Thursday, August 3, 2017

Amazing Yellowstone

This summer we finally decided to do Yellowstone!  We've tossed the idea around for a few years now, but it never seemed to be the right time.  This was our year, and what a fantastic adventure. My parents went with us, well actually they drove us from their place in Utah, which was so nice...sort of like having our own personal tour guide to take us through the most fascinating landscape imaginable.  Plus, family time.  Lots of family time in the car. It was a nice chance to just hang out with my parents without all of life's distractions. I personally had not been to the Park since I was probably 13, and Corey had never been so it was one big trip full of discovery for everyone!
Day 1 was our drive in from the West Yellowstone side.  We'd stayed at my sister Laurie's in Idaho Falls the night before to get a jump on our day.  In West Yellowstone, we had lunch at a restaurant which was quirky and fun, but really the most terrible food.  We stopped before entering Yellowstone and walked out to a gorgeous waterfall called West Mesa Falls, and saw some hot springs on our way into the park. That night we stayed at some nice, clean and very new hotel rooms at Canyon Lodge.

Day 2 was amazing.  I'd dub it our 'Wildlife Day!'  My dad drove us up to the upper loop (a place he hadn't been before) where the crowds were thin and the animals were aplenty. Spectacular! We started the day with buffalo right off the side of our car, and from then on out we saw bears (no joke...2 black bears and a grizzly, WOW!!), a coyote, elk, an osprey nest complete with hungry babies, deer, and fields full of antelope.  It was like living in an I Spy book.  I took a ton of pictures, but one huge regret was leaving my zoom lens at home.  Bummer on that one.  Mammoth Hot Springs was much changed from what I remembered from my childhood visits.  The colors were less varied but it was still a wonder.  There was a steady drizzle while we were there so we walked around the area quickly before ducking in for some ice cream at the gift shop.  For the record, the boys were obsessed with the gift shops in each area.  (They came home with some fun souvenirs too...postcards, pencils, pens, notebooks, necklaces, hats, stuffed animals and more.)  From there, we skirted the plaza area, dotted with resident elk and the kids snagged their Junior Ranger kits at the Mammoth information center. We saw Tower Falls, the Petrified Tree, Lamar Valley (loaded with herds of buffalo), had sacrament at an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by pines, had dinner at canyon lodge, and heard the boy's Jr Ranger talk. That night we played some cards with my parents (they killed us), and Corey and the boys went to a night ranger talk.

Day 3 was an adventure of a different kind.  Animals were fewer (although we did see pelicans and swans), but the geological wonders were in abundance (so were the people). We drove to the lower falls first thing in the morning and hiked down the switchbacks to a breathtaking vantage point at the edge of the falls. I needed the restroom once we made it back up, and there, hanging out two feet to the right of the ladies restroom was a huge buffalo.  Oy.  I could only see it's backside, so I snuck in nervously. The kid's Jr Ranger talk had been heavy on the warnings of messing with the buffalo so I was a bit leery or getting too close! We had a picnic lunch at Yellowstone Lake where the boys played by the water and Grandpa tricked Dawson into eating his food ("Don't bite my fingers," he begged!). Later we walked to Morning Glory (also much changed since my youth) and the other hydrothermal pools on that same route, saw the amazing Old Faithful, and topped it all off with some tasty ice cream (tradition, my dad says....not going to complain about any tradition involving ice cream!).  It was a fun filled day, and my older boys both agreed that the geysers were their favorite thing at Yellowstone.  That night, at the Old Faithful lodging complex, we stayed at some rustic cabins (the boys LOVED it, me, not as much after killing a few mosquitoes and spiders before bedtime) near a stream.  As the sun went down a very vocal chipmunk chattered away just feet from our window.  Luckily he must have been as tired as we were and went quiet once it was dark.

Day 4 was our drive home, but not before exploring the Grand Tetons for the entire morning.  We all regretted not having an extra day to spend hiking around Jenny Lake and seeing more of the valley surrounding the majestic mountains. Gor-geous.  Seriously, I had no idea how beautiful that park was.  I look forward to another trip when we can really enjoy it more.  Despite our lack of time, the boys still pulled off completing their Jr. Ranger programs for Grand Tetons too! We looked around the information area, admired the open marshy splendor at the Teton Lodge (but no moose, darn.), and even made it over to Jenny Lake where we took a short boat ride across and back again.  Next time we'll do the Hidden Falls hike on the other side.  We headed back through Jackson Hole, and just before we hit the town, we saw an amazing baby grizzly bounding through a huge green field.  He just ran and ran, and half of the people driving by pulled alongside the highway just to watch.  After a few fun touristy pics with the antlers in the town square, we had a quick lunch and set off again.  The next stop was Star Valley, Wyoming where my dad's mother grew up on some of the prettiest farmland I've seen.  We drove around a bit, hearing stories and fun memories before heading out again. Maddox (meh, the food was just ok) was our dinner stop and we made it home to my parent's house around 10:30.  What a day! Everyone was ready to conk out the minute we made it back to my parent's.

This was one of the best trips we've ever done, hands down, and everyone came home with some wonderful memories.  My parents were the best trip buddies and tour guides we could have asked for and really made the trip perfect.  Yellowstone, you were fantastic!!  Til the next time...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

2016-17 School Year in Review


This year sped by ridiculously fast.  The boys thought so too, so I know I'm not completely crazy.  They were busy but had fun, made new friends and new memories.

In the fall, they participated in the Jogathon, Halloween Parade and Balloon's Aloft, which we love.  During the winter, the boys each did a science fair project, Beck went to Math night (Asher had soccer).  This spring, Asher was chosen for a special 5th grade honor's choir for which he spent an entire day learning and perfecting songs, ending with a performance that night for parents.  Beckett participated in to Caldecott Book Club and Asher did the OWL (Our Wonderful Library) Book Program.  Both boys attended parties for them at the year's end. There were field trips, class projects, birthdays, celebrations, and more.  The boys also had great teachers this year which is a HUGE bonus.  Mr. Flowers (5th) and Ms. Garcia (2nd) were both knowledgeable, helpful, efficient and just plain did a great job.  It's not every year you get teachers who care, and we were lucky twice this year! 

This was a nostalgic year for Asher as he looks forward to 6th grade and middle school next year.  He's sad to leave behind familiar surroundings, teachers and friends who are going to different schools but looking forward to change too.I'm definitely more nervous than he is.  Ash is on the excited side of things which will make it easier for me come his first day in August.  How can he be leaving elementary school?!  How did it go by in a blink? I was glad I was lucky enough to go to his 5th Grade fieldtrip with him.  They went bowling, ate pizza, played games and then had shaved ice back at the school. He had a great time. I jokingly asked him later if he was embarrassed the I was one of the chaperones.  His sweet reply was, "No, I wanted you there!" Sigh. Stop growing up, but keep being super sweet.

We've walked to school some over the years, but never regularly, and the boys have never EVER ridden bikes, although we thought about it from time to time. Thinking back on all the times I rode my bike to school, I was horrified and we rode the whole last week of school.  In our defense, its' a mile to school, up a big hill and we are rarely running ahead of schedule in the morning.  Bikes, scooters, strollers...they headed to school on wheels and loved it.  I'm just sad we didn't do it sooner. The last day of school, we rode to the 7-11 on the way home and indulged in celebratory summer Slurpees!

We are heading into summer, looking forward to warm weather, pop sickles, swim team, vacations, Yellowstone, and family times.  Watch out!  Good times coming soon! (*P.S. Yes, Beck dresses himself.)