Our Trip to Yellowstone   1 comment

We just went to Utah last September and we went to Florida in April, but we wanted to cram in one more big camping trip before Zach leaves for college and his schedule becomes out of our hands.  I’m so glad we were able to go.  Couldn’t do it without Greg leading set up and sharing his precious vacation days with his family in this way!

We left June 22nd and spent the night at an RV park near St. Joseph MO.  It was a windy hot but we managed thanks to showers and a fan for the kids.

Night two we made it to the Badlands.  Last time I drove through South Dakota was in ’99 and Zach pointed out there was a drought that year, so this year, South Dakota looked positively verdant to me.  Green waves of grass going on and on.  We even saw the Wessington Hills of to our north as we went west on the interstate, that Laura Ingalls mentions in her books.

The Badlands campground was almost full but we did get a spot.  The kids of course wanted to go off exploring into the hills immediately.  We did do some of that but not too far as it was dusk and this seemed like a bad idea to me.  Coming back to our campsite we got a view of the full moon rising over the Badlands.  Pretty nice.

Next day we did some more hiking and exploring, with Zach descending into a crack in the earth, and Helena following.  That day was one of the longest, in a good way, that I have ever experienced.  I think being in that time zone and that far north and being on vacation had this effect that it seemed as if “the morning lasted all day.”  It was wild.  We had time to go to the Visitor Center, gift shop, and the lodge gift shop, and we still had time to relax.  There were some lovely wildflowers in the camping area, which I didn’t remember seeing when I’d last been in that area.  I did enjoy hearing the Western meadowlarks singing away; they were all over the place.

That evening we took a scenic drive, which took us through some wind and rain as a storm moved through the area very slowly and majestically.  We had seen coming back at the ranch, and closed up the camper, but I don’t think it ever actually rained there.  You can see such distances you can watch the whole thing traveling for miles.  The drive was lovely.  We enjoyed seeing a whole flock of Bighorn sheep mamas with their babies, babies who wanted to nurse right in the middle of the road!

Leaving there on the 25th of June, we took in Mount Rushmore in about 45 minutes.  OK, three of us had been there before, so maybe that’s why it didn’t take all that long.

Then it was onward through Wyoming (where my cell phone decided my phone messages were password protected, for the first time in seven years, for no reason I could discern) and heading north and west to Lodge Grass to take the back roads to Fort Smith Montana where I had lived in 5th and 6th grade.  It’s a long drive, there’s a lot of beautiful ground to cover.   I didn’t remember seeing the northern end of the Bighorn mountains with snow still on it….but maybe at Fort Smith, since you’re so tucked up under the foothills, you don’t see the mountains.

We were greeted on our arrival by the box elder bugs in the hundreds, crawling all over the admission kiosk for Bighorn Canyon NRA.  Zach was delighted to see them, and it was fun for me as well because I used to have such fun “bugging” those bugs when they were thriving on the south wall of our house all summer.

We camped that night in the Afterbay campground and I took Greg and Helena and Beren for a scenic tour of the playground and my old street.  The street and my house looked a bit smaller than I remembered, but the hill behind the house, not.  That really was a big hill and it was exciting and fun to climb when we used to go to the top for something fun to do.  The playground equipment was almost all the same and Beren enjoyed an actual merry-go-round.  It was fun playing on the playground I enjoyed as a 10-year-old.  Visitor Center at Yellowtail Dam had not changed an iota since 1979, that I could tell.  It was like time traveling.

Next day we went through Hardin, me thinking of old friends, some already dead and gone, while Beren was trying to interest me in a game of charades. That’s an interesting gig to try to pull off; relate fully to your child when you are about 35 years in the past…  We met my friend Rosanne in Billings and had lunch with her and her charming daughter.  What a treat.  She claims I haven’t changed since 1979, and she really hadn’t either, what are the odds of that?  She actually remembered what we did at my 12th birthday party better than I did!  It was a sleepover and we told creepy stories!  OK.  Good memory.

We then got to spend a long weekend with Greg’s brother and his wife. They showed us a really good time. We got to pan for Montana sapphires, the kids and Greg went fishing in a beautiful valley, we took a tour of Helena on the trolley, enjoyed ice cream, a carousel and Monsters University.  We of course had to take a picture of Helena with a sign that featured her name.

Leaving Monday, July 1st, we drove south along the Madison river into the Yellowstone area.  Went to the Hebgen lake quake and slide area, but unfortunately the VC was closed for renovations.  I was deeply impressed as a kid by that area and the lake that was created by the slide.  Then we headed on through West Yellowstone into the park as Greg wanted to be sure to get a good campsite.  However, they assign sites, and thankfully it was a nice campsite surrounded by trees.  That night after setting up we went to the Mammoth Hot Springs area and saw those with the sun setting, also quite a few elk and buffalo.  One buffalo was resting placidly by a bubbling water pool just right at the edge of the road.

The next day we went all around.  We hiked to Lower and Upper Yellowstone Falls.  Worth the climb back up, definitely.  Unbelievably beautiful with all that cold, green water shooting over the edge like living marble.  The foam rebounds about a third of the way up on the Lower Falls, and that would be 100 feet or so.  There was even a big blob of snow/ice stuck to the south side of the canyon below the top of the falls.  While Zach and Greg did Uncle Tom’s trail to the bottom of the lower falls, Beren, Helena and I walked out to Artist’s point, the place from which Moran painted his iconic image.  That too was worth the trip.

In the afternoon and evening we saw more sights probably setting a record for the most places seen by our family on vacation in 24 hours.  We went to the Norris Geyser Basin and saw various springs and fumaroles, and fortuitously were just walking toward Constant Geyser when it went off!  Very fun.  Then it was on to Old Faithful and we were not disappointed. This was the highlight of the trip for Beren, and we all enjoyed getting baptised by that most reliable geyser.  On the way back we stopped at the Artist’s Paint Pots and were not disappointed with that hike — there were several lovely thick blorping mud pots at the top of the trail and many other lovely bubbling pits elsewhere.  The Canyon area VC was outstanding I might add, a great 3D model of the area which explains the supervolcano and caldera. Too bad Yellowtail Dam VC can’t get some of the Yellowstone funds diverted for an update…

That night we had the honor and privilege of having some dear friends from home whose visit overlapped ours drive around and around the Canyon campground looking for us, because we had planned to meet, but my messages, all THREE of them, that had our campsite number, went astray!  What are the odds? Anyway, their devotion earned us a very pleasant late evening visit with them complete with refreshments that were their dinner.

Next morning we headed out to Grand Teton NP which I am told I’ve visited before, but not in living memory…which I have very little of anyway!  I loved it here.  Beren says if you’re looking for scenery definitely Grand Teton is the best, although personally Yellowstone was his favorite.  And I have to agree with him, what we saw just got even more gorgeous every place we went.  You’ve seen those photos of pink, giant mountains with fields of wildflowers in the foreground?  Yes, that is a real place, and you can drive to it.  They are block fault mountains which means they have no foothills, which is why they are so impressive.  I could stay a few years in Jackson Hole and not be sorry, I think.

And one fun highlight was the neighbor’s duck waddling down to introduce herself.  We had noticed they were camping with a duck and imagine my delight when the duck got bored when only the dad was in the campsite, and waddled briskly over, quacking quietly all the while, to settle herself in the pine litter between my chair and Beren’s.  We loved her!  Her name was Dusty and her embarrassed “father” came to get her and took her back when she began nibbling the tags on the camp chairs.

We took a drive up Wilson Moose Road the first night looking for moose; saw none but two lovely beavers who were beaving, and tons of wildflowers, roses, roaring streams, and it smelled like Alaska.  Next day it was the ferry across Jenny Lake and a hike to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and into Cascade Canyon. Beren and I turned back before the rest did, but he and I hiked at least two miles.  It was great.  Very tired that night, had a lovely shower and then strolled by the lake and took more pictures.  Tried to get photos of pink mountains in the a.m. but no luck clouds in the east blocked the sunrise.  Don’t regret getting up at 545 though.  It’s easy to do when I’m in the mountains, on vacation, further north where there is more light….There are waterfalls tumbling down every valley as you see across the lake and it just goes up and up something like what Aslan’s county is.

Feel so blessed that we were able to go out there.  Drove back through Wyoming’s incredible variable scenery and spent the night along the Front Range with Greg’s cousin and his family. What a treat.  We got a wonderful mix of family and friends and scenery the whole trip.  We hauled Mom and Dad’s canoe home from Denver although the wind in Kansas tried to get us to leave it there.  A flat tire near Evansville Indiana was our only mishap.

I haven’t even looked through all our pictures since Greg uploaded them, haven’t had time due to taking Zach to college orientation.  But I will and savor them until I can get back to Wyoming….

Posted July 20, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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One response to “Our Trip to Yellowstone

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  1. Seeing you and the family was one of the highlights of our trip. The grand search was worth it. Wish we made it to the Tetons. Your description is lovely.

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