Patrick’s Wild West Adventure 2005

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Saturday July 1, 2005 We set off for a 2 week adventure out west.  We stopped for a few hours sleep at a rest area in Grinnall, Iowa.  It was said that Josiah Grinnell received advice from Horace Greeley to “go west young man” and settled in this area.


Sunday July 2  We arrived at Spokane Creek Campground near Mt Rushmore in South Dakota at 8:50 PM Indiana time, very tired after a long trip.  Enroute to the campground, we drove a short distance through Custer State Park where we saw deer, 2 buffalo and wild donkey.


Monday July 3  We visited Deadwood today and had lunch at the Historic Franklin Hotel.  Grandpa & Grandma had buffalo burgers while Patrick had a hamburger.  The Hotel had a beautiful lobby but is now filled with slot machines.  Most of Deadwood is now casinos and not the ghost town of our previous visit in 1989.  We did see an Old West street fight.

We toured the Broken Boot Gold Mine outside Deadwood and panned for gold.  Then we drove to Lead to the Homestake Gold Mine.  We bought Blackhills gold souvenirs.

In the evening we climbed the “hill” behind the campground and watched beautiful fireworks over Mt Rushmore.




Tuesday July 4  HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!  After breakfast of pancakes and sausage we visited Mt Rushmore—it is awesome!  We saw 3 mountain goats on a hillside outside Mt Rushmore because we took a wrong turn.  We had lunch at the Keystone Family restaurant and then toured “Beautiful Rushmore Cave.”  The temperature was cool and our tour guide, Chris was fun.  There was a light rain as we left.

We played mini golf at the campground and hiked up the hill behind our camper where we saw a deer.  We relaxed at the campsite after dinner, enjoying time with Patrick, working on words and sounds and seeing his enthusiasm for everything!


Wednesday July 5 Visited Custer State Park today and saw huge herd of bison on both sides of the road, close enough to touch!  We also saw several wild burros, Black, brown and brown & white.  Patrick fed apple slices to some that would eat right out of his hand!  We saw whitetail deer, mule deer, pronghorns and western tanger.  We ate a picnic lunch and saw beautiful rock formations.  We were caught in a horrible hailstorm on the way back to the campground—mothball size hail.  The temperature dropped from 78 to 45 degrees in 45 minutes.  When we returned to the campground the attendant said it was the worst hailstorm he’d seen.  We had no truck damage but there must have been 200 pounds of hail on our trailer awning that sprung the tube.  A word to the wise: always roll up the awning before leaving the campsite!



July 6  Left Spokane Creek campground at 7:00 AM.  Looks like a beautiful day.  We passed through the geographical center of the US somewhere near US 85 and SD 168 (according to the map).  We had lunch at a nice little restaurant in Bowman, ND; Grandpa has now been in all 50 states!  We entered Montana and had trouble finding fuel.  We exited I-94 at Rosebud and finally located a garage where Jill took us to her mom’s farm and we purchased 5 gallons of gas to get us to the next exit with a gas station!  We learned they raise sugar beets but primarily cattle, wheat and corn for the cattle.  Cattle graze during the summer and are lot-fed during the winter.  We arrived at 7th Ranch in Garryowen, Montana at 6:00 PM, a new campground that sits on a hill with a beautiful view of the countryside.  We are on the Crow Indiana reservation.  We enjoyed big red smokeys and s’mores over the campfire, watched the sunset behind the hills, looked for lightning bugs and stars, and played Uno (Hulo as Patrick calls it).  Patrick has become quite the Uno shark!



Thursday, July 7  Today we went to the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  We heard a 45 minute presentation on the events that took place.  We then went on a driving/walking tour of the battlefield.  As we saw the land and the places, the reason for the events was much easier to understand.  We went to the town of Crow Agency, the Crow nation headquarters for lunch.  We ate at a family run taco place and talked with Marvin Dawes Sr who worked at the National Park and was able to tell us many things about the Crow Indians as well as other Indian tribes.  He is writing a book on the history of the Crow people.  It was hard for Patrick to understand Marvin is a full-blooded Crow after television depictions of Indians.  While in town we picked up some groceries then visited a Custer Museum and returned to the campground.



Friday July 8 Left the campground at 8:30 AM, heading for Cody Wyoming.  When we entered WY, we saw beautiful snow-capped mountains in the distance and breath-taking scenery.  We had lunch at Taco John’s in Cody, stopped at Wal-Mart for supplies and arrived at Yellowstone Valley Inn campground at 2:00 PM.  The campground is stone and gravel which is very windy and dusty but clean. 


Saturday July 9 Slept in today, then went into Cody late morning.  We stopped at the visitor center for lots of good information on the area.  We visited the Buffalo Bill Historical Center which is really 5 museums in 1 and very much worth the money.  We spent most of the day there.  We ate a late lunch at the Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill, and then went back to the museum after shopping.  Grandpa bought a beautiful watchband inlaid with turquoise and other stones.  We saw a gunfight outside the Irma Hotel, then did grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.  Before the gunfight, a woman from California came to talk and sign to Patrick.  Her 14 year old granddaughter had a cochlear implant at age 3.  Patrick especially enjoyed talking to her.



Sunday July 10  We spent the day at Yellowstone National Park today; intermittent rain throughout the day.  We drove the southern loop and visited the West Thumb geyser basin; there are several geysers in this area.  It is interesting that we could see where buffalo and other wildlife had been around the area.  We drove to Old Faithful and had lunch in the lodge cafeteria.  We saw Old Faithful erupt, walked around Geyser Hill, saw Old Faithful erupt again and headed back to the campground.  We saw huge herds of buffalo, an eagle, lesser scaup, green-winged teal and female moose.  The east entrance to the park closed at 8:00 PM and was under construction, so it took about an hour to actually exit the park.  We had tonka toaster pizza and cherry pies for dinner.



Monday July 11 We arrived at the Yellowstone gate at 8:00 AM and spent the entire day; we did the northern loop today.  We saw more bison and calves, pelicans and trout at the fishing bridge.  Patrick counted 30 cutthroat trout at LeHardy’s Rapids on the Yellowstone River.  We visited the mud volcanoes and saw a bison lying in the grass right next to the mud geyser!  One bison walked right through the parking area.  We saw a gray wolf running through a bison herd in Hayden Valley and saw the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone—it is breath-taking!  Patrick is very animated and enjoys the frequent stops and opportunities to get out and explore.  We had a picnic lunch with the bison at the Falls area—they were grazing about 40 yards from our table!  We drove to Mammoth Hot Springs and walked one of the trails; it was pretty but smelly.  Today is a beautiful day.  We saw elk; found out from the park ranger that what we thought was female moose was actually female elk.  We saw pronghorn and yellow-bellied marmot although we never saw moose or bear.  We left the park at 6:00 PM and had dinner at Wakitpi Lodge where we saw prairie dogs.  We went to the Cody Rodeo which was lots of fun.  Patrick participated in an activity for children, chasing two calves in the arena for ribbons.  We returned to the camper at 11:30 PM and fell into bed.  A very busy and fun-filled day.



 Tuesday July 12 Slept in today then had breakfast of pancakes and bacon.  We spent the day in Cody where we visited the Old Trail Town, a “ghost town” village including the grave sites of some well known Wyoming natives, and the Hole in the Wall Gang hideout.  We saw a prairie dog and had lunch at Pizza Hut where Patrick met Jesse Coy from the rodeo.  We visited an Old West miniature village and museum.  We window shopped and bought Patrick a used lariat.  We took the truck through the car wash and returned to the campground.  Patrick has been “practicing with my rope” since we returned.  We packed up to head to Devil’s Tower tomorrow.



Wednesday July 13 Today we enjoyed a beautiful drive through the Big Horn mountains.  We saw Cloud Peak Skyway east of Ten Sleep and crossed the Powder River Pass, elevation 9,666 feet.  We arrived at Devil’s Tower National monument at 3:15PM, temperature 103 degrees; too hot to hike much!  We camped overnight at Devil’s Tower KOA where Grandma and Patrick swam in the campground pool and went on a hayride through the campground and ranch where we saw deer, fawn and red-tailed hawk.  Grandpa and Patrick went to the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” which was filmed at Devil’s Tower.  Patrick saw a shooting star after the movie.



Thursday July 14 Left Devil’s Tower at 7:20 A.M.; it is sunny, breezy and beautiful today.  We are heading home and Patrick “can’t wait to see my family.”  We passed more than 200 Corvettes going west on I 90 in central South Dakota.  We arrived at a KOA campground in Jackson, Minnesota at 7:00 PM after a long day of driving.  We were finally able to have a campfire but there were too many June bugs to eat outside!  We played 2 rounds of minigolf, had big red smokeys and s’mores.


Friday July 15 We left the campground at 8:00 AM.  We saw a crop-dusting plane flying low over I 90, dusting cornfields.  We drove all day again today, stopping for dinner at the same Wendy’s in Bloomington, Illinois that we ate in 2 weeks ago, sitting in the same seats!  We arrived home at 10:30 PM, 4381 miles later.  Patrick entered his home with his lasso, cowboy hat & saying “Yeeha, I’m home.”