America, The Beautiful

This is the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone.  It’s not in some exotic remote place in the world, but right here in America.

You don’t get this view of it from the walkway alongside.  I was able to take it from a helicopter.  Such a view helps you realize how beautifully spectacular America is.  It’s that view I’d like to give you now.

I’ve been asked by a friend whose kids have been raised in Europe to show them the American West, about which they know next to nothing.  Their view of the U.S. has been limited to places like downtown Manhattan and Palm Beach.  My friend wanted them to experience the staggering grandeur of the West, its extraordinary history – plus the cheerful friendliness of the people who live there.

The kids had the time of their lives, with an appreciation and love for America they’ll never forget.  I’d like to share what we saw with you.  It will refocus on what America really is – as beautiful, as glorious, as historical, with as decent a people, as any country that has ever existed in human history.

Let’s experience this together.  Enjoy.

We flew directly over the Grand Canyon…

America, The Beautiful

Then walked through the unbelievable Antelope Slot Canyon and to the iconic Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River at Page, Arizona…

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

We helicoptered through magnificent Zion and Bryce Canyons in Utah…

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

 

Then on to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in Wyoming…

America, The Beautiful

Helicoptering over the entire area, we saw a lot of wildlife – from herds of elk and buffalo, to bighorn rams and a grizzly scampering away from us.  Everyone kidded me about my shot of “bare ass.”  (Yes, I have a really good zoom lens…)

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

We saw hidden lakes high up in the Tetons that few trekkers ever see, and the marvelous Lower Yellowstone Falls…

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

Of course, we couldn’t miss watching Old Faithful erupt…

America, The Beautiful

Now for history.  Next was a solemn exploration of the site of Custer’s Last Stand on the hills above the Little Bighorn in Montana.  Although it was a running battle over these hills for about five miles, it ended on Last Stand Hill, with its memorial to the soldiers and scouts of the 7th Cavalry who perished on June 25, 1876.

There are white markers all along the five-mile battlefield where they fell, with the final ones on Last Stand Hill – including Custer…

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

Then it was cowboy time back in Cody, Wyoming.  Patriotism flourishes here, where everyone in attendance sings the Star-Spangled Banner and tears up at the sight of Old Glory before the All-American excitement of a rodeo…

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

Few sights are more emblematic of American patriotism than the monumental tribute to it of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  It’s such a thrilling sight, especially from a helicopter…

America, The Beautiful

We ended in Deadwood, the Wild West gold rush town, where the most famous gunfighter of the Old West, Wild Bill Hickok, met his end – assassinated from behind in Nuttall & Mann’s Saloon on August 2, 1876.  The site has been meticulously recreated, along with Hickok’s ivory-handled Colts…

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

Hickok was sitting in the far chair facing the entrance behind thephoto.  Jack McCall, whom Hickok had bought breakfast for that morning, walked into the bar.  The instant he got behind Hickok, he drew and fired his pistol into Wild Bill’s head, killing him instantly.  Wild Bill was holding two aces and two eights (the 5th card is unknown), forever to be known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

McCall was hung on March 1, 1877 and buried with the noose around his neck.  Hickok is buried with a fitting memorial to him in the Mount Moriah Cemetery above Deadwood.  Here’s the famous photo of him and his memorial…

America, The Beautiful

America, The Beautiful

That was our experience of the wonderful country, history, and people of the American West.  It’s still here for you to experience as well.  For me, my country will always be America the Beautiful.

Jack Wheeler is the founder of Wheeler Expeditions.

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