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Frontier towns and National Parks: Jess' US expedition

Jess from Imaginative Traveller HQ just came back from the United States, where she's been on our Mt Rushmore to Yellowstone tour, visiting historic towns like Deadwood and Cody, landmarks like Mt Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, and majestic national parks including Badlands, Grand Teton, and the exemplary Yellowstone. Take a look at what Jess got up to below.

 

Day 1 – Arrive in Denver

We met our tour guide at 6pm - she gave us a quick overview of what to expect on the trip, discussed the kitty for lunches ($45 each) and the general way the tour would work.

 

Day 2 – Custer

I woke up and met the group around 8.15am, then we set off Custer. It was a long journey and we stopped off at the Mammoth Site, an internationally renowned paleontological dig site, where we had a 25 minute tour with a local guide.

We got to the hotel around 5pm and went for dinner.

 

Day 3 – Highlights of South Dakota

We woke around 8am, and went to the famous Wind Cave National Park. Those of us who were claustrophobic did not join in and had free time instead. We then had a 2 hour drive to Mt Rushmore, where we spent around two hours walking about and looking at the sculptures from different viewing points. I imagine the walks were about 1 - 2 km long and a lot of viewing points are all scattered about. We then took a drive to the Crazy Horse Memorial. We had about 1.5 hours here, where we watched a Native American lady perform a traditional Native American dance, where she got the crowd involved. We had a couple of hours to walk about the museum and gift shop and to take photos.

 

Day 4 – Badlands National Park & Deadwood

We took a drive, around 3 or 4 hours, to Badlands National Park. Here there were plenty of different walks and hikes to do. We were left to do our own thing for the duration of the morning. A couple of people from the group went on a hike with a very steep man-made ladder, and a few of us just went out on the boardwalk hikes. The park was miles and miles long. You could hike for many hours, and each corner showed a different shade/colour of prairies and the park. Very pretty, but the hike could be quite tough at times! We ended the day by visiting Deadwood. We watched a street enactment of a shootout of Buffalo Bill and the Trial of Jack McCall. Deadwood is a real old fashioned cowboy town with a lot of casinos, bars and restaurants.

 

Day 5 – Cody

In the morning we went back into Deadwood for a final look around the town, and then we started out for our 7 hour drive to Cody, Wyoming. We had the evening to ourselves to get dinner and chill at the hotel or we could go into the town to look around.

 

Day 6-8 – Yellowstone National Park

On day 6, we drove to West Yellowstone. We stopped off to admire the many lakes and mountains around the area before heading to the hotel.

On day 7, we woke about 4am, headed out to Yellowstone National Park and met our tour guide who took us on a wolf-tracking expedition. We were in the minibus for the duration and stopped off at various sightseeing areas in which the tour guide got out the telescope and tracked. It was the wrong time of year for wolves; however we did spot one wolf. We saw 19 bears, grizzly and black bears, about 6 cub bears, 3 Bald Eagles and their nests, endless bison, prairie dogs and elks. After the wolf-tracking, which lasted about 8 hours, we went on a hike around Yellowstone, approx 4 miles, to a beautiful waterfall, and lakes, mountains and wildlife were to be seen. It was stunning. The walk was quite tough, but it was pleasant and quite steady-paced. We then headed back to the hotel. We had a lovely BBQ with the group this evening, whilst watching the weather changing almost by the minute.

On day 8, we went on a hike around Yellowstone’s famous geyser, Old Faithful, and watched the explosion which takes place approx every 67 minutes. There were various treks, hikes and leisurely walks to be taken all around the area with so many beautiful colours and incredible hot geysers that were bubbling.

 

Day 9 – Grand Tetons & Jackson

We left the hotel about 8.15am and went on a 4 hour drive to Grand Tetons, via some incredible scenic roads. We had a 5 mile hike around Jenny Lake which I would say was moderate to hard. There were a LOT of steep cliff top drops and a lot of walking across loose rocks on the cliff tops. Not ideal for someone who has a phobia of heights as it was a bit close at points! We walked on to look at the waterfall and kept the bear spray very close to hand. Unfortunately we didn't come across any, but we did see plenty of elks. After our hike we got a small boat back to the starting point, which took about 8 minutes and had really stunning views. Once we arrived back at the minibus we had time to sunbathe, check out the gift shop and grab some food. In the evening we went out for dinner at a local Thai restaurant. The evening was then ours to do with as we wished. We all went back to the hotel rooms very tired and ready for the long journey home the following day!

 

Day 10 – Depart

Today our adventure ended and after breakfast we all departed to make our separate ways home!

 
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