Sunday, October 15, 2017

Traded the Red, White, and Blue for some Emerald Green

I was legitimately sad to leave Yellowstone National Park, the boundaries of which feeling like a safe-haven away from a life that had generally become routine. As with any outings with small children, we had our share of camping trials and tribulations, and plenty of moments where one or both of us was yelling at the kids, but the camping seed had been planted and we all couldn't wait to do it again. Though Jacob works during the week, and I work every weekend morning; and though there were plenty of times when we couldn't go actual camping, we were able to find plenty of moments to just head into the scenery. A week or so after our Yellowstone adventure was one such day-trip: we decided to forgo the red, white, and blue of Independence Day for the deep, Oz-like green of Emerald Lake.

 What appears to be landscape is actually TONS of lily pads on water. The Wizard would totally approve.

How creeks roll, Montana-style.

 West Rosebud Creek.

 Montana Mountain Model behavior.

Our original plan was to have a picnic lunch then hike to a nearby lake. But since it was a Wednesday, and thus empty, we spent too long exploring our campsite-turned-picnic-party that it got too late and we ended up having to save the hike for another day (which we did).

 Called Emerald Lake, I can't imagine why.

We were able to make a few more trips to Emerald Lake and surrounding areas throughout the rest of the summer, and I'm interested to see how much it has changed now that it's fall. And, of course, I can't wait to go back in the Spring.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Roadtrip that Revived It All

A quick scroll through my previous posts, it's no secret that Jacob and I have long been fans of the road-trip. But once the small children came along, our lives evolved into the We Shoulds; "we should go there," "we should do that," "we should eat here" day...When we have the time off from work...When we have the extra cash...When it's summer...When the kids are older and will have memories instead of just being loud, crying, pooping, portable, Butterball hams. This last summer was shaping up to be more of the same, getting sucked into the pitfalls of discussing what we *should* do right up until the start of school. But life dropped a bombshell in the form of a solid week off in the middle of June, and though we teetered on the brink of over-analyzing whether or not traveling of any sort was feasible, we packed up the car, with our three-bedroom tent, and hit the forested road. We continued to hit the road off-and-on for the rest of the summer, but this particular road-trip took us deep within the confines of Yellowstone National Park.

Our greeting into the park.

 Vacation vibes at Yellowstone Lake.

 Passin' on the torch of pitchin' the tent. If I learned anything from childhood camping, it was how to properly hold and hand-off the tent stakes.

 Louis' help was integral. Well, when you go camping at age 91, people don't expect a whole lot from you, not even to lay on your own freakin' dog bed. He laid there until we started cooking chicken and burgers over the campfire, came out to forage for scraps, went back in, then transferred himself to his own bed once Jacob and I went to sleep. Like us, this was his first time camping so he stuck by me like sap on a tree.

 Our very first campsite.

Checkin' out them views.

And quite the views they were! When you go camping on a Wednesday, you get a primo spot.


 Kids Who Kamp

 We either went to Old Faithful or a golf tournament.

 In spite of being named "Old Faithful" - FAITHful - the timing can be off by about 15-ish minutes. So you elbow your way to the front of the boardwalk that keeps you from stepping onto boiling sand, and...wait....and wait...and get your phone/camera ready...and wait....And then it happens and it's one of the coolest things you've ever seen, and just when you think it can't get any cooler, it does, and before you know it, you're shrieking like your 12-year old self at a New Kids on the Block concert.

This fly, fierce, fashionista is the reason we wound up at Faithful. She asked to go see it and when your child asks to go see something other than Moana, you do it.

After Old Faithful, Jacob told Zoey about the mineral pools, something I had never known existed. While she was thoroughly impressed, when we asked Holden what his favorite thing to see on our trip was, he said, "The gas holes!" Which we took to mean the mineral pools.

 I'm not gonna lie, the temptation to throw something in was overwhelming.

 We continued our tour through the park and encountered more "gas holes," on Firehole Lake Drive.

We entered the park through Cody, Wyoming, and exited through Cooke City, Montana so our Park sights were abundant, and always changing.

 Anyone who has grown up in the West and/or North West knows that driving through anything resembling a hill means driving through trees. But just when you think you've seen a lot of trees, you see. A. Lot. Of. Trees!

 We continued our drive through the lots of trees to Gibbon Falls.

This is the bottom of the falls, and one of my all-time favorite photos that I've ever taken.

 The thing about the Park is that once you see one thing, you want to see them all, so that's how we wound up at Mud Volcano. I mean, with a name like that, how can you *not* go see it?

 There was a small, yet very up-hill hiking trail at Mud Caldron, where we met these - if you can see way off in the distance - buffaloes. It's hard to see in the picture, but as we walked up to see them and the landscape, the one on the far-right stood up and turned to face us. He continued to watch us, even turning his body in our direction, as we got back in our car, and drove back down the main Yellowstone thoroughfare. Jacob was the first to notice the buffalo watching us, and while I choose to believe it is because I am, in fact, a Disney Princess who can communicate with the animals, there's a small chance it was because I had Louis on the leash.

 More so, though, I think I just developed an affinity for our world's real Disney Princesses - Park Rangers. We were only in the park for a couple of days, but I developed a deep celeb crush on these people, the peace-keepers of the animals. We drove passed these buffalo in the opposite direction, only to return about an our later and, by then, two males had started fighting, drawing a crowd of not only buffalo but people. The Park Rangers - POOF! - appeared out of nowhere, and the part that really gets my eyelashes batting, is that the Rangers don't necessarily do anything. They simply park on the side of the road, get out and make their presence known, and make sure that no camera-toting tourists are interfering with the animals, and no camera-eating animals are interfering with the tourists. Aside from these dueling buffalo, there was the black bear peeking out of his hillside cave, and the baby antelope literally running circles around its Mama, and a Park Ranger making sure you kept your distance.

 Yellowstone River.

Summer looks a bit different in certain parts of Montana, and our route back home included the Beartooth Pass so, as I mentioned in my previous post, our summer sojourns started with snow. And while it wasn't one of the more super roasty-toasty summers we've had, when we went back up the Beartooth Pass later in the summer, every bit of snow was gone. Coincidentally, our second time up the Pass was the weekend before it closed due to snow.

Our roadtrippin' days have definitely changed a bit, from no kids, to one kid, to dueling kids, not to mention always being at the mercy of the unpredictable weather. As you pack what appears to be everything you own into your car, it's easy to stumble into the "is it worth it?" pitfall. But lucky for us, most likely because of our trip through just a small portion of Yellowstone National Park, we always decided that, yeah, it is worth it; even when you don't have enough kindling for the campfire, and your burger meat is still slightly frozen. Our summer slogan started to become, "I want to see something cool." And see cool things we did. (And on the way there, we plugged our ears and sang "99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall.")