Recap ~ Road Trip Western Washington ~ Mt Rushmore

  • Interstate 90 from Western Washington to Rapid City, South Dakota
    • East bound, stop in Missoula and Billings
    • West bound, stop in Billings, Missoula, Coeur d’Alene
    • Total road trip mileage: 2,713 miles
  • Mountain passes on I-90 include
    • Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, Cascade Range, 3,105 feet
    • Fourth of July Summit, Idaho, Coeur d’Alene Mountains, 3,173 feet
    • Lookout Pass, Idaho-Montana border, Bitterroot Range, 4,710 feet
    • Homestake Pass, Montana, Continental Divide, 6,375 feet
    • Bozeman Pass, Montana, 5,760 feet
  • Montana is truly “Big Sky” country; gorgeous area; friendly people. Highlights include:
    • Missoula ~ great place to explore (good restaurants, parks & book stores)
    • Billings ~ neat area; Gateway to Yellowstone (have to plan another road-trip)
    • Little Big Horn Battlefield and National Monument ~ a must visit
  • Mt Rushmore and the surrounding area are definitely worth the drive
    • Mt Rushmore ~ spectacular, awe-inspiring
    • The Badlands ~ fascinating and mysterious
    • South Dakota Air & Space Museum ~ a must see museum
  • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho ~ a favorite spot which I love to re-visit
    • Beautiful scenery, good restaurants and my favorite book store
  • I planned to travel prior to Memorial weekend to avoid summer traffic
    • Encountered snow in Wyoming
    • Be flexible with your travel plans
      • Leave time to explore and perhaps re-arrange itinerary
    • Have fun and savor your journeys

 

 

Road Trip: Western Washington to Mt Rushmore ….. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The Badlands, located 70 miles east of Rapid City, SD are phenomenal, mysterious rock formations.

You can opt to take a bus through the area (check out bus departures from nearby Wall) or do as I did and drive about the Badlands Loop Road with incredible scenic overlooks and trails.

It was cloudy on the day I went, but even still, I observed the marvelous different colors and imagined their distinct beauty in sunlight. Around each curve of the winding loop road there are extraordinary unique vistas. There are numerous places to stop and take in the wonder and majesty of this very distinctive place.

Savor your journeys.

Road Trip: Western Washington to Mt Rushmore ….. Mt Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota

Mt Rushmore is awesome! It is an incredible experience to gaze at the magnificent sculptures of four notable United States Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Located approximately 20 miles from Rapid City (where I stayed), it’s a beautiful drive into the Black Hills, past the town of Keystone (elevation 4,331’) to Mt Rushmore. After parking my car, I walked towards the Avenue of Flags, which opened in 1978. The 50 states are represented plus the District of Columbia and territories (total 56) offering a beautiful first impression of Mt. Rushmore.

There are several trails to explore plus the Sculptor’s Studio (unfortunately, closed on the day I visited). Each year, over 3 million people visit this monument. If you have not visited, I recommend that you add it to your “bucket list.” It is well worth the drive.

Savor your journeys.

Road Trip: Western Washington to Mt Rushmore ….. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

Sixty-five miles east of Billings, heading toward Mt Rushmore, a terrific stop is Little Bighorn Battlefield. Park rangers at the Visitor Center readily answer your questions. The Museum has very informative exhibits and a very good collection of books, including Stephen Ambrose’s “Crazy Horse and Custer”.

Leaving the visitor center, as you walk toward Last Stand Hill and the 7th Cavalry Memorial and then the Indian Memorial, you can feel the history all about you. Gaze about and sense what happened here in June, 1876. Think of what victory and defeat meant. Drive about Battlefield Road, following the map from the visitor center to get an idea of the size of the battlefield, stopping at Memorial Markers.

Savor your journeys.

Fall in the Smoky’s

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited of the National Parks and there is no better time to go than fall to witness the changing colors of the foliage. You can easily spend a week in the surrounding area including Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN and Asheville, NC.

My drive from Charleston to Gatlinburg, mostly via I-40, took about 6 hours. In addition to being the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is the home to over 100 artists and craftsman on an eight mile loop located three miles from downtown. Shops range from an old-fashioned soda fountain to art galleries to candles to a year-round Christmas shop plus shops with marvelous delicacies and music of the area. Stop for lunch at The Wild Plum Tea Room (on the loop and more of a restaurant than a tea room), leaving room for a fabulous dessert (try the bread pudding).

For an exciting overview, take the aerial tramway at Ober Gatlinburg and enjoy browsing the shops, having lunch or dinner at the German Restaurant or continuing further up the mountain on a chairlift. Read more

Alaska ~ Train trip

Fly to Fairbanks: Check out the terrific Museum of the North at the University of Alaska plus their marvelous botanical garden (HUGE cabbages, plants, flowers). Take a half-day Steamboat tour where you will see a demonstration of seaplanes plus the highlight seeing the friendly Alaska sled dogs and a visit to the Chena Eskimo Village.

Train to Denali National Park. Take the one day tour to Mt. McKinley which is spectacular on a sunny day. The National Park has a nice exhibit and if bears are in the area, signs are posted.

I stayed at The Princess Denali Lodge (next to the Park) which has shuttle service & very good restaurants, especially the Grizzly Bar & Grill. Gorgeous area to walk about. Glad that I spent several days here, rather than being rushed as people on tours seem to be.

Alaska Railroad Train a super experience between Fairbanks and Denali (sit upstairs!) and then Denali to Anchorage. In Anchorage, check out Orso, a marvelous Italian restaurant. Would I return? Oh yes! In addition to spectacular scenery, people are great and the food is quite good. Very memorable journey.

 

 

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Oregon

 

Start your quest to follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center. You’ll receive a brochure with information about the twelve sites spread over 40 miles which comprise the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Peruse the gift shop for guidebooks, maps, toys and an extensive selection of books.

The staff recommended Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage” to gain an informative understanding of the epic journey.

Browse the exhibit hall which includes a detailed list of preparations for the journey, a panoramic map of the expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific, their clothing, rifles and muskets which were used for hunting, trading and self-defense, the tools they utilized, a replica of a canoe and a diorama of the natives showing the explorers a beached whale.

View the two orientation movies: “Confluence of Time and Courage” about their journey and “A Clatsop Winter Story,” representing Native American views of the visitors, with their different customs and rules.

Read more