Saturday, June 18, 2016


As soon as school got out, we were on our way again-- or so we thought......  Jeff tried to install our trailer hitch so we could carry some extra things on a cargo carrier.  Don’t things always take SO MUCH longer than you think?!  He finally gets it on only to find out that the back of our relatively new car swings out rendering the cargo carrier completely useless.  Things could only get better from here-- and so our first stop was Lowes-- for something I cannot remember now but we had to turn to a new page for the beginning of National Park Tour Summer 2016 and snow cones seemed to be just the thing to do the trick.  
Jeff did a super job planning this trip-- just like last summer’s trip.  We stayed in all sorts of lodging-- motels, hotels, tipis, lodges and inns and in areas that were close to where we were going.  We are thrilled that the kids still seem to be enjoying the adventure.  These parks were ALL SO DIFFERENT-- I didn’t get to see much of the Grand Tetons but you’ll see how different the parks are in the pictures.  We hiked, we drove, we rode bikes and we drove some more!
Sometimes it just takes a while to get OUT OF TOWN.
First stop-- Colorado Springs

I love listening to these guys.  They’ve done Dr. Dobson proud.  All of their voices alone bring hope and comfort.

The kids have listened to Adventures in Odyssey for years-- so this is Whit’s End-- the soda fountain in most of the stories.
Park 1-- Summer 2016
We stayed in Estes Park and loved the water running through the little town.

Abundant in Estes Park

Sleeping and not fighting-- always warms a momma’s heart.

Bierstadt Lake
Sprague Lake

Maybe should have changed my shoes for this hike...
Bear Lake
Bear Lake
Bear Lake

B “loved” being chosen as a Ranger helper.

Hike to Bierstadt Lake
First and only moose sighting

Resting after a simple picnic

Hike to Bierstadt Lake

The Alluvial Fan in Horseshoe Park-- Lawn Lake broke its borders in 1982 and released 29 million gallons of water to form this area.

Driving to dinner in Estes Park-- I totally thought this was a statue.


The Rockies are just beautiful-- plentiful and majestic.  Colorado, like Utah, is filled with wonder.

The Stanley Hotel-- we are not 'The Shining' fans but parts of it were filmed here.  We just had dinner.

The snow in May was pretty surprising to us but especially to the kids.

We had heard so many wonderful things about the Grand Tetons and as we traveled towards them we knew we were racing the weather.  We had a slow rafting tour scheduled at dusk on the Snake River which is apparently an amazing way to see the park and its wildlife.  When rain was inevitable, we pulled out ALL of our rain gear only to be so disappointed that it was really just TOO much rain to do the trip.  The guide said he had done it before and it was no fun for anyone and because of the rain the views were non-existent from under the umbrellas.  We didn’t get to do this park the way we wanted to and hopefully one day we will get back. These are the only pictures I got that were good.  The clouds rolled in and the contrasts were dull.  It’s smaller than some parks so I know that one day it’s destined to be one of my favorites.

Nothing stops B from getting his Junior Ranger badge and patch.  Not all parks give the patch so it’s really fun for him when he gets both!  {And doesn’t have to buy one!}
Another thing that was cool about the Tetons Visitor Center-- and we’ve visited them all-- is that after you watch the film, the curtains roll back and there are the glorious signature mountain peaks.  We’ve not seen that before.
We got to hike to Jenny Lake which is a beautiful place.  The lodge was under construction and the hike we wanted to do wasn’t opened yet.  We need to go back to the Grand Tetons.

Since we couldn’t do the Snake River, we were able to leave earlier than planned and head up to Yellowstone.  We drove the entire length-- from south to north- since our cabin was in Gardiner, up above Yellowstone.  We had no idea how LARGE the park was and our first glimpses of the geyser basins at dusk were magical.  

The bison were everywhere-- moving to feed at that time of day.   We had to stop the car a few times to allow them to cross the road.  

The Roosevelt Entrance was under construction too.  It’s the most recognizable but we settled for this one.  Remember-- we have to go back!

Our cabin in Gardiner was a highlight of this stay.  It was perfectly situated and the views were truly breathtaking.

I truly can’t imagine looking out the window and seeing this everyday.  I asked locals if they ever take it for granted.  At least the ones I asked said NO!

Mammoth Hot Springs

So many of us have seen hot springs before but this was our first introduction of how “other worldly” Yellowstone is.  I purposefully don’t look at a bunch of images from the parks so I can be surprised.  I am not sure anything would have prepared me for all we saw at this park.  I can see why it’s SO MANY people’s favorite park.

Tower Falls

When you are in your car as much as you are on a trip like this, there are LOTS of trips to the "back back”.  At this point, Julia is the only one flexible enough and small enough to get to the cooler while driving.  

This was a pretty normal sight-- making lunches on top of the cooler.  {Daddy, when you gave us this cooler, I had no idea what we’d need it for!  It’s truly perfect for these 2 week trips!}

We had 2 nights during our trip that we had no reservations.  We went to see the Old Faithful Inn and Jeff just asked if there were any cancellations of reservations (must be booked MONTHS in advance) and there were-- for the nights we needed a place to stay!  This place is incredible--such unique architecture.  

From Wiki---With its log and limb lobby and massive (500-ton, 85-foot) stone fireplace, the inn is an example of the "Golden Age" of rustic resort architecture, a style which is also known as National Park Service Rustic. It is unique in that it is one of the few log hotels still standing in the United States. It was the first of the great park lodges of the American west.Initial construction was carried out over the winter of 1903–1904, largely using locally obtained materials including lodgepole pine and rhyolite stone. When the Old Faithful Inn first opened in the spring of 1904, it boasted electric lights and steam heat.  The structure is the largest log hotel in the world; possibly even the largest log building in the world.  {But absolutely NO Wifi or cell reception in 2016.}  

This is the balcony of the inn that you can sit and view Old Faithful.  There is a convenient hot chocolate and coffee bar right inside. ; )

Old Faithful is incredible for sure but it’s not even the largest geyser in Yellowstone!  It’s the most predictable-- thus, it’s name.  4000-8000 gallons of water every 90 minutes.  Crazy.

Brighton spent a lot of time right there on the balcony overlooking the lobby area.  There was always live music which he always enjoys.

So....... the fire alarm went off at like 2:00 am.  We took refuge in our car since it was, like, freezing degrees outside.  There was a small fire in the kitchen.  I also found out my kids are hungry but pleasant when awakened at 2am.

After bears were a no-show in the Smokies in the spring,  Jeff was pretty pumped about seeing a few bears.  We didn’t get very close at all but Jeff said this was plenty close.

Lower Falls from Artist’s Point

It hardly looks real.  Thomas Moran painted this to inspire Congress to set this land aside in 1872-- but not from here -- Artist’s Point, mistakenly named.  He actually painted it from Lookout Point.  It’s also called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

This is a collage of what I wasn’t prepared for at Yellowstone-- all the weird, other worldly things.  The fumaroles, mini natural hot tubs, the sulfur, all the colors, volcanic activity and chemical compositions.  It’s a strange and beautiful place.

I’m so grateful to ALL THE PERSISTENT PEOPLE who made these parks happen.  Nowhere else....

Outside of our cabin in Gardiner-- north of Yellowstone.  Just picture perfect.

Notice the depth of the pool at top right.  Those things astounded me-- as did a TYPO on a National Park sign-- for every country in the world to come and see that we cannot spell!!!!  Why do they not change this?!?

Now, this blew my mind--Morning Glory pool.

B didn’t make this bike ride with us as he heard there could be bears.....  He rode his bike through the park but not through these parts.

We were sad to leave Yellowstone but felt we had done it justice.  On to Devil’s Tower and our night in the tipi-- which had great cell reception by the way.  We arrived in pitch dark which made a difference mentally but we did it!  It was a full out tipi-- open to the fields and whatnot.  Whatnot =Mice.  Yes, mice.  I didn’t tell the kids that but Jeff and I awakened during the night when it started raining and we could hear them scurrying around on the tarp.  Yes, ma’am.  Yes, sir.  Scurrying.  I slept in a ball with a hat down over my ears.  Did I tell you WE were sleeping on the ground?  On the tarp.  You can pat me on the back later and tell me how impressed you are with me later.  Scurrying!!  

Brushing teeth-- good morning!!  The tipis are a highlight memory from this trip.

Inside of tipi.  Scurrying mice not pictured.  

Julia having a little fun with Devil’s Tower-- Nice Little Tower.

We saw several people climbing it.  Not us.  We just hiked around it.

This was cooler than I thought it would be....  The kids have been naming this monument from a post card since they were 3-- B used to call it Mount Tissue for some reason.  It made you feel very patriotic. {And I look proud and patriotic in this next picture.} 

Wind Cave is one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. Named for barometric winds at its entrance, this maze of passages is home to boxwork, a unique formation rarely found elsewhere. {NPS site}  We are not big cave people but they are fascinating.  Very deep down and tight spaces get kind of creepy after a while.

See B’s hat?  Julia is behind him.  Creepy and dark.

 This was a fun stop.  Their first claim to fame was “Free Ice Water”.  They began the free ice water campaign to stir up business and stir they did.  Wall Drug has developed into a 76,000-square-foot western tourist attraction that is visited by up to 20,000 people a day. That’s about as crazy as the things I saw at Yellowstone.

Coffee for a nickel

We were kind of excited about our last stop of the trip.  We all got involved in the sign picture.  

Our last stop DID NOT disappoint!  I was totally taken by these Badlands and South Dakota in general.  It was beautiful and made the winds in Texas seem like a rustling breeze.  As we were leaving South Dakota, I was driving and everyone else was asleep and all I wanted to do was to snap pictures but I couldn’t.  I decided to just sit back and really enjoy it for myself.  I’d really like to go back.  The green growth and the constant wind gave new meaning to "rolling meadows" for me.

The colors and the textures of landscapes in one viewing were just so interesting to me.

 We took 2 hikes there -- one was boardwalked the whole way-- due to vegetation more likely to have RATTLESNAKES.  {And Julia price per wear on her Patagonia is pretty good about now.}

Julia and me-- proud Texas wear

This was our last stop and we are all still smiling.  I am grateful for times like these and the blessing of being part of a family.   Kids-- you are FUN to travel with!!

Needless to say, we were so happy to see our Fort Worth when we drove in.  
Vacation is always a good idea but home is always the best idea.  

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I was waiting for this post because I needed to see more of your pictures!! Love it all, and yes, Julia got her money's worth with that patagonia! Love y'all!