Yellowstone National Park
The idea for a road trip had been germinating for quite awhile. It gathered momentum when I got my Senior Pass to our National Parks. It was decided to start and end in Denver, Colorado when I saw the costs of renting an SUV and dropping it off in another city.
It was originally thought that the highlight of the trip would be Yellowstone National Park but in reality, the trip would have multiple highlights starting with Custer State Park. In my research, I saw that the park was home to a large free-ranging bison herd. With some 1,500 animals, it is one of the largest bison herds in the world. Also present in the park are Pronghorn whose closest living relatives are the giraffes and okapi, deer, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, burros, prairie dogs, coyotes, eagles, and wild turkeys.
All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.Samuel Johnson
After leaving Custer State Park we drove north to Mt Rushmore through some beautiful countryside. As we got closer we could see the monument through the trees coming ever closer as we drove the winding Black Hills of South Dakota.
The monument is now part of a modern complex with a huge parking structure. While the monument is free you’ll pay for parking. The site is very impressive nonetheless, less so for the dining facilities which must have some of the worst food known to mankind.
Deadwood would be our next stop. If this name sounds familiar, this is where Wild Nill Hickock met his end while playing poker at the #10 Saloon, shot in the back of the head by the "coward” Jack McCall. It also saw the likes of Calamity Jane, renowned for her marksmanship and preference for men’s clothing.
There were a few interesting stores but they sold nothing that I could not do without. There were also a couple of casinos that made one of our party happy. A small festival was being held, including a contest for dogs where the idea was to see how far they could jump before landing in a pool. Not all of the dogs were quite with the program.
We woke up early for the long drive to Bozeman, Montana and our final destination Island Park, Idaho where we would be staying while we visited Yellowstone. Unfortunately, the park’s accommodations were all booked by the time our travel dates were finalized.
The nation’s first National Park it encompasses 2,219,789 acres, larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The park is home to 7 species of ungulates (bison, moose, elk, pronghorn), 2 species of bear and 67 other mammals, 322 species of birds, 16 species of fish and of course the gray wolf.
Everyone knows about Old Faithful and the park is home to one of the world's largest calderas with over 10,000 thermal features and more than 300 geysers.