Thursday, August 8, 2013

Camping in Yellowstone

Going camping when you are pregnant, and sick with young children, in bear country, during several rainstorms is not for the faint of heart, or the intelligent.  ;)  I am not sure this was our best idea, however, that being said, we did have several wonderful moments on our trip and I know Brandon and Grant will never forget the fun memories we made.
 Our camp site was beautiful. The boys were positively thrilled to help set-up camp. :)
After we got our camp set up we went to Old Faithful the boys could not get enough of the lodge, they thought everything was amazing.  :)
 The boys were even more excited about watching Old Faithful erupt.  They are still talking about it and working it into all of their play times. :)
 The next morning we woke up very early so that we could drive to the "Serengetti of America"  (Lamar Valley) and look for animals.  We had very little luck.  We did get to see a decent-sized heard of bison as we were leaving, and the boys were thrilled to pet a few horses. :)

 The boys were so cute as they tried to spy animals through their binoculars.
 Following Lamar Valley, which with or without animals is lovely, we went to see the petrified tree, a tree that has turned to stone.  It was interesting, but I do wish we could have touched it. :)
 One of our favorite places was Mammoth Valley, so interesting looking.  We had a great lunch at the Terrace Grill and then walked up to see Mammoth Terrace, and we hoped and prayed that the rain would stay at bay while we were out.  And for the most part it did, we were able to see many beautiful things, and just as we were finished we were hit with an epic hail storm.  We ran as quick as we could for the shelter of a tree because the hail was the size of marbles.  It was painful and we were soaked, but it was exciting; Jared and I have never seen hail so large. :)

There was no cell service in most of the park, so Wyn and Dee Ann who were vacationing in West Yellowstone with Ann Dee and Megan, came to find us, they did just as we pulled into our camp.  It was raining, but our tent was working marvelously at keeping the rain out, :) so we decided to stick it out and begin dinner, just as Wyn and Dee Ann were leaving the clouds cleared and sunshine dried everything up.  We fixed dinner, hot dogs, and dessert, raspberry cobbler.  While we were finishing dinner one of camping neighbors came over to borrow our ax, as he came back to return it he over heard me mention that we were going to need more briquettes so he brought over a large and nearly full bag for us as well as a great pile of wood all 2X4's around 2' long.  The boys were thrilled!  I intentionally did not bring any toys for our trip, and this firewood proved to be great entertainment for the rest of the week.  :) We then offered our neighbors some cobbler and had so much fun chatting with them.
 Then Jared went fly fishing on the Madison River (dream come true for him :)) and the boys and I had lots of fun cleaning up camp - I am not being sarcastic, we really did have a lot of fun.  Doing the dishes in a tiny room with nothing but a sink, was comical, and they loved "helping".  Then we set off to see Jared fishing.  If you look closely Jared is just above Grant's head, a tiny white dot. :)
 Our camping neighbors got a much better picture of Jared, but I don't know if you will be able to see it as well.  There was a rainbow which ended on top of the hill right above Jared's head while he was fishing.  I love the picture, and was so grateful for our new friends for taking it for us.
 The next day (Wednesday) we woke up early again to go animal spying at Hayden Valley.  It was still rainy, but mostly foggy.  It was beautiful.  We stopped by a river just as we get into the valley and walked around.  It was so fun to see nothing but fog, but hear several bison grunting across the river, we even got to watch one of the bison swim across the river and climb up the hill near by.  It was very cool to watch as the fog lifted and we began seeing more and more bison.

 When the fog had completely cleared, we drove further into the valley to see several bison.  We parked our car in a large pull out and bison were everywhere, far too close to get out of the car, but the boys could not see very well in their car seats so we let them climb through the sun roof and sit on top of the car.  I don't know what they were more excited about sitting on top of the car or watching the bison who were very active (mating season and all) they were running around, head butting each other, and very noisy. :)

 Then we stopped at the mud volcano which also had the Dragon's Mouth.  This was likely Brandon's favorite geyser. :) For the rest of the walk around the other geysers he narrated stories of dragons which lived in each of the geyser pits, and renamed each geyser to dragon names. :) Anyone near by was entertained and amused by his stories. :)
 After the geysers we had lunch at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge and then we went to the lake to play.  The boys were thrilled.  They stripped down to their shorts in no time and would have spent the rest of the day there, but it was cold and began raining again.

 I love their faces, oh to be little again. :)


That night it began raining lots while we were in our tent, so we brought our new blocks in and the boys built all sorts of fun things for their stuffed animals. :)

 The next morning we slept in - sort of ;) and then made a full breakfast; pancakes, eggs, and bacon.  It was challenging cooking in the rain, but we did it and then we ate in the back of the car. :)
 After breakfast we went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  I love this place, it is truly beautiful!!!!!  We hiked down to the brink of the Lower Falls.  It was so cool and the boys were great sports.

 Then we drove to one of the look out points and had so much fun looking at the nesting osprey as well as the falls, they are amazing!!
 Love my cute boys!!

Following the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone we drove back towards Lamar Valley in the hopes of seeing some animals.  We had very little luck, but while we were there, our cell phone finally had coverage and we got a text message from our dogs babysitter telling us that Pete had run away the night before and was still missing.  Not a message you want to receive.  Jared felt we should head home right away because we were the most likely to find him and have him come to us.  I felt we should finish our trip and our promise to take the boys fishing, because too much time had passed since Pete ran away.  So we compromised and decided to pack up our camp, head to Island Park, take the boys fishing and the Jared would drive straight home afterwards. (not something I was looking forward too, 6 plus hours in the car with small children who would be cranky the whole way, yuck)
Being back at the cliffs in Island Park was therapy, it was like going home, especially for Jared who went there often with his brother, father, grandfather, and brother-in-law.  The boys had a great time even if they didn't catch any fish, but we did have a lot of fun watching a pair of beavers swim around. :)
We finished fishing got in the car to drive home and I got a text that they had found Pete and he was home safe. YEAH!!!!!!  Once again I believe in prayer!!!!  I am tremendously grateful for the many, many people in our ward and neighborhood who spent their whole day looking for Pete for us.  They are our hero's!!  Knowing that Pete was home safe we decided to continue our vacation, but we were not up for setting up the tent and everything else again, so we went to Ponds and hoped they would have something available.  They did, YEAH!  It was a cabin which would sleep 10 and it cost $120.00 for the night, that was pretty high, but I was so ready for a shower and real bed that I didn't care.  Then I saw the place and felt a little like I had been robbed.  The ceilings and walls were covered in particleboard, the bed and the couches were shredding, one of the sinks did not drain, I find that out the hard way (yucky morning sickness!) there were holes in one of the doors, one of the other doors was missing the door knob, the floors were chipping and missing pieces, I suspect they were in the process of remodeling.  Despite all of the less then desirable arrangements, it was wonderful to be able to have running water, a shower, and beds, as well as a fridge and microwave. :)

The next morning we took the boys to the place where Jared proposed to me and told them the whole story .  They seemed to really enjoy it. :)  Then we let the boys throw rocks in the water.  They were in heaven. :) Jared taught me how to skip rocks. :) I have never been able to skip rocks, so this was really exciting for me.  :)
Then we took the boys to Big Springs to see the big fish.  They were thrilled, and the springs are simply beautiful!!  The water is as clear as the Caribbean. :)

We had a great lunch at Macks Inn and enjoyed watching people row up and down the lake.  Brandon even spotted a bald eagle flying over head; so very cool!!  After lunch we went to one of Jared's other favorite fishing spots, but it was taken over by people tubing and playing in the water, so we decided not to fish and play in the water instead.  So fun.  The boys had a great time watching the fish swim around their feet and walking from one side of the river to the other. :)  Brandon even spotted a red tailed hawk flying around.  He was on a roll on this day. :)
Then we went back to the cliffs for one last round of fishing.  This time we saw the beavers, an osprey, and a groundhog. :)  Best of all we did catch a fish, or rather Jared did, it was a very good size fish - 2-3 pounds, the boys were delighted and Jared was very pleased.  Then after a very fun and very long day we headed back to Wyn and Dee Ann's condo in Idaho Falls.
Oh it was so very good to be surround in so many creature comforts.  I love camping, I really really love being out in nature, I even like roughing it, I love how clear life is, however it is always so very good to return back to what I am comfortable with. :)

The next morning we let the boys have a bath in the big Jacuzzi tub, they thought that was terrific!!
Then we went to the zoo with Jill and Dave, Ryan and Violet and their three children.  It was a fun outing.  Then Jared helped Dave and Ryan move a lot of the furniture from Wyn and Dee Ann's place, while the rest of us supervised the children.  We were exhausted by the time we were finished, but we had promised to take the boys swimming, and Jared so loves swimming, that we went anyway.  Of course it was a lot of fun.  Brandon learned how to keep his head under water for a while, and Brandon and Grant began to have enough courage to swim a bit on their own (with the aid of the swimming noodles. :) )

All in all it was a great vacation, hard work, very, very hard work, but still so much fun and the memories we made were priceless!!! :) 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sunset Safari

Just before our Yellowstone trip Jared suggested we go as a family to the sunset safari at the zoo.  It was a great way to spend the evening.  We enjoyed dinner at the Beastro and watched the elephants play in the sprinklers, I was hoping to watch them go in the water, but there was no luck.
 The grizzly bears were very active, running around and playing.  We had a great time watching them.  And looking back I am glad we did, because while we were in Yellowstone we saw no grizzly bears.
 The snow leopard's were also very active.  I was surprised to see them in what used to be the tigers home.  They were running all over the place chasing each other and jumping over each other.  It was lots of fun!
 Brandon was thrilled to see the crocodiles, even if they never seem to move, but this one did have its mouth open, which was fun. :)
 With no crowds around, Brandon had the courage to play on the elephant. :)
The zoo after hours, is great!  We had a wonderful time!