Our Family Adventure
We had dreamed, plotted and planned this trip for a little over a year. There were a few things we knew right away. 1. We did not want an RV. We were not going to be taking our living room with us. We were tenting almost exclusively with a few motel stops and if it did not fit in our old Nissan X-terra it was not coming. 2. We wanted to take a month and we wanted to find that right mix of planning and happenstance. We wanted room to change course and find magic but we also didn't want to be wandering around at midnight trying to find an open tent site. 3. We wanted to trap our 11 and 13 year old children and make them hang out with us for weeks so the lack of cell service, electricity and all their usual comforts was a plus. 4. We wanted to end up in Banff.
Our first day started with breakfast in New York, lunch in Ohio and a late dinner in Wisconsin. Then a whole lot of Minnesota before we reached our first planned destination on day 2. We drove into the park at sunset.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
It was hard to leave the Badlands. It was magic and I've never seen a night sky so pitch black and full of stars. Bry and I sat in camp chairs after the kids had gone to sleep and opened a bottle of wine and watched the sky explode in shooting star after shooting star. Our tent was all alone in this vast land and it felt like being in a snow globe of stars. Before we left we had asked the kids if there was anything that was a must-see our daughter surprised us with her only request: Mount Rushmore! Mount Rushmore? I had been ready to drive right on by but I'm so glad she wanted to see it. The smile on her face was well worth the trip.
Back on the road it was on to Wyoming; Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole. But thanks to some expert advice from my Aunt and Uncle who had done the same trip we knew the drive through the Wind River Valley would be as my Uncle Monty said "spectacular". And he was so right. This endless sparse valley was unlike anything I had ever seen. We drove by an active forest fire right outside of Dubois, Wyoming and were close enough to have the car fill with smoke and see the flames. We stopped in town where all the fire fighters were resting in shifts and everyone was asking how close it was getting.
Grand Teton National Park & Jackson Hole, Wyoming
There were definitely more than a few people who thought we were crazy to drive and tent the way we did but they were all people who had never done it. Every person we asked who had made a similar trip said it will be the best time of your life. They were right. This country's vastness is meant to be experienced by and on its trails and roads not in an airplane. Watching the flatness of the great plains make way to the sparse and rugged mountains and then watching the Grand Tetons rise in the distance. I can tell you friends there is nothing like it.
We hiked around Jenny lake, we climbed to Inspiration Point, we drove old dirt roads and we stopped for bison crossing. We sat in the river and watched the sunset and read books and did nothing at all. We walked around Jackson Hole and did some of the tourist things. We white water rafted on the Snake River and we did some laundry. Then it was time for our happy hour ritual the night before we moved on to our next destination...drinks and maps.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming & Montana
We decided the best plan of action for Yellowstone was to wake the kids up at 3 a.m. (yes 3 a.m.) and make it to Old Faithful by sunrise to beat the crowds. We hate crowds. All of us introverts agree crowds ruin everything. So we packed our sleepy kids up and brewed some very strong coffee and set out in the dark only to stumble upon an entire field of Moose. Big giant ones and cute little tiny ones. Bry rolled his window down and chatted with them. We woke the kids up. The moose just kept eating and occasionally looked up at the crazy guy carrying on a conversation with them. Then we pulled in to Old Faithful and heard someone yell "5 minutes till she goes off!" We ran and made it just in time to watch her with only a handful of other people...not the thousands that would be there for the rest of the day. It was like a private show just for us and the lack of sleep was well worth it.
If we are friends on Facebook you probably already know the crazy story of how I thought I would give the kids a treat by putting a roof over the head for a couple nights but it turned out what was sold to me as as early settlers cabin with no water or electricity was actually a chicken coop filled with mice surrounded by snakes. My kids can tell you their own version of our midnight exodus from the coop in our pajamas in search of lodging. They LOVE to tell this story. It is pretty funny and also how we ended up with my favorite tent site of our whole trip. If you have never been to Yellowstone you are missing out on life. When I tell you this place defies description believe me. And then go. We saw bubbling cauldrons of turquoise water and felt the air change and fill with sulphur. It's like being in one of Addie's post apocalyptic novels she loves so much. But we also hiked the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, had campfires and counted stars, watched an insane lightening storm over a valley, swam in the Yellowstone river with bear markings all around us, watched a white wolf swim across that same river, saw bison, pronghorn, elk, coyote and bear, and did a sunset drive through the Lamar Valley that Abe says was the best thing he has ever done in his life.
Abe took a lot of <very> short videos. Here are a few.
Next Stop Glacier National Park, Montana!