Friday, June 24, 2011

Wyoming Vacation - Day 2

Day two of our trip began on a chilly morning, lots of wind, and forecasted snow showers. We left the hotel around 9 a.m. to get a start on our drive. This day we had planned to make several stops in the various towns Ryan grew up in and to visit Devil's Tower.

After leaving Spearfish, we drove about 60 miles to arrive at Devil's Tower. As soon as we got there, snow flurries began to fall. We didn't let that stop us though! We walked around the base of the tower, which is a little over one mile. It was nice to be able to get out and walk, but it sure was cold and windy! Because of the weather issues, we didn't hang around as long as we would have if the weather was cooperating. Oh well! 

Devil's Tower from the distance

View from the base
I brought along my super-handy pocket-sized tripod. It may sound utterly useless, but it actually came in handy frequently on our trip. We tried to take some pictures of us together while walking around the base of Devil's Tower, however, due to the wind and uneven surfaces it was hard to find a good place to set the tripod where I wasn't worried it would tumble over. With that being said, we did get one shot that was semi-good. Kind of from a weird angle though! 
Pockets stuffed and freezing cold!
After Devil's Tower, we got back in the car to thaw out a little. The next stop on the trip was Gillette. This is the town where Ryan grew up. We drove around the small town to various places from his memory. We drove past his old schools, his old house, and also visited the cemetery where his Father is buried. Here's a good picture: 

Ryan and his Father
After eating lunch, we headed on West to Sheridan. Sheridan is the town Ryan was born. The drive from Gillette to Sheridan is very pretty, however, we had to contend with many snow storms along the way. It was almost as if we were driving in and out of the storm. I was able to get a few shots, but the pictures I took do no justice to what it really looked like. It was so CRAZY how you could see exactly where the storm ended.

Half blue skies, half winter storm

Snowy "downpour"

Clear line of where the storm begins and ends! And yes, that's us heading directly toward it!
This was about an hour South of Sheridan. Thankfully, we passed through the storm rather quickly and continued North. We arrived in Sheridan around the late afternoon time, so we still had some daylight to work with.

Since Ryan was so young when he moved away from here, he had very few memories. However, the main thing he wanted to do while we were there was visit a memorial in his Father's honor.

Ryan viewing his Father's memorial

When his Father passed all those years ago, the town planted an evergreen in his honor in one of the parks in town. It was amazing to see how tall the tree was!
Ryan staring up at the tremendous height of the tree
 This park was pretty cool. There was some really neat art and even some animals just hanging around.
Entrance to the park

Close up of gargoyle at the entrance to the park

Some animals hanging out near the park. Some Buffalo, Moose, and Deer.
After visiting the park we had to make some decisions on where to stay. When we began the trip, we decided that we'd just play it by ear on this day as far as accommodations go so that we didn't feel rushed to get anywhere. Since we didn't stay too long in Sheridan, we decided to head toward Thermopolis that evening so we wouldn't have as long of a drive the next day. Here's a shot of downtown Sheridan on our way out of town:
Really cute main street
The trip that followed was full of anxiety on my part. The shortest route (123 miles) to Thermopolis was through the mountains. Bighorn National Forest to be exact. I'm sure this drive would have been gorgeous during the day and under better driving conditions. However, the majority of the roads along the way were covered in snow, it was dark and very cold, and the roads were typical for mountains - CURVY! We passed several ominous sights - about 50 deer on the sides of the road upon entering the forest, and the location of a pretty severe wreck that had occurred a few days prior (this was obvious due to the "Danger" signs and road blocks where the guardrails had been broken through). I was terrified and freezing the whole trip, but Ryan held strong and got us safely to Thermopolis! It was kind of interesting watching the temperature drop. Since it was pitch black it was hard to tell the elevation changes. We started out around 33 degrees and eventually dropped to 0 degrees before it started climbing back up again.

Since we took the "play it by ear" route for accommodations for the evening, we ended up overpaying for a hotel. I think we paid close to $100 for a Days Inn inside Hot Springs State Park. We chose that location because it was the only hotel name that we recognized. Being that it was past midnight by the time we arrived I had expected we would get some sort of "travellers discount", but no. Even though we stayed in the hotel a total of 13 hours, we still got charged full price!

Oh, and we didn't get a very clear shot of this deer because were laughing hysterically. When we pulled around to park by our room, there was a deer just standing in the grass next to the parking lot, completely unfazed by our presence. Animals around here must be pretty used to people! You can tell we are mere feet from it! Maybe it was the immense relief of arriving safely mixed with exhaustion from a long day that made this scene so funny to us. Either way, here are the 2 best shots we got!

Stay tuned for Days 3 - 5 for a recap of our day exploring Thermopolis and the "highlight" of our trip - Jackson Hole!

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