Week 13 – Custer to Bismarck

Day 85 – Custer

Sunday was a day for exploring the rest of the Black Hills, so we first headed to Wind Cave National Park. After procuring our tickets for an afternoon tour of the caves, we drove across the park to enjoy the wildlife. The park connects to Custer State Park, a large park with even more wildlife (we saw a lot of buffalo, deer, and prairie dogs) and lots of great scenery. It also contains the Needles highway, a narrow, twisty scenic drive through even narrower tunnels to the Needles, which were tall rock formations at the peaks of the hills.
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Week 12 – Deadwood to Custer

Day 78 – Deadwood

We woke up to a beautiful and warm Sunday morning, and after breakfast, caught the Trolley to take us from the KOA into Deadwood, a famous “Old West” town best known for being the location where Wild Bill Hickok was killed (and buried). After walking down the historic Main Street and seeing the location where it happened, we climbed the hill up to the Mount Moriah cemetery, where Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock (the protagonist of HBO’s Deadwood), among many others, are buried.
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Week 11 – Rocky Mountain National Park to Deadwood

Day 71 – Rocky Mountain National Park

We got up bright and early again Sunday morning for another day of hiking. This time, we decided to try our first real mountain climb. There was no technical climbing, of course, but a lot of route finding, scrambling over boulder fields, and of course, a lot of elevation gain. We almost gave up several times after losing the trail in the snow over and over again, but we finally trusted the GPS and our intuition and made our way to the summit of Mt. Ida, 12,865 feet above sea level. Overall, we both felt really great and loved every minute of the hike.

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Week 10 – Black Canyon to Rocky Mountain National Park

Day 64 – Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Canon City

Sunday morning we packed up RC to towards Cañon City, but before we left Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, we wanted to do the scenic drive so we could see parts of the canyon we didn’t see on the hiking trails. There were some amazing overlooks and it was early enough that we didn’t have to fight any crowds.

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Week 9 – Provo to Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Day 57 – West Wendover to Provo

Our week started with a drive back to civilization after our side trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats. We retraced our steps on I-80, then turned south to bypass Salt Lake City. Our route took us right past the Bingham Canyon Mine (which was unfortunately closed to visitors so we couldn’t get a closer look), then into Orem, where we just happened to find an outlet mall with a Columbia store and a place for Michael to get his haircut. That afternoon, we headed to our final destination, Provo. We drove around a bit before checking in to the hotel so we could see the city center, then we grabbed Chick-fil-a for dinner and settled in for the night.

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Week 8 – Capitol Reef to Bonneville Salt Flats

Day 50 – Capitol Reef

Sunday was another day of serious hiking in Capitol Reef National Park, possibly the toughest hike we’ve done together so far. We took on the Navajo Knobs trail, almost 9 miles long and well over 2000 feet of elevation gain. The first part of the trail leads up to an excellent overlook of the Fruita area and the Waterpocket Fold. Then it continues to climb to a 360-degree panorama from the very top of the Navajo Knobs, where the view seemed to go on forever. So did the hike down, unfortunately, since it included a climb back up to the overlook after coming down from the Knobs, but we made it. We headed back to Torrey immediately for a well-deserved pizza lunch, and then checked into the Broken Spur Inn for an evening of rest.

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Week 7 – Monticello to Capitol Reef

Day 43 – Monticello

Sunday started off a week of some serious hiking in Utah. Our first day brought us to Canyonlands National Park, which is huge… so huge that it is divided into three districts. We visited the Needles district first, but first stopped at Newspaper Rock, one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs. After a quick stop, we were surprised when RC didn’t start…same symptoms as in Death Valley. This time, Michael was determined to find the loose wire himself so we wouldn’t have another long tow for such a simple issue. Wishing he had researched the issue more when there was internet service (because there wasn’t any at Newspaper Rock), he climbed under the van and came out with a hopeful look in his eye. The van came back to life and we continued on our journey with just a minor delay instead of a major ordeal.

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Week 6 – Pagosa Springs to Monticello

Day 36 – Pagosa Springs

We started out early on Sunday morning to do one of Michael’s family’s favorite hikes from when they lived in Pagosa, the trail to Four Mile Falls. We were the first people at the trailhead, but were quickly followed by a group from Denver. That turned out to be a good thing, because we lost the trail a couple of times due to dozens of downed trees and having a group of people to search for it turned out to be helpful. We finally found our way to the falls, which were flowing strong. We had better luck keeping to the trail on the way back, and enjoyed perfect weather and amazing scenery.

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Week 5 – Wichita Falls to Pagosa Springs

Day 29- Amarillo

We took a slightly longer route to Amarillo so we could drive through Oklahoma for a bit. There’s not a whole lot to this part of Oklahoma, and it was pushing 95 degrees so it wasn’t our favorite part of the trip. Before getting to Amarillo, Tracey found the VW Slug Bug Ranch, which is a VW version of the famous Cadillac Ranch on I-40 (Route 66) west of town. No visit to Amarillo is complete with stopping at the Big Texan Restaurant and having a steak dinner, so we did, but did not take on the famous free 72oz steak challenge. After dinner, we stopped for groceries and then found our way to the RV Oasis Resort for the night.

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Weeks 3&4 – Grand Canyon to Wichita Falls

Day 15 – Grand Canyon

Sunday morning we got up early to hike (some of) the South Kaibab trail down into the canyon. We were excited to see it from a different perspective, and it was well worth the effort. We hiked a little over 3 miles down to Skeleton Point, which sits about 2200 feet below the rim. This part of the hike was very pleasant, as it was still cool, not very crowded and all downhill. The hike back up was a little more difficult to say the least, but after fighting the heat and the steep trail, we made it back to the top. After recovering from the hike back at RC, we returned to the canyon for another amazing sunset.

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