Law Family Vacation Summer 2017


Colorado/Nebraska/South Dakota/Wyoming Photo Album

We flew into Denver, then drove down to Colorado Springs the next day. Our first site in Colorado Springs was the Garden of the Gods. This is a park of unusual rock formations that has been declared free to the public by its benefactors. Rachel immediately took to the climbing. We ended the day driving by the Air Force Academy.

The next day was our day to visit Pike's Peak. We were thwarted, because that is the only day of the year that Pike's Peak is closed for a race. So we drove around and discovered Cripple Creek, and arrived just in time for the annual Burro Days Burro race. They close down the town and the burros, who normally just roam wild in Cripple Creek, are raced right down the main street of the fun little town. You can see the laid-back race in this video clip. An unexpected but fun distraction.

On the way out of Cripple Creek, we looked down into the massive Newmont Gold Mine, the 6th largest gold mine in the world.


Colorado/Nebraska/South Dakota/Wyoming Photo Album

After Denver, we were off the South Dakota via western Nebraska. There isn't much of anything in western Nebraska. Watch this video to see what I mean. We stayed in Scottsbluff and visited the Scottsbluff National Monument. Pretty much nothing else happened in Nebraska.

South Dakota    

Colorado/Nebraska/South Dakota/Wyoming Photo Album

The next day we were off to South Dakota. Our first stop was Badlands National Park, which we discovered was much more beautiful than we expected. There are big canyons, cliffs, and unusual erosion formations for miles.

We went on a few of the shorter hikes, including the Window Trail and the Door Trail. We also climbed the steepest trail in the park, Saddle Pass Trail. Rachel and Don took to climbing a large formation at the end of the trail, which was slightly terrifying, but the view from up there was inspiring.

Leaving Badlands, we stopped for some free ice water at the famous Wall Drug store. Unlike any drug store I've ever seen, this one was frying its own donuts, had a jewelry store, a taffy store, a large restaurant, 5 cent coffee, pottery shop, a chapel, etc. etc.

We left Wall and beelined for Mount Rushmore. We got there in time to do the trail up to the base and still have time for the nightly illumination ceremony. It was quite moving, as they graciously honored all present members of the military for their service.


Colorado/Nebraska/South Dakota/Wyoming Photo Album

The next day we arose and made our way to Devil's Tower, an unusual rock formation created by a volcano. You may remember seeing it in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Rachel and Don climbed a pile of boulders up to the base, and we took the trail around the tower.

After Devil's Tower, we made our way over to Cody. Although Cody is the rodeo capital of the world, we just overnighted there.

The next day, it was time for the centerpiece of our trip, Yellowstone National Park. The first day we visited the amazing mud volcano, dragon's mouth cave, a cauldron, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the north entrance. We got treated to lots of wildlife, including bison, elk, moose, and bears.

Our second day at Yellowstone we focused on the geysers, and our timing was right to see Old Faithful erupt. We saw many other variations of steam coming from the ground, including the smaller Cliff geyser that erupts about every three minutes. See our 2.5 minute geyser compilation on vimeo.

We ended the day at Yellowstone Grand Canyon. This is Don's new favorite place on earth. The Yellowstone River was on a tear, since was carrying the spring runoff. We hiked the trails that took us right up to the brink of both waterfalls. The sequence of our waterfall journey is mixed down in this 3.25 minute video.

After Yellowstone, we took at day at Grand Tetons National Park. We didn't do any long trails, but took a boat ride on Jenny Lake, then hiked up to see Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point, where we had an inspiring picnic lunch. The hike is fun because you hike along the stream the comes from the falls, as shown in this video.

Our last day in Wyoming we went white water rafting on the Snake River. We got soaked, but fortunately had wet suits so we didn't freeze. Rachel got an unexpected overboard experience, which fortunately was captured on this video.

Our last stop in Wyoming was at Periodic Spring. This is the only periodic spring in North America, and the largest of the four in existence worldwide. It was a beautiful spring, but unfortunately was not doing its periodic trick of stopping its flow every 18 minutes, because of the large volume of the spring runoff. Nevertheless, Don and Rachel hiked up to the source where it just gushes out of the side of a mountain.


Colorado/Nebraska/South Dakota/Wyoming Photo Album

We started with the northern section of Yellowstone, and got to step our feet into Montana. There we got to see Roosevelt Arch, a very old entrace to Yellowstone.

Our only other venture into Montana was to the town of West Yellowstone, a nice comfortable place to enjoy a late dinner after a day of exploration.


Idaho was our home base for Yellowstone. We got a great rate on a rental house in Driggs. It felt great to spread out and for each of the girls to have their own room for a few nights. We didn't do too much in Idaho except sleep and take a photo op at the Big Spud Drive-in theater.


Utah Photo Album

Our first day was in Salt Lake City. We went to see the famous Morman Tabernacle, and mostly took it easy. We needed a little down time before hitting the southern Utah parks.

We set out from Salt Lake City to Cedar City in the southwest corner of Utah. The next morning we hit Zion National Park with every intention of seeing The Narrows and doing a few other trails. But Zion had different plans for us. It was very crowded. We had to park about a half mile away from the entrance and get bussed in, after waiting for three full busses to pass us by. After standing in two long lines and two bus rides, we arrived at the entrance to the trail up to The Narrows well over an hour after parking.

We soon discovered that we were ill equiped. We waded in the Virgin River for about a half hour and only made it about 1/10th the way to The Narrows. It was like walking across an underwater pile of bowling balls. We enjoyed the beauty of the deep canyon we were in, but never saw The Narrows. We retreated to one of the easiest trails, and all hiked up to see Weeping Rock and by then we were used up. Finally, Don and Rachel hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail (which deserves a whole web page itself).

The next day took us to Bryce Canyon National Park. This park has a beauty all its own, with many mysterious towering rocks and hoodoos. We took a three mile hike down into the canyon and back out again. It was a delightful trail with lots to see along the way.

The following day took us to Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is very interesting - there are three major areas, and we only got to see one of them, Island in the Sky. Canyonlands is breathtaking - it has many canyons within canyons. The erosive work of the Colorado River is on full display, yet you cannot see the river itself from Island in the Sky.

In sharp constrast with Zion, Canyonlands was not crowded at all. Rachel and Don hiked the 2 mile round trip Salt Rim Overlook Trail, and never saw another person - they had the whole place to themselves. The view was spectacular, as you can see in this video, even though we were standing on the edge of a sheer drop. Rachel tossed a fist-size rock over the edge and we never heard it hit the bottom.

We took Shafer Trail (known as Shafer Canyon Road on from Island in the Sky all the way in to Moab. This turned out to be exhilarating for Don, but terrifying to Barbara. The road is cut into a sheer cliff, one lane, no guardrails. The reward for navigating this terrifying passage is that you get to see the Colorado River at the bottom of Canyonlands, as well as many other amazing sights that others never get to see.

We made it safely back to Moab and settled in for the night. The next day was our final national park, our fourth of the "big five." We set out for Arches National Park, with ambition to hike about five short trails to see the most amazing arches. First up was " Delicate Arch," which is pictured on the Utah license plate. We loaded up our backpack with Gatorade and water, then started the ascent in 104° dry heat. The trail was beautiful, but rapidly depleted our vigor. When we finally reached the arch, the view was amazing. When you see it sitting there in its context, it looks much more majestic than it does in the pictures. We enjoyed it for a while, then headed back down. By the time we reached the parking lot, we were dehydrated and Barbara and the girls were used up. Don took them back to the hotel, and then set of on an off-road adventure.

There is a road that leads out to Tower Arch that Don decided to tackle. The road was almost impassable. There were several times he had all four wheels turning, but no forward motion. The rental Ford Expedition took quite a beating, bottoming out, wheels in the air, tree branches in the grill, and silt on the hood. But he made it to Tower Arch. The return trip proved much more difficult, because Arches closed all its roads! He found himself with no map, no cell phone, no GPS, just instructions from a contruction worker to go "that way." Back down the practically non-existent road, he got lost once, but was able to figure out which rocks to drive over by looking for tire tracks. Eventually, he found civilization again eight miles away from the park entrance.

Our last day, we returned to Salt Lake City, went down to see all the flies at Salt Lake, then crashed. The next day, we returned home after 15 days at 3850 miles of driving.