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#NPS100RoadTrip, The Itinerary

#NPS100RoadTrip, The Itinerary

When I look at the list below it seems daunting.  Our short four day trip to Nebraska for the 100th birthday of the National Park Service evolved quickly to an impossibly  ambitious nine day, twelve site road trip.  We are visiting four big states too–out west.  We estimate our #NPS100RoadTrip will require at least 3000 miles of driving.  With kids.

You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that #arch2arch would get out of control.  Here’s the thing though.  We cant help ourselves.  Jeff Howell (@MissouriHowell on Twitter) and I are adventurers.  We both have passion for the National Parks and the outdoors.  Perhaps our passion can be interpreted as a character defect.  We are fine with that.  After all, it was Barry Goldwater who once said  “Ambition in the pursuit of the outdoors  is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of National Parks is no virtue”.  Or something like that.

We leave (along with the Howell children) on August 20th and return to Missouri on August 28th.  Here is our plan which includes eight sleepless nights with just a few campground reservations:
1.  Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch), Missouri.

8/20.  If you haven’t visited the Gateway Arch, you should.  It is probably the most iconic structure in Missouri.  The National Park includes the arch and an excellent museum.  Visitors can ride to the top of the 630 foot monument which is the world’s tallest arch.  Lewis and Clark started their western journey in the St. Louis area.  We though we would too.

Gateway Arch

2. Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, Nebraska.

8/21.  This state park near Gering is at the doorstep of Scottsbluff National Monument.  Situated along the Oregon Trail it features hiking,  unusual rock formations and abundant wildlife including Bighorn Sheep.  This park was the basecamp of our original #NPS100RoadTrip plan until we started adding arches.  We expect to get a few hours sleep here under the Nebraska sky.

3. Scottsbluff National Monument, Nebraska.

8/22. While small at just 3,000 acres the Monument is rich with history.  Native peoples considered it sacred ground.  It was am important milepost along both the Oregon and Mormon Trails.  Scottsbluff National Monument is a clear sign that travelers are transitioning to the Rocky Mountain West.

4. Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming.

8/22. Fort Laramie is just 57 miles away from Scottsbluff.  This fort began as a fur trading post in 1834 and became one of the most important military facilities  in the United States.  The fort closed in 1890.  It is no coincidence that the Western Frontier was declared closed in 1890 too.  The famous Guernsey Ruts are nearby as well.  We’ll be looking for them.

5. Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming.

8/22. This park near Thermopolis is a latecomer to our itinerary.  Dominic Bravo, Director of Wyoming State Parks, invited to meet us there for a quick dip in a naturally heated spring.  How could we say no?  We hope that Mr. Bravo joins us for dinner too before he  heads back to Cheyenne.

6.  Boysen State Park, Wyoming.

8/22.  We are spending the night at this park situated in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  We even have a camping reservation.  Have you noticed how busy we are going to be on August 22nd?

7.  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

8/23-8/24.  We are going to absorb as much as we can in a short time at this jewel of a National Park.  I’m sure I’m going to be saying the same thing to myself when we leave the Tetons as I’ve said every other  that I’ve been there.  Should have stayed longer.  Oh yeah.  We have to buy a cake somewhere before we leave.

8. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, Wyoming.

8/24.  I’m guessing that far more people have been to this National Park unit than realize it.  The Parkway is the road that connects the Tetons with Yellowstone.  It is larger than might be expected at 24,000 acres.  Central Park has but 843.  It is a great place to stop and get a Centennial stamp in your Parks Passport book.  You can bet we will be doing just that.

9. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

8/24–8/26.  This will be my seventh visit to the world’s first National Park.  I can’t get enough of it. It is possible to scratch the surface and see a lot of the park in a few days.  It would take a lifetime to get to know it. Remember the cake?  We will be cutting and enjoying it at the base of the Roosevelt Arch on August 25th.  Happy 100th birthday National Park Service.


10. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming.

8/26.  This recreation area is home to the dammed Bighorn River with miles of striking canyons.  This is one place on #arch2arch that could get cut.  By this point in the #NPS100RoadTrip we will be running out of time.

11. Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming.

8/26–8/27.  America’s first National Monument always amazes me.  it seems so out of places at the western edge of the rolling Black Hills.  It has a sense of mystery and awe to it with or without knowledge of the goofy 1977 movie.

12. Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

8/27.  Badlands National Park is my home park.  I lived in South Dakota for a time and went to college there.  Not once have I said no to the question “Do you want to go the Badlands”?  I found my park long before the current Centennial campaign began.

FYI, Jeff is insisting that we stop at Wall Drug for a bison burger while we are at the Badlands.  He’ll get no argument from me.

On August 28th we point the #NPS100RoadTrip mobile back to Missouri and reality.  I suspect that all four of us will feel grateful and humbled to have been a  part of the most important birthday of 2016.

Don Hafner

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