Days 3, 4, 5, 6 (June 30 and July 1-3) Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Our drive from Mt. Rushmore on Sunday was another long one, but we got by with fewer stops since “certain” Hope children were limited in their liquid intake. The mountain scenery from Ranchester to Cody, WY (and the East Entrance to Yellowstone), was stunning with lots of switchbacks… twisty/windy road.
Unfortunately, we forgot to account for the time change, so when the GPS told us we would arrive at 7:30 P.M., we were thinking of it in Central Time. Nope… in MOUNTAIN time, 7:30 P.M. meant an additional hour of driving. Uggggggh. Double ugh, actually, because the kids were stir crazy, bickering, and seriously getting on each other’s (and our) nerves.
Then, to add insult to injury, the address I had programmed into the GPS turned out to NOT be for our campground; it was for a location about ½ hour away from our campground. MORE DRIVING.
By the time we finally got to our Yellowstone campsite at Grant Village, it was nearly dark, we were hungry and exhausted, and Mama was fit to be tied. I actually agreed to a quick, no-fuss dinner of MRE’s (freeze-dried lasagna; just add water), and we hit the hay.
The Yellowstone camping experience is highly unusual in that bears are a huge consideration. As a result, campers are not allowed to leave ANYTHING out at the camp site. Everything (food, water, stove, trash, clothing… EVERYTHING) has to be locked away in a bear-proof manner at night or when you leave camp. This makes for tricky packing and storing, and is the main reason we decided to rent a U-Haul for our trip — it is our very own bear-proof box.
Before we left Rapid City, SD (Mt. Rushmore area), we stopped at Cabela’s, and I was able to buy some bear spray (pepper spray to use during a bear encounter). Oddly enough, the Bass Pro in Independence, MO, normally carries bear spray, but they were sold out when I went to buy it before our trip.
The bear spray has been a real bone of contention between Craig and me. He thinks the possibility of running into a bear is too remote think about, and he keeps making fun of me about the bear spray. I tell Craig that as the “Mama Bear,” it is my instinct to protect my babies, and I don’t care what he says. The man who helped us at Cabela’s agreed with me. He said he used to be a guide in Alaska, and that pulling on a pair of pants also meant wearing a 44 Magnum. Absent the 44 Magnum, he highly recommended taking the bear spray.
That first evening in Yellowstone, I kept the bear spray glued to my hip. Bear spray is, essentially, just a gargantuan can of pepper spray. I have been pondering its potential usefulness in life outside of the wilderness. Anyway, I even practiced with the bear spray to be sure I knew how it worked. (Craig was thrilled, of course.) Our campsite was the closest one to the restrooms, a fact that might bother me in a non-bear-infested campground. In this case, I could not have been happier.
Monday, 7/1/13 was our first full day in Yellowstone. We woke up refreshed and ready to go sightseeing in the park.
Of course we started with Old Faithful. We spent a couple of hours there, enjoying the visitors’ center (cool interactive exhbits and a kid-friendly room with an awesome model geyser), wider geyser area, and lunch. We even got to see Old Faithful do its thing twice.
After Old Faithful, we drove up the road a bit to Biscuit Basin (more geysers and gurgling wonders) and Mystic Falls. It ended up being a 2-mile hike to the falls and back, and I was very, very, VERY sorry I had left my bear spray in the car!!!!!! The hike was beautiful, but there weren’t enough people to suit me. I felt like bear bait, and it was freaking me out. With Craig making fun of me the whole way, I was hollering “Let’s go, Royals! CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP” every minute or so. I figured cheering for the Royals would scare bears away for sure. (I considered cheering for the Bears, instead, but I was afraid this might have the opposite effect.)
As we ended our hike, I slid down a slope on some loose gravel and skinned my knee. Probably because he walks too fast AND because he was making fun of me, my falling down was most certainly Craig’s fault. Luckily, there was this sweet little creek at Biscuit Basin, and it was perfect for wading (and cleaning off wounded knees). Cooper ended up going for a bonafide swim — typical Cooper. He rode back to camp in nothing but his undies, then made a hilarious mad-dash to the tent (so as not to be seen in his underwear). Again, typical Cooper.
Also on Monday, Inspired by the previous evening’s crankiness, we created a kids vs. parents competition. The rules were: no cussing for the parents and no bickering (or other “annoying behaviors” as determined by Mom) for the kids. The kids won and got to choose dinner — spaghetti back at camp. Craig got so many “violations,” I actualy asked to switch teams at one point. LOL The competition really was a great idea, though; the kids were angels.
After dinner, we went to a Ranger Talk at our camp. It was an interesting program about how the native cutthroat trout are being pushed out by the mackinaw in Yellowstone Lake. I even got to wear a grizzly pelt as an audience participant!
Back at camp, we taught the kids how to make their first-ever pudgy pies. Mmmm.
The best thing about Tuesday (July 2) was horseback riding in the Yellowstone backcountry. The boys had a good time, but Emmie and I both lovvved it. Obviously, the scenery was incredible, including a crazy edge-of-the-world dropoff at one point. Our warning from the wrangler was, “Okay, is ANYONE afraid of heights????”
There is so much to see, do, and explore in Yellowstone… Lots of “gurgly bits” and wildlife.
The pro’s of camping (beautiful setting, modern facilities, amazing showers, clean everything, huge laundry facility) definitely outweighed the con’s (having to lock everything away from the bears and sites being a bit too close together).
I am glad I never encountered a bear on the trail, but I was disappointed we never saw one at all in the park. I would have loved to have seen a bear, but it also would have been nice to prove Craig wrong. (He had declared, early on, that we wouldn’t even SEE a bear in Yellowstone. I HATE when he is right!!!)
Today (Wednesday, 7/3), we enjoyed a few more sights before leaving the park. Gibbon Falls was most notable — beautiful. We drove about 4 hours outside of Yellowstone to Missoula, MT, and stopped at a hotel. We decided to “treat” ourselves to an indoor pool, wi-fi, and a real bed for one night.
We have not decided, yet, where, exactly, we are heading tomorrow. Mount St. Helens, Seattle, and Vancouver (our ultimate destination) have all been mentioned. At dinner, we left it open-ended and decided to see how we feel in the morning. The kids, though, have already asked if we can stay at the hotel and swim all morning. 🙂
I did some reading about Vancouver, today, and it looks like there is a TON to do, there. My big hope is that we can go whitewater rafting. We’ll see!