August 30, 2020

A Stop in the Black Hills


A Stop in the Black Hills
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 30, 2020

On our drive back from Colorado, we thought we'd spend the night in the Black Hills to split up our trip and see some sights.  We stopped in Wyoming to see Devil's Tower which I posted last week.  Then we drove to Keystone, South Dakota to see Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore.

We had a couple hours before it got dark when we arrived in the Black Hills so we thought it would be fun to drive the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park.  We weren't the only ones with this idea.

The traffic had backed up because a huge herd of buffalo was traveling across the road.  We were kind of bummed when we got closer because we thought they had all already passed.

Little did we know that the herd was massive and another bunch of buffalo decided to cross the road right in front of us.  As much as I was tempted to get out of the car, I've heard enough horror stories to not do that.

Although I think if I had to, I could probably take this guy.  

Eventually we were completely surrounded.  I started wondering what would we do if they started getting aggressive.  I started mentally planning my best karate moves, but turns out they weren't needed.  The buffalo peacefully walked away on their own.

Before they moved along, this baby decided to get a quick drink from his mama.  I was pretty thirsty and very tempted to get a drink of my own, but Miss Sheri told me that would be inappropriate.

Farther down the road, we saw a bunch of donkeys.  These guys didn't seem to be nearly as scary as the buffalo, so we got out expecting to get a ride.  Instead, we discovered why they are referred to as "Begging Burros".

Lucky for us, we had brought a bunch of baby carrots to munch on during the road-trip.  The hungry donkeys really seemed to like them which was a plus because then we didn't need to eat them.

I was a little nervous since I don't have many fingers to spare, but these guys were remarkably gentle while they ate from our hands.

Luke really did want to ride one, but this guy declined because he thought his t-shirt was making fun of their kind.  I think it was just an unfortunate coincidence.

This guy fell in love with Miss Sheri and wouldn't leave her side.  It was pretty sweet.

He really tried to come home with her, but she had to decline.  I was OK with it, but the boys said he wouldn't fit in the backseat with them.  I think we could have made it work.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to drive back to Minnesota, but decided to stop and see Mount Rushmore before we left.  I find it pretty amazing, but you really don't need to look at it for more than a few minutes.  It's not like it changes or anything.

August 23, 2020

A Quick Visit to Devils Tower National Monument


A Quick Visit to Devils Tower National Monument

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 23, 2020

On our drive back from Colorado, we thought it would be fun to take a detour through Wyoming and stop to visit Devils Tower National Monument.  I've wanted to see the thing since Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind debuted, but never had the chance to do it.  That changed on this beautiful day.

We'd planned on spending the night in the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore, but when we saw we were only going to be 129 miles from Devils Tower, we said "Let's do it!"  Well, Miss Sheri and I said that.  The kids just grumbled something, but I'm pretty sure they were onboard with the plan.

The tower was formed by volcanic activity under the earth's surface and revealed itself after millions of years of erosion.  At least that's what the sign said out front.  I'm still convinced those Close Encounters aliens had something to do with it.

Visiting in 2020 added a different element to our visit.  We didn't wear masks for most of the 1.3 mile walk around the base of the tower, but did put them on in some of the more crowded areas.

Avery was confused and thought we had to climb over the tower, but Miss Sheri straightened him out and said we were going to walk around it on the trail.

Luke and I tried to figure out a shortcut to get around it because it was particularly hot.  We didn't have any luck finding any hidden caves through it or anything like that so just begrudgingly kept walking.

I'd always heard that Devils Tower was in the middle of nowhere and this view pretty much confirmed it for me.

We were startled when a deer appeared on the path in front of us.  He didn't have a collar on or anything.

Miss Sheri and I convinced one of the boys to take a picture of us in front of the tower.  This takes a lot more work than one might expect.  They get sick of my camera for some reason.

Outside the park, there were a whole bunch of these giant squirrels.  I thought that was funny when I first wrote it.  Then I did some research on prairie dogs and discovered they really are part of the squirrel family.  So I guess technically giant squirrels is an accurate description of them.  Funny squirology.

Boating on the Horsetooth Reservoir in Colorado


Boating on the Horsetooth Reservoir in Colorado
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 23, 2020

On our last day in Colorado, we went to the Horsetooth Reservoir just west of Fort Collins.  The reservoir was created in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains via 4 dams built in 1949.   It's about 6.5 miles long from north to south and 1 mile wide.  

Krazy Kory wanted to rent a boat and explore the area.  We were all for it as we'd never really been on water this near the mountains.  

Our family has been fortunate to have spent so much time on the water this summer.  Now we were getting to do it again.

Krazy Kory had wanted to take his kids out on the reservoir for sometime so we were glad to be with them for the experience.

We did some swimming, but only Ben and Avery were willing to go up on shore.  I was too afraid the red rocks would stain my feet.

We saw some deer along the shore which was fun.  Unfortunately they didn't come to us when we called them.  I was hoping to get some photos of them swimming.

All in all, we had a fantastic vacation to Colorado.  We look forward to getting back there again soon.

The boys like to joke that when they graduate from college in the Spring of 2021, they won't be having any more vacations with us.  I hope they've kidding because we sure do have a lot of fun together.  

August 16, 2020

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park


Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 16, 2020

It's now been 3 weeks since our visit to Colorado, but re-visiting the photos takes me right back there.  I've been excited to share our two days in Rocky Mountain National Park because we saw a lot of really cool stuff!

Miss Sheri likes to drive, so we challenged her with taking us up Old Fall River Road.  It's primarily a gravel road, one-way uphill and punctuated by switchbacks.  It's 11-miles-long and has no guard rails, so some of the drop-offs are very close and quite scary to look down.  The drive is a fun one through the park's wilderness to Fall River Pass, 11,796 feet above sea level.  I felt the need to watch out for falling rocks, but realized it would really hurt if one fell on my face while I was looking up to watch for them.

I really had the urge to get out of the car and wade into one of the river streams.  The water was pretty cold and the bottom felt quite sharp on my feet, but other than that it was quite thrilling.

We saw some magpie birds on our trip, but struggled to capture one of them to bring home.

We were all pretty excited when we sighted our first elk.  This guy was actually quite far away from us on the other side of the valley, but my camera has a pretty good zoom so we were able to get him.  Had I been closer I'm quite certain I would have tried to head-butt him just to see how it felt.

We made it to the top and some good people were kind enough to take a family photo of us.  That was very nice of them.

Miss Sheri and Avery scaled up another 1000 feet or so via some stairs.  I tried to go up there with them, but the high altitude got the best of me and I decided to let them head up on their own.  Dang lungs.

When we started our adventure back down the mountain, we saw a huge line of traffic backed up in front of us.  It was then we noticed a herd of about 50 elk had decided to cross the road and we had timed it just right so most of them crossed directly in front of our vehicle.  

We only saw a couple of males pass early in the group, but then there were a bunch of females and babies.  We were tickled when the moms would stop and call back to the babies so they could all stick together.  Such an incredible sight to be among this group.

I'm going to buy a baby elk one of these days.  They're so darn cute.

Farther down the mountain we saw a Mule Deer.  They're not quite as exciting to watch as the elk which is why I think the park keeps them in the cheaper seats.

On our second day of visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, Krazy Kory and Harli decided to join us.  They were staying at a very cool cabin with their very own stream in the backyard although I'm pretty sure they didn't have exclusive use of it.  It went through other yards also.

Kory used to live in Estes Park and pointed out this mountain range which the locals call the Sleeping Indian.  You can see his face on the right and his feet on the left.  I bet it's scary when he wakes up.

Kory convinced us to drive to Grand Lake deep in the Rocky Mountains for the afternoon.  We like to listen to Kory so did as we were told.

Supposedly this lake is something like 265 feet deep, but from here it didn't look any deeper than most other lakes I've seen.

We thought it would be fun to mask up and walk through town.  

It's nice that most restaurants have been able to set-up outdoor seating so we could eat and not have to be overly concerned about getting too close to other people.  Not sure what we're going to do when winter comes.

The highlight of day 2 in Rocky Mountain National Park was when we saw two moose along the side of the road.  The baby was very curious and walked close to us, but the adult stayed tucked away near the woods so we weren't able to get a great picture.  I'm pretty sure this was the first time any of us had ever seen a wild moose before, although I was a bit disappointed I didn't get the opportunity to ride it.  Next time I'm bringing my moose saddle.