By HANNA SHIN | Junior Reporter
When my school abruptly switched to remote learning in March, everything else seemed bleak including the upcoming summer vacation. Now summer’s almost over and to my surprise, it’s not as bad. In fact, this summer’s one of my favorites!
My family and I had been planning to visit my cousins in Wisconsin for the longest time and we were crushed when COVID-19 ruined our plans to fly there. However, we decided not to let this pandemic stop us. We knew that flying there would not be safe, so my Mom rented a 13-seater van and off we went on a road trip to Wisconsin!
We voted on our stops and luckily all three of us agreed on Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton, and Mt Rushmore National Memorial on our way to Wisconsin. The van was packed with our luggages, food and snacks and a huge cooler for water and beverages!
We left the Palisades Saturday morning and drove for 7 hours. The drive was smooth and there were few cars on the road! We drove by Nevada and spent the night in Utah.
We’ve visited these states before but I was still mesmerized by the beautiful sights of canyons, mountains, deserts and high plateaus. We drove by the east side of Idaho as we headed farther north. We saw rolling hills, grassy plateaus, and stretches of farmlands with cattle, hay bales, red barns and silos. Like a picture perfect calendar photo, Idaho was beautiful!
We arrived at West Yellowstone, Montana late at night. We checked in a small hotel and we went straight to bed exhausted from the long drive. The hotel was a 10-min drive from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Last school year I chose Wyoming for my State Report and wrote an entire page on Yellowstone National Park. I was so excited to explore the park for the next three days.
The most popular geyser, Old Faithful, was very impressive. We sat on the boardwalk which was about 300 feet from the geyser. After waiting for 30 minutes, we started seeing little jets and bursts of water before its full display of at least 100-foot water eruption up in the air.
This natural water show lasted for 10 minutes and was the most mesmerizing thing I’ve seen! The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is the largest hot spring in the country and the 3rd largest in the world. We started at Midway Geyser Basin where there’s a boardwalk that loops around and allows visitors an up close view of the spring.
We also hiked up Fairy Falls trail to get a bird’s eye view of the hot spring from up above the hill. The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring was breathtaking and mesmerizing because of its bright rainbow colors!
According to the signage, the yellow, orange, and brown colors encircling the hot spring and lining the runoff channels are caused by heat-loving microorganisms that contain colorful pigments. While at a gift shop, a worker there told me that the hot spring is the most photographed thermal attraction in the country.
The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon is the tallest waterfall in the park. We went to the platform of the Brink of the Lower Falls to see up close the cascading waterfall.
On our last day, we drove to Hayden Valley just after sunrise hoping to see some wildlife. Just as we were entering the valley, a herd of bison was blocking the road. We were so thrilled and excited as they started trudging along our van! They’re huge and look very intimidating.
There were several roadside turnouts along Hayden Valley with scenic and panoramic views of the valley floor below. We used our binoculars to spy on geese, pelicans, elks, moose, and deer.
Since we only had a day to spend at Grand Teton National Park, we did the 42 mile scenic loop drive. The rising peaks of the snow-capped Teton Range was majestic and beautiful. We stopped at Schwabacher Landing and Snake River Overlook for photos and lunch break.
We drove 8 hours from Wyoming to South Dakota to see Mt Rushmore National Memorial. The entrance to the Memorial was lined with flags of the 50 states.
We visited the Sculptor’s Studio and listened to a 15-minute ranger talk about Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of the massive sculpture. I learned that it took 14 years to carve the colossal faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It was impressive and amazing to see it in person.
We took Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway as we drove across South Dakota. We saw the most amazing and breathtaking multi-colored buttes and cliffs of Badlands National Park. When we drove by Minnesota it was already dark and I didn’t get to see much of its landscaping.
We arrived at our hotel in Minocqua, Wisconsin close to midnight. My uncle rented a pontoon boat and we took it to Tomahawk Lake the following day. We went swimming and pontoon tubing. Tubing was so much fun, and at one point my sister and I were thrown off the tube!
Because we had such a great time we went back to the lake the next day. We then went hiking at Cooper Falls Trail. We walked through wooden bridges and passed by waterfalls and rivers. It was a beautiful 5 mile-hike! In the evenings we went go-carting and played at the local arcade. On our last day we packed a picnic basket and spent the entire day at the park.
Instead of driving back we decided to fly home. There were few passengers on the plane. The rows across, in front and behind us were empty. With my face mask and face shield on, I was thinking how different traveling is this time compared to last summer.
It’s also different in a good way. The 2,200-mile road trip, the beautiful states I’ve visited, and the wonderful time spent with my family made this summer extra special and one to remember for a long time!
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