Brian and I really wanted to take the kids to Yellowstone National Park for Spring Break this year. I called and booked a fun room at the Three Bears Lodge in West Yellowstone for a few nights in April. Just before we concluded the phone call, the woman helping me said, "You know the park doesn't open until April 18th, right?" No. I did not. We changed dates to the end of the school year since we like to take off on that day and go somewhere overnight as a family.
The boys were coming out of their skin with excitement. They packed their suitcases for "Lellowstone," then I added pants to Emil's bag and shirts to Colin's. (I thought Colin had forgotten to pack underpants, but he unzipped a front pocket to reveal ALL the underpants. He was covered.) We stopped in Pocatello to eat breakfast with Grandma Peggy and Grandpa Bob, which was perfect. (I saw a yellow Volkswagen Beetle and called out "Beetle Bop!" in Pocatello. Colin said, "Hey, that car is like the stone." What stone? "Lellowstone.") I think we were somewhere near Brigham City when I realized I'd left my camera battery charging at the house. NOOOOOOO!!!! So we did some ridiculous shopping in Idaho Falls - one place for a battery and another place for a charger. Booo. But, who goes to Yellowstone without a camera?
We got to West Yellowstone at about 4:30pm, just enough time to go to the Visitors' Center and get paperwork for the kids to become Junior Rangers and find out where the bears are before dinner. (Side note: the boys never, ever stopped asking, "Where us going?" One would get tired and the other would take over. It must be the worst to never be in charge of where you're going, but also, it is the death of me.) The park ranger put the fear into the kids and Colin held my hand like a good boy every time we got out of the car. (We saw a baseball cap near a hot pot at Old Faithful and Brian told the kids that guy must have melted because he got off the boardwalk. Hahahahahaha! Only funny to me - the kids' eyes bugged out of their heads.) We decided to start with Old Faithful after dinner.
We turned the corner for our first glimpse of Old Faithful and it was going off. That meant we had an hour and a half before the next one and the sun would be setting. We had time to walk around on the boardwalk and find a Christmas ornament and get some ice cream. Pretty nice. :)
Just when it seemed that all hope was lost and Emil would never stop begging to get back in the van and go to our "hotel home," it started:
I can count on one hand the perfect moments we had on our little road trip - moments where everyone was happy. Old Faithful erupting was the first one. Brian recorded it and you can hear Emil asking questions and Bridget and me ooh-ing and ahh-ing. Then Colin piped up, "Is Jesus coming?" :) Everyone around us who heard him started giggling. He wasn't afraid, just curious.
Nature is the best show. And I love that we got to see Old Faithful erupt as the sun was going down. Otherwise our seats wouldn't have been so good. On our way back to the hotel we had to stop several times for the buffalo heading home from their swimming party.
We left the windows down so the kids could hear the hooves clicking on the road and the grunting. One of those huge animals turned toward our van and looked like he was going to put his face in the window, so I rolled up my window and Emil's window in a hurry. After we got by the first wave (there were several more to come) Colin yelled, "THAT WAS SUPAH COOL!" Emil still talks about it. :) Perfect moment number two.
The next morning we decided to look for animals and find a Junior Ranger class for Bridget. (She had to fill out most of the booklet on her own, but one of the requirements was to stop at a Ranger Station for a 20-minute class.) We discovered that if a lot of cars were pulled off the road, there was probably a bear to see. Sure enough, someone had spotted a Grizzly Bear and everyone had their telephoto lenses out trying to see him. (Next time, we bring Brian's fancy binoculars. For the love.)
I know - it's out of focus and he looks tiny. It's a Grizzly Bear, you guys! And he's not in the zoo! So cool. We found out later that it's pretty rare to see a Grizzly Bear. :) Here's what we did see:
Finding the animals was the most fun for Mommy and Daddy and Bridget (she bought binoculars at the gift shop with her own money). The boys mostly wanted to know, "Where us going?" So we got out a few times to walk around and to check out the Artist's Paint Pots.
It probably goes without saying, but this is my favorite. Even with the pile of poo next to them. (It wouldn't have mattered where they were, there would be a pile of poo. Nature!)
After the paint pots, we headed to the Madison Ranger Station for their 4:00 Junior Ranger Class, "Who Loves a Carcus?" Because, of course that would be the class we made it to.
There's a buffalo right over there - no big deal.
Emil has my heart, you guys. He knows how to make me laugh.
After we learned about the circle of life (yikes), it was time to get back to the "Sister" (that's what Colin kept calling the nice Ranger who gave the boys their paper with the animals on it and Bridget her booklet) and show her what we learned. But first, a U-turn to get a photo of the kids by the sign:
And then we had to wait for a family in front of us. And then wait again for the Rudest Brits in America. (Seriously, they practically stepped on our toes butting in front of us in line.) The boys finally got their stickers, even though their papers were mangled and they were INSANE while we were waiting in line.
I don't need to tell you there were tears very soon after this photo was taken. It's a roller-coaster of emotions when you're circling the drain.
She did it! Something about Bridget getting that badge makes me want to take her to all the National Parks. She was very thorough. When she was helping me at home Monday, she had me pin the badge on her shirt. Because she is adorable.
It rained as we tried to find a pizza place for dinner. The boys had lost their minds and insisted on sitting on either side of me in a booth. So many elbows. I saw an older couple watching us and smiling - not the first people to do that on our trip. I've decided the smiles are from people remembering this time of life that we're in right now. The kids are small and they love to be with us having an adventure. This is the dream, isn't it? A happy family on vacation. (There were also people who were not smiling - like the guy in the booth behind the boys and me who was bobbing up and down as Colin jumped on the bench. SIGH.) The next morning, we had our second free breakfast at the Three Bears Restaurant, then checked out the museum.
We watched a video about the fire in 1988, which Brian and I both remember. That was a big deal. Emil and Colin only wanted to know one thing while we were trying to watch that video; "WHERE US GOING?!"
We stopped in Rexburg, Idaho, and showed the kids where Mommy went for her first two years of college. We also got out and walked around the temple there.
Colin and I went to a bathroom and this is what Bridget and Brian were doing while we were gone:
Funny. Hey - American Girl should totally have a National Parks get-up for their dolls. That would be right up Bridget's alley.
Whew! As always, a road trip totally worth every moment, even the hard ones.