Journey to Middle America

Apart from the drive through Wisconsin and Minnesota, I think we quite enjoyed the rest of the driving. Which is fortunate, given that we did a lot of it. Through the width of South Dakota, much of Wyoming, a small silver of Idaho, and the width of Utah, Colorado and Kansas, and a portion of Missouri. We passed much of the time on the road listening to audio CDs: 1776 by David McCullough, a riveting account of how George Washington lead the Continental Army to war against the British; A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, a much entertaining take on how we and the world came to be; and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. That last audio book is nearly 19 hours long, and we reckon we still have about 3-4 more hours of it to get through, but it’s been a very detailed and insightful look at nearly every aspect of Jefferson’s fulfilling and long-lived life.

South Dakota

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

The landscape got more interesting once we hit the Badlands. We zipped through the park in a few hours. Because we had crammed so many destinations in, we never really had the luxury of spending much time in any one place but contented with a taster, if you will, of each. It was so hot and humid in the Badlands though, that we weren’t too excited about long walks anyway.

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Visited Mount Rushmore National Monument in time for the evening video about the four presidents gracing the the face of the mountain. Apt, considering we’d just finished listening to the 1776 adventures of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

With just a couple of hours to spare before we had to hit the road towards Wyoming to get to K&D’s wedding, we did a quick drive through of Custer State Park, where we spent happy minutes photographing the herds of bison and burros clogging up the roads.

Wyoming

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Made it just in time for the wedding. It was super fun and intimate and we enjoyed catching up with old college friends

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Yellowstone National Park. Driving into the park from the west entrance, we passed Yellowstone Lake and were struck by how iced over the lake was still. We were caravaning with two other friends, H&P, who had also gone to K’s wedding and had three days to spend in Yellowstone and Tetons. Put our walkie talkies to good use, finally.

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Easiest way to spot wildlife – look out for cars randomly parked by the side or the roads, or clumps of photographers with gigantic zoom lens staring intently into a same spot in the distance. Heck, we’re pretty lousy at spotting the animals ourselves otherwise – unless they walk right in front of our car…

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

As did this bull elk in the twilight

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Everyone said while Yellowstone is teeming with wildlife and bubbling with geyers, it is the Grand Tetons that is the more stunning park. How true. The snow capped peaks rise sharply from the ground, and catch your eye where ever you are in the park. It was more fun – and satisfying though – to climb and close and personal to one of the peaks. We hired a guide and hiked up through swarths of snow covered terrain into Cascades Canyon. The serenity was startling. We saw a marmot basking in the sun, and another scamper across a treacherously steep gully that just minutes later we saw a mini avalanche of rock and snow roar down. The climbing, 6 pitches of it, was awesome

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Glad we caught this (P and I did, while our partners continued to snore in bed)

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Next stop, Utah. First through my 46th state, Idado! Yippee. Utah was super fun. M put us up in his roomy town home and brought us into the canyons nearby to climb. On the first day, we did a 4-pitch slabby 5.9+ route that I would have wet my pants had I tried to lead it, but it was super fun climbing. Most areas, we didn’t have any hands, but had to trust that the rough surface of the granite would be friction enough to see us up the wall.

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

In the evening, upon hearing that I’d still not yet seen a moose despite the past few days spent in Wyoming, M brought us into one of the many canyons for a sunset drive and hopefully moose spotting. As the sun dipped below the horizon, so did our expectations, but suddenly, M screeched his car to a halt by the side of the road and beckoned us to follow him. This young bull moose. ๐Ÿ™‚

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

We wished we could have spent more time in Utah. Not just SLC itself, but definitely, most definitely, also Moab, home of the famed Arches National Park and Canyonlands. I see why Eug and all the other crack climbers are so hopelessly addicted to this place. And we had all of one evening and one early morning. We made the most of it though. Drove into the park right before sunset, and stayed till we couldn’t see anything anymore. And the next morning, drove back in again before the sun rose. I love summer.

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO
From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Night photography fail. I used 400 ISO. Note to self – bump it up. Way up. Follow the 500 rule. Nonetheless, after the half moon set in the middle of the night, the blanket of stars and milky way was stunning to behold, especially when we rose bleary-eyed from our tent in the early hours of the morning

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO
From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO
From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

And then it was time to drive east again. Through the gorgeous Rocky ranges in Colorado, and into the flats of Kansas. We had been dreading the drive through Kansas, after the stunning geography of the past week, but a major storm system was passing through, and we had just the most spectacular cloud formations to behold. I felt like I was on the set of Twister.

From Road Trip to Middle America: WI, SD, WY, ID, UT, CO, KS, MO

Double rainbows – a wonderfully apt way to end a really fun road trip. Couldn’t have asked for more, really.

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7 thoughts on “Journey to Middle America

  1. That last shot of the rainbows makes our British ones look sick – such beautiful light and colours! Also love that shot of the mountains above the huge, calm lake. Great post of a superb-looking trip – quite fancy seeing middle America myself sometime – not sure when I’ll get round to it though…
    Carol.

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