One week after returning from Honeymoon Roadtrip, I embarked on a quick weekend trip that was a total 180 from visiting national parks and exploring wilderness. My sister and I had planned a very ambitious weekend trip of flying to New York City and seeing three Broadway shows.
It all started with the announcement that Neil Patrick Harris was taking the lead role in Hedwig & the Angry Inch. Both of us being huge fans of the musical, we decided that the show was definitely a must-see and we were both willing to splurge on the tickets and airfare.
On Friday night, I flew in and met my sister who had arrived one day earlier. She was out with friends, including our gracious hostess for the weekend, at a bar in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn. We threw back some pints and then settled in for the night, excited for the next big day. On Saturday morning, we explored the Brooklyn Flea, had fries from Pommes Frites, and shopped at the Strand before heading back to the apartment to get ready for Hedwig.
The play was everything we dreamed it would be and more. NPH was incredible as the lead role, and Lena Hall was heartbreaking as Yitzhak. After the show, we were giddy with excitement but had to quickly get over to Chelsea for the next show, Sleep No More. An interactive retelling of MacBeth, the experience started with us all donning our required masks and getting split up from each other. For the next few hours, we wandered on our own through several stories of a NY loft redesigned as a 1920’s Irish hotel, following actors as they told a story with dance, movement, and emotion. It was a unique experience and made it worth staying out until 3 am.
The final show of our Broadway marathon was a Sunday matinee of Cabaret. I had seen the Sam Mendes-directed stage show before, but not with Alan Cumming, and Lauren had never seen it at all. Roundabout Theater Company produced the show in the original Studio 54, so it was really cool to see the huge disco ball hanging above the audience. If those walls could talk… The production, starring Cumming and Michelle Williams, was a perfect finish to our whirlwind weekend of theater, a “classic” Broadway show performed by incredible onstage talent.
After the show, we cabbed to the airport and flew back home. It was an awesome (expensive) weekend , perfect for a few musical theater geeks like us. As much as I adored the two weeks of parks and nature, it was nice to be reminded of some of the things that make city-living so great.
Friday, June 13: Bighorn, Deadwood, and Sturgis
After making it through most of the trip without incident, we had our first and only scrape-up with the kayaks as we left our motel in Billings. Kurt drove under an entranceway that had the clearance noted on the entrance but not the exit. Luckily, the kayaks sustained minimal damage and none of it too serious–a cable connecting the rudder was snapped and the brand stickers were peeled off.
Our first big stop was at the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn. We walked through the rolling hills to see the site of Custer’s Last Stand and the memorials dotting the green plains.
Back on the road, we grabbed lunch at Taco John’s and reentered South Dakota. We drove through Deadwood, which seemed to be mostly made of beautiful views and casinos. We stopped in Sturgis and visited the Indian Motorcycle shop to do some Father’s Day shopping.
After getting ice cream bars (because that’s how hard we roll in Sturgis) we hit the road to get through more miles. Our two long stops had put us schedule to arrive late that night in Sioux Falls, so I called their Holiday Inn to reserve a room for us. We hit one more travel snag when a third J-bracket on our roof rack snapped, unable to withstand the barrage of wind on the South Dakota plains. Kurt used the straps we bought at the REI in Bozeman to get the kayaks secured.
The sky began to darken, and we still had a lot of miles before Sioux Falls. We made one final stop at a biker bar in Kennebec for dinner, and then pushed on. As we drove, we had a great view of the “honey moon,” a rare lunar occurrence. It was pretty special to witness, especially on a Friday the 13th, and on our actual honeymoon.
We finally arrived at the Sioux Falls Holiday Inn just before midnight, ready to check in and pass out. After getting our key and room number, we were delighted to discover that we had an enormous suite on the concierge floor that was easily twice as big as our condo back home. We didn’t get much time to enjoy it before we fell fast asleep after a long, busy day.
States visited: Montana, South Dakota
Sunday, June 8: our first full day in Montana
We began our morning with breakfast at Cat Eye Cafe, and highly enjoyed their cat-themed decor and delicious food. Then it was time to say goodbye to Bozeman and we got started on the long drive to Glacier. After a stop in Columbia Falls for groceries and Whitefish for lunch, we reached the cabin we were renting for our stay in northern Montana. The cabin was part of an original homestead, completely refurbished to make for a charming vacation home.
After settling in, we drove into Glacier National Park to get an early peek of where we’d be spending the most of our next several days. We stopped at McDonald Lodge to enjoy the view and visit the gift shop. Like we would discover in most of northern Montana, the shop was full of huckleberry-flavored treats.
Since we were visiting early in the season, the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road wasn’t fully open yet. It would take several more weeks for crew to finish clearing the snow from the higher passes. We drove the 16 miles that was open, up to Avalanche Lake.
On our way out of the park, we stopped to get information on boating permits for our two kayaks and talked to a friendly ranger about the various lakes within the park that would be good for kayaking. He confirmed that our choice of Upper Kintla Lake would be a good one, and we became even more excited for our first full day in the park.
We headed back to the cabin where Kurt grilled up a delicious meal of salmon and corn on the cob, paired with some local beers including the Great Northern Brewery’s Wild Huckleberry Wheat. The sky stayed light until 10:30 pm, as we were far north and near the western edge of the Mountain time zone. Our first night in our little cabin was cozy and peaceful.
Wednesday, June 4: sights of the Grand Loop
On our first full day in Yellowstone, we had a lot of must-sees on our list. After a quick breakfast at the cafeteria to save us time (noticing a pattern yet?), we started out on the Grand Loop, making our first stop at Tower Falls. From there, we headed towards Lamar River Valley to get an idea of where we’d be doing our backcountry camping the next day. Then, we circled back down to the southwest side of the park to see Old Faithful, the geothermal pools, and Old Faithful Lodge.
As we drove around the park, we made numerous stops to view wildlife. It was easy to look for the tell-tale sign of several cars pulled over, with people looking through binoculars or camera lenses and pointing into the wilderness. We got a very close look at an elk chilling out beneath a tree only 25 yards away from gawking tourists (and a park ranger making sure we kept a safe distance).
As it grew close to sunset, we made our last sightseeing stop at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Not far from our lookout point, an osprey was engaged in an ongoing battle with a raven while its mate sat on their nest, protecting their eggs. A small group of us watched, trading off binoculars and watching some Planet Earth-style action go down. We drove up to Inspiration Point to get a truly breathtaking view of the canyon.
Wildlife sightings: badger, swan, elk, pronghorns, ospreys, raven, mule deer, bison
Landmarks visited: Old Faithful, tons of geothermal pools and hot springs, Grand Prismatic Spring, Tower Falls, Firehole Falls, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Falls
Monday, June 2: Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills National Forest
In the morning, we attempted another hike into Badlands backcountry near Prairie Dog Town, but were quickly defeated by the muddy conditions. Bison were plentiful on the road, crossing from one plain to the next. We watched them cross the street from inside our car; one curious bison walked right up to us and gave the hood of the Subaru a good sniff.
After saying goodbye to the Badlands, we headed to Mt. Rushmore. As expected, there were plenty of crowds out on the perfect sunny day. Unexpectedly, we learned that you can buy a “Red Rally Racer” at the concession stands, which is a cherry slushie with a shot of vodka or tequila. God bless American, indeed.
After leaving Rushmore, we took a scenic drive through Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park. On a wildlife viewing loop in Custer, we saw bison galore, pronghorns, elk, and mule deer.
We set up camp at the Bismarck Lake campground and kicked back with a bottle of wine while reading our guidebooks. Overnight, some loud thunderstorms rolled through, but our little tent held up like a champ. Next stop: Yellowstone!
Sites visited: Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forest
Wildlife sightings: bison and calves, pronghorns, elk, mule deer, wild turkeys
Sunday, June 1: Our first full day
We woke up and cooked a breakfast of scrambled eggs with sausage and veggies using a pan and Jetboil on our front porch. In the light of day, we saw that ours was the third Subaru Forester in a row on our block of cabins. After breakfast we checked out of our cabin and began to explore the park. There were several short hikes that we completed, including one known for its spectacular view that came with a warning “not for those afraid of heights.”
I am pretty acrophobic, but I gave it a shot and climbed the ladder that took us to the next part of the trail. The view was indeed fantastic, which I enjoyed a nice and safe full 5 feet away from the edge.
After we finished hiking, we left the park to check out Wall Drug (where we purchased the mounted jackalope head I’ve always wanted because I am a weirdo) and tried to see the Minuteman Missile Site, which was sadly and inexplicably closed. On the way back, we drove the Badlands Scenic Loop, keeping an eye out for bison. Sure enough, we spotted their distinctive shapes dotting the green meadows. Once we got to the primitive campground at Sage Creek, we saw a few more hanging out about 200 yards away on a hill, grazing calmly. The forecast called for rain, so we quickly set up our tent and cracked open a few local beers we had picked up at the grocery store in Sioux Falls. After a brief rain passed, Kurt and I got in one more quick hike towards the river, coming across yet another bison on the way. It was our closest view of one yet, and their size was impressive. Though they seem pretty chill, they can be aggressive and do serious damage with their horns, so we kept a respectable distance. The wet ground acted like clay, clumping to our boots with each step. It made it difficult to hike very far, so we headed back to camp to clean ourselves up and relax before night fell.
As the sun went down, other hikers staying at the campgrounds slowly returned from their explorations. A neighboring camper remarked that he had heard coyotes yipping at him. Sure enough, as we slept in our tents that night we could hear the howls and yips of the pack.
Sites visited: Wall Drug, Minuteman Missile Site
Wildlife sightings: bison, bighorn sheep, jackalope (heh), coyotes (heard only)