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I keep thinking of it as a vacation but my wife keeps pointing out that retired people can’t take a vacation so it’s a road trip. The plan was to head out to the Badlands, Custer State Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park starting the latter part of September.Buffalo-14-9-_3035

The trip got off to an inauspicious start. The day before we were to leave my wife came back from town and said that a warning light appeared on the dash – something about a battery. She immediately called the dealer and they set up an appointment for early afternoon.

When she returned home she was driving a different van. Apparently the problem was an alternator, something that never goes wrong with a Toyota. The dealer was having problems finding a replacement. My wife talked them into letting her drive a van home so we could pack all of our gear and then make the transfer at the dealer and head out west without returning home.

The next morning the dealer called and said they would have the new alternator at 10am and would have it ready by noon. We called and canceled our reservation for the first night because there was no way we would make Murdo, S.D .given our late start.

When we arrived to pick up our van I started transferring our gear to our car while my wife paid the bill. When I reached for my tripod something didn’t feel right. Sure enough it was my old tripod. I really needed the new one. So, back home we drove to get the new tripod.

Once back on the road we headed to Wabasha, Wis. to catch the highway south to I-90. As we drove through town I took my normal shortcut. When we reached highway 61 I turned right. At that point my wife asked me where I was going. I said to catch the freeway. Unfortunately I had been so used to heading to Redwing, Minnesota to watch the eagles last winter that I was heading north rather than south.

Back on the road , in the right direction, we were within spitting distance of I-90 only to encounter a 20 mile detour. At that point we reassess our progress and decided to stop at Mitchell, SD. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a hotel we liked so we decided to continue on to Sioux Falls, SD.

Early the next morning we resumed our western road trip. We planned to stop in the Badlands but decided to skip that side trip and continued on to Custer State Park. The goal was to photograph the Custer Buffalo Roundup the next day so we wanted to scout the area.

So for the past month we have been driving around the western U.S. and the upper Midwest chasing the fall leaves. They are just about gone now so I should have time to starting going through the many photos I’ve taken and writing my blog on a daily basis.

In the meantime I’ve started processing some of my most recent photos and interspersing blogs from the western trip with those of the Midwestern leaf peeping trips.


On our way home we didn’t plan on stopping in the Badlands but the blue sky and white clouds persuaded us that it might be worth the side trip.

More Photos from Badlands National Park can be found on my website.




After Breakfast we headed back out to the Badlands to hike some of the trails.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3360

It’s a little scary when the first thing you see on the trail is a sign warning you about Rattlesnakes.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3384

On the trail you walk through some grasslands. The spring flowers were out it large numbers. I’ve hike these trails many times and this was the most flowers I’ve ever seen.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3396


Part of the trails are through dirt and rocks. We had asked the ranger on the way in if there had been any rain. Fortunately the trails were mostly dry. If they had been wet we wouldn’t have made the trip. The dirt in the Badlands is commonly called gumbo. It sticks to everything and is very difficult to get off of your shoes.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3487


This shot is a closeup of the above formation.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3494

We didn’t see all that many other hikers. The day before we had see lots of old people (people our age) at the rest stops but on the trail we didn’t see anyone over 30. Most of the hikers were young people including a large class that we met on the eastern end of the trail.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3500

More photos from the Badlands National Park can be found on my website.