Traveling with our family will be remembered as a vacation somewhere between a National Geographic TV special and the Robin Williams’ movie “RV”. My husband spent months researching all the “must-see” places in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and it was really memorable. It took a few days to get used to very little phone and internet service and to be able to relax and enjoy the serenity. We certainly took for granted our own rooms at home with total privacy! At 14, TJ was on the floor in a sleeping bag for most nights. Who could have known that the large rustic cabin with four separate double beds would be favored over the beautiful, new room at Old Faithful’s Snow Lodge.
Just above Jackson Hole, WY, our first day included hiking through a pristine preserve to a high mountain lake. The next day was a highlight of the trip for the whole family. An early morning boat ride on Jenny Lake and a strenuous hike to reach Cascade Canyon was spectacular. There, a moose graciously let us photograph him as we gawked. A large snake on the trail scared my son so badly that outbursts of laughter continued throughout the week. Coulter Bay reminded me of Interlaken Lake in Switzerland. The snow-capped Tetons rise straight up from Jackson Lake and wildflowers surround the banks. My son and I kayaked for miles through inlets, getting in a tough upper body workout while my husband and daughter hiked the trails around the islands. We stopped for a grizzly bear that was tearing apart a log and photographed bison grazing beside the road and on the hillsides. The first lone bison viewing was so exciting but a few days later we were unfazed by herds of hundreds of them!
Moving north to Yellowstone, Old Faithful was truly spectacular as it erupted on schedule and walking the boardwalks in the evening was just as special as we had been told. The whole family rented mountain bikes and rode around geysers, mud pots and fumeroles with few other visitors. It was chilly in the mornings as it was early in the season but well worth it as the parks weren’t crowded. On the one night that it rained, we toured the north end of Yellowstone and saw black bears and pronghorn, crossed into Montana (just to add another state to our kid’s list) and searched for wolves.
Brink of the Lower Falls and Uncle Tom’s hike with 300 steps up and down to the bottom of the falls is quite a workout. After a morning of multiple trail hikes, we headed up Dunraven Pass to take a short stroll toward Mount Washburn. We met the nicest dad and his two sons and as we talked we decided to summit together. After three miles of steep terrain over rocks and snow fields, we got to the ranger station amid a brewing thunder and lightning storm. The view was unparalleled and after three hours round-trip, we made it back to the car. My husband was upset with himself as we weren’t prepared for an emergency with water, hiking poles, food or warm clothing. We were prepared with athleticism though as it wasn’t tough for any of us to do the climbing.
As with most vacations, not all goes as planned. Our suburban stopped running (no power) while driving 80 mph in the left lane passing Salt Lake City. Fortunately, we were able to limp off the highway close to a hotel and Chevrolet dealer. We rented a car to get home for numerous reasons. Our malamute was viciously attacked at the kennel and had puncture wounds and the excavation of our new home foundation was underway.
I enjoyed time off the road bike and the opportunity to cross-train by mountain climbing, hiking, kayaking and mountain biking. All in all it was the best vacation to date, rivaling our trip to D.C., NY, Philly, Boston and Gettysburg last summer. Many thanks to my husband for his planning, my kids for not killing each other after countless days together in close quarters and to Riley for her photographic skills and the photos attached.