Our cat hates our travel trailer. Can't you tell? If the wide eyes and non-stop mewling during the night was not an adequate clue, his relentless, sneaky attempts to escape make it clear. If not for my daughter’s swift action in chasing him around the trailer, brave risk of abraded skin by throwing herself under the diesel pusher parked next to us, and firm grip to a furry tail, he would still be a permanent resident of Yellowstone Park. Or long since digested bear food.
The rest of the family, however, loves taking our modest 27-foot trailer to parts unknown! In the patriotic aftermath of 9/11 we, like many others, freshly considered this wonderful land we are blessed to dwell in. It isn’t like we were spending our vacations in exotic locales across the globe, but after decades in California there really weren’t too many places in this excellent State left to explore. So, we decided to take the plunge. We purchased our trailer and planned our first big extravaganza for the summer of 2002.
And what an adventure it was!
In retrospect yours truly – crazed itinerary plotter extraordinaire - probably got a bit carried away. In a two week period of time, in a trailer we had never taken anywhere before, we traveled across 7 States! It was a whirlwind holiday, but I am happy to report that we encountered no major hitches. Perhaps my neurotic prearranging paid off!
Day 1 we traveled over the 7000-foot high Donner Pass, stopping for what would be a multitude of halts for “historical markers” and places of American interest. Can I pause here for a moment to thank the creator of digital photography? I think we have five CDs containing all the pictures we took! Northern Nevada isn’t terribly exciting (sorry any Nevadans) but I am one who loves desert terrains and rock sculptures so I wasn’t disappointed or bored. Our first real surprise was the vast eye-piercing expanse of salt in Utah. The Bonneville Salt Flats were not on my list of Must-Sees, yet it was one of the coolest, most amazing places encountered on this trip.We did not pause in Utah except for photo ops and necessary leg stretches, and I regret that. Utah is a gorgeous state. One of these days we will visit again. Our first planned rest was Wyoming. We camped outside of Jackson Hole, spending one day touring the Grand Tetons before moving on to Yellowstone. Wow! I shall say it again – WOW! I currently live at the base of the Sierra Nevada and my youth was spent in the Las Padres forest, so I know mountains. The Grand Tetons blew me away! We were there on an overcast day in July, with snowy patches alongside bright yellow wildflowers and tall green grass. The towering, nearly 14,000-foot Tetons overwhelmed our senses, even though we could not see the summits as they were draped in grey clouds. We picnicked in the meadow, silently staring in awe.
Next stop, Jellystone… I mean Yellowstone! We did see a bear, but Yogi he was not so we steered clear. We also saw herds, and I do mean herds, of buffalo up close and personal as they roam freely, including right across the roads. And they roam veeerrrryyyy slowly and very close. We were not foolish enough to exit the car, as some did, thus not getting chased like those idiots! Elk, deer, moose, wolves, raccoons, and more make their homes in Yellowstone and do not seem to be all that shy. Geysers, grand canyons with roaring rivers, petrified wood, sulfur hot springs, volcano calderas, lava formations – Yellowstone has it all and we made sure to see every bit! Aside from almost losing our stupid cat, it was amazing.
Leaving there we traveled across the very empty fields of Wyoming. No cell service, very few towns, and even fewer gas stations (serious yikes when you are pulling a trailer). We stopped in Cody, eating lunch at Buffalo Bill’s historic Irma Hotel. The hubby had a buffalo burger, but none of us were brave enough. We did buy a bunch of elk, venison, and buffalo jerky and salami that was so good we now order it online several times a year! Wyoming Buffalo Company, in case you were salivating.
Here is where the trip got tough for me. Time was an issue, so eventually we had to stop moving east and turn around. But there is always another place just a tiny bit further! I was forced to restrain myself from adding in Badlands National Park in South Dakota, instead having the Black Hills area our eastward terminus. We spent four days enjoying the rugged landscaping with too many rivers to count. Naturally we toured Mount Rushmore and all I can say, again, is WOW! This history buff was in her element. Truly astounding and one of those places that photos cannot do justice. The entire area is inundated with so many fascinating places that there was no way we could do it all. Picking and choosing was the hardest part. We spent one day in Deadwood, checking out the old saloons and visiting the ancient cemetery, Mount Mariah, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. The silliest surprise was Bedrock City in Custer, the oldest Flintstone related theme park in the US! Have to admit we could not resist and it was crazy fun!
Our last major stop was Little Big Horn. Have I said enough times how much I adore history, all history? Well, this was the icing for my cake. I can’t place into words how moving it was to walk across the battlefield where Custer was soundly beaten by the combined Native American forces. The area is unchanged, the simple white markers where each of the 268 men fell dotting the fields for miles. Our guide was Cheyenne, a descendent of a battle survivor, and hearing him tell the tale was chilling.
From there it was a hasty rush to get home. We stopped briefly at the Snake River site of Evel Knieval’s failed jump attempt, and I insisted on checking out as many roadside historical markers as possible, but other than the really freaky and scary dust storm that hit us hard in Nevada, it was uneventful. Can you believe we did all that in 2 weeks? Neither can I! And I didn’t cover a third of what we saw! Since then we have kept our excursions shorter, but they have been just as fun. And the cat has continued to hate each one.