Robby Poore

Month: June 2017

The Grand Tetons!

Our tent after the hail

Going to the Tetons by boat reminded us of the Jurassic Park movie

Happy family, Hidden Falls

Hike in the Tetons

Desmond and Dad in Dad’s favorite environment, the mountains!

Our poncho’d hobbits

The banana family!

Leaving the Tetons in the rain

Campfire and marshmallows before the rain

June 27, 2017

Our day in the Tetons started off well; a young well-groomed couple were jogging through the campsite holding a selfie stick in front of them to capture every step. Gretchen said “what extravagant, wild creatures here in Yellowstone! I thought they were native to Facebook!”

We stopped again in the Grant Village supply store–sometimes I’m beginning to wonder if we are in a “Gift Shops if the National Parks Tour”! When we were there, a huge storm rolled in and dumped an inch of hail! It looked like it had actually snowed. We felt the need to drive half a mike back to the campsite and check on the tent but the REI Kingdom 6 was standing tall. Whew!

The drive south to the Tetons is beautiful, with lakes and forests, and some amazing wildlife. The jagged peaks of the Tetons rise straight up out of the valley in spectacular fashion. (Candy reference: see a Toblerone wrapper).

We had a picnic lunch at the Jenny Lake visitor center, then took a ferry across the lake to Cascade Canyon to go see Hidden Falls–recommended to us by our good friends Mike and Rita. I felt like we were taking the boat to Jurassic Park; huge jagged peaks wrapped in misty clouds with lush wet trees, and a small dock with “be bear aware!” signs all around.
We took the hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. We saw a marmot and a pica along the way, Gretchen was delighted to check these off her “animals I’ve seen in Yellowstone” list. Desmond found that jumping over puddles was pretty entertaining, and really enjoyed scrambling over the rocks and searching for new “wands”. It was crowded until the rains came. We got a little wet, then donned our outrageously yellow Grand Teton National Park ponchos and headed for the boat when the rains got heavier. Several younger, more fashionably dressed millennials laughed when Gretchen said “we’re the banana family!”
Desmond thought he and Gretchen looked like hobbits.

We dried off and headed back to our campsite pretty late. Along the way we got into another animal-influenced traffic jam, but this time it was a mama grizzly bear with two little cubs! She was way out on a field by the road and several rangers were managing the onlookers. We watched with binoculars until the bear turned to saunter our way, at which time the ranger demanded we get back to our cars. They felt she intended to come cross the road. Desmond even got a picture of her which was not bad if you zoom in.

It had rained all day at our camp but we managed to get a fire started and dinner cooked. Quesadillas are a great campfire food, by the way, it was a big hit.

Just as we were getting ready to go to sleep, the skies opened up, and rain continued most of the night. Good to listen to, but I was dreading packing up the next morning.


It might look complicated, but it was a simple breakfast

And here we are!

Old Faithful.

The Prismatic Geysers

Two sets of Junior Ranger twins!

Desmond and Gretchen talk to Ranger Jeff at Black Sand Geysers

June 26, 2017

Our big day to see Yellowstone! We started with a quick breakfast and coffee, Desmond carved several Harry Potter wands for some spells he hopes to use on our journey, he loves to whittle. Then we got in the car and drove up to Old Faithful. We saw a few bison and one or two elk. The day was beautiful, sunny and warm. The Old Faithful geyser erupts every 90 minutes or so, and there’s a calculation sheet in the kids’ Jr. Ranger packets, which Gretchen naturally filled out, and got me to help time the duration of the geyser. There were several hundred people there, in varying degrees of loudness, sitting on convenient benches placed in a semi-circular display area. The geyser was still pretty great, and its really remarkable how predictable this thing is.
We had a nice picnic near the visitor’s center, then packed up and went to the Black Sand Geysers, where we went on a fascinating ranger-led talk with Ranger Jeff. Gretchen, of course, asked a ton of questions, and we learned a whole lot. Ranger Jeff reminded us all to make sure to put down our cameras and cell phones from time to time, and appreciate this landscape without all the distractions.

We then went to prismatic springs, this huge and remarkably beautiful cauldron of colors and steam. It was crowded, but we managed ok. We bumped into Ranger Jeff again, who talked to us about the animals of Yellowstone, the plants and geology, and really inspired Gretchen with science and nature. Gretchen asked Ranger Jeff about the bison scat and wolf tracks around the edge of the geyser, and wondered if the animals ever get hurt in the hot waters. The ranger told us that they rarely ever get hurt here–the bison and wolves have lived around these features for millennia and have adapted to the strangeness.

We wandered our way up to the Fountain Paint Pots, burbling sulfuric mud pits and colorful blue pools of hot water… it was an odd sight to see amidst the green forests and mountains. On our way north to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone we got stuck in a “bison jam”, one of the all-too-common traffic delays caused by bison crossing the road.
We took a side trip on the Firehole Lake Drive, and got to see the White Dome Geyser erupt, which apparently is a very rare thing.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a weird sight; yellow rock and steep cliffs, constantly eroding, with an impressive waterfall that spills into an active geyser– creating a huge plume of steam and mist. Gretchen longed to hike to the bottom, but we were too tired.

We were pretty hungry so we stopped in a restaurant to eat, bought more bits and baubles, then headed back to our camp at Grant Village.
We were too late to make it back for the ranger talk, unfortunately, and too late even for a campfire. We decided it’d be a good time to teach the kids how to play solitaire, which they both really enjoyed playing together, ironically enough. We played cards for a while and then went to sleep.

Cody to Yellowstone

Yay hiking!

Hike along the lake in Yellowstone, Grant Village

West Thumb Geysers at sunset

Yikes! Geysers!

Geysers, you say?

June 25, 2017
We woke up lateish while Lynne went to the store to get supplies for the next 3 nights in Yellowstone. The kids and I sauntered to the hotel breakfast, then swam in the nice outdoor pool for a bit. I’d forgotten how cold you get when getting out of a pool in the west, even on a hot day.
We packed up and headed out of town, on the way treating the kiddos to some fine Dairy Queen hamburgers and shakes. A beautiful drive over a pass on highway 14, with alpine lakes and snow still on the north faces of the mountains. There were several areas where forest fires had torn through, maybe 5 to 10 years ago, with new trees popping up between the fallen bleached trees. We made it to Yellowstone lake around 2, and Gretchen was thrilled to use her 4th grader card to get into the park. We stopped in the Fishing Bridge visitor’s center to get Jr Ranger packets and had an interesting talk with the ranger about forest fires. The really big one was in 1988, in which 35% of the park was burned. Lynne and I came through in 1992 and saw the devastation, and thankfully the park is doing better now. Apparently smaller (and less hot) forest fires are normal and healthy for these forests, some of the trees have adapted to these fires– their cones pop open at 150°f!
We set up our campsite in Grant Village, H269. There are over 400 campsites in this place, and it’s booked solid all summer. The kids were itchy to go explore, so I took them for a short hike to the lake and over to the visitor’s center. Along the way we had to take off our shoes and walk through the water (the water levels are really high this year and the bridge washed out), it was really cold, so cold that Desmond said he could feel his bones shaking inside his skin.
We met Lynne and ate dinner at a great little restaurant near the center, right on the water.
At sunset we went to the West Thumb Geysers, it was really interesting, bubbling pools of hot water, steam, and rings of bacteria around the pools. Gretchen correctly identified elk tracks and scat. We had the place to ourselves, and it was really peaceful.

All of us were super tired, and it was late (sunset after 9pm up here) so we just crawled in the tent and went to bed.

Black Hills to Cody Wyoming

Devil’s Tower, USA

Junior Rangers at Devil’s Tower


Cody, WY

Big sky requires big beer

June 24, 2017
We decided to get an early start to our day. The kids helped pack the tent and camping stuff, so we gave them some cash and sent them to the camp store to buy some cinnamon rolls. Lynne and I packed the car and picked up the kids, then we were in the road by 8:30.
We blasted north and west to Devil’s Tower. On the way we noticed that the terrain changed almost exactly at the state border. We’ve seen this in several states; Texas to New Mexico, Iowa to South Dakota, etc. Wyoming looks more westerny, and South Dakota looks more plainsy.
Looking at our car’s hood, it seems we’ve brought several hundred thousand insect carcasses displayed in various splatter patterns all the way from Iowa.
Devil’s Tower was a strange sight to behold, a large igneous tower made of phonolite. The kids worked on Jr. Ranger packets and we went on a short nature hike. We saw a few mountain climbers scaling the ridges of the Tower. The kiddos got their badges and some patches, and we were on our way.

More driving through expansive plains and rolling hills. At Buffalo, Wyoming, we headed west into the Bighorn mountains on highway 16. This area in Wyoming, in addition to the Black Hills in South Dakota, is really popular with motorcycling clubs. We saw one particular biker gang while fueling up in Buffalo, about 15 bikes in all, and oddly enough I heard the song “Eastbound and Down” blaring out of ALL of their bike speakers at the same time. How is this technically possible? Is this a thing, or did I imagine this?

A beautiful climb to about 9500′, and a gorgeous drive through rocky canyons with roaring rivers on the other side of the Bighorn range, then down to arid rolling desert. Lynne said it reminded her of San Isidro in the south part of the Jemez in New Mexico.
We arrived in Cody, checked in to the Best Western, then began doing laundry while the kiddos swam in the hotel pool. Cody is a cute western town, with saloony-type restaurants and Buffalo Bill themed attractions, but still with enough integrity to be a decent little town.

As I mentioned in another post, wifi and cell service can be spotty out here in the West, so posts might not be as frequent. We’ll spend the next 3 nights in Yellowstone, and we’ll see how things go!

The Black Hills of South Dakota

Breakfast in the great outdoors, Black Hills SD

Desmond and Gretchen with new hats

Biovarg family selfie at Mt. Rushmore

The twins getting Junior Ranger badges

One of the many Needles tunnels the Black Hills– we barely made it through with our family sportwagon!

A herd of buffalo!

Ranger Earl begins the Wind Cave tour. Robby thinks this is one of the best National Park tours he’s ever been on

June 23, 2017
An exciting, ever-changing evening of wind and rain. We woke up reasonably refreshed and happy, though. We made coffee and oatmeal with our little camp stove, and warmed up in the western morning sun.
We’re staying at a private campground called Spokane Creek, it’s quite nice. Lynne and I haven’t stayed in very many private campgrounds, and this one seems to be a rather popular with the big Sturgis Motorcycle Rally folks. After leisurely breakfast, we drove the twisty roads through the Black Hills up to Mount Rushmore. These roads wound around each other, over bridges and corkscrew like hills, it seemed to me a lot like an adult roller coaster! It was really pretty around Mount Rushmore, and the kids filled out their junior ranger packets. We also got them some junior ranger hats– they look absolutely adorable wearing these matching hats. After this we drove around more twisty roads in the Black Hills, had a lovely picnic in Custer State Park at a beautiful lake named Sylvan Lake. Robby opted for the “1970s lunch,” consisting of Triscuits and Underwood Deviled Ham. The rest had more modern, “healthier” cuisine.
More twisty gorgeous roads took us down to Wind Cave, where we saw a heard of buffalo and several calves, big prairie dog towns, and even one fox cavalierly trotting amongst the prairie dog mounds.
We took a fascinating guided tour at Wind Cave, with Ranger Earl leading the way. So far, there are 149 explored miles underneath a one square-mile patch of land. We took stairways up and down, looking at all kinds of beautiful rock formations. The kids loved it, especially when Ranger Earl turn off the lights. We went in the modern entrance, but the natural entrance to the cave is a small hole about 18″ wide that the Lakota Sioux Indians believe that the first herd of Buffalo emerged from this gateway to the spirit world. The air pressure below and the air pressure above vary just enough that there’s almost constant wind either going in or out of the cave.
After the tour, the kids got their junior ranger badges, and we drove our way around the Black Hills back to our campsite.
The kids found a pack of other kids to play with, and Lynne and I relaxed by the fire. We were exhausted, and went to bed around 10.

Wall, Badlands, and Black Hills

Desmond and Robby hike the Badlands

Gretchen shows off her Junior Ranger badge and patch!

Desmond and Lynne explore Wall Drug

Desmond working on a Jr. Ranger packet

2017: Robby and Lynne at Wall Drug

1954: Maybelle McCombs, Dorothy and Emery Poore, Wall drug.

Gretchen and Robby on the ridge at Badlands.

June 22, 2017

Sorry for the delayed blog posts, folks! We are in areas of the west that don’t have any Wi-Fi, or even cell service. So we had to put our phones on airplane mode. Will try to update this  when we can!

We had a great night sleep in Wall–so great in fact that we couldn’t make it to the hotel breakfast! After packing the car we headed to the legendary Wall Drug store, ate a massive breakfast and took several photos. I remembered seeing a photo my grandparents had taken in 1954 at the same location, so Desmond took a new one of Lynne and I in the same wagon.

We motored to the Badlands, and it was spectacular. Beautiful rock formations, all rapidly eroding and exposing fossils. Kids got the Junior Ranger packets at the visitor center, watched a short (and interesting) video, then went for a hike on the Notch trail. Gretchen is quite an intrepid explorer, looking for “the road less travelled” and scrambling up rock faces with ease. We had a great time, it’s so nice to hike in the west again. The weather was great, too, only about 75°.

We had lunch at the visitor’s center, then the twins got their Ranger badges (and the obligatory assortment of curios), and we were off on the spectacular drive through the park. Beautiful views, and we spotted a
few bighorn sheep, and one lonely buffalo.

We were tired so we motored to Rapid City, then headed south to our campsite at Spokane River Campground near Keystone. It’s our first time at a private campground, and it’s quite nice. The kids made instant friends with other youngsters who understood the World of Harry Potter, fidget spinners, and other oddities. The tent got pitched, the fire lit, and we had hamburgers and beer, and marshmallows. Lots of late-night arrivals at this place. The wind picked up at night and rained a little.

GRETCHEN: So far, today was my favorite day on the trip. I absolutely love Badlands National Park and am glad to be a junior ranger there. The hikes and landscape there are beautiful. Even though the hikes were long, tiring, and hot
The amazing views made up for it. I also like to take the road less traveled and go for a hike with my Dad. Now I realize that Badlands is such a wonderful place and deserves it’s title as a National Park.


Columbia Missouri to Wall South Dakota

Twins at Cracker Barrel

It’s hot and windy in Iowa

Gretchen at Breadico, Sioux Falls SD

View of the Missouri River

June 21, 2017
We got in late and got right to sleep last night. We had a quick breakfast and hit the road around 9, we’re trying to make it to South Dakota today, almost 800 miles!

We listened to some of Robby’s tragic/comic 70s truck driving collection to start our day, peppered with some George Jones and Buck Owens. Gretchen sang her own country song, that went something like “I’m away from home but my dog misses me”.
Lunch in St. Joseph Missouri at a Cracker Barrel, the kids’ first, and we played the peg game, where we found out that Desmond is a genius! The kids now love Cracker Barrel, in part because they have a gift shoppe conveniently located at the front of the store.

We took a right turn at Kansas City and headed north, finding more corn growing, and oddly enough didn’t even drive into the state of Kansas. The rolling hills of Missouri changed to flatter lands growing more corn. We followed the Missouri River and we talked about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and headed north to South Dakota.

We ate delicious pizza and spaghetti at this great converted train depot in downtown Sioux Falls called “Breadico,” it was a nice break. Then we headed west toward Wall, South Dakota. The trees faded away and we were left with the Great Plains,  vast expanses of rolling grasslands. At sunset we stopped at a rest area at Chamberlain and saw a monument to Sacajawea and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Another 4 hour drive took us to Wall, South Dakota, where we checked in to the Best Western, very tired.

Second Day: Mammoth Cave, Munfordville, and Beyond!

June 20, 2017

Second day! We woke up about 7, after an entertaining night of coyotes, fascinatingly loud owls, and a noisy 1am airstream trailer. We actually did get rest!
After packing we headed to the camp store for some “much-needed caffeination” for Lynne, and a second breakfast for our hungry hobbits.

Next stop was the Mammoth Cave visitor center, where the kids got Junior Ranger packets, and got their 4th grader National Park passes.
We took the 1/2 hour self-guided tour of the cave, a brief look at the rotunda cave and a chance to chat with the nice rangers and enjoy the cool cave air.
The kids correctly filled out the Mammoth Cave Junior Ranger packets, got their badges, then purchased some additional baubles at the gift shop.
We drove up to Munfordville to visit Aunt Doris, Robby’s father’s cousin, and her daughter Holly. The Poore family were from here and around Hart County. We had a lovely lunch and caught up on Munfordville past and present. It was so nice seeing you, Doris and Holly!
Afrer this all-too-brief stop, we headed north to Louisville, then west to Columbia Missouri. We stopped for dinner in Fairfield Illinois. We had wanted to stop at the “Barbed Wire Grill” but it was closed, so we had to settle for Subway. By this time we’d noticed that the landscape had flattened out, fields turned to corn, and the trees were smaller.
We glanced at the St Louis arch and the Mississippi River, then blasted west to Columbia, arriving late!

Gretchen:Today was such a long day. Tomorrow will be longer. It will be good to finally settle down after so long. Even though today was long, it was very fun. Aunt Doris made us the most amazing food and Mammoth Cave is quite the place! We also watched Part one of the first Lord of the Rings movie, witch is amazing! I hope many more days on this camping trip will be as fun and exiting as this!

Kids going to Mammoth Cave

Gretchen in Mammoth Cave

The kids working on Mammoth Cave Junior Ranger packets

Gretchen, Doris, Holly, Desmond, Robby

Fairfield, Illinois

Crossing the Mississippi at St. Louis

First Day on the Road!

Kentucky highway

Campsite B17 Mammoth Cave

June 19, 2017
First day in the road! We are headed to Mammoth Cave for a night of camping. As usual, a delayed start and some last-minute packing adjustments. We were out the door at 10:15 and stopped for biscuits and to top off the tank. The roads are pretty crowded from Durham to Winston-Salem, but thankfully traffic thinned out a bit. Gretchen kept us occupied/entertained with her state trivia cards. Did you know that Wyoming had the first woman governor?

We played Gretchen’s alphabet game (a game where we pick a theme, then go around the car and name things in alphabetical order), sang some YMCA camp songs, and made machine gun noises while going through tunnels.

We passed over the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, twisting and turning through some traffic and big trucks, and through the rolling hills of Tennessee and Kentucky. I love how the roads in Kentucky are carved out of that shale-like rock. We made it to Mammoth Cave about a half hour before nightfall, set up the tent and got a fire going, and cooked hotdogs. There were a dozen or so kids on scooters zipping around, so we sent the kids out to go buy some firewood.

Gretchen: I feel very good about this trip. No matter what setbacks like traffic or sleeping in we had, we always over came it and managed to have fun! I can not wait to go to Yellowstone and I am very exited to become a junior ranger in as many parks as I can. 3 words to describe our trip so far: Love, Adventure and Snacks

Life on the road


Meet The Travellers

We’re taking a huge cross country road trip to visit national parks this summer. We decided to do this when we heard of the national parks’ “Every Kid In A Park” program, where all fourth-graders and their families can get into any national park for free. What a great excuse to go see the nation’s parks!

We’re going to spend three weeks traveling from North Carolina to Wyoming and back, visiting national parks, monuments, oddball sites, and local restaurants.

We hope to post frequently, but our main objective is to see and experience this great land of ours, so we may not post every day.


–Robby, Desmond, Gretchen, and Lynne

Now meet your tour guides, Creekside Elementary 4th graders:


Desmond, age 10

This is Desmond. When asked what are the three things he’s most looking forward to on our trip,  he said: “the car trip, camping, and playing ‘The Floor Is Lava’.”

Gretchen, age 10

This is Gretchen. She just passed the fourth grade with flying colors. The three things she’s looking forward to on the trip are: “whittling, hiking, and experiencing the wild around me.”

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