20-day trip to the USA (United States of America)
With an itinerary that included a visit to Denver, Cheyenne, Hot Springs, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, Custer State Park , Rapid City, Mount Rushmore National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Keystone, Badlands National Park, Spearfish, Lead, Deadwood, Devils Tower National Monument , Billings, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, Bear Lake, Salt Lake City, Bryce National Park Canyon, Indian village of Anasasi, Capitol Reef National Park, Lake Powell, Natural Bridges National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Archs National Park, Mesa Verde, Durango, Silverstron, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado Springs, Royal Gorge Bridge.
Denver, ciudad de Cheyenne, Hot Spring, Parque Nacional de Wind Cave and Parque de Custer
Denver is a modern city, as well as modern is the complex of the Colorado State Capitol Building.
We went for a walk in the pedestrian district with nice shops and we met the…October Fest, thanks to the town twinning between Denver and Munich, Bavaria.
We began our long American drive passing by the city of Cheyenne, capital of the State of Wyoming, and then continued towards Hot Springs, South Dakota.
In the Wind Cave National Park we went down to visit a small part of the world’s largest complex of caves, famous for its limestone formations known as “boxworks”.
We crossed the Custer State Park that fascinated us with its beautiful landscapes, huge prairies, hills with a big variety of green shades. And then the animals: first of all, the American bison, solitary or in herds, prairie dogs, mule deer and pronghorns.
National Park of Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Deadwood
We were in the heart of the Black Hills famous for their natural resources and, despite their name, for the green pastures and beautiful forests.
The Black Hills are divided into two areas: “The Southern Hills” and “The Northern Hills”. We took three days to visit them.
We started visiting the National Park of Mount Rushmore where the mountain was carved with the heads of four American presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.
Then we went to visit the nearby under construction Crazy Horse Memorial.
It is a monument that Indians want to dedicate to their Sioux leader “Crazy Horse”.
The works are slow because they are financed exclusively by free offers.
The northern part of the Black Hills includes the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, a beautiful road surrounded by a thick forest, which runs along the bottom of a gorge and has a raging torrent on its side.
We reached Lead and visited the largest American gold mine still in activity.
Finally, we saw at ”first hand” one of the historical places of that land: the town of Deadwood. In the “Boot Hill” is located the Memorial Cemetery where the famous Calamity Jane was buried. This was our first destination.
The town of Deadwood was rebuilt in western-style (they have even laid the electrical wires of public lighting underground). We could not miss a stop at “No. 10 Saloon”, famous for the story that involves Calamity Jane and her acquaintances.
Badlands National Park, Devil Tower and Little Big Horn
One hundred kilometers eastward of Rapid City, we reached the Badlands National Park that the Indians called Maco Sica, that means “bad land” because of its inhospitable territory, which, however, is characterized by beautiful colours. We left Rapid City and South Dakota to enter the Wyoming state.
We made a detour to visit the Devils Tower National Monument. It was a spectacular sight. It is incredible what nature can do! That spectral monolith stands alone, surrounded by pine forests and vast plains.
At Little Big Horn we were fascinated by those arid hills dotted with white memorial markers to indicate the places where soldiers and officers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, General George Armstrong Custer included, were killed by the Indians.
Way of Buffalo Bill, Yellowstone National Park (Tower Fall, petrified tree, Norris Geyser Basin)
We crossed the roads made famous by a “certain” Buffalo Bill and then we took the upward slope that brought us, in the midst of heaps of snow, a strong wind and breathtaking views, to the 3.352 meters of Sylvan Pass.
We entered the Yellowstone National Park from the Silver Gate, the north-east entrance.
We drove along the Lamar Valley embellished by exceptional sights until we reached the area of the Tower Waterfall and of the petrified tree which is quite peculiar because has maintained a vertical position.
We crossed the Mammoth Hot Springs, a place where the mineral-rich water solidify and take pastel colours.
We witnessed a fight between two stags for their supremacy in the herd and we saw, in the distance, a white long-necked mountain goat.
We crossed the Norris Geyser Basin and met deer, buffalo and two female deer.
We ended the day with a beautiful sunset on the Madison River.
Old Faithful Geyser, Basin Geyser, Mud Volcano, Sulfur Cauldron, Upper and Lower Falls and Artist Point and Inspiration Point
The next day we went towards the main attraction of the park, the “Old Faithful”, the geyser that erupts every 70 minutes.
We crossed the Geyser Basin and it seemed to enter… Hell.
Low clouds mixed with the fumes that rose from the ground while herds of buffalo appeared. We were surrounded by geysers, fumaroles, gushing water from all sides, while the earth was smoking all around.
We were amazed, astonished, astounded, perhaps even frightened by all that surrounded us and was boiling around and under our feet.
In the area of the lake, we saw the “Mud Volcano”, a puddle of gray mud which was bubbling noisily at a temperature of 80°, then the “Sulfur Cauldron”, another pool of sulphurous bubbling water which was emitting a nauseating stench.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Park, 370-meter deep, with two waterfalls: the Upper Yellowstone Falls and the Lower ones which are twice as high as Niagara Falls.
We did not miss the best vantage-points such as the Artist Point and Inspiration Point.
Norris Geyser Basin, Esmeralda Pool, Morning Glory Pool, Mammoth Hot Springs, Lower Terrace Area, Minerva Terrace and Canary Spring
We went on wandering in the park and found fascinating corners everywhere, such as: the Norris Geyser Basin, the Esmeralda Pool and the Morning Glory Pool.
We went back to Mammoth Hot Springs in a sunny day and visited the Lower Terrace Area, Minerva Terrace and Canary Spring.
Biscuit Basin, Lower Basin, West Thumb and Yellowstone
We visited the Biscuit Basin, the Lower Basin and the West Thumb Basin, on the shore of the Yellowstone lake (it is the second highest lake in the world after Lake Titicaca in Peru) and saw fuming pools with boiling mud with intense colours. The nearby woods are dried by the sulphurous vapors that are present in the soil.
Finally, not far from the lake shore, we stopped to admire a small crater which was spurting sulphurous mud.
Gran Teton National Park, Jackson Hole and western town of Jackson
We left the Yellowstone Park and entered the Grand Teton National Park considered the ”youngest” of the Rocky Mountains’ being “only” 10 million years old.
The landscapes were wider and wider while we went on crossing forests and passing near beautiful lakes.
On the horizon, we could admire the Grand Teton mountain the stands out, large and majestic, among the snow-capped steep and jagged peaks.
We crossed the Jackson Hole valley once famous for being an immense and unmeasured horse and cattle farm thanks to the Snake River that runs through it.
We admired numerous natural panorama and visited the interesting western town of Jackson with its wooden sidewalks, triumphal arches of shed elk antlers, wooden houses and the typical Cowboy Bar whose chairs are horse saddles.
Bear Lake, Cache Valley and Salt Lake City
We left those lovely places with 5 degrees below zero and went, entering and exiting from one state to the other, to the capital of Idaho: Salt Lake City.
At first we passed through a beautiful valley with gentle slopes full of forests and with beautiful trees whose colours ranged from yellow to deep red.
Then we drove alongside the beautiful Bear Lake and entered the Cache Valley surrounded by multiple-colours vegetation.
Salt Lake City, the Mormon capital, on one side is characterized by the salt lake depression and, on the other, is dominated by the mountain range where , in 2002 winter, the Winter Olympic Games will take place.
The Mormons arrived there in 1847, coming from east, along the narrow gorge of the “Pioneer Trail”.
Once the gorge finished, they arrived in that great plain and decided that it was ”the right place” to stop.
Bryce Canyon (Yovimpa Point, Rainbow Point, Ponderosa Canyon, Agua Canyon, Natural Bridge, Swamp Canyon, Inspiration Point and Sunset Point )
During the 1990 journey, we had been fascinated by the Bryce Canyon National Park, so we decided to make a second and more thorough visit which included: the Yovimpa Point , Rainbow Point, Ponderosa Canyon, Agua Canyon, Natural Bridge, the Swamp Canyon, the Inspiration Point and finally Sunset Point from where we went down into the heart of Bryce Canyon along the Navajo Loop.
Everything is documented even in the trip made in September 1990.
I invite my readers to go and see that journey.
Ananazi Indian Village State Park and Capitol Reef National Park
We left the Bryce Canyon and took a beautiful scenic road with luxurious landscapes.
We met small squirrels and visited the Ananazi Indian Village State Park before arriving at the Capitol Reef National Park which is of an extraordinary beauty.
Some rocks are carved with wonderful Indian petroglyphs.
Powell Lake, Natural Bridges National Monument
We drove for hundreds of kilometres through a sunny and arid desert, then, suddenly, the ground seemed to sink. Below us, we saw the calm and deep water of Lake Powell.
It was sunset when we got to the Natural Bridges National Monument.
Even admiring the ”natural bridges” from a considerable distance, we had the clear perception of their enormous size.
The next day, we visited the Canyonlands National Park.
Arches National Park
The visit to the Arches National Park took almost the whole day because, in addition to the car transfers, we had to walk paths that led to the observation points of the various arches. The protected area preserves more than two thousand natural arches which are made in sandstone and so are subject to collapse due to erosion.
The most famous arch, represented on the car number plates of the state of Utah, is the Delicate Arch.
The Landscape Arch is the longest natural arch in the world.
Mesa Verde National Park
We went up to the 2.700 meters of Mesa Verde National Park.
The Indians began to inhabit this plateau around 1600 and built their houses inside the caves carved into the sides of the cliffs.
Those houses are still well preserved and can be visited; each house has a name such as: Sun Temple, Cliff Palace, Balcony House.
We only visited the ”Spruce Tree House“, wonderfully preserved.
We continued our trip up to Durango that welcomed us under a heavy snowfall.
From Durango to Silverston by train with an amazing rail trail
Silverston was famous for being surrounded by numerous gold deposits so that the road that connects it to Durango is called “Million Dollar HWY”.
The rail trail is quite spectacular because the railroad was built at the mid-slope of the mountain and passes close to fearful precipices. Later on it goes inland and runs near a stream in the middle of stretches of pines, firs and birch trees whose colours fascinated us together with a blue sky and the snow-capped mountains.
Great Sand Dunes, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado Springs and Royal Gorge Bridge
We left those magnificent highlands to went down to the plains of Colorado Springs and Denver, even if, behind them the mighty peaks of the Rocky Mountains overlook everything.
We made a short detour to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
Their view is spectacular with, on the background, the imposing peak: the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Colorado Springs struck us for the dimensions of its shopping centers located in the suburbs, in a district named ”The Citadel”.
We took advantage of our last day in America to go and visit the highest bridge in the world, the Royal Gorge Bridge. The Arkansas River flows 320-meter below it!