I love to tell a story. The end.
Ok, here’s the story. In early September, Mr. Fae and I found ourselves in Colorado attending a beautiful wedding. Both our son and granddaughter were part of the wedding attendants See? Aren’t they beautiful?
Anyway, once we were there and it being Labor Day weekend, we didn’t want to hop back into our RV and start driving with all the other crazies on the road. We stayed put and added an additional day to schedule some sightseeing. We had only been to Colorado one other time with absolutely no time spent looking around. This time was different. We were staying in Ft. Collins, one of the more beautiful towns I’ve been in. It was only a hop, skip, and a jump to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Wow. What a beautiful park! The little town of Estes Park sits in a bowl surrounded by peaks of 10,000 feet or more. The national park entrance was at the west side of Estes Park. While we were driving through the town, I noticed out the side of my eye a huge white building sitting on the side of foothills about a mile away. Hmmm, why is my hey-wait-a-minute alarm going off? Something about Estes Park….something, something, something. I grabbed my handy dandy ipad and looked it up. Estes Park and Stephen King. Oh, yeah, that’s right. This is the hotel that inspired his novel, The Shining. A very creepy novel; one that I’ve read more times than I can count. I commented to Mr. Fae that when we’re done with the park, I’d like to drive up and see the hotel.
This park has the highest elevation road in the country. On it, you reach the altitude of 12,183 feet above sea level. Oh, yeah, we were up quite a ways. The vistas were gorgeous! We stopped several places to take photos but once you’re above the tree line, they would prefer that you not walk on the tundra next to the road as all plant matter is extremely delicate.
Once back down to breathable air space, we stopped in at the The Stanley Hotel, aka The Outlook. Of course, we went to the bar. What were you thinking? They have this:
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with our impromptu national park visit and vowed to see more of them.
And guess what? We did.
This park wasn’t one that I would have ranked on my To-See list until I saw it. This area in South Dakota literally pops up out of nowhere. And it isn’t beautiful in the wooded alpine sense that draws me in all the time. This was out of some alien world! And it was the first national park that was only a 45 minute drive-through loop. We stopped and took photos because it was just so out of our scope of landscapes. I remarked that this was the first time that I truly felt that we could be ambushed from desperados at any moment. I wonder how many Hollywood westerns had been filmed here?
We spent one night near here and then we were on our way again. My handy dandy ipad laid out a route to our next destination, Grand Forks, ND. However, Mr. Fae wanted to go a different way, not so much on interstates but more on highways. So we ignored the ipad and settled on a route that leaned more with state highways and less on federal interstates. As we traveled through Nebraska on a little road, I started seeing signs for Hemingford. Oh you have to be kidding me, I thought. Because of that flash of partial trivia recognition in Estes Park, I didn’t ignore my intuition. Once again, I checked it out. Hemingford Nebraska was one of the key locales in Stephen King’s, The Stand, only the name was changed to Hemingford Home. I remarked that it seemed we were on the Stephen King Homage Tour. Mr. Fae, not a reader of Stephen King novels, didn’t get my reference humor. I made him stop so that I could get a picture of the highway sign for Hemingford. He just sits and shakes his head at me sometimes. I’d post the photo here but I was too far away from the sign and I took the photo with my iPad…kinda blurry.
Onward and upward, I always say. Upward being northbound. You might ask why our destination was Grand Forks? Well, it really wasn’t the final destination but some of Mr. Fae’s relatives live there and we needed to stop and say hello. Our ultimate destination was a little scrap of a village named Hannah and Devils Lake, where he was born. Mr. Fae’s grandparents, aunts, uncle, mom and father lived and grew up in the area. On our way into Devils Lake, I saw the sign, Kneadful Things, a bakery and café. Oh, and the name of yet another Stephen King novel.
Mr Fae. spent every summer traveling with his family to Hannah. He and his siblings ran all day long through out the town and played. The only interruption in his day was when his mom or grandmother yelled to come inside and eat. He has so many great memories of this; it was time for us to visit. His memories and his reality hit head on.
No, you grew up. He was pretty quiet driving us around, showing me this area or that one. He was trying to reconcile his memories with what the town looks like now and having a hard time with it. After a bit, we left. The town’s population had to have been maybe 100 and I don’t think we saw one person on our meanderings.
This was as far north and as far east as we would travel on this trip. We headed back west and guess what? We had another national park to visit! Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Never heard of it? Neither had we.
This was also a park that you drove through although there were a few trailheads around. I think those were for the horseback riders however. This was acclaimed to be the ‘Badlands of North Dakota’ and the ‘Grand Canyon of the North’. It didn’t hold up to either claim. This is a park that you can pass by. 90 minutes of driving around in it and the scenery wasn’t that terrific. Yes, it had some nice looking hills, a few buffalo, and Theodore Roosevelt spent time here prior to becoming our president. Not a park we’d ever visit again.
Heading further west and finally into the mountains again. The Plains states are pretty in their way, but I prefer more of the left side of our country. We stayed in Yellowstone, a favorite of ours for three days and re-visited the area on a slower time period, not rushing through it.
Because the elk are in ‘season’ now, the males are bugle-ing like crazy. So are the buffalo as well. During the summer time when we’re there, we don’t see many elk but during the fall? Holy moly! If you can find someplace without many cars around, you can hear all the males calling out. This was amazing to listen to.
Soon enough our two weeks on the road were over. Four national parks and 3,000 miles later we came home. Now, when we look over maps of places we’d like to visit, our question is, “Does it have any national parks?”
I’ve become a poster child for the national park system.