Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 32)

Wordless Wednesday: Badlands

Badlands Overlook

Badlands National Park

Badlands Rock Formation

After our day exploring the I-80 corridor through Illinois and Iowa, we continued to head west across South Dakota to Custer. Since we were so close, we decided to take a detour into Nebraska to cross another state off our list and headed to Ponca State Park.

Three State Overlook

Ponca State Park is located on the Missouri River and is a big destination to explore the National Scenic River. Fishing, paddling, boating, horseback riding, golf, and hiking are popular activities at the park. One thing we were really impressed with was the modern cabins around the park. They looked like a fun place to stay and explore the area without having to “rough it” too much. We also enjoyed the Three State Overlook over the river where you could see Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. To learn more about Ponca State Park, visit OutdoorNebraska.com.

After leaving Ponca, it was a little over five hours drive through rural Nebraska to get to Badlands National Park. The Badlands of South Dakota is one of the most interesting landscapes I have ever seen. The unique formations were formed by deposition, the rock building up over time, and erosion, the rock wearing away. The colorful layers in the rock formations show moments in geologic time with different layers forming at different times. (https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/badl-geologic-formations.htm)

Badlands Window Formation

Badlands Window Formation

Badlands National Park got its name from the local Lakota people. They called the area mako sica, meaning “bad lands”. Before modern roads, this area was not easy to traverse and is probably how it got its name. It has been said that the name doesn’t do the park justice and that it scares some people away.  I can tell you that wasn’t the case when we visited. While it wasn’t as busy or as hard to find parking as Yellowstone, there were plenty of people exploring these bad lands.

We had planned to do some hiking in the park but arriving in the middle of the day during a heatwave put a damper on that. While we were driving through the park, it got up to 96 degrees. Because of that, we stuck to exploring the park by car and stopping at the scenic turnouts. We did hike the quarter mile Window Trail (above) but that was all I could manage in the heat.  I would love to return to the park when it’s cooler and get off the road a bit.

Of course, near Badlands National Park is the famous Wall Drug. This is really the only tourist trap we stopped at on this trip (our detour through Nebraska caused us to miss the corn palace). In case you’ve never heard of it, Wall Drug is a giant cowboy-themed store adjacent to Badlands National Park. It’s hard to miss the many billboards along I-90 advertising free ice water, 5 cent coffee, and their giant dinosaur. We decided to get dinner in their cafe and I was surprised by the quality of the food. Yes, it is a giant, crowded gift shop but it was a good stop to get a bite to eat and cool down after exploring the park. To plan your visit to Wall Drug, visit their website.

We used the GyPSy Guide to the Badlands and the Black Hills while exploring the area. The app gives suggested routes while also teaching you about the region. If you are planning a trip to this area, I highly recommend it!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Blacksmith at Work

Blacksmith

I-80 Road Trip

Herbert Hoover's Birthplace

We left for our road trip after work on a Friday and drove down to Ottowa, Illinois. From Ottowa, we continued on I-80 through Iowa to our next stop at Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. Using RoadTrippers, I had planned a few stops along our route to get out and stretch our legs and break up this 7 hour driving day. The first stop was very close to our hotel, Starved Rock State Park. From there we planned to see the world’s largest truck stop at Iowa 80, with a final stop at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

Frenchman's Canyon

Frenchman’s Canyon

Starved Rock State Park is frequently described as the most beautiful State Park in Illinois with 13 miles of trails through 18 canyons. We left our hotel early in the morning and headed to the park and even though it wasn’t that hot when we arrived, I want to say it was in the 70s, there had to be 100% humidity. It was like trying to hike through a swamp. The first place we headed to was the Starved Rock Overlook which is about a half-mile trail from the visitor center. The trail takes you to the top of Starved Rock with a view over the very industrial Illinois River. We decided to explore some of the canyons the park is known for and headed to the Frenchman Canyon. It was much cooler in the canyon but because of the hot and dry conditions, the waterfall was practically nonexistent (left). With much more of the park left for another trip, we headed back to the car and continued our drive to Iowa.

Inside the Trucking Museum

Right around lunchtime, we pulled into Iowa 80, the World’s Largest Truck Stop. I have to say, if it wasn’t for the See America Podcast, I don’t think I would’ve stopped here. I’m not a trucker and I’m not really into tourist traps, so I probably would’ve driven right by this. But, it was a perfect spot for lunch with a full-service restaurant as well as a food court with seven fast-food options. After eating lunch, we decided to check out the free trucking museum. I have to say, it was more interesting than I expected and if you have kids who love trucks, they would probably be able to explore this small museum for hours. It reminded me a lot of a smaller version of the Henry Ford Museum, with historic trucks from around the world, all with different purposes. All in all, I was very glad we stopped here to eat and explore a little bit before continuing our drive westward.

Isis Statue at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Isis statue was a gift to Hoover for his humanitarian efforts to Belgium during World War 1.

After a half an hour drive from the truck stop, we arrived at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. This is a small National Park Service Site honoring the early years of the 31st president. The highlight of the park is the tiny one-room cottage where Hoover was born (top). Nearby, you can explore the blacksmith shop where a ranger was stationed to explain how Jesse Hoover, Herbert’s father, made horseshoes and wagon wheels. Probably one of the most interesting buildings was the friend’s meetinghouse where the Hoovers attended Quaker meetings every week. Also in the park, you can visit Herbert and Lou Hoover’s final resting place. I remember learning about President Hoover in school and not much positive was said about him in our textbooks. It was good to learn a little bit more about the man and to understand where he came from and how his early life shaped the president I read about in school.

After visiting the site, we continued on to Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, just outside Sioux City, Iowa. After spending the night, we took a jaunt into Nebraska before continuing on to Badlands National Park and Custer, South Dakota. Be sure to stop back next week as I continue recounting our western expedition!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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I80 Pinterest Graphic Road Trip Pinterest Graphic

Epic National Park Road Trip

For the benefit and enjoyment of the people

We are back from our biggest trip yet. We were gone for 23 days, visiting 7 national parks, 4 other National park service sites, and 4 state parks spanning 12 states (8 of which were new to us). We had incredible luck on the trip securing a reasonably priced rental car and managing to score last-minute reservations at two incredibly popular national park lodges. To top off our luck, the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National park opened for the season on the day we needed to use it to get from one end of the park to the other.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip during the busiest summers for our National Parks ever! Throughout this trip report, I will share our experiences with the crowds and ways to avoid the worst of the congestion.

Here’s a little breakdown of the trip and a sneak peek of what is to come throughout this trip report:

  1. Ottowa, IL
  2. Dakota Dunes, SD
    • Ponca State Park
    • Badlands National Park
  3. Custer, SD
    • Custer State Park
    • Mt. Rushmore National Memorial
    • Wind Cave National Park
    • Jewel Cave National Monument
    • Devils Tower National Monument
  4. Old Faithful Inn
    • Yellowstone National Park
    • Grand Teton National Park
  5. Rising Sun Motor Inn
    • GlacierNational Park
  6. Watford City, ND
    • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  7. Moorhead, MN
    • Mall of America
    • Wisconsin Dells
  8. Madison WI
    • Indiana Dunes National Park

We did SO much on this trip, this will probably take me months to recap, but I am looking forward to it! Thanks for stopping by!  To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Road Trip Pin

Happy Independence Day!

Mt. Rushmore Faces

Wordless Wednesday: Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

Camping at Cheboygan State Park

The bay from our campsite

Before our tour of Michigan State Parks last summer, I was watching a lot of Trekker’s Michigan State Parks videos on Youtube. When they did their drive through Cheboygan State Park, I knew I needed to check it out for myself! The park is located in Northern Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron. Its location, only half an hour from Mackinaw City, making it a good home base for exploring the straits area. The campground is small, only 75 sites, and with only 20 amp service, some might call it outdated, but it is perfect for the kind of camping we do.

Camper under canopyI decided to head to Cheboygan for Memorial Day weekend and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get a waterfront site without much fuss about six months out. For some reason, this campground isn’t as popular as others in the area. Our site (site 27) was wooded on three sides with a path to the lake. Most of the other sites in the park are just as private. This is very unusual for a Michigan State Park campground. Most of them are big open fields. The bathhouse at the campground was small, but with most people relying on the bathrooms in their rigs, there was never a wait for the showers.

Path through the woods

The path to the bay from site 27

It was really nice to be able to put our kayak right in the water at our site and be able to paddle around the bay when the water was calm. We went a little way out and floated over two shipwrecks, the Leviathan and the Genesee Chief (unfortunately, forgot my action camera when we went out the first day and when we went back it was too cloudy to see them so I don’t have any photos). When we got back to camp, I looked these wrecks up and was interested to learn that they were both intentionally sunk in the bay. I did feel better when we returned to the site knowing there were no casualties, but it’s always sad to realize that in the 19th century, the Great Lakes were thought of as garbage dumps.

Besides the Mackinac area, Cheboygan is not a far drive away from the only named waterfall in the lower peninsula, Ocqueoc Falls, The waterfall will be the topic for next week on the blog, so be sure to come back! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Camping in Holland

Tulip field in front of windmill

Tulips in front of De Zwaan windmill

Tulip Time Festival in Holland is one of the most popular festivals in Michigan. It takes place at the beginning of May and with the cancellation of the festival in 2020, I had a feeling it would be an even bigger deal in 2021. In an attempt to beat the crowds, we decided to go the weekend before the festival began.

We decided this would be a great time to take the camper out for its inaugural trip for the 2021 season so with just a few weeks advance planning, I booked a site at Holland State Park. This park is very popular in the summer and with good reason. It has a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan with a view of the iconic Big Red Lighthouse and is relatively close to downtown Holland. The campground is made up of two sections, the most popular section is right on the beach (which was not yet open for the season when we visited) and the more wooded Lake Macatawa unit where we stayed.

Because of its popularity, this campground comes with some very strict rules. I had to sign a paper and hang it in the window of my camper agreeing to the 1pm checkout time. There was a sign in the office saying the visitors are not allowed and campers must keep their ID on them at all times in the campground to prove that you are allowed to be there. No alcohol is allowed in the campground at any time and rangers frequently drove around, looking into campsites to check. I’m sure these rules are necessary for peak season but the fact that the campground was only 25% full at the time made a lot of this seem a little intrusive and over-the-top. If I had a reason to be in the area, I would probably stay here again, but I wouldn’t seek it out when I’m just looking for a place to camp for a weekend.

Mini camper in front of dune

Our Runaway camper at our site at Holland State Park.

As I mentioned at the top, the purpose of this trip was to visit Windmill Island Gardens and see the tulips. It was pretty chilly this weekend and we even saw snow flurries Sunday morning, but most of the tulips were in the early stages of blooming. I always enjoy visiting the garden and photographing the tulips. If you are looking to see the sights in Holland, Holland State Park is a good base for exploration, but be aware that they do have a lot of rules and they do patrol and enforce them.

This year I knew there were going to be more people than ever camping and it was going to be challenging to get into the most popular campgrounds in the summer. I decided to book the busiest campgrounds (such as this one and Ludington) in the off-season and then try out some of the more under-the-radar spots when the parks would be the busiest. For the most part, I did make reservations about six months out, and with this methodology, I was able to get some really nice sites. I am excited to share those journeys with you!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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A Surprise Day in Tampa

Tampa Riverwalk

Skyline from the Tampa Riverwalk

Our trip to Texas was booked using a flight credit from a spring break trip we canceled right when everything was shutting down due to COVID. At the time, Spirit told us we only had six months to use it (they have since pushed that as many people have not yet felt comfortable getting on a plane) so we booked a trip to California last summer. That was canceled and we booked this trip to Texas after Christmas. Initially, we booked a direct flight but of course, with fewer people traveling, the direct flights were canceled and we were routed through Florida. On the way down, the trip was great, we got to spend time in the Fort Lauderdale airport and eat some Cuban food and we made it to Austin without issue. In the past, I have not had a great experience with Spirit and this went so well, I was singing their praises.

After our final day exploring Austin, we headed to the airport. Security was smooth but our flight ended up being delayed about an hour because Jacksonville air traffic control was shut down to be cleaned due to a COVID outbreak. This wasn’t really a big deal, we had a long layover ahead of us in Orlando. By the time we deplaned in Orlando, the terminal was jam-packed with people waiting to get on delayed flights. And not to mention there was only one restaurant still open in the terminal. We sat there and watched our flight get pushed back and pushed back. Eventually, it was saying we wouldn’t arrive back home until 7 AM.

Not long after that, we got a notification that our flight was canceled. We went up to a gate agent at a nearby gate. She was as surprised as us and directed us back through security to the check-in counter. Somehow, we ended up being the first people from our flight to reach the counter and no one working there had any idea. They directed us to the international check-in desk where a very surprised employee dealt with a planeful of angry, trapped people. To make matters worse, the earliest flight they could get us on was two days away and because they claimed it was “weather-related” they didn’t have to give us hotel vouchers or anything, just replace the flight.

We were lucky in that we had family in the area so, at about eleven o’clock at night, we got a rental car and headed to Tampa, about an hour drive away. It was nice to have somewhere to go and to see family we hadn’t seen in a while and the weather was beautiful, but it was stressful being because we were both supposed to be at work that day. That night we had dinner at Disney Springs (you can’t get me that close to Disney and not let me step on property), got a hotel close to the airport, and caught our uneventful, early morning flight home. It ended up working out OK, but we had booked another trip for the winter that we ended up canceling because I didn’t want a repeat performance of being stranded at the airport for several days.

I’m not trying to complain. I don’t want to get anything from this post. I’m just sharing the story of the stressful end of our Texas trip. And if you are planning on flying for your summer vacation, be aware that even though COVID cases are currently low, this could still happen and derail your plans.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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