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Fall break 2017: Road trip!

October 29, 2017

We didn’t have plans for a big summer vacation this year due to having a newborn (not to mention lack of funds from maxing out our out-of-pocket paying for A’s back surgery.)  At least the big boys got to go to Aaronic Priesthood camp for a week in July and then youth conference with Liahona Academy a few weeks ago.  But I’ve been going a little stir crazy from not going anywhere.  I wanted to take some small road trips overnight this summer but they didn’t happen for one reason or another.

One of the place I’ve really been wanting to visit is Martin’s Cove in Wyoming.  We have ancestors who came across the plains with the Mormon pioneer handcart and wagon companies, though none in the Martin and Willie companies who encountered such hardships in their journey.  I thought Martin’s Cove was a lot closer to home, but realized it was a 5 ½ hour drive from us.  Then I realized Mt. Rushmore (where I’ve wanted to go for ages) was 5 ½ hours beyond that, and a plan was hatched!

Having boys at the high school for seminary and choir this year and being tied to the school schedule has really crimped our style.  I love travelling, but not with hordes of summer travellers.  We’ve loved the freedom homeschooling has given us to be able to take off any time we feel like and have had some wonderful vacations at odd times of the year when everyone else is in school.  The boys can miss a few days of school here and there, but we decided to schedule a road trip for fall break, and coincidentally my birthday weekend!

Wednesday before last, after the requisite Walmart trip in Park City (after leaving a lot later than intended for various reasons) we headed for Rawlins, Wyoming.  No one wanted to stop for dinner, they just wanted to get on the road, so we ate snacks in the car and finally stopped at Little America for dinner at 9:00, then on to Rawlins for the night.  Little A woke up in the hotel parking lot, started crying, and promptly threw up on the pavement (luckily not in the car!)

After a good breakfast (what we always look for when booking hotels) we drove up to Martin’s Cove.  There was a power outage when we got there so we went through half of the visitor’s center tour by flashlight.  Another family from Salt Lake joined us.  The missionary was surprised at the increase in visitors from Utah that week.  We said it must be because of fall break and others had our same idea.  After the tour and a short movie, the boys got to pull handcarts through gravel around a short trail.  A was happy to let his brothers have the experience.  He had enough of handcarts  going on Trek last summer.

You can see Devil’s Gate in the background.

  Baby S was an exceptionally good little traveller. 

After the visitor’s center we drove out toward Martin’s Cove.  The land here was later used for ranching and grazing, but never plowed up for crops, so the original trail from the Mormon and Oregon trail pioneers can still be seen.  When little legs are bigger we’ll have to come back to hike out to the actual cove where pioneers and rescuers alike took shelter.


We drove on to Casper and decided to have a picnic lunch next to the North Platte River after crossing it about six times.  After getting whacked by the doors of the suburban a few too many times from the wind as we tried to make sandwiches out of the back of the car, we opted to eat inside the car.14-37886712966_398169a968_o


I’m happy to report that E now wants to be in pictures . . . but his little sister doesn’t.  Here are the five boys by the North Platte,16-24088724638_616965a6d2_o

and one of the few good pictures I got of Little A that I had to take surreptitiously so she wouldn’t scream at me and hide her face.15-37886735266_836db81e2a_o

After our picnic lunch, we headed out across the “wilds of Wyoming” as the boys called it.  A was driving and chose the route that went across National Grasslands.  The boys were not impressed with the scenery, but now we know where to go to see the largest surface coal mine in North America.

Once we hit South Dakota, we drove through Jewel Cave National Monument which we had never heard of before.  We finally got some cell service again so we could look it up.  Apparently it’s the third largest mapped cave system in the world with something like 181 miles of cave.  Another “who knew?” moment.  The boys want to go back, but next time think we should fly to Rapid City and rent a car so we won’t have to drive across Wyoming again.

We met Nana for dinner who had driven from Ohio to meet up with us and follow us home.  Stay tuned for our South Dakota adventures.

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