Thursday, June 19, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I'm totally not kidding. This is June 6, 2008--Yellowstone National Park.

We were gone seven days. It snowed for four.

I'm going to post another slideshow because I was totally obsessed with taking pictures of wildlife. So if you want to check out the flora and fauna of Yellowstone, CLICK HERE. But be prepared for 1.2 million pictures of beavers and bison. I was totally enamoured with the beavers. They were so close I could hear them chewing.

At any rate, this was a family reunion of sorts. We, along with my sisters and their families, all headed for Yellowstone with my Dad to celebrate his 70th birthday. Personally, if I make it to 70, I plan to go somewhere warm and tropical that does not involve camping or having to cook my dinner over a grill in the snow, but to each his own. I do love Yellowstone. I just love Yellowstone when it's slightly warmer. At any rate, it's a good story to tell after the fact. When I'm 110 I'll be teltell my great great grandkids for the bazillionth time about how I went on vacation in June of '08 and it snowed so much they had to close the roads and people were stranded and sleeping in the lobbies of the Yellowstone hotels and lodges.

We headed out right after the last day of school on June 4th. We decided to do the drive in two days because even though Wyoming is RIGHT THERE--just right above us--it was an 11 hour drive. How can it take that long to drive there where it's RIGHT THERE? When you don't live in civilization you can't just jump on the interstate and get there. No, with the exception of a short stretch of I-80, it was two-lane road the entire way. Good thing I'm the type of gal who likes driving vacations because it was a loooooong drive. I'm also so grateful for our portable DVD player.

It was warm when we left home. It was cooler when we stopped for dinner in Craig, Colorado. It was brisk when we stopped for the night in Rawlins, Wyoming. And by the time we were driving over the pass into Yellowstone we were noticing that the spring thaw hadn't really made much of a dent yet. Still lots and lots of snow at the higher elevations. When I was packing on the day we left, I happened to think I should check weather.com one last time. Good thing. I had selected mostly shorts and one pair of pants for everyone. However, highs in the 40s and snow were predicted for our entire trip. A packing redo was imperative. I ran upstairs and started yanking clothes back out of the suitcases in big handfuls. And in the end, even with my frantic repacking, we still could have used more pairs of pants. Especially because I split the seam in my favorite pair of cargo pants on the first day. I had noticed a hole when I was packing them, but took them anyway. Bad decision. I had to wear Eamonn's pants for several days. I carried those pants around for the rest of the trip and brought them home with hopes of fixing them. No such luck. They were just too far gone. The end of an era.

So torn pants and crazy weather aside, we had a great time. The first two nights we stayed in cabins at Old Faithful. We assumed these cabins were like KOAs--with grills and fire pits outside. Wrong. No grills. No fire pits. And they told us we couldn't even set up the camp stoves and cook. It posed a small problem for cooking dinner. The first night we ate in the Old Faithful cafeteria. I can't offer rave reviews. The second night Dad and the husbands found a grill at the picnic grounds across the parking lot, set up the camp stove and cooked in the snow. The rest of us waited in the cafeteria and they brought the food in to us. Thank you Old Faithful lodge staff for taking pity on us and letting us eat our own food in there instead of making us eat in the snow.

For nights three and four, we drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs. Again, we were in cabins, but we were allowed to grill/cook at these cabins. So we were whipping out the camp stoves and electric skillets for our gourmet meals.

We spent two days exploring up in the northern end of the park and I have to say it's my favorite area. I love that Yellowstone was our nation's first national park. I'm sort of a history geek and I love the period architecture that still exists from that era. We bought several books about the park and also about the fire that ravaged Yellowstone in 1988. When I was there in 1989, I thought, "It's ruined. It will never be beautiful again." But I was wrong. It's different, but still beautiful. It's amazing to see how much has regrown in the 20 years since the fires.

You know how in high school you take those aptitude tests that tell you what you should be when you grow up? When I took the test, it said I should be a forest ranger. Eamonn feels I missed my calling by becoming a writer and that someone as anti-social as I am should have definitely been a forest ranger. He's probably right.

Before we left I found copies of the old Disney movies--Yellowstone Bear Cubs and Charlie the Lonesome Cougar--and showed them to the boys. Does anyone else ever remember watching those on the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights? I know they were made in the 1950s, but I swear I saw them as reruns.

Spotting wildlife was the highlight of the trip. We saw: Bison, elk, a bald eagle, marmots, moose, a black bear, several coyotes (including a mother and her pups), beavers, two grizzlies (at a great distance), mule deer. Tara, Craig, Garvin and my Dad actually saw a grizzly and her two cubs--amazing! Our highlight was seeing a a gray wolf. He/she was actually black so we didn't know what we were seeing until we showed the pictures to a ranger.

The boys completed the junior ranger program and got badges for the efforts. I'm supposed to sew the badges on their sun hats. I'm worried about ruining the sun hats. I looked long and hard for those hats, darn it. But the boys seemed to learn a lot about geology and nature. It was hilarious to see all of the cousins act out how a geyser erupts.

After four days in snowy Yellowstone, we headed south to the Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and hopefully warmer weather. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Harrison Ford. Doesn't he live around there? We'd have a lot to talk about, I'm sure. But alas, no such luck. And the weather was even colder. I will say that Eamonn toughed it out and wore shorts every day. Good thing because I needed his pants.

When we got home, I took an unenvironmentally friendly hot shower that lasted at least 30 minutes. I think I used all the hot water in town. And I didn't feel the least bit bad about it.

Tomorrow we are off to Denver for Finn's monthly bloodwork. We are also meeting with Make-A-Wish so Finn can tell them about his wish!


Mountain Mama said...

NOTE TO SELF - Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT go to Yellowstone anytime before the month of June.

Bet Eamonn was glad he packed all shorts and one pair of pants. Worked out well for you.

I totally remember watching Wonderful World of Disney. Before Disney came on we watched Mutual of Omaha Wildlife. Sunday nights were a real treat for us b/c we got to watch tv and eat popcorn, apples and sliced cheese.

1dreamr said...

Hmmm... have never been to Yellowstone but it's definitely on my bucket list of "must sees." However - I think I'll make sure I plan my trip for July or August!

In any case, I'm sure a great time was had by all and what a nice way to celebrate your dad's 70th b-day!

I *loved* watching the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights (remember the Mutual of Omaha Wildlife program also!!). Good memories.

We'll be waiting to hear about Finn's test results and the Make A Wish visit!!!