Five days ago, late Sunday morning, as I was hanging out at the camp site with the kids, waiting for Todd to come back from towing our car to a Subaru shop and lining up a rental vehicle, Nadine said to me, “So mom, are you going to meet with that accountant again next week?” The question took me aback, and I said to her, “Wow, Nadine, I haven’t thought about the real world this whole week. I don’t know.” And that’s when it struck me: this had been a perfect vacation. Yes, our car broke down 500 miles from home, and yes, we were stuck at a camp site until a ride home was arranged, but we were relaxed about it, and, as Todd said, “What’s the worst that could happen? We’d have to stay here for little longer?”
It was 102 degrees out, but we had a nice shady spot at a KOA campsite (showers!) just south of Boise, and we waited patiently in the cool grass, chatting, playing games, and organizing our stuff. At around 1 pm Todd pulled up in a giant white Chevy Tahoe (hip hip hooray!) and in no time we were packed up and back on the road. We got home around 11pm, and it was so good to be home and off the road. What an amazing trip we’d had.
We had left Seattle the previous Sunday at 6 am, and drove straight for 10 hours until we got to our first camp site, the Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana. I was nervous about how the kids would handle this long trip, and they were dreading it, but it wasn’t bad at all. They got along great, the scenery was gorgeous, we got the bulk of our driving out of the way, and we made it to the campsite by dinner-time. Now it was time for our adventures to begin!
Our first destination was the caverns near our camp site. We had to hike up for about a half mile and enter the mountain through a little opening. Immediately we saw bats everywhere – apparently all pregnant females – tiny little things with humongous ears. The kids were completely engrossed. The cave tour took a couple of hours as we made our way through tiny tunnels and big chambers, slid down a rock slide, and our guide even turned out all the lights so we could experience total darkness. Wow.
Next destination – Yellowstone! Or ‘Jellystone’ as we liked to call it, with way too many “Hey Boo Boo” jokes thrown in. We got up super early and drove two hours south to get to the park and secure a campsite, because they don’t take reservations and they fill up quickly. We ended up at the Indian Creek campsite, in the northern part of the park, set up camp, then set out to do the northern loop of the park.
We didn’t have to drive too far before we got to our first stinky steamy geyser. Incredible. I really had no idea that Yellowstone was full of these things – crazy prehistoric and other-wordly landscapes, spewing stinky gasses, and pools of bubbling liquids in crazy combinations of color. We were all enthralled.
Next we made our way to Tower Fall for a little hike and some lunch, then continued on the loop and stopped at the Roosevelt Lodge for some cocktails and dinner, where there were lots of clean and well coiffed people wearing white pants – a stark contrast to us tent campers. Then we stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs at around 7:30 for more geysers and hot-springs. Miles and I raced each other up to the top, and when we got to the highest point Miles shouted, “It’s great to be alive!”
The next morning our destination was Old Faithful and the lower loop of the park. We were lucky to get a great parking spot next to the Old Faithful Inn, and made our way to the geyser to wait. She blows every 90 minutes, but fortunately we only had to wait 30 minutes, so we ate our lunch. After the eruption the kids said, “That’s it? Can we get some ice cream now?” So we did, and then we continued around the southern loop, making our way to the Yellowstone Lake for some fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but the guys fishing next to us caught a lake trout and asked us if we wanted it. Apparently all other types of trout are catch and release, but the lake trout is invasive and you are not allowed to toss it back. So Todd whacked it with a stick, cleaned it, put in in a plastic bag, and threw it in the cooler. No hotdogs for us tonight!
We started the long drive back to the campsite at around 7pm and the scenery blew us away. We saw bison, baby bison, and elk. Awesome. We finally ate dinner at around 10pm, which was the most delicious dinner of the whole trip – fresh trout, black beans, and cabbage. Yum!
On day 5 we headed south again, toward the Grand Tetons. Again, we had to get an early start because we wanted to camp at Jenny Lake, a popular tent-only site right on the lake. We made it just in time and got the last spot, but had to wait forever for three stoner dudes to pack it up and leave in the 90-something degree sun. But we didn’t mind because, holy cow, those Tetons are something else. Bam! They are right in your face – no foothills – just jagged mountains jetting out of the earth, next to pristine spring lakes, and wildflowers everywhere.
Jenny Lake ended up being a great spot to camp, and unlike Yellowstone, we didn’t have to do much driving. We could walk to the lake from our site, or to the boat house to get a ride across the lake for a nice little hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
We drove about 30 minutes to Jackson one night for dinner at a brewery, and to check out the town Todd lived in for a year, back in the day. We were hoping to run into Harrison Ford (Hans Solo!) who lives there, but no luck. Bummer.
Nadine had gotten a cute sweatshirt at the visitor’s center near Jenny Lake, and now Miles wanted a souvenir. So we spent way too much time, in the way too touristy t-shirt shops, that sold ridiculous t-shirts that said things like, “If God intended us to be vegetarians, he would have made broccoli more fun to shoot at.” Finally he chose a simple blue baseball cap with the Wyoming bucking bronco on it. Thank goodness, because he had looked at a t-shirt that said, “All I want for my birthday is a booty hoe” on it, which he thought was hysterical. What does that even mean?
We left the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole on Saturday, and at around 9 pm on Saturday night we had to pull over because the car was overheating. Fortunately we made it to a KOA campsite in Mountain Home, Idaho, and, well, you know the rest…
So that’s the story of our trip. Like I said, it was a perfect trip. We put the real world on hold for a whole week - jobs, projects, play dates, computers, and TV were all forgotten. It was just the four of us and mother nature, whooping it up, happy as can be. What a perfect way to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. We feel so fortunate that we could take a vacation like this – not too expensive (if you don’t include the tow-truck, rental car, and new car we need to buy), and not too far away. Where should we go next year? More of Montana and Glacier National Park? And what vehicle would be the best to take us there? Decisions, decisions…
Click here if you want to see the full slideshow of the trip. And, in closing, here are some photos of the flowers Nadine and I loved taking close-up shots of, with some fun filters applied.