Our Trip Out West
(August 12, 2007 – August 20, 2007)
We went to the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota. These are both absolutely amazing places! The children’s museum has a special area for Curious George. (I’m putting some of those pictures below.) And at the science center we went to the traveling Pompeii exhibit. I’ll put pictures of both places below.
Christopher is in the turtle habitat.
I just thought this was so cute. All the children (except Sarah) were making wind toys. They worked very diligently for about 45 minutes just on this activity.
The children absolutely loved this area of the children’s museum. They moved blocks around a conveyer system for an hour. It was great to see the cooperation involved. I wonder if I could create some sort of system like this to make housework any more fun …
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
We are in South Dakota today. There is still a lot of corn and I found out that the short plants all over the place are soybeans. I had told the children they were probably mustard greens or turnip greens… I guess that shows how much I know.
My brother and his wife moved out here a couple of years ago and have a little house in Colman, SD. It’s a very little town and they are letting us stay in a small house just around the corner so we’re not camping for a few days. It will give me a good opportunity to clean out the van and also to clean up the tent and tarp. After the storms in Minnesota, the tent and supplies are very dirty. Not only that, but when I went to pack up the tent, we were running late to go meet my publisher and I couldn’t get all the water OUT of our waterproof tent so I just left it in there, shoved it in the back of the van, and now I have a mess to clean up. Oh well…
The children and I had a wonderful tour of Bethany Press. It is really a great company whose primary focus is really missions. They reach the world through books and they even train missionaries there. It’s neat. And I never knew all the details of exactly how a book is printed so it was great to see the process from the computer all the way through the printing process.
Yesterday afternoon, after having lunch with two of my editors from Bethany House, the children and I went to the Minnesota Children’s Museum and also the Science Museum of Minnesota. These two places were absolutely fabulous! I’m going to post some pictures soon. Hopefully I’ll get to do that tomorrow. I’m hoping to get all my internet work caught up while I’m here at my brother’s house. They are very generously allowing us to stay in the guest house, use their Internet, and (the best part!!) do some laundry. Actually, the best part is that we get to visit and I don’t get to see my brother and his family much now that they are in South Dakota.
Other than a few minor inconveniences and the van being a total disaster, all is going well. I’m even feeling very good and have had no problems with my legs or abdomen out of the ordinary. I’m thankful for that.
August 15, 2007
Today my sister-in-law, her children, an extra boy she was watching, and my family went to the Kirby Science Discovery Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That was fun. Tomorrow we’re going to the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead and museum in DeSmet. I think the children will enjoy that. We’ve been listening to On the Banks of Plum Creek on audio during the past few days. And for the past couple of years Chris and I and his dad and step-mom have bought Sarah all the Little House videos so the children actually have watched that at home. It’s always nice when they can integrate as many senses as possible with their learning. I think they absorb so much more that way.
Well, I want to go visit my brother. I don’t know when I’ll get to see him again soon.
Daniel, Hannah, and Christopher dig for dinosaur bones at the science museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Elizabeth and Mindy (my brother’s stepdaughter and wife) check out an exhibit on lenses.
Daniel floats in space.
Mackenzie, Mindy, Christopher, and Elizabeth explore exhibits at the science museum.
Hannah and Christopher worked for about 15 minutes until they finally got this wooden dinosaur put together. It’s so great when the children work together.
This is in a mock old-fashioned schoolhouse at the DeSmet Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. Hannah and Sarah are wearing the adorable bonnets and aprons that Mindy’s mom bought for them as a keepsake. That was very sweet and I think she would be overjoyed to see how much they’ve worn them already. I’m sure they’ll get much more use when we return to Tennessee!
August 18, 2007
Let’s see… where to start. A racoon demolished our food several days ago. I can’t remember if I mentioned that. We had the hottest day on record in St. Louis at the first of the trip, those horrible storms with 70 mph winds in Minneapolis, and now in the Black Hills there were funnel clouds with strong hail, wind, rain, etc. We ended up with 4 inches of rain in our tent and slept saturated. We were VERY wet. The scary part is that by this morning, I didn’t really care if it was rainwater or pee anymore. I just packed everything up the same. It will all need to be washed anyway.
Now I need to hurry because we’re heading toward Yellowstone. I just stopped for a minute to let everyone know we’re still alive. Hopefully my husband and mom are checking this as I told them to since I haven’t had cell service since Iowa. There is a HUGE storm approaching and it looks very scary. I’m not sure if we’re going to sleep in the van or where tonight, but I definitely don’t want to tent camp. The lightning is very scary… The kids are begging to go to a hotel. I’m sure the fact that I haven’t had a shower in 3 days and they slept in water isn’t helping matters any.
I’ll try to find someplace to do Internet again in a few days and I’ll download all our pictures – we got to see the presidents at Mount Rushmore in the POURING rain, we drove by the Crazy Horse Memorial, etc.. I also want to say that the Badlands are absolutely fabulous!!!!!
The children pose in front of Mount Rushmore. This was the day after we got drenched. The night before we had actually arrived for the night program, which they supposedly never cancel, but sure enough they did due to the extreme rain and storm. This was the same night there was a tornado warning nearby (one resident said the first ever) and the storms were horrendous.
Micah took the above picture from the van, where we ate dinner and then ran to the tent very quickly. (We had set it up earlier before the rain started.) I think we should have saved the money and just slept in the van someplace. I have found the advice from my friend Rebecca to be true – Flying J’s and Wal-Marts make very good places to sleep. It’s funny because we slept at a Wal-Mart parking lot one night and when I parked, I just parked beside an RNI woke up in the middle of the lane because there were so many trucks, RV’s and other vehicles parked there for the night, I didn’t realize there were rows. It’s very good that they allow this in some places. And of course we did go in to use the bathroom and spent money we otherwise would not have if we couldn’t have stayed there.
I think Micah took this picture. He was amazed at all the fog that covered the lake the morning after the big storm at Mount Rushmore.
This is one of our pictures from the Badlands. You just can’t imagine the beauty from the pictures we took so I’m only putting one. I also took some pictures with my 35mm film camera. Sometimes those show color better so I’m going to have them developed when I return. If they turn out real good, I’ll post them later.
Here is a picture of me with the children in the Badlands. See, I really am here with them. It was nice of a couple passing by to take the picture with all of us. While I was talking with them, I thought Hannah was going to run off the cliff. You can kind of see from the picture that you’re never very far from a huge drop off. That kind of raised my stress level a little. Overall, however, the children have been very good and we’ve had many good comments about their behavior. I’ve had numerous opportunities to talk about homeschooling through this. (I think this does make a big difference in the behavior of children.)
August 19, 2007
We’ve seen some amazing things during the past few days. I can see where tall tales like Pecos Bill and other astonishing stories have come from. I can truly imagine everything out here being heavier, stronger, taller, etc. Here are some neat things that have happened the past few days that I didn’t get to write about last night…
– At the Badlands, we took a Junior Ranger tour. The goal was to walk up a dry creek bed (it was dry when we did it at least) and look for animal prints. Now many of you have read how fascinated my children are with fossils and such since we live so close to the Gray fossil site and we’ve found some neat things in our yard. As we were going through the creek bed, Micah actually found two real fossils that they had not found yet – parts of jaw bones with the teeth still intact. He got to complete a fossil find form when we returned to the center. The ranger said based on our description of where they were and his memory, he would show the fossil hunters later where to find them. (He was with us the whole time and saw all of this of course and was greatly impressed with the children’s attention to detail. We had a very large group for this tour – about 25 people – and Micah, Daniel, and Christopher found almost all the really neat stuff. I was very happy and excited for them!)
– As we were hiking along the creek bed, I found a real Indian arrowhead. It was made of translucent rock that had purplish streaks in it. It was beautiful. It was partially embedded in the rock and I couldn’t resist picking it up, but I did return it as he requested for the fossil people to go find later. What I think is frustrating sometimes is that they say humans didn’t live with these amazing animals (dinosaurs), yet there were bones and an arrowhead in the same level (layer) of ground. Of course I realize they could have washed from someplace and become imbedded later, but I think the scientists sometimes make their own stories based on what they belief and forget to remember that the SCIENCE of it should come first. (I’m sure all the other visitors there thought I was crazy when he said that the layers have been created over 33 million years and I said we didn’t believe that. A lady there said, “Well, why wouldn’t you?!” I told her that scientists have also said for years things like petrified forests and the grand canyon have taken many millions of years to form, yet some of those same things are beginning to form from the Mount St. Helens eruption only 27 years ago. She didn’t say anything after that except, “Hmmm.”)
– You know how they always say that wild animals are more afraid of humans than we should be of them. Well, of course it comes to my luck that while we were walking along the trail, a little kangaroo mouse ran out of the brush right toward the group. Some of the other little children were trying get away and I was telling them all to be still. My kids were trying to catch it and I was telling them to be still. This little mouse just wouldn’t move on… he just kept hanging around the group. The ranger just said to be still a minute so I told all the kids to be real still. Of course right about then, the little critter ran over Christopher’s shoe, which would have been perfectly fine except that then he decided to go INTO Christopher’s shoe right below the ankle where there is that little gap between skin and shoe. I couldn’t take it any more. I reached down and grabbed the little guy then with one hand and Christopher’s foot with the other and separated them. The ranger ran over and everyone started laughing and yelling about the same time – it was funny, but it was also startling to see the mouse try to go into his shoe. The ranger got the mouse and decided to help him along so he put him in the bushes then. I told Christopher what a memory he will have from the Badlands!
– Then, finally, as the walk was almost over, Daniel said that he had found some more tracks. The ranger came over and he began looking and then he called everyone else over. He said how “dog” type tracks have little claw marks at the tips of the toes, but “cat” type tracks don’t have claws. He looked and looked at the large pad and the pudgy little toe marks and said that they were mountain lion or bobcat tracks. He said that’s very exciting because in all the time he has worked there (five years or so), he has never found big cat tracks. That made Daniel feel real good.
At the Black Hills, there was a tornado warning, which is very rare, but again… I guess God is providing us with plenty of great memories, though I don’t know how good that night will be. Our tent has been leaking the whole trip, but the night before last we ended up with four inches of water in the tent. I mentioned that yesterday. It was awful. I’ve never slept so wet.
Last night we traveled as far as I could without having to stop for sleep. I ended up stopping on the Big Foot Mountain (I think is the name… I need to look that up again). Anyway, we woke up this morning and drove down. It was absolutely beautiful, but with a 10% grade for ten miles, my brakes ended up getting way too hot and I thought they were going to go out so I had to stop to let them cool before we could finish our descent. It is so desolate here, but beautiful.
Here are some other funny things the kids have said…
When we were at the campground night before last, Micah took a fishing hook to the man at a camp near us because he had rods and Micah doesn’t so he thought he could use it. As we were leaving, I guess the guy felt sorry for Micah because he came and gave him a rod and reel, which was very nice. Micah was quite grateful. Anyway, the guy said it was no big deal because he got free stuff all the time as a professional fisherman. The kids were asking what I was talking with him about and I told them that the man was professional and he “fishes for money.” Daniel’s eyes got huge and he said, “You mean, he really really fishes for real money?!?” It was so funny. He was very sincere and just didn’t get it.
Then, later, we were at the gold mine panning for gold and Christopher didn’t find gold, but he found a beautiful little red stone. The guide said it was a garnet. We were very excited and Christopher found many. Daniel also found a few and he was so excited. He said, “I found a garmet!” (I said, “Garnet, Daniel, not garmet. A garnet is a stone. A garmet is something you wear.”) He found another one and the process repeated itself several times. Finally, as we were leaving, Daniel was so excited and he said, “Look how many garmets I found!!!” I didn’t bother correcting him the last time.
The children pan for gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We all really enjoyed this activity. If you are coming this way, I would highly recommend that you plan this with your family. The children did find several tiny nuggets of gold, which thrilled them, but we also found numerous garnets.
Well, we’re heading into Yellowstone in a few minutes and I’m hoping I can somehow get this onto the webpage there. Chris said I’m not calling enough, but I haven’t had cell service since the first few days. I just get no reception or cross-over reception from other carriers here at all. So, hopefully I’ll be able to get Wi-Fi. I see a Yellowstone connection, but it doesn’t seem to be working.
Anyway, I can’t wait to see the park so I’ve gotta go!
Monday, August 20, 2007
We are now at Yellowstone. We have been through some terrible storms and hail on the way. It is beautiful here, but VERY cold at night. We have seen Grizzly bear cubs, a Black bear, elk, many deer, and a moose. Tomorrow, we will see “Old Faithful!”
This was pretty much our introduction to Yellowstone. We were driving along the road and a bunch of buffalo were trying to get across. I obliged and the children and I were just thrilled to see them cross. The pictures below are just some beautiful shots we took at Yellowstone.
Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Old Faithful – Yellowstone Christopher kept asking what “Old Faithful” meant and I tried to explain, but he just didn’t understand. Then, as we were waiting, he kept saying, “I just don’t think this is going to happen – let’s go.” I said, “It should be within 20 minutes. Wait and be more patient.” Finally, the geyser erupted and I said, “See, it came and now you know why it’s called Old Faithful. It is faithful to erupt.” Sadly, some of the geysers have stopped erupting because people have thrown trash or other stuff into them. That’s a loss for mankind.
Though it was very cold, the children had a great time playing by this creek at the top of one of the mountains in Yellowstone.
While we were taking a walking tour of the Norris Geyser Basin, the ranger was saying how the basin had been formed 640,000 years ago when the largest volcano ever erupted and that same volcano is still simmering below the surface. He said that’s what formed the petrified trees, the geysers, the hot springs, etc. I asked again about Mount St. Helens and some of the same features forming now only 27 years later – not hundreds of thousands of years. He said, “Well, the eruption of St. Helens was an exception to the rule of how long it takes things to form because it was an amazingly powerful blast.” I said, “That makes no sense when you just said that this volcano (at Yellowstone) was the largest eruption ever.” He said, “I can’t exactly explain it, but I know that this happened a long, long time ago.” A lady came up to me after the walk and said, “Thank you for the very good questions you asked.” That made me feel good because sometimes I feel a little self-conscious that people are going to think we’re crazy. I don’t really care what they think beyond that I hope they find us respectful in our approach to the difference of opinion. I do think that’s important.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I’ve decided to start putting the day as well as the date to help me better keep up with what day it is. I have an idea now of why some cultures have not bothered to develop a system of keeping up with the date – it doesn’t seem to matter much when you’re not doing the things we associate with modern society (keeping appointments, working on certain days, etc.).
Anyway, any ideas I had about losing some weight, getting a tan, and generally looking and feeling healthier upon my return to Tennessee have simply been washed away into delusion land. We have spent most of our time bundled up in pants, long-sleeves, and jackets so a tan is out of the question. I’ve been driving a lot at night and snacking as I drive helps keep me awake so I certainly haven’t lost any weight. And I am finally getting tired. I guess the trip is catching up with me. My ankles and legs are very swollen from all the walking/hiking and I am just feeling very sleepy and generally weak. We were going to stay in Yellowstone two more days, but the temperature was about 35 or 40 at night and during the day it was around 55 or so where we were and we were just freezing.
The night before last (our last night in Yellowstone), it began to drizzle and I just didn’t think we could handle the freezing cold AND cold rain in our tent on top of that. The kids said we had some waterproof stuff in our tent bag so I got that out and decided to apply it before we went to bed. The problem was that it was almost dark and the children were holding the lamps for me, but I just couldn’t see that well. I could see the seams and so I put on the required alcohol and then began to squirt the water-proof material in the seams. I was almost done before I realized that the stuff is clear and you can’t really see it, but the whole time I was doing this, it had been dripping on my head. I knew it was getting on my hands a little, but I figured I could wash it off. Now if you’ve ever used this stuff, it’s actually like super glue. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get it off my hands and I never even knew it was getting in my hair until Sarah said it looked like a big net above my head sticking to me and the top of the tent.
Well, I scrubbed for 15 minutes with alcohol on my hands and never did get it all off and I decided to just leave my hair alone for the night because by this time it was very dark. The next morning I was packing the van (when I had decided not to stay another night, but to come south instead) and I was bent over looking for something. When I went to get up, I had the biggest yank to my hair. It was stuck to the metal side of our van! Ouch! This really hurt. So I was dirty, sticky, stinky, and getting more irritated by the moment. I decided that not only were we coming on to Salt Lake City (where I was hoping it would be warmer), but also that we were going to stay in a hotel just for a night or two so that’s what we’re doing. The other advantage to this for a day or so is that I could update the website, talk with Chris on the phone, and buy Sarah a book I’ve been promising her since we left Johnson City.
Then we got here and Hannah was saying, “Mommy, mommy, look at your shadow – it looks just like a buffalo!”
Here are the animals we’ve seen so far:
– many buffalo (bison)
– one grizzly bear cub and two adult black bears (One was foraging for food so that was neat.)
– many deer (white tail and mule deer)
– an adult male moose with huge antlers and a momma moose with her baby (That was great. The momma was eating and the baby was sitting right behind her, then finally got up to stand beside the mom.)
– two red foxes
– plenty of birds – hawks, geese, ducks, red-headed woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and a bunch of other birds
– lot of elk
I’ll put some of the pictures here.
Chris is coming on Saturday. I’ll be so glad for him to see all the amazing things out here. I can see why tall tales developed about the wild west. Things do seem bigger and more magnificent here.
I would love for all of you to see this part of the country. I’m trying to take lots of pictures because I really don’t think you can truly imagine beautiful the national parks are here. I am so thankful John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Longfellow, and others had the foresight to realize that all this great land would be ruined if we didn’t protect it. If our entire country were half this beautiful when settlers began to come here, I can certainly see why the Native Americans, English, French, Spanish, and the new “Americans” fought so fervently for it.
Tomorrow I believe we’re going to try to go to the Salt Lake to put our feet in the water. We have a pool here at the hotel, but it is finally so much warmer here in Salt Lake City that I really want to get out and enjoy the heat. I really love summer and heat. Winter makes me kind of depressed – you have to wear so many clothes and it’s so cold and it’s difficult to breath outside and … You get the idea. I don’t so much mind being hot, but I don’t enjoy being cold. I’ve observed that people seem to prefer one or the other and I simply prefer warmer weather. So anyway, I thought the heat would be nice and also I thought the kids would really enjoy floating in the lake.
That reminds me about what the kids said their favorite things have been so far on the trip.
Hannah said, “I liked playing in the creek.” (I believe we were in the Yellowstone River, but I’m not positive.)
Daniel said, “I think the Badlands were great.”
Christopher said he has liked “everything.”
Micah said, “I liked the geysers and the animals and all the smelly sulfur stuff!” (Doesn’t that sound just like Micah. He is such a scientist. I kept reminding the kids that the gases at Yellowstone are toxic and he didn’t want to purposefully try to inhale it.)
Of course that’s probably not the kind of thing I should have said around the other children as Sarah then had a “stomach ache” and “headache” for the next two days. She was really fine, but kept her mouth covered and was convinced that she was being poisoned. About the time I had her convinced that it really was FINE – millions of people visit every year and they haven’t been poisoned (although over a dozen have died other ways) – the ranger who was giving us a tour mentioned about the gasses that I was right, people don’t get poisoned because they walk through and leave, BUT five buffalo had died a year or so before. They graze close to the ground and the gasses are heavy so that’s more where they accumulate. The buffalo had suffocated.
A park employee died just a few days before we arrived in a single car accident and one of the workers told us that a girl stepped over one of the waterfall barriers last year and fell to her death.
That’s so sad. It sounds like almost all the accidents that have occurred there have been because people haven’t been careful and haven’t obeyed the rules.
Anyway, enough of that… I’m going to put all the pictures in now and I hope you’ve enjoyed the website.
I loved all the waterfalls at Yellowstone. Waterfalls and flowers.
If you would like to go back to page one, click here.