Badlands National Park

I’ve been looking forward to visiting this park for quite some time now, and it didn’t disappoint me. It was as beautiful as Canyonlands and Arches, but lacked the crowds, and had even a slight bit of charm over the others in ways that are difficult to explain.

I did a four mile hike from the Medicine Root Trail to the Castle Trail and back. I also did some driving and exploring some of the scenic overlooks, and visited the visitor center.

Wind Cave National Park

I got to Wind Cave late in the afternoon, and completely missed the opportunity to go on any of the cave tours, but I wasn’t disappointed in the above-ground experience of this park. I’ll make it a goal to return here one day and explore the caves.

As for the park on the surface, the nature was beautiful, and the wildlife was abundant. There were Pronghorn, Bison, Elk, and Praire Dogs everywhere!

I do regret not getting here in time to explore the caves, but I will definitely get back here some day.

Scotts Bluff National Monument

I always make it a goal to do more than just “drive through” a state. In the case of Nebraska, the Scotts Bluff National Monument was a great place to stop and stretch my legs on the way from Denver to South Dakota.

I was pleasantly surprised how beautiful this place was, and how perfect the Saddle Rock Trail was for a quick stop. At about 3 miles, it was perfect for a quick afternoon hike to break up the monotony of the road.

There was also a road that seemed to go up to the summit, but I didn’t take the time to drive it, but I’d recommend that you do. I didn’t really notice it until I was on my way out.

Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin – done

It started in Colorado, then through Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and finally where I’m writing this in Illinois. That’s eight states. I’m calling it the “six states trip” because I’ve been to Illinois and Colorado in the past. So, six new states.

I wrote about Nebraska and the Dakotas yesterday and today I’m officially checking the boxes on Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. I had unique experiences in each of these states and feel good about being accountable to myself about having visited them.

The whole trip was right about 2,000 miles which I managed to pull off in four long days of driving, with lots of intense hiking and running each day at various locations. I have three states left – Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Alaska.

I’ll post pictures later from some of the amazing individual places I’ve been on this trip.

Checking boxes on Nebraska and the Dakotas

Over the past two days, in a push to visit a few states that have thus far gone untraveled, I successfully made it through Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. In that time, I’ve also visited six national parks:

  • Scottsbluff National Monument
  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Badlands National Park
  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park

I’ll be making a post for each of these, as well as thoughts on the states I’m visiting on this trip. Tomorrow I head to Minnesota for the first time, and then it’s on to Iowa and Wisconsin to finish off this trip.

More to come shortly!

11,000 Miles: The Long Road Home

The long road home

After weeks of driving, exploring, and introducing Rylan and Roman to their country, Tina and the kids had had enough of spending their summer days watching the miles tick by in the truck. For them, the adventure was over and it was time to go home and get ready for a new school year. With thousands of miles left to go, I dropped them at the airport in Denver, and Kai and I set out on the long road home.

First through Kansas, then Saint Louis, then Nashville, and finally a very long day and a hard push back home to Port Saint Lucie.

Dinner at Wilson Lake, Lucas Park Recreation Area, Kansas

I counted up the days. We were away from home for 49. Tina and the kids saw 14 states and Kai and I saw 19. The total was eleven-thousand miles, almost exactly. We visited more than a dozen state and national parks. We met up with family members from both sides of the family for adventures in many places. We hiked during sunrises and into sunsets.

Coming home through Florida thunderstorms

By the end of day 6 of driving from Wyoming to Florida, I learned what “road weary” meant. The last few hours on the Florida Turnpike left me in a daze. Every bump in the road was magnified. The roar of the engine sounded different, like it couldn’t go on. The miles took longer and longer to pass by. I finally made it home around midnight – and as quickly as the trip of a lifetime came to be, it was over.

Would I do it again? Probably not. Not like this. I would have chosen 1/4 of the destinations, and spent much longer at each. Does this mean I regret the aggressive timeline? Not at all. We saw a lot of places and had adventures nearly every day. I’m glad we did this once in our lives, but I probably won’t do it quite like that again.

So what’s next for us, the truck, and the camper? I’m not sure. I’ll let you know next summer.

11,000 Miles: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

In the moment, we thought nothing of the distance; but in retrospect, this was a terrifyingly long way from Florida. The grand finale of our trip was the farthest point from home, in Wyoming. Yellowstone is as expected – beautiful, remote, serene. Okay, I lied about the “serene” part. During the height of the season it was pretty overrun with people, bordering miserable. But it was nice to imagine it as a peaceful place.

I’m glad we visited, and I’d love to return in the offseason sometime.