Northern States Road Trip - July 7-22, 2003

This is the travel log from a trip Cathy and I took across the northern tier of the United States, from Williamstown, Massachusetts, to Yellowstone National Park, and back. As usual, there is more detail and there are more pictures of roads and signs than most people would want. The pictures are linked from within the text below. The pages containing the pictures that I think are the most interesting are marked with an asterisk. Most of the pictures that are just roads or road signs have been relegated to pages listed as "Just Sign Pictures". There are also a good number of pictures of lichens, to be used in Cathy's middle school science classes.

These pictures were taken with my Olympus C730 Ultra Zoom digital camera. Most images are shown at a resolution of 640x480, but are available in 1024x768 and full 2048x1536 sizes by clicking on the links after the captions.

The Plan

The plan came about during Cathy's visit to the Massachusetts in the spring. It started as a trip around the Great Lakes area but gradually expanded to include Yellowstone as the primary destination, with stops to see other interesting things along the way across the northern states. We packed a lot into the plan, including the UP of Michigan, northern Minnesota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Black Hills, and the Badlands. By the end, it included a few not-so-northern states, too, as we ended up making a side trip through Kansas City and St. Louis on the way home.

The Trip

Monday, July 7, 2003

I started in Williamstown and went into the office at Williams for a couple of hours in the morning, then it was on to Troy for a couple of meetings at RPI. I moved on to Amsterdam by late afternoon, where I met up with Cathy for the rest of the trip. We got on the road from there around 5, and passed through some heavy rain along the Thruway before things cleared up a bit by sunset [4 Pictures]. We got to Niagara Falls, New York, checked in, then headed toward the falls. We parked on the street near the Rainbow Bridge and walked across [Picture] to the Canadian side for the best views of the Horseshoe Falls [14 Pictures*]. They were lit up in colors for most of the time while we were there, but on the way back across the bridge, the lights were changed to plain white [2 Pictures]. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 1 Travel Log

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

We spent the morning on Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park, where we looked at the Horseshoe Falls from the American side [12 Pictures*] and did the Cave of the Winds tour. This tour involves an elevator ride down and a walk on wodden boardwalks right up to the bottom of the Bridal Veil Falls [25 Pictures*]. After that, we went back up to look at the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls from Luna Island [10 Pictures*], and finally over to the Three Sisters to see the rapids [9 Pictures*]. From there, we drove up to the end of I-190 to take the bridge across into Canada. We made a stop at the viewpoint over the Whirlpool [3 Pictures*], then down the Niagara Parkway through Niagara Falls, mostly along the river to the Peace Bridge, where we crossed back into the U.S. to head for Cleveland via I-90. We got to Cleveland in time to get into Jacobs Field for the end of Yankee batting practice [4 Pictures], but BP was cut a bit short when a thunderstorm moved in. This delayed start of the game for an hour [9 Pictures]. Once it got underway, it was a very quick game, as the Yankees were shut out by Billy Traber on a one-hitter [20 Pictures]. We hit little traffic on the way out, then continued on to our destination in North Ridgeville, a little west of Cleveland. [Just Road Signs].

Day 2 Travel Log

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

We started out from North Ridgeville and drove through some rain along the Ohio Turnpike. Things dried out as we turned north through Toledo and into Michigan [Picture]. We stopped for lunch in Ann Arbor, continued up through the Saginaw area [Picture] and made another quick stop to look out at Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron [4 Pictures]. We got to Gaylord late in the afternoon and met up with Cathy's friends, the McFees. After some playing with the McFee kids by the lake [6 Pictures], we made a campfire on the shore of Lake Oswego [4 Pictures]. [Just Sign Pictures]

Day 3 Travel Log

Thursday, July 10, 2003

This was the full day in and around Gaylord, Michigan, a town along the 45th parallel [Picture] with the McFees. The weather was cool and rainy [4 Pictures], so we stayed around the cabin for much of the day, and made two trips "into town" [2 Pictures], including a visit to the Call of the Wild Museum [Picture].

Day 4 Travel Log

Friday, July 11, 2003

We traveled up the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula then across the Upper Peninsula, starting in Gaylord ending in Ironwood. After a bit of driving up I-75 [2 Pictures], the first thing to see was the Mackinac Bridge, which carries I-75 from the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula, with Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east [11 Pictures*]. From there, it was the rest of I-75 [Picture] up to its northern terminus [4 Pictures] in Sault Ste. Marie. We stopped for a quick, rainy look at the Soo Locks and for some lunch [4 Pictures]. We backtracked a bit to get on M-28 west [2 Pictures] toward the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We got off M-28 to take some county roads toward the lake [2 Pictures]. We stopped to see the Munising Falls [9 Pictures*] and drove out to a sandy beach [4 Pictures*] and Sand Point [5 Pictures*]. We got some elevated views of the same areas from an overlook just east of Munising [4 Pictures*]. Then we continued to Marquette before turning north toward Houghton and the Keweenaw Peninsula [5 Pictures]. We grabbed some dinner in Houghton and drove [Picture] to Copper Harbor to see the northern terminus of US 41 [5 Pictures*] and to check out the excellent scenery up there [13 Pictures*]. In addition to the signs at the real end of US 41, they also have a sign marking the distance to Miami [Picture*]. We made our way back along the lakeshore on M-26, which had excellent views, made even better by the setting sun breaking through the clouds. This side trip made for a late ride down to Ironwood, though it still wasn't completely dark even by 11 PM. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 5 Travel Log

Saturday, July 12, 2003

We left Ironwood fairly early and got into Wisconsin [Picture] within minutes. Our ride across northern Wisconsin was pretty uneventful, with the only reasonably interesting pictures coming near Ashland [4 Pictures] and Superior [2 Pictures]. When we got to Duluth, Minnesota [3 Pictures], we drove around a bit and found a spot (Leif Erickson Park) to walk down to the water at the western end of Lake Superior [5 Pictures]. From there, it was westward through Grand Rapids for lunch, getting into the Mississippi Headwaters area [Picture]. We stopped in Bemidji to see Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox [4 Pictures], then cut a bit south to Lake Itasca State Park [3 Pictures] to see the official headwaters of the Mississippi River [6 Pictures*]. After looking around there a bit, we drove over to Grand Forks, North Dakota and checked out the new flood memorial [2 Pictures]. We decided at that point that a trip out US 2 toward Minot would make for too long a day on Sunday, so we drove south to Fargo to get a room and to grab dinner at Famous Dave's. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 6 Travel Log

Sunday, July 13, 2003

We started in Fargo with a forecast for a chance of severe storms to our west (where we were headed). We made our way across the flatness of eastern North Dakota [3 Pictures], then made a lunch stop in Bismarck [Picture], drove across more I-94 [2 Pictures], then and a gas stop in Dickinson. The storms popped up, but not until we were beyond Dickinson, so we stayed dry and hot. It was over 100 in Dickinson - I saw an official reading of 103 and my car had a reading as high as 106 [Picture]. We got to the day's big stop, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, by early afternoon. We stopped first at the Painted Canyon overlook off of I-94 [8 Pictures*], and then went into the main part of the park [Picture] and did the loop road. The ride is spectacular, but the heat was pretty intense, hovering in the upper 90's and low 100's under a mostly clear sky. Our first picture stop was at a prairie dog town just onto the Scenic Loop Drive, where we also saw a herd of bison [8 Pictures*]. Next, the Scoria Point overlook [5 Pictures*], Badlands Overlook [6 Pictures*], and another turnout [2 Pictures]. We hiked the Coal Vein Trail through an area that was the site of a 26-year underground coal fire [14 Pictures*], then made more picture stops [3 Pictures] including one at Wind Canyon [11 Pictures*]. After the park, it was on into Montana [4 Pictures] and to our destination for the night in Billings. Just at dusk, we hit a dry but gusty thunderstorm that made the driving a bit more challenging. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 7 Travel Log

Monday, July 14, 2003

We left Billings in the morning with the bugs from the ride so far caked onto the front of the car [Picture] and headed out US 212 [Picture] toward the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Once beyond Red Lodge [2 Pictures], this is a spectacular drive. It starts by going up a valley, which is nice enough [4 Pictures], but then the climbing really starts [6 Pictures]. At 9190 feet, we stopped at a parking lot and trail to scenic views called the Rock Creek Vista Point [9 Pictures*]. Around 10,000 feet, we reached some snow on the side of the road [3 Pictures]. We stopped for a few pictures at the Wyoming-Montana border [4 Pictures]. As we climbed beyond 10,000 feet, we stopped to take some pictures on the side of the roads [3 Pictures*] and again at a turnout at what seemed to be the top of a ski lift [5 Pictures*]. We also stopped at the West Summit on US 212 [9 Pictures*]. Along the way down the other side, we stopped to look at a small lake [5 Pictures*] and at a couple of other spots [6 Pictures]. There was a nice little waterfall where the old road bridge provided some good views [5 Pictures]. It was just a bit further [4 Pictures] before we got back into Montana. We stopped for lunch in Cooke City [2 Pictures], passed through Silver Gate, then entered Yellowstone National Park at the Northeast Entrance [3 Pictures*]. We stopped to take a few pictures along (I think) the Lamar River [2 Pictures], but our first major stop was at Tower Falls [Picture]. The trail to the base of the falls was closed because of a trail washout, so we only got to see it from the top. We stopped at a viewpoint near Tower Junction for some views of the canyon [11 Pictures*], then it was on to the Petrified Tree [2 Pictures*] and the Forces of the North Self-Guided Trail [2 Pictures]. We hiked the half mile to see the Wraith Falls [3 Pictures] and stopped at the pullout for the Undine Falls [3 Pictures]. We drove through Mammoth then up to Gardiner to see the original entrance arch [2 Pictures*], then returned to Mammoth [4 Pictures] to check out the hot springs. Our first stop was to walk around the Lower Terrace area [18 Pictures*]. We also drove the Upper Terrace Drive to check out some more springs up there. At the first major parking lot, we saw a lot of the New Blue Spring, probably the nicest one of the day [7 Pictures*]. We just drove around for the rest of the loop [7 Pictures]. On the way down the west side of the main upper loop, we stopped to look for moose at one turnout (didn't see any) [Picture], to look at some elk [2 Pictures], and to see Roaring Mountain [3 Pictures]. Our last stop of the day was the Norris Geyser Basin [20 Pictures*] before we left the park for the night in West Yellowstone.

Day 8 Travel Log

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

This was the full day in Yellowstone. We started by picking up some lunch to take into the park and by washing a lot of bugs off the car in West Yellowstone [Picture]. We ran across an elk buck on the way in [2 Pictures] near Madison. We cut across the road from Norris to Canyon, and took the Virginia Cascade road and saw, yes, the Virginia Cascade [3 Pictures]. Our first major stop was at the Canyon area. We made stops at Inspiration Point [7 Pictures*], the Grand View [4 Pictures], then Lookout Point [2 Pictures]. At Lookout Point, we also took the more difficult trail to Red Rock Point. The trail isn't so long, just 3/8 mile, it's just that 500 foot elevation change. The view was nice, though [5 Pictures*]. The trail to the brink of the Lower Falls was closed for maintenance, so we had to skip that, but we took the (much shorter) trail to the brink of the Upper Falls instead [5 Pictures]. From there, it was across the river to get the classic view of the Lower Falls from Artist Point [4 Pictures*]. We headed south toward the lake, making a stop at Sulphur Cauldron [2 Pictures] before lunch along the Yellowstone River. We did the whole walking loop at the Mud Volcano area, including the Dragon's Mouth Spring [3 Pictures*], the Mud Volcano [Picture], Sour Lake [3 Pictures], Black Dragon's Caldron [3 Pictures], Churning Caldron [3 Pictures], Sizzling Basin [3 Pictures], Mud Geyser [2 Pictures], and Mud Caldron [2 Pictures] (yes, lots of mud around there). On next to the Lake Yellowstone area, with stops at Lake Village [2 Pictures] and a road along the shore [4 Pictures]. Next stop was the West Thumb Geyser Basin [Picture], where we again did the whole walk, passing the Thumb Paint Pots [3 Pictures], Bluebell and Seismograph Pools [7 Pictures*], Lakeside Spring [3 Pictures], Fishing Cone [Picture], Big Cone [Picture], Black Pool [5 Pictures*], Abyss Pool [5 Pictures*], Blue Funnel Spring [2 Pictures*], Percolating Spring [Picture], Ledge Spring [Picture], Surging Spring [2 Pictures], and more [3 Pictures]. By then it was late afternoon, and we continued on to Old Faithful. It was erupting when we arrived [6 Pictures], so we watched the eruption then set out for a long walk around the Upper Geyser Basin [4 Pictures]. It was a very fruitful walk, with several geysers erupting just in time for us to see them. Outstanding. We got to see nearly simultaneous eruptions of Anemone Geyser [5 Pictures*] and Plume Geyser [5 Pictures]. We walked past Beehive Geyser [Picture], Liberty Pool [2 Pictures], and Beauty Pool [2 Pictures], then crossed the Firehole River [4 Pictures] in time to see some nice action from Grotto Geyser [10 Pictures*]. We walked out to the end of the improved path to see the famous Morning Glory Pool [4 Pictures*]. We decided to take the side loop to see Daisy Geyser and we were very nicely rewarded with an excellent eruption [8 Pictures*]. Our lucky timing continued when we arrived at Castle Geyser just as it was starting to erupt [11 Pictures*]. After the walk, we checked out the Old Faithful Inn [4 Pictures] for a few minutes, saw another Old Faithful eruption [2 Pictures*], grabbed a quick dinner, then made our way back to West Yellowstone.

Day 9 Travel Log

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

We started out with a 2-mile detour to the Idaho border [3 Pictures], then headed into the park. We got to see a few bald eagles along on the road to Madison [3 Pictures*]. Our first destination was a side trip along the Firehole Canyon Drive. This mainly brought us to the Firehole Falls [Picture] and provided some views of the Firehole Canyon. Next we stopped at the Fountain Paint Pot area and took the walk around the basin there. We passed a Bacteria Mat [Picture] and Silex Spring [Picture] before getting to the Fountain Paint Pots themselves [3 Pictures*]. The loop continues with a walk past some apparently unnamed fumaroles [Picture] then off to a cluster of geysers including the erupting Clepsydra Geyser [6 Pictures]. We continued with a drive along Firehole Lake Drive, where we got to see Firehole Spring [4 Pictures*], where the bubbles coming up from the spring actually do look kind of like white fire inside the spring, and Surprise Pool [2 Pictures], a very hot pool where they say people used to toss in sand to see the water boil. Then we got lucky again and caught part of an eruption of the Great Fountain Geyser. We missed the beginning and most spectacular part of the eruption, but it was still pretty impressive and was sending out a lot of water [8 Pictures*]. We didn't see an eruption of the White Dome Geyser [2 Pictures], but got lucky yet again and saw an eruption of the Pink Cone Geyser [10 Pictures*]. This one is right by the road, so we were able to get up closer to it than to most. It actually sprayed my car a bit on our way out. We didn't get out of the car for Steady Geyser [3 Pictures]. After this very successful visit to Firehole Lake Drive, it was on to the Midway Geyser Basin to see the algae and bacteria in the streams that carry water from the springs into the Firehole River [2 Pictures*], walked around the Excelsior Geyser Crater [6 Pictures*], and got a good look at the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring [7 Pictures*]. This is the largest and one of the most colorful springs in Yellowstone. We finsihed up Midway by heading back around by Turquoise Pool [2 Pictures]. We decided we had time for one more basin, and decided to stop at Black Sand [2 Pictures], where we saw a bit of an eruption of the Cliff Geyser [5 Pictures], and walked by the Rainbow Pool [2 Pictures] and Sunset Lake [3 Pictures] as well. From there, we needed lunch and got it at Grant Village. It would have been nice to get to see some more of the exhibits and the movie about the 1988 fires, but we wanted to make sure we left time for the Grand Tetons. So we left Yellowstone by the South Entrance and headed first onto the Rockefeller Parkway [Picture] and then into Grand Teton National Park [Picture]. We stopped for some pictures near the north end of Jackson Lake [4 Pictures*] then stopped at the Visitors Center in Colter Bay [4 Pictures]. We took the Teton Park Road along Jackson Lake and then Jenny Lake, stopping for pictures at the Mount Moran turnout [6 Pictures*], the Cathedral Group turnout [3 Pictures], the Jenny Lake turnout [7 Pictures*] and the Teton Glacier turnout [5 Pictures]. At the end of the loop, we turned back north on the main road, stopping for overlooks of the glaciers [4 Pictures] and of the Snake River [4 Pictures], and taking a side trip down a dirt road to the shore of the Snake River [4 Pictures]. From there, it was on to Dubois for the night, passing over Togwatee pass on US 26 and US 287 [4 Pictures]. While waiting for our laundry, we took a ride up a hill in Dubois to get some great views of the area [7 Pictures*].

Day 10 Travel Log

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Before leaving Dubois [2 Pictures], we made a quick stop at the Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, where we learned that we weren't going to be seeing any of them, since they're all up in the high mountains for the summer. We headed east out of there, passing through Riverton, seeing some nice scenery along US 20 [3 Pictures] and through Thermopolis [Picture] to our lunch stop in Worland [Picture]. We took US 16 across the Bighorns [9 Pictures], which was nice but not nearly as good as the US 14/Alt US 14 routes further north. We also hit some construction delays as we descended into Buffalo. We decided we had time for a quick visit to Devils Tower [5 Pictures*], then crossed over into South Dakota. After checking in in Rapid City, we drove down to Mount Rushmore for a dusky view of the Big Stone President Heads [2 Pictures]. The crowd was building for the lighting ceremony after dark, so we decided to head back to Rapid City before it got too late. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 11 Travel Log

Friday, July 18, 2003

After driving down through Hill City [Picture], our first stop in the morning was the Crazy Horse Monument [8 Pictures*] near Custer. I had no idea there was so much progress on the actual carving in recent years, and I had even less of an idea that the visitors center was as big and nice as it is. Definitely worth a visit. From there, we passed through Custer and on to Wind Cave National Park [Picture]. We bought tickets for the noon Natural Entrance cave tour [Picture]. This was really nice, as we got to walk down from the surface to 200 feet down over about a mile. The cave was very interesting and very different from your typical caves. The main feature is the "boxwork" which consists of delicate formations formed when cracks in the limestone filled in with harder material were left behind as the limestone dissolved. Pretty amazing [First 18 Pictures*][Next 18 Pictures*][Last 18 Pictures*]. At the end of the tour, we got an elevator ride back up. Next up, we did the wildlife loop tour in Custer State Park [6 Pictures*] and took the Needles Highway [25 Pictures*] through Sylvan Lake [6 Pictures*] back up toward the Mt. Rushmore area. Passing through Keystone again, we grabbed a picture of what seems to be a recent fire [Picture]. Back in Rapid City, we went for dinner at Carini's, the same Italian restaurant Amitha, Nathan, and I went to in 1999, then to the Armadillo for ice cream, also the same place we went in 1999. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 12 Travel Log

Saturday, July 19, 2003

We left Rapid City in the morning and headed out Highway 44 toward Interior to take a different way into the Badlands [7 Pictures]. We did the Badlands Loop westbound [14 Pictures*], grabbed lunch and ice water at Wall Drug and then headed out I-90 East. Originally, we planned to cut down into Nebraska and across Iowa on this day, but a last minute change is leading us to Kansas City and St. Louis, and KC is the day's destination, to visit some of Cathy's relatives. The ride out I-90 [7 Pictures] and down I-29 [4 Pictures] was pretty uneventful but a lot of driving. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 13 Travel Log

Sunday, July 20, 2003

We got a very good breakfast in Leawood, Kansas, then headed east for St. Louis by late morning. The ride across I-70 [4 Pictures] was fine, though construction near St. Louis slowed us a bit. After getting to St. Louis [Picture] and Charles' apartment, we went out to see where he works at Bitrode in Fenton [4 Pictures], stopped to see his new car [3 Pictures] at a dealer south of St. Louis, saw the location where his van died [Picture], then came back to see his van [4 Pictures] and walked to get dinner at Dressel's back near Forest Park before going back to his apartment [9 Pictures] for the night. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 14 Travel Log

Monday, July 21, 2003

Charles had to head out to work in the morning, so we got a pretty early start. We grabbed one picture of his last ride to work in the van [Picture] before getting onto I-64. There were some nasty storms in the forecast along our intended route, so we cut north up I-55, I-72, and I-57 toward Chicago. We took US 30, the old Lincoln Highway route [6 Pictures] into Indiana then north on US 41 to get back on the interstates. We managed to stay dry and got to the Toledo area just in time to stop for a baseball game, the Pawtucket Red Sox against the Toledo Mud Hens. [21 Pictures*]. The game was delayed a half hour by a dark cloud, but it never actually rained. The Red Sox won, 8-4. After the game, we drove a little further down the road to spend the night in North Ridgeville. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 15 Travel Log

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

We started out from North Ridgeville by mid-morning, making a lunch stop in Erie, then taking the ride across I-86, NY 17, I-88 and NY 30 to get back to Amsterdam. After a Russo's dinner, Cathy headed off to West Springfield and I returned to Williamstown. [Just Sign Pictures].

Day 16 Travel Log

Some Stats

And as usual, the pictures you see here don't come close to showing what this stuff really looks like. You just have to go.

E-mail domain:, username: terescoj - Thu Jul 24 15:54:25 EDT 2003

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