Trip report part 3 (final): Beartooth Pass, Rushmore, Kansas

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My wife and I just wrapped up a two-week road trip from San Antonio to Yellowstone and back. Here is the final part (part 3) of my pics and reports (with smaller file sizes on the photos).
  • Part 1 went from San Antonio to Carlsbad to Colorado Springs.
  • Part 2 explored Yellowstone.

    We left Yellowstone on a Sunday morning. The plan was to leave via the northeast entrance and drive the Beartooth Highway. This would take us past Canyon, Hayden Valley, and Lamar Valley which all have a lot of wildlife activity. (Usually early morning or evening, so I wanted to head out early).

    We were not disappointed on the animal front. We were stopped by three different "Bison Jams" as the Hayden Valley bison herd decided to hang out on the roadway. A couple of times, a large bison was just sitting in the road blocking traffic. Now, you know bison are big and dangerous. You probably know that they are deceptively fast (40 mph if they feel like it). You may not know that they can leap, too! A bison can jump over a 5-foot fence from a standing start. So, please, don't get too close to these animals. (end PSA).

    Finally wiggled past the last bison and out to the Lamar Valley... saw a group of pronghorns. The scenery here is different from the rest of the park, rolling hills and rocky mountains. Then we started along US 212 - the Bear Tooth Highway. This has been labled the most beautiful Scenic Byway in the country, but its location and elevation means it is usually snow-covered. It is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and road repair and construction has to occur in those months. Well, we lucked out, because there's no roadwork on the weekend! There were a couple of one-lane areas with flagmen and pilot cars, but the delays were very short. The Montana Department of Transportation maintains a website with information on conditions at the pass and construction updates.

    It's a two-lane mountain road with a few switchbacks. You're not going to sail along at 60 MPH here. (Pikes Peak was good preparation for this drive.) There are lots of panoramic views. I don't have too many photos because Mrs. Speck made me stop shooting pictures as I drove. Drove on to Seridan, Wyoming.

    The next day we drove to Mt. Rushmore. We didn't drive over to Devils Tower -- just saw it off in the distance (but I am told the KOA there shows Close Encounters of the Third Kind every night. Now there are some logistical issues with Mt. Rushmore. If you want a guided tour along the "Presidential Trail," the last tour is at 3:30. The lighting ceremony is at 8:30-ish, depending on the time of year. Our original plan had been to take the last tour, drive to the Crazy Horse Monument, then return for the lighting ceremony, but with rain, the $20 fee at Crazy Horse, and wanting to hit the road, we cut out the lighting ceremony and Crazy Horse.

    We did a self-tour at Mt. Rushmore (we walked the wrong way... made it all uphill... you should END at the sculptor's studio... not START there). It was raining off-and-on, but we were blessed that it did not rain while we were walking the trail. By the way, parking at Mt. Rushmore is a private concession... you gotta pay $10, and your National Park Pass won't help you here.

    On our way down to Nebraska, we passed through Hot Springs, South Dakota, and stopped at The Mammoth Site, a large fossil bed with many, many mammoth bones. They were open pretty late, so we stopped in and took the tour (photo below). The next day, we stopped at Agate Fossil Beds (photos above), a fossil bed operated by the National Park Service. (Carefull here... the GPS kept trying to take us down driveways and dirt roads.) Walked a trail here, nice grassy plains here. On our walk, saw several rabbits, a rattlesnake, and a porcupine (never saw a porcupine in the wild... never guessed they roam the Nebraska grasslands).

    The next day, we drove to the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas (just a few miles east of Salina, Kansas). At this site, they have the library, museum, his childhood home, a "Place of Meditation," and the visitors' center/gift shop. Adult admission is $8 (Wednesday was $5 day when we were there). We spent a little over 2 hours there.

    Then we wandered on home to San Antonio. Total of 4,120 miles in 13 days. Good times had by all.
  • speck
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    Just remembered and found a photo of one of the pronghorn we saw in the Lamar Valley near the NE entrance to Yellowstone.

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    I'm enjoying the recap of your trip. Not sure I would have stopped to take a photo of the rattle snake.
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    How 'bout that snake? My wife pointed him out... I was snapping photos less than 7 feet from him. If he had started rattling (heck, if he'd moved), I would've done my George Costanza impersonation, shouting and pushing women and children out of the way.
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    I think the Bear Tooth Highway ranks right up there with Glacier National Park in breath-taking scenery.

    I'm enjoying reliving our two trips to Yellowstone through your reports. Thanks for sharing!

    I had forgotten about the Hot Springs Dinosaur site. That was interesting as well, but I was sick that day so didn't get to see as much as I would have liked.

    [This message has been edited by LifeLongAg (edited 8/6/2009 8:23p).]
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    I would've done my George Costanza impersonation, shouting and pushing women and children out of the way.

    LOL! Reminds me of my wife's adventure a couple of years back. We stopped in Palo Duro Canyon and she got out to take some photos. After a few minutes she came running back to our truck, jumped in, and said let's go. Turns out she heard some rattling but never saw the snake. God bless that snake. If it wasn't for his rattling, we'd have been there a couple of hours more. We were on our way back from Colorado and I was ready to get home.

    [This message has been edited by texashornfan (edited 8/7/2009 11:23a).]
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