to remove from this campground. There was also a donation box, asking $5 for 12 pieces. We would rather crawl in and read when it gets dark, but many others took advantage of this good deal, even with a strong wind blowing.

    Evening photo - Devil's Tower


    Prairie Dogs at Devil's Tower NM




    Passport Stamps
    North Country National Scenic Trail - North Dakota
    Knife River Indian Villages NHS - North Dakota
    Lewis and Clark Nat'l Historic Trail - North Dakota

    Wildlife Sightings
    Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
    Black-tailed Prairie Dog
    Pronghorn
    White-tailed deer
    Mule deer
    Red Squirrel

    Gull
    American Robin
    Mourning Dove
    American Kestrel
    Canada Geese
    Rough-legged Hawk
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Northern Harrier
    Wild Turkey
    Northern Flicker
    Mourning Dove
    Pheasant
    Turkey Vulture
    Last edited by Pmount; 10-26-2015 at 03:28 PM.

  8. #38

    Default Devil"s Tower - On our way to The Wonder!

    Wednesday, September 16
    Start: Devil's Tower NM, WY
    End: Casper, WY

    Wonderful morning spent in camp having breakfast and watching the wildlife. A nice flock of
    turkeys came through. Walked out of the campground to get some morning views of The Tower
    - and a sculpture, The Circle of Sacred Smoke, by Junkyu Muto.

    Morning view of Devil's Tower


    Tower, Sculpture & Sign


    Sculpture & Tower


    Animals of Devil's Tower Flock of turkeys


    Up at the visitor center it was quite busy, and got busier as the morning wore on. It is apparent
    that the late Summer/Fall travel season is in full swing; tour buses, seniors and childless adults,
    spilled into the overflow parking area. On our way out we saw a 30s/40s Ford car club pulling in.
    So far on this trip we have seen a Corvette group, twice, and a Ford Mustang car group. Always
    fun to see these groups on the back roads.

    While at Devil's Tower I picked up the Junior Ranger booklet and then hiked the 3 mile lower
    loop around the tower, Red Beds Trail. I only saw 2 other groups hiking this trail, most everyone
    walks around the base, which is a little over a mile. I enjoyed the solitude and different views.

    Red Beds Trail views


    Another view of Devil's Tower


    And yes, I do have more pictures of Devil's Tower, but I'll cease posting! There is something
    about this place that keeps the camera clicking!

    By noon the wind had picked up and was very strong, 35 mph plus. We drove into Gillette for
    gas and a letterbox before heading south to Casper. It was unpleasant driving for the rest of the
    day. Once in Casper we visited the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, on the north end
    of town. This BLM center has excellent exhibits and is well-worth the admission price. Four
    National Historic Trails traveled this region; Oregon, California, Pony Express and Mormon
    Pioneer.

    The wind was so bad and we had several errands to run while in Casper so we checked into
    the Motel 6. We enjoyed dinner in downtown Casper at The World Famous Wonder Bar, it was
    Wonderful! Good local IPA and 1/2 price burger night. With 2 beers, 2 salad bars and 2 burgers,
    our total was just under $20. The burger list was extensive and came with fries. Nice old bar
    inside, we'll be back the next time we are in Casper.

    The World Famous Wonder Bar


    Passport stamps
    Devil's Tower National Monument- Devil's Tower, WY
    Bonus Stamp
    Devil's Tower -pictorial

    Wildlife Sightings
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Black-tailed Prairie Dog
    Red Squirrel
    Pronghorn
    White-tailed deer

    Rock Dove
    White Pelican
    Mountain Bluebird
    Northern Flicker
    American Robin
    Turkey Vulture
    Chipping Sparrow
    American Crow
    American Coot
    Canada Geese
    Brewer's Blackbird

  9. #39

    Default Fort Laramie NHS & Guernsey State Park

    Thursday, September 7
    Start: Casper, WY
    End: Guernsey State Park, Guernsey, WY

    We spent a couple of hours finishing some errands while in Casper before taking I-25 south, but
    is actually running east at this point. In Douglas we stopped for some letterboxes and at the
    town Chamber of Commerce visitor center. Outside they have a larger-than life Jackalope and
    inside they will give you a Jackalope hunting license, plus they have a stamp of a Jackalope. On
    the grounds are several train cars and lots of interesting interpretive signs. A stop there is well
    worth a short detour off I-25. At the north end of town is a sign indicating there was a WW II
    POW camp for Italians.

    Douglas POW camp


    Further south we took US 26 to Fort Laramie NHS. In June we had stopped, but it was 100
    degrees. At that time I had picked up the Junior Ranger booklet, but did not complete it because
    of the heat. They have a unique partnership with Guernsey State Park, which is just up the road;
    if you complete both of the programs you receive a special commemorative coin. I was able to
    complete the Fort Laramie program by walking around the fort and finding answers in the
    different buildings.

    Fort Laramie


    Before going into Guernsey State Park to camp we visited the Oregon Trail ruts and Register
    Cliff, both are east of the town of Guernsey. Each had information I needed for the state park's
    Junior Ranger program.

    Oregon Trail ruts


    We camped in the camping area that was closest to the CCC Museum, as that is where I would
    need to visit in the morning. Once at the campsite we started hearing a new bird sound, with
    some research we were able to determine it was a Townsend's Solitaire. It's call was right at the
    edge of annoying, and the other birds must have thought so, as we saw no other birds in the
    area.

    Passport Stamps
    Fort Laramie National Historic Site - Fort Laramie, WY
    California Nat'l Historic Trail -MO, OK, KS, NE, CO, WY, UT, ID, NV, CA, OR
    Oregon Nat'l Historic Trail - MO, KS, NE, WY, ID, OR, WA
    Pony Express Nat'l Historic Trail - MO, KS, NE, CO, WY, UT, NV, CA

    Bonus stamp
    Fort Laramie National Historic Site - pictorial - Old Bedlam

    Wildlife Sightings
    Red Squirrel
    Pronghorn
    Cottontail Rabbit

    Common Raven
    Osprey
    Mourning Dove
    Rock Pigeon
    Canada Geese
    Sage Sparrow
    Townsend's Solitaire

  10. #40

    Default South into Colorado

    Friday, September 18
    Start: Guernsey, WY
    End: Horsetooth Reservoir campground (Larimer CO), Fort Collins, CO

    Seemed to be the only campers in this part of the park. In our camp area was a ramada built by the CCC as a roof over a water spout. It is a wonderful example of the work they did.

    CCC water ramada


    After breakfast we drove back to the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) Museum. This was one
    of the highlights of the trip! The Guernsey State Park Junior Ranger program has you complete
    a series of questions and fill-in-the blanks from displays inside the museum. The inside, including the displays, is just as it was when it was built in 1936 by the CCC. Walking into the museum was like a step back in time! The staff member on duty was very helpful while I was working on the Junior Ranger booklet and even awarded my husband the special coin for completing both the Fort Laramie NHS and the state park's Junior Ranger programs. When we told her he was not doing the dual program, she assured us that he had earned it by helping me.

    CCC Museum




    Special Commemorative Coin


    Back to I-25, south into Colorado. Our first stop was at the Colorado Welcome Center, near Fort Collins for the Cache Le Poudre NHA passport stamp. We had thought of continuing into Rocky Mountain National Park, but soon found out that finding a camping spot on a beautiful Fall Friday afternoon could be difficult. We decided to stay around Fort Collins and go into the park on Saturday with the plan to drive across to the west side. We went up to Horsetooth Reservoir, west edge of Fort Collins to find a Full sign at 1:30 PM. Because they had another campground a few miles away we drove up to the kiosk, behind the full sign, and were pleased to find out a couple of sites had just become available. Once settled in we returned to Fort Collins for some shopping and letterboxing. One letterbox series took us to several breweries, a perfect match for us. The first 2 were very busy which made it difficult to find the boxes without being noticed. The last one, Fort Collins Brewery, was much calmer; we stayed for beer and appetizers.

    Fort Collins Brewery


    We returned to the camp for a delightful evening along the reservoir edge, including watching
    kids out on SUPs (stand up paddleboards).

    Passport Stamp
    Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area

    Bonus Stamps
    Guernsey State Park - date - Guernsey, WY
    Lake Guernsey Museum built by CCC - Guernsey, WY

    Wildlife Sightings
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Pronghorn
    Mule Deer

    Gull
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Killdeer
    Canada Geese
    Common Raven
    Townsend's Solitaire
    Swallows
    Last edited by Pmount; 11-02-2015 at 10:36 AM. Reason: formatting, links

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