Last Full Day at the Cabin

Our trip was coming to an end.  We had managed to visit the major attractions within the park, we had seen a wide variety of animals, and we had even made it through the Beartooth Pass.  It had been a full week at Yellowstone and the surrounding area, one that we spent mostly in the car.  Early Sunday morning we'd be packing up and getting on the road once more.  For this reason, we decided to spend most of Friday and Saturday at the cabin doing a whole lot of nothing.

The boys and Ken tried their luck at fishing once again.  We even visited the outrageously priced gift shop and travel store near the camp.  We also investigated horseback riding.  We were fortunate to find a place within a five minute drive of our cabin that had an opening on Saturday.  We quickly made our reservations.

The boys were so excited!  Okay, I was, too!

Geysers and Hot Springs - Our Last Day in Yellowstone

Oh, this day.  This is the one that I may never live down.

We were supposed to get an early start because Old Faithful, our ultimate destination on this particular day, was on the other side of the park, kitty-corner really, from where we would enter Yellowstone.  This meant many, many hours in the car.

Ken was up bright and early, ready to go.  My energy levels were not quite so high, but I, too, managed to get out of bed and into the shower.  When I was done in the bathroom, I went to get the boys up.  This is where the schedule went offline.  KC didn't feel good and didn't want to go.  Thinking about all the driving we had been doing, the motion sickness he had suffered the day before, I wondered if a few more hours sleep wouldn't be enough to reset his system.  

I'll admit I didn't want to miss Old Faithful.  It's one of the big geographical attractions of the park, after all, and how lame would we be if we had visited Yellowstone without making it to the most famous geyser of all?
So, determined to go, but concerned that the children were simply overwhelmed, I encouraged Ken to let the boys sleep for a couple more hours.  He agreed even though he wasn't happy about it.

The extra sleep helped, though.  The boys woke up, ate breakfast, and showered.  KC no longer felt sick. Mind you, he wasn't happy about spending several more hours in the car, but at least he didn't feel like he had when he had first opened his eyes.  With some encouragement to hurry up, we loaded into the car and started toward the geyser basins. 

The first one we stopped at was the Norris Geyser Basin.  It was quite pretty and, despite the parking lot being packed, didn't seem terribly busy as we walked along the pathways. 

After a brief stop for a picnic at one of the roadside parks, we continued on our way.  Along the route we spotted this fellow relaxing just a few yards from some fishermen. Unlike the streams in the northeast area of Yellowstone, this river was dotted with quite a few fly-fishermen.  The animals, though, seemed fewer in number.

Doesn't he look relaxed? 

Between Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful, there was another cluster of geysers and hot springs.  We decided our time was rather limited and a walk wouldn't do.  Lucky for us, there was a paved route you could drive.  

Okay, so I did get out of the car for just a second to get that picture right there.  And Gage had followed me so he could snap this picture.

I'm short.  Sometimes this requires standing on things not meant to be stood upon.
Eventually we made it to Old Faithful.  We filled up on gas and goodies and then made our way to the benches which would afford us the best view the timely eruption.  Only this eruption was not very timely. If my memory can be trusted, I believe we waited for a little over an hour.  

Eventually our patience paid off and we were able to see Old Faithful do its thing.  It was quite pretty, but I must admit I thought it would go a lot higher and last a lot longer.  Ken felt the same.  Ken also felt the urgent need to get in the car and on the road.  Unlike yours truly, he was actually paying attention to the time and was getting worried that we would get stuck in Yellowstone after dark.

Turns out he was right to worry.

It was a long drive back to the cabin that night.  We got stuck in construction and a rain storm.  As we were driving through Lamar Valley the last little bit of sunlight deserted us.  

Map Courtesy of LonelyPlanet.Com

If this wasn't clear before, let me make it abundantly clear now.  All those animal pictures I've been posting?  99% of them were from Lamar Valley.  The bison, elk, antelope, and bears seemed to find it the most appealing section of the park.  So, imagine it's pitch black and there's no ambient light, not even stars or the moon, to help you spot these critters along the road.  Oh, and add in some sprinkles and then a nice steady downpour.  Luckily, we only had one antelope run out in front of us and a couple of black bears roaming next to the road. 

Once we were out of the park our worries did not end.  Apparently guardrails on mountain roads are not seen as an absolute necessity.  Driving on rain-slicked roads in the dark with no ambient light?  Yeah, Ken was not a happy camper, and I can't blame him.  If I had forced the kids out of bed and into the showers when he wanted me to, we would have been back to the cabin just before nightfall.

A Day Away From the Park

We decided we needed a mid-week break from the car.  Instead of getting up bright and early and heading over to Yellowstone for some more sightseeing, we slept in and enjoyed a few hours at the cabin.  Feeling somewhat refreshed, we decided to head up through the Beartooth Pass and into Red Lodge, Montana.  

This was the twistiest, turniest road I think I've ever been on!  I can fully appreciate why my oldest ended up battling some serious motion sickness that night and even the next day.  Heck, when I went to bed that night, I felt like I was still on that darn road!

As you may have guessed by looking at the picture above, the road was clear, but there was still a lot of snow on the mountaintops.  Snow and ice.

The boys giving the snowbank some size perspective.  

A frozen lake that was just starting to unthaw.

We actually saw people with skis pulled over to try their luck on this slope.

Unlike Yellowstone, the wildlife here was less abundant.  We saw two badgers run across the road in front of us.  The only picture I could snap was blurry, making it difficult to spot the one I managed to photograph.  The only other animals were a pair of (female?) elk. 

One of the only ways we got the boys into the car again was by promising that today would be a fishing day.  On the way to Red Lodge we planned to stop and fish Beartooth Lake, but it was raining when we drove by.  Since the Pass was both the way to and from Red Lodge, we promised to stop on the way back to the cabin.  Lucky for us, the rain and snow mix had stopped. 

Notice the poor shoe toes!  

Fishing Beartooth Lake

The oldest child fishing Beartooth Lake.

You may have noticed that once more I was armed with Bear Spray.  I don't know much good it would have done me had a bear actually stumbled upon us, but much like a baby's binky or favorite blankie, it offered me some sense of security. 

We ended our day at another fishing hole, this one near our cabin.  We left the pavement behind and ended up on a dirt road that looked promising.  

The mosquitoes were horrible!  So much so that I refused to get out of the car.  The fishermen in the family were not as easily discouraged.  They at least attempted to put their lines in the water. 

They're braver souls than I!

Another Day at YellowStone

Planning our trip in early June was somewhat nerve-wracking.  We watched the weather for weeks, hoping that winter would relinquish it's hold.  When the Beartooth Pass was closed due to snow the week prior to our trip, I must admit we were a little nervous.  Snow!  In June!

Luckily, the weather changed, the roads cleared up, and we had what our hostess called unseasonably warm temperatures while we were visiting.  Not that we would have been unprepared.  We packed a wide variety of clothing - a little bit of everything for any type of weather.  I even packed a rain coat, which I used to keep my camera equipment dry when the weather turned soggy.

Not a Fashion Statement

This picture was taken on our second day in the park.  The guys had just started fishing in Trout Lake, which is located somewhat near the Northeast Entrance, when the clouds darkened and it started sprinkling.  Fearing a downpour, I quickly donned this functional, but not fashionable rain coat.  As I tell my husband, function over fashion wins every time!

I know.  I am an embarrassment to women everywhere.

Fine, let's look at some more visually appealing pictures, shall we? 

Yellowstone National Park

There are certain things I want to do with my boys before they're grown and gone.  Visiting Yellowstone National Park as a family was one of those things.  I don't know why exactly, but I think a few contributing factors helped to push this destination to the top of my list.
  1. While I knew it wouldn't be cheap, I thought with a little planning we would be able to afford it.  
  2. My boys loved Maine.  So why wouldn't they love visiting one of the most famous US national parks where fishing and wildlife are main attractions? 
  3. Wildlife and nature photography opportunities galore!  
So, when Ken asked me what I thought we should do for this year's family vacation, I voted for Yellowstone.  I don't regret it.  In fact, I think it was money well spent because, friends, this was a stunningly beautiful trip.  It was also two weeks of family time with my favorite people.  

I think the idea of spending this many days alone with just each other for company was a little daunting for my boys. In fact, they were downright skeptical of any fun being had without having friends along for the trip.  The idea of spending two weeks with just each other and mom and dad was not their idea of a good time.  At least, not initially.  

Not that I'm saying they were joyous rays of sunshine all the time, but they did much better than I think they expected themselves to do.  In fact, I think they had fun.  I say this because my oldest - the one I thought would be the most difficult to impress - told me he hoped to someday bring his family to Yellowstone.  Therefore, despite the occasional whining or bickering, I count this trip as a definite WIN!

Here are some of my favorite wildlife pictures we captured on Day 1 in Yellowstone.  Enjoy!

I could do this all day.  We took so many pictures.  And, yes, I said we.  I was not the only photographer this trip.  I had help!