After leaving Chicago on our cross country odyessey, my son and I turned west and drove across Iowa and Nebraska–long days of driving across the heartland of America. It turned out to be much more interesting than I had expected. There were beautiful cloud formations, gorgeous sunsets, windmills, and interesting history.
What we didn’t have for most of the last week was reliable Internet that could handle photo uploads for the blog.
The first day out from Chicago we drove across all of Iowa and a good bit of Nebraska. Stopped in Lincoln, NE at a quirky barbeque place for dinner. The one regret my son had about the route we chose was not being able to get barbeque, so we were able to fix that!
Leaving the hotel the next morning, we saw the most beautiful cloud formations–they reminded me of Georgia O’Keefe’s cloud paintings.
We had been driving west on I-80 for the last two days and decided that we wanted to get off the beaten track so to speak.
My husband and I started a family quest 20 years ago to take our boys to all the national parks in the US, so we’re always alert to opportunities to see new ones. Phil saw a sign for Chimney Rock National Monument that was only an hour out of the way, so we got off the Interstate and headed out on back roads to find it.
Turns out that Chimney Rock was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail, and it was easy to see why, since it was visible from quite a distance away. We spent a pleasant hour or so there reading up on the history, then headed west again roughly along the road that the settlers took so many years ago. I was fascinated with the Oregon Trail as a kid, so it was fun to experience a little bit of the journey.
Obviously we’re taking a scenic route to get to LA from Virginia at this point! Our destination for Day 5 and 6 was Grand Teton National Park–a park we had visited before, but Phil was pretty young then and didn’t have good memories of it. Plus it’s my favorite park of the 50 or so we’ve visited. And that’s where the bear came in!
We like to hike, so when we arrived at the park the first order of business was to find an interesting hike to take. The first one was a lovely 6 mile loop around a scenic lake. The second one was a 5 mile trek to a secluded glacial lake called Taggart Lake. It’s one of my favorite hikes in the Tetons. We were walking and chatting through forest and meadow on our way to the lake when we met several hikers coming the other way. They said there was a bear near the lake, but some distance away. We opted to walk on, and sure enough, a small bear came lumbering out of the woods. Fortunately he was more interested in the berry bushes than he was in us.
We went back to the car by an alternate route! In 20 years of hiking, this is the first bear we’ve encountered on the trail.
We’re having a great time seeing so much of our extraordinary country. And I have lots of inspiration from my photos to take back to the studio when I get back to Virginia. Since this post is getting long, I’ll catch up on the rest of the trip so far tomorrow.
Thanks for reading, and if you’d like to follow along on Facebook or Instagram. I’m posting every day there.
I’ll be back on the west coast next month for the Art in the High Desert show August 28-30. Click the link for details.
Great route you’re taking, Cindy. We’ve been to Lincoln a couple times, missed the funky barbecue but they also have a funky coffee shop about a block from the State Capitol building. The stops at Chimney Rock and Grand Tetons bring back memories as well. Ironic that you had a bear encounter. Great Falls was experiencing its own bear story last week, with daily updates on sightings being broadcast on the NextDoor Neighbor email system. Pretty amusing. Keep the stories coming.