Greetings from I-35 in Iowa heading home! This is the last day of our trip. The last 600+ miles! I think we're all ready to sleep in our own beds. But I thought I'd finish posting the adventures from our trip. Yellowstone - We caught sunset at Old Faithful that first day. The second day we hiked up to Mystic Falls and had a picnic lunch along the trail. It was the least dangerous hike in terms of heights ... you just had to watch out for bears! We didn't see any, and the thirteen of us were certainly loud enough not to sneak up on any animals. After our lunch, we took our hiking boots off and waded in the Snake River (which was much warmer than the water in Zion ... but not hot like the 200+ degree hot pots throughout the park) ... perfect to cool the feet down. We split up at that point and went off to explore various parts of the park. We met back at the Falasco's for a late dinner. The kids absolutely loved the "Seldom Inn" ... the Falasco's guest cottage. Their hospitality was a blessing to us all. The kids loved their dog, the amazing train set in their house, the treats (candy bars and pop) they shared and the smores they left out for us. We woke each morning to a fire ready in the fire pit. We all loved the campfire we had on our last night there. We were unable to have a campfire when we were camping due to extreme fire restrictions, so the kids were happy to finally lead us in some Wakanda favorite camp songs. The Cayo kids would have made their cousin James proud with their rendition of the "Hippo Song"! Perhaps the best part of the campfire was the "magical flames" that Dennis shared with us. Placing a little bit of magic (small copper tubing and garden hose) in the coals, produced a beautiful display of colorful flames. It was a magical ending to a great day. The stars at the Falasco's were also the best we had seen ... the moon rose later so we were able to see a darker sky. Dennis and Becky sent us off the next morning leading us in a beautiful prayer. For the second time this trip, I wished that I had been able to write the words of prayer down to remember them better later ... but the message was the hope that we see the love of God in the faces we meet, in the beauty of God's creation that we experience on our journey, we remember these experiences when we return and reflect the love of Christ to others. Dennis was much more eloquent than my memory. However, his prayer struck me as exactly what I hope my children get out of their travels. It was a perfect way to say goodbye to them. We left the Falascos and drove through Yellowstone on our way to Rapid City. We stopped to see the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone", saw a large buffalo herd and stopped at Buffalo Bill Dam as we traveled across. By the end of the day, both Allie and Billy were sick with the headache and fever that Sarah and Dan suffered. It was a long drive to Rapid City. We didn't get to the hotel until late in the evening. It was the 4th of July and we were able to see fireworks all along the freeway as we traveled across country. We were hoping to see fireworks at Mount Rushmore (what's more patriotic than that"!), but they only have fireworks on July 3rd. I made the group of kids driving in our car listen to the Gettysburg Address, "You're a Grand Old Flag", and the "National Anthem" to celebrate the holiday. Mount Rushmore was our group even on the 5th. John finished his 4th Junior Ranger project and was sworn in again with a promise to protect our national parks. He loves his hat with all the Junior Ranger pins he has collected. We listened to a Lakota Indian band named Brule before we left. The Cayo's went back to the hotel to swim/sleep with the sick kids. The Templin's went to the Presidential Wax Museum (Larry had never been to a wax museum before!) and the Klein's went to the "Beautiful Rushmore Cave". We met back at the hotel and went out for a great dinner (except for Billy and Allie who both slept through much of it). Downtown Rapid City was very quaint and had beautiful statues on almost every corner. Larry and I had buffalo brisket ... seemed the thing to do in South Dakota! This brings us to Friday morning. Allie woke up a little better ... Billy was still feeling lousy ... Sarah T joined the crew of sick kids. We hit the road with two planned stops. We went to the "Badlands National Park" and went through a few of the outlooks. The Badlands were interesting in that you look one way and you saw beautiful prairies and the other desolate canyons and rock formations. Ellen said that we had now been "From the Mountains, to the Prairies" ... all we needed was the "Oceans white with foam". The Templin's figured out the numbers of our trip: 3 cars 13 people 14 states 20 days 5500 miles (give or take) It was truly a whirlwind. The days have become a blur. I know for me it feels like we've been gone a long time. This trip has been a gift, a blessing ... one I know our family will always remember. Hope you all had fun joining us virtually. Home sweet home here we come ... Maureen Ellie at one of the "paint pots" in Yellowstone. Amazing signs of thermal activity! What would a hike be without some danger"! The boardwalks around the thermal features made the walks easy. The steam from behind the group is close to a gyser. The girls in front of one of the lakes in Yellowstone. Our official Old Faithful photo. Another beautiful sunset. This one from Old Faithful. You can see Mystic Falls in the background. It was a gorgeous hike. We picniced on this log, in the shade in the middle of our hike. We watched marmets (little prairie dog looking animals) playing on the hill below us. Their looking pretty good after this hike ... perhaps one of the least strenuous of our trip. The animals in Yellowstone were a big hit. Here's a close up (thanks to the telephoto lens) of a bison. We also saw a bald eagle, elk, deer, marmets, ravens, a coyote and lots of bison!