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Vacation Day 55/90

Saturday, July 05, 2014

We enjoyed Great Sand Dunes National Park. We walked on the sand dunes one day, but MAN! Walking UPhill on sand at 8,000 feet is not my idea of fun! We made it 2/3 of the way up to the top and called it quits. The next day we did a GLORIOUS hike up to Mosca Pass. It was 7 miles round trip and passed a babbling brook, through alpine meadows with lots of wildflowers in bloom. Glorious! The altitude gain was 1,400 feet (from 8200 to 9600) but it was gradual and we took our time. Pictures NEVER do reality justice, but here are a few photos:

We stayed at San Luis State Park, which was 8 miles directly south of the National Park -- you could see the dunes and mountains in the distance. The afternoon weather changes dramatically every day! Amazingly beautiful!

Now we are at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. This is one of the few World Heritage and Cultural sites in the United States.

For an unknown reason, in about 1100-1250 AD the indigenous people moved from living on the top of the mesa to living in the "alcoves" below the surface. They built villages and dwellings there. They are very difficult to get to, and must have been even MORE difficult back then, so the thought is that they moved below the surface for protection.

There are over 1400 such sites in the park but obviously only a few are open to the public. We took a ranger-led tour of Balcony House, which entailed going down about 300 steps and then climbing UP a 32-foot ladder and crawling through a 12-foot long, 18" wide tunnel:

Pictures of the cliff dwellings:

Up the ladder!

Leave it to TC to get a picture of my @ss!!

We are trying to hike every day but it has been really hot here -- close to 90 degrees every day. That, plus the thin air really makes it hard. Today we are going to another National Monument (Hovenweep) and hope to walk the trails there. That's why we'll get there when they open at 8:00 am!

Hope everyone had a wonderful fourth of July!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CINDYSDAY 7/8/2014 4:35PM

    thank you for sharing!

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KRICKET4 7/7/2014 2:35PM

    Just love that little corner of the world. Have visited Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde a couple of times. Never seizes to amaze me. Thanks for posting some pics. The @$$ picture is hilarious. Posting it tells me that you have a great sense of humor. Love it!
Enjoy the rest of your trip (one of those days - or years - I'll take more than 10 days off to travel too. Helps to be retired, I guess :)).

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BUTTERFLY-1976 7/7/2014 1:07PM


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NANCY- 7/6/2014 9:28AM

    Talk about challenges! GF, you are amazing!
The only sand dunes I have experience with are the little ones at the beach and those were a chore. :)
BTW with all that walking, hiking, etc., your posterior is in great shape.
Thanks for sharing the wonderful pics.

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1BEACHWALKER 7/5/2014 6:48PM

    Wow! You are really fit! Very nice vacation you are having there! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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TERI-RIFIC 7/5/2014 6:42PM

    Very nice pics. I want to go to Mesa Verde!

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MYTHMYTH 7/5/2014 6:06PM

    LOVE the photos! Thanks for sharing! Mesa Verde is a mystical place....there is something so haunting about it.

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SUGAR0814 7/5/2014 6:03PM

    Awesome pics! You are so lucky to experience all the adventures you & TC attend! Have fun & stay hydrated! emoticon emoticon

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AJDOVER1 7/5/2014 4:36PM

    Great pictures! Hiking those dunes sounds heroic.

Thanks for sharing your adventures. I love TC's camera work!

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BROOKLYN_BORN 7/5/2014 11:08AM

    The USA has some really amazing sites, especially out west. We included Mesa Verde on a 9000 mile trek when the kids were little. In a Ford Falcon, yet with NO AC! We were a lot younger then.

Beautiful pictures!

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MEADSBAY 7/5/2014 9:46AM

    emoticon so much for sharing your incredible adventure.
These are things I would never ever do but am so enjoying the vicarious experience!

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KANOE10 7/5/2014 9:00AM

    I love your pictures. That ladder looked challenging. Plus hiking up in sand is really difficult. Hope you get an early start before the heat!

What a great trip.

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JOYFULSPIRIT920 7/5/2014 8:41AM

    I went there when I was a kid. I asked my parents years later if it was real or just a cool dream I had :)

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Bad Things Come in Threes

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I was going to write a blog about the last two weeks in Rocky Mountain National Park, and upload some pictures, but my heart is heavy. I'm sorry this blog will be a downer.

My father died on May 11, 2013 from cancer that invaded the nerves in his face.

My former sister-in-law, married to my brother for 15 years, died of skin cancer on August 13, 2013 at the age of 51.

Yesterday my mother was positively diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. She never smoked a cigarette in her 80 years on the planet.

She's been told it is incurable but treatable, but the "treatment" is the same that my dad got: chemo and radiation. It added possibly 6 months to my dad's life but they were miserable months. He was disfigured by the radiation, went blind, eating was an ordeal, and he even couldn't talk without pain. He wouldn't go to church and rarely left the house because of the way he looked.

So now this.

My mom has already hinted that she might not agree to treatment because of what my dad went through, and the cancer isn't curable. She worries that she doesn't have anyone to give her the 24/7 care that she gave my dad.

Of course, we are in early stages. Mom had an MRI and PET scan a few days ago but the "team" hasn't had time to put together a treatment plan yet.

As for me, this trip is quickly losing its luster, but there's nothing I can do right now, even if we were to go home to Arkansas. I've offered to go back to Michigan to stay with her when/if it becomes apparent she needs someone. Right now she says NO, she's doing fine, and the two siblings who still live in Michigan are taking time off work to ferry her to appointments. Mom is very independent and I'm betting she'll go into a hospice facility before she'll "inconvenience" any of us to keep her in her home.

Also up in the air is our huge and expensive trip to Nepal and India in October/November.

My head is just swirling, and it's hard to wrap my mind around the whole thing.

AND, here's a weird coincidence. My dad was told on January 15, 2013 that his cancer had recurred and he decided not to pursue further treatment. My granddaughter was born 10 days later. It was so hard to be both happy and sad at the same time.

But guess what? After I got the email from my sister yesterday outlining mom's condition, my daughter called to say she was pregnant with her second child!

A bittersweet day, to be sure.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MARMAERT 7/3/2014 11:56PM

    Wow, Nanette! What a whirlwind of emotions you are dealing with! My grandmother died about 3 weeks before my granddaughter was born, and it's as if her spirit lives on in Kate. I hope that is what happens with your new grandbaby, too. And that your mom makes a wise choice for her future. Whatever happens, you will be there to help in any way you can, even if it's letter from far away places. Praying for you and your family.

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MARYINFL2000 7/2/2014 8:55PM

  I am sorry to hear about your mom in addition to you other losses. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family. Thankfully you have other joy as well, and maybe that will be just what is needed (possibly by your mom as well) to celebrate the circle of life and all the joys and happiness there has been. You hsve been blessed in many ways.

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CINDYSDAY 7/2/2014 4:08PM

    You are in my thoughts and prayers as your family goes through all of this!

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BUTTERFLY-1976 6/30/2014 9:12PM

    I'm so sorry to hear about your Mom (((Hugs)))

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1BEACHWALKER 6/30/2014 6:21PM

    So sorry to hear about your Mom. Try to have a good trip best you can. I'm sure she'd want that for you. Take care.

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MYTHMYTH 6/30/2014 3:06PM

    Hold on to those good things - that new little one will add so much joy to your life in the future! So very, very sorry about your MOM. emoticon

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JOYFULSPIRIT920 6/30/2014 7:38AM

    Wow, what a mix of emotions. So sorry to hear about your mom. emoticon

Life is just hard sometimes. Wish I had words to say to make things better.

Prayers for her & you!!

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AJDOVER1 6/29/2014 4:01PM

    My heart goes out to you. emoticon
There will always be blessings to balance this pain.
Congratulations to your daughter.

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SUGAR0814 6/29/2014 3:05PM

    So sorry to hear about your mom. Keeping your family in my prayers.

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KABMPH 6/29/2014 12:01PM

    I am so sorry to read this very sad news. My best to you and your family with the many decisions to be made. emoticon

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NANCY- 6/29/2014 8:16AM

    My head would be swirling too.
First of all congrats on your daughters news, when is the expected arrival?
Secondly sorry to hear about your mom's cancer.
It is difficult situation, but follow your heart.

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KRISKECK 6/29/2014 8:09AM

    So sorry to hear this sad news...I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

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EMMACORY 6/28/2014 10:03PM much to deal with and process. When my Mom got the news about lung cancer, she was not sure about treatment because of what her brother experienced in the 1920's. I told her that treatment was so different now. I said you could try a treatment and if you do not like it you can stop. She did well and lived 18+ months longer. It was quality time. Each person responds to treatment differently and she needs to decide what is best for her. Will be praying for her and your whole family. Blessings.... emoticon emoticon

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TERI-RIFIC 6/28/2014 9:06PM

    I'm so sorry to hear about your sad news. So much to deal with all at once! My heart goes out to you.

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SLENDERELLA61 6/28/2014 8:18PM

    I don't have the words I want to offer you comfort. Your blog brought tears to my eyes. It is truly hard (impossible?) to be sad and happy at the same time. Trusting you will find your way forward. Be gentle with yourself during this difficult time. Take good care of yourself during this time. -Marsha

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KANOE10 6/28/2014 7:46PM

    Hugs to you my friend. Indeed a bittersweet day. I am so sorry about your mom. I know you will be there for her in any way you can. Life seems so unfair that she was a non smoker and got lung cancer. Take care of yourself. This is very hard. Many prayers and warm thoughts going to you.

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BEAUTY_WITHIN 6/28/2014 7:06PM

    Oh wow. *HUGS* emoticon

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KRICKET4 6/28/2014 6:46PM

    I'm so sorry your heart is heavy today.
Sending prayers.

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MEADSBAY 6/28/2014 6:46PM

    Oh my dear friend,
I am sorry about your bad news.
My head would be swirling, too!
What an emotional roller coaster your life is right now.
Take care of yourself at this difficult time and try to salvage what joy you can put of the rest of your trip.

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Correction about Devils Tower

Monday, June 16, 2014

Well, I found out that DT isn't a volcanic extrusion it is an igneous INTRUSION. Ha! Who knew?

I thought it was going to be kind of lame, just a big rock sticking out of the ground! But I was wrong -- it is beauiful! You can see it 15 miles away!

We first took the Red Beds trail (3.5 miles) and then were able to take the paved Tower Trail (1.3 miles around the Tower) with a park ranger who was from the Lakota Tribe. He was EXCELLENT and explained so much about his culture and the deep respect the Lakota have for nature and the earth. He told several stories to explain the existence of Devils Tower, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the origin of the Lakota people that have been handed down by untold generations of his people. It was enchanting! There was a school group about 20 ten-year-olds that were taking the guided hikewith us and they were interested and respectful. Great!

We then found a shady bench facing the Tower and ate our packed lunch. Why does ordinary food taste so good when it is eaten in a beautiful setting?

Then we decided to take the Red Beds trail again, this time going in the opposite direction. I wish I had more pictures to share, but we accidently deleted most of them -- when I got home there were only 20 pictures on the camera instead of the 80-100 we took!

I also found out that the ban on climbing during June -- because of the summer solstice which is sacred to the Lakota -- is only voluntary. And yes, there were two people climbing it today, which sort of made me feel ashamed. We could learn a lot from the Lakota.

The wild flowers were beautiful!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KATHIC2 6/23/2014 7:37AM

  Nice. I would love to take the guided hike.

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1BEACHWALKER 6/22/2014 9:12PM

    How awesome!! Enjoy your trip to Colorado and and the half marathon. Looking forward to hearing about it all! Take lots of pics for us!!! emoticon

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NANCY- 6/18/2014 12:13PM

Thank heavens I get to see the world through your eyes. Being fit means you can get out and experience the world.
Thank you so much for sharing with all of us.

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MNABOY 6/18/2014 1:04AM

    great trip

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BUTTERFLY-1976 6/17/2014 10:47PM

    Wow..this looks amazing in the photo...I can only imagine how spectacular it was in person. Can't wait to see your next adventure pictures!!

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AJDOVER1 6/17/2014 4:10PM

    Thanks for sharing the beauty of your trip!

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CINDYSDAY 6/17/2014 2:18PM


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MYTHMYTH 6/17/2014 1:53PM

    thanks so much for whaling!!!!!!

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JOYFULSPIRIT920 6/17/2014 10:12AM

    I went there the summer before I turned 10, I still remember all the moles - they were everywhere!!
America really is a beautiful county. So many diverse landscapes. I think its wonderful that you and your hubby are taking the time (and money) to see so much of this lovely scenery. (I'm jealous too emoticon )

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KANOE10 6/17/2014 9:38AM

    I love your pictures. That was interesting about the Lakotas. Due to your inspiration in hiking, I am going to search out hikes in Hawaii.

Great exercise!

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FLUTTER-BY)L( 6/17/2014 1:56AM

    I love learning of other cultures. Thanks for sharing a grand adventure.

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SUGAR0814 6/16/2014 11:56PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your adventures. I get to experience places I would never get to go! The pictures are great!! Have fun!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Vacation Day 35/90: Devils Tower, Wyoming

Monday, June 16, 2014

Today we are off to see Devils Tower in Moorcroft, Wyoming. My husband is a big geology fan so passing up a volcanic extrusion just wasn't going to happen! It also is a national monument so I can get my National Parks passport stamped, which is the highlight for me! Love looking through that book, seeing all the national parks, monuments, and historic sites we've been to.

Of course we'll hike today also! We are hoping to do all 7 miles of trails around the tower. We will NOT be climbing up. In June they don't allow climbing as a gesture of respect to Native Americans who believe it is sacred site. Ha, if we were REALLY respectful climbing wouldn't be allowed at all!

Tomorrow we are off to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Ten days of NO electricity, NO water, NO shower houses and of course, NO internet. So I'll be out of touch....

We have a half marathon in Estes Park on Sunday, and we plan to do a lot of scenic drives and hiking while we are there. Later, Sparkfriends!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MYTHMYTH 6/16/2014 5:42PM

    Estes Park is beautiful! I'm sure you will have a wonderful time

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KRICKET4 6/16/2014 3:31PM

    Rocky Mountain National Park is awesome! Enjoy.
Going off the grid completely should be an interesting experience.
You'll definitely be roughing it.
Looking forward to hearing about THAT experience :)

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AJDOVER1 6/16/2014 3:14PM

    sounds wonderful!
Enjoy every minute of your adventures. Thanks for sharing them with us!

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CINDYSDAY 6/16/2014 3:04PM

    have a great and safe time!

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DRADDIE 6/16/2014 10:49AM

    I love that you have all these half marathons planned on your vacation! Again, so impressed! I loved DEvil's Tower when I went there..I love all the stories behind it too! Enjoy!!

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NANCY- 6/16/2014 10:08AM

    No water after doing a half marathon??? Yikes.
Doing all that does give you perspective. (does that me no flush toilets? )

I agree with you about the climbing. Oft there still is too little respect given to others.

Enjoy being unplugged.

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MEADSBAY 6/16/2014 10:01AM

    What an amazing trip you are on!
How wonderful that you are both fit enough to do such a thing later in life.
Many people deny themselves the opportunity by not keeping themselves healthy.

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KANOE10 6/16/2014 8:53AM

    How exciting that you got another national park stamped! I am impressed that you will stay in a place with no water, no electricity, no shower houses, and no internet. That will be an adventure. Good luck on that half marathon. You are truely enjoying your travels and getting lots of hikes in! Someday when I retire I would like to do do hiking trips with my husband as well.


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Vacation Day 28/90 - Buffalo Encounters of the Close Kind

Monday, June 09, 2014

We went to Mt. Rushmore today. I hate to admit it, but it PALED compared to Crazy Horse. It's just so...small!

But we enjoyed the video and the visitor's center and the president's walk, and then we came back to the campground and decided on a 5.5 mile hike.

I packed our lunches and we started on the loop. We got about 1/2 mile and saw....places in the grass that were all matted down (buffalo resting). Lots of hoof prints on the path. Lots of buffalo dung/scat/droppings/pies. We kept going but we got to French Creek and it was running too fast and too deep to cross without getting VERY wet so we went back.

We got back to the trailhead/parking lot and decided to take the loop the opposite way. After about 10 minutes, TC said, "I think I see a buffalo." I squinted, looked through the trees and sure enough, I saw it too. So we started back. After a minute or two I turned around and SHRIEKED -- they were following us on the same path! There wasn't just one, there was at least a half dozen!!

There was NO PLACE else for us to go -- on the left was a bluff too steep to climb and on the right was the sheer drop to the river.

I didn't know if we should run or not, but I thought not. But we definitely picked up the pace! The bison seemed to be "ambling" but they are HUGE animals and definitely walk WAy faster than us!

Here are some pictures that I took once we made it back to the parking lot and the safety of our truck! The buffalo continued on ...

OK, so after THAT aborted hike, we decided to do another one that goes along the French Creek. This was the first crossing.

After this crossing, we ran into a guy (who had on water shoes, smart fellow) who said there were 17 crossings in the 3+ miles. So...we were done with that hike too!

To salvage the hiking portion of our day, we decided to take the 2-mile asphalted walk from the campground to the visitor's center. After the day we'd had, we just wanted a nice, safe, easy, boring walk!!!

But -- tomorrow is another day!!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MARYINFL2000 6/20/2014 9:07PM

  I really love reading your travel stories...and your pics! I can never get enough of them. If I can't be out thrre, at least I can get a bit of arm chair travel!

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KRICKET4 6/13/2014 1:32PM

    More buffalo. That does, indeed, sound a bit scary.
Getting my feet wet on a hike is not my favorite either. Too bad though you had to abandon that hike. Bet it would have been beautiful. But then, there are tons of beautiful places throughout.

Looking forward to your next adventure post.

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LORILEEPAGE 6/11/2014 4:20PM

    Even when I saw Mt Rushmore in 1978 I thought it wasn't very impressive

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1BEACHWALKER 6/10/2014 4:57PM

    That would be scary to encounter one of those! Even if they won't attack you, seems like they would have being so close...stepping on you would hurt!!! I can't believe they let them roam free through the area where people are. We have some up in a preserve in north FL and they have a fence all around -they have 6000 acres to roam free.
I am always afraid to walk in areas where bear or Florida panther are...although no attacks have ever happened...I am not one to risk it! Glad you got out of their way ok! But, it would be so exciting to see them like that! We never did spot them in the preserve we went to. They have wild horses up there too in the same preserve-Paines Prairie is the name of it and it is beautiful!
You sure know how to have a fun time!! Happy, safe travels!! emoticon

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AJDOVER1 6/10/2014 4:20PM

    Glad you made it through there safely! Never a dull moment for you!

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BUTTERFLY-1976 6/10/2014 1:36PM

    Yikes...If just 1 buffalo was following me I'd freak out, let alone 6 of them. They're so huge & I definitely would not want to get in their way. It's a hike you definitely will never forget though!! lol.

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JLOVESDOGS 6/10/2014 9:34AM

    Wow Annette that was some adventure! Sorry the day didn't go as planned but what an experience right? emoticon

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KANOE10 6/10/2014 9:14AM

    I would panic around those buffalo also! What an adventure.


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KABMPH 6/10/2014 8:18AM

    I had no idea buffalo were dangerous like bears! Good to know.

Glad you're enjoying your vacation! What's a vacation without a little thrill? emoticon

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GLMOM2 6/10/2014 7:03AM

    LOL I know the feeling!

We encountered a bazillion buffalo last year out west. We went to Yellowstone and then Mount Rushmore on the way back. Yes, Crazy Horse is huge compared to that.

I have so many Yellowstone buffalo stories! emoticon I have a priceless picture of one walking up the middle of the road - traffic is at a standstill. It walks right by our truck, hubby is looking straight ahead to avoid eye contact and the buffalo turns & looks in the truck! LOL If the window was down we probably could have felt its breath!

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NANCY- 6/10/2014 6:53AM

    What a way to pick up your pace. I'd move faster too if I had huge hairy creatures walking behind me. What motivation! Thank heavens you guys didn't step into a pie, slip and fall.
You may not have had the leg workout, but I bet you heart certainly got a workout.

Thanks for the heads up, I made a note to self if I ever make it to see these amazing works of art.
Mt. Rushmore before Crazy Horse.

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SUGAR0814 6/9/2014 10:34PM

    So glad you didn't run from the buffalo! emoticon

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JOYFULSPIRIT920 6/9/2014 8:53PM

    Fun trip... lots of adventure!!

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WATERMELLEN 6/9/2014 8:45PM

    Good decisions to come up with an alternative plan -- those buffalo are huge and kinda scary I'm thinking!!

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MEADSBAY 6/9/2014 8:15PM

    Oh, geez...I don't blame you! emoticon

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MYTHMYTH 6/9/2014 7:02PM

    It might not have been much of a hike but it was certainly an adventure!

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