Monday, March 27, 2017

Welcome Home Courtney

For those who remember ancient history, we had a foster daughter named Olivia who lived with us for four years while she was on the Indian Placement Program . Her daughter Courtney just returned from her mission to Indiana so we decided to drive 1850 miles for her talk in sacrament meeting. They live in Williston, ND.


We left after lunch on Thursday, March 16th and went as far as West Yellowstone. We stopped in Rexburg for a stretch and saw the new Rexburg Temple then let Diane witness the changes at BYU-Idaho campus since she attended the old Ricks college.
Rex burg Temple
West Yellowstone:

We stayed at the Kelly Inn in West Yellowstone. We had a room on the ground level, which was good because there were bears looking through the windows on the upper floors.

Peeping bears at Kelly's Inn
Yellowstone National Park closed for the season the day before we arrived so many of the places in West Yellowstone were also closed. We finally found the Branch Restaurant where I had one of the best burgers in a long time, which included a gluten-free bun.

On Friday (March 17th) after breakfast at the hotel we headed north to Billings, MT.

Breakfast nook at Kelly Inn
 Even though Yellowstone Park was closed the road through Montana passes through the west side of the park so we were able to see part of Yellowstone anyway.
Yellowstone Park
Gallatin River in Yellowstone 

We took a lunch break in Bozeman, MT, stopping at the mall and Barnes & Noble. We arrived in Billings about 4pm and stayed in the Kelly Inn. Does this sound like St Patrick's Day or what?
We drove to see the Billings Temple then went to Riverside Park.
Billings Temple
There were a lot of Canadian Geese and ducks at the lake in the park. I didn't know we were so close to Canada.
Lake in Riverside Park
Geese and ducks in the park
 The park is along side the Yellowstone River. Lewis and Clark passed by here in 1806. We arrived a little late so we missed them.
Diane in the riverbed
Canoe in the river?
We decided to try the Cracker Barrel for dinner. They provided a nice gluten-free meal.

Pompey Pillar:

On Saturday we got up early and headed to Williston, ND. We saw information about Pompey Pillar National Monument. Since we hadn't heard of it we decided we should investigate. It was closed for the season, but open to walk-in traffic, so we walked in.
Pompey Pillar NM
 This is a landmark on the Lewis & Clark trail. It even had the signature of Clark on the rock.
Pompey Pillar
The visitor Center was closed
Paddle your own canoe
 It was a beautiful day and a lovely walk. We decided to go to the top of the pillar (260 steps with an added 18 to see Clark's signature).
Steps up the pillar
Cl;ark's signature covered with glass
Marmot admiring the scenery
Clark actually passed by here on his return trip to St. Louis.
Yellowstone River
 The eastern side of Montana turns from Mountain to prairie. There is not a lot to see except the shamrocks left by the leprechauns passing by this way.
Montana shamrocks 
 We finally made it to North Dakota where we could see the remnants of history.
We made it to North Dakota
Fort Union Trading Post NHS:

We stopped at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site (on the Montana/North Dakota border).  We were glad it was open, even though it was muddy. The trading post was used by the American Fur Company. 
Fort Union Trading Post NHS
The fort
Fort entrance
Muddy walk to the fort buildings
Fur trader firing the cannon
 Close by was Fort Buford, a military fort.
Fort Buford
This fort is located on the confluence of the Yellowstone River (that big word means this is where the Yellowstone River flows into the Missouri River).
River Interpretation Center
The Missouri River welcoming the Yellowstone River

Williston was close to the forts. It is a city built around the oil industry. We checked into the hotel (Mainstay Suites) and called Olivia. She asked if Diane could accompany Courtney tomorrow since she wanted to sing for the special musical number. We went to the church to practice then went to Olivia's and Roland's house for a visit.
Courtney and Roland
Meetings started at 11am on Sunday (March 19th). It was really a good meeting. Roland and Olicia gave the prayers, Courtney talked about the atonement and how she learned to appreciate it on her mission. She then sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" with Diane accompanying. I got to just sit there and enjoy it.

After the meeting we went back to Olivia and Rolands house to make Navajo Tacos for the ward. It was quite a process, but the experts had it well in hand. At 3:30 the members of the ward started to arrive. I was able to eat the chili they put on the tacos.
Olivia and Courtney working the dough for fry bread
Roland cutting up onions
This is how you fry fry bread
Ward members enjoying the feast
 After the ward members left we helped clean up and talked a bit before returning to our hotel room for the evening.
The Ben family: Roland, Courtney, and Olivia
We really enjoyed the visit. It was worth traveling so far to visit with them again.

Theodore Roosevelt NP:

March 20th (Monday) was the first day of spring. We have had fairly good weather on the trip. There has just been a little bit of rain, whereas last week was snow all along the way. We returned home by a different path, allowing us to see more national parks. We went through Theodore Roosevelt National Park which comes in a North and a South Unit. 
North Unit Visitor Center
The north unit has scattered rock deposits similar to the badlands of South Dakota. 
Badland hills
Geologic Concretions
Eroded formations
 The wildlife in the north unit includes bison, deer, and wild turkeys,

Flock of wild turkeys
Why did the turkey cross the road?
This reminds me of home - the deer eat our tulips
 Theodore Roosevelt had a ranch in what is now the south unit (68 miles away).
Roosevelt ranch house
The south unit also had wildlife.
Prairie Dog Town
Buffalo herds
Space aliens
We were able to take a little walk along the Wind Canyon Trail, which gave us some nice views as well as some exercise.

The Little Missouri River
Standing tall!
Formation in wind Canyon
Devil's Tower:

We continued south into South Dakota then went into northern Wyoming to see Devil's Tower National Monument. We saw it on our way to our mission in Canada and wanted t see if the Devil was still there. We arrived after 5 pm so he had left. 

Devil's Tower NM
Devil's Tower
We went on to Gillette, WY and found a place to stay at the Wingate.

Fort Casper:

Tuesday (March 21st) we got up early and headed for Casper, WY. 
Oil derrick in Casper
We found the Fort Casper Museum and decided to see what there was. The museum was small, but very nice.

Fort Casper Museum
Learning how the Mormon Ferry worked
 The fort along the river was put in place after the pioneers passed through.
Fort Casper 
Deer watching us
North Platte River
The Mormon ferry used for pioneers
National Historic Trails Interpretive Center:

Also in Casper is the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. Four trails passed through Casper as they went along the North Platte River: Oregon Trail, Mormon Pioneer Trail, California Trail, and the Pony Express Trail. We really enjoyed the center, which had a lot of activities to bring western history to life. 
Pioneers crossing Wyoming 
Four routes - same place
Can you get that handcart up the hill?
Mormon Handcarts at Martin Grove:

 We then followed the pioneer trail, stopping at Martin's Cove for a break. We had been through before, so we didn't take the time to go out to the cove. It is a nice facility in the middle of nowhere.
Welcome to the handcart center
Visitor Center
This trail is shorter than to Martin Cove
Sweet water Museum
 We took a back road that takes us back to the highway (do you really call it a highway?). On the way we saw where the antelope play at home on the range.
Antelope playing
We also saw a view of Martin Cove across the prairie.
Martin Cove
We were planning to go through South Pass, but the intersection was confusing so we ended up in Rollins and were able to return on I-80, stopping in Little America for ice-cream and popcorn. It was still light when we went through Logan Canyon so we were able to see the high river. 
We were able to fill up with gas and buy groceries before it was too dark.

This was a long trip, but well worth it. We were so pleased to see Olivia and her family after so many years. We were also able to see some national parks and a little bit of western history.

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