Monday, September 28, 2015

Yellowstone Park 2015

In the four years we have lived less than two hours from Yellowstone National Park, we have never gone to visit the park as a family.  We learned that September 26 was National Public Lands Day and we could get free admission to Yellowstone - Jeremy is a sucker for free.  We jumped on the opportunity to see the park.  So we woke before the sun, packed up the van and our four little ones (including a six week old baby), and started our adventure.

Barely a few miles into the park along the Madison River, we spotted a herd of elk.  The elk rut is happening now so the males are out trying to secure their harems for the season. In the middle of the picture is a male elk, his females were behind him off to the right of this picture.  What made this stop interesting was another younger male elk who was trying to approach.  He was hundreds of yards away and coming in slowly.  But the male in the picture could see or smell the new male and he was standing guard.  After a few minutes, the younger elk got the message he was not wanted and turned around.  But the elk who was guarding his females still went after the younger elk.  It was about 40 degrees outside and the kids started complaining about being cold so we never got to see what happened between the elk.  Mommy really wanted to stay, but happy kids was the priority for this trip.
But as we drove away, the younger elk tried to get away by crossing the river really close to a group of fly fisherman.  That would make me a little nervous to fish so close to two bull elk who might be sparring!

Our next stop was Firehole Falls.  The pictures don't do the colors justice.  Everything was starting to turn yellow, gold, and orange for fall.  It was gorgeous. 
Since the cameras on our cell phones are better than the camera we own, we let the girls have the digital camera for the day.  Below are a few that Lily and Annie took while we were at Firehole Falls. They are both great with the camera.
It was chilly in the canyon and the kids were anxious to see more wildlife so we got on our way. Just before we reached Lower Geyser Basin we spotted some bison.  Annie took this picture.  We tried to get Tommy excited about the bison.  When he finally noticed them, he said "cows" in a voice that said, "So what? We see those at home all the time." This kid is hard to impress.
Lower Geyser Basin was really fun for the kids.  They liked the boardwalks, the smells, and the sounds.
Annie and Lily charging through the steam of a hot spring.  Look closely, Lily is plugging her nose and Annie is running as fast as she can. The crowds weren't bad at all.  But we did have some funny moments with Asian tourists wanting to photograph the girls.  Most of them just took pictures and videos without asking.  Many of the older women stopped me to look at Joey and tell me the girls were beautiful.  Lily and Annie took the thermal feature pictures below.
 They loved the sounds of the mudpots.  The slurps and pops were pretty entertaining.
After walking the half mile loop around the geyser basin, Annie was ready to go home. At that point in the day we had only been in the park for two hours.  She was disappointed that we still had a whole day ahead of us.  Some Tootsie Rolls and ginger ale helped temper her melancholy - for about 30 minutes.

We made it to Old Faithful about an hour before the next scheduled eruption.  It was close to lunch time and the kids were low on energy.  We played in the visitor's center and then secured a viewing spot outside.
 While we waited, Lily and Tommy climbed on logs.  This was one of Tommy's favorite parts of the day.
 Annie and Joey pretty much slept/napped through this stop.
 The eruption was awesome.  Mommy and Daddy enjoyed it more than the kids.
The kids were hungry and tired.  We ate lunch in the car and made our way to Yellowstone Lake.  The kids filled their tummies and got in a good long nap before our next stop.

This was hands down the highlight of our trip.  The weather was warm.  The lake was beautiful.  The sand was soft.  We just took off our shoes, laid down on the sunny beach, and let the kids play until they were ready to stop.

 The lake was so big, it felt like we were at the ocean. Tommy called the lake a pool over and over again.  It was so windy that we got some good waves to splash in.
 The girls decided to make "sand angels".  They had sand in their hair for two days.

I know most people probably don't come to the park to spend time on the lake, but for us, this was a little piece of heaven on earth.  We had the whole beach to ourselves.  The kids played and explored for hours.  It was a perfect little moment in our day and all of us truly enjoyed it.

By the time we finished at Yellowstone Lake, it was late in the afternoon.  We needed to get going if we were going to be home at a reasonable hour.  We decided to skip some of the stops we had scheduled so the kids would have energy to walk Norris Geyser Basin.
 On our way we spotted a larger herd of bison on both sides of the road.  Some crazy tourists got way too close to the animals.  One man parked right next to a bison and got out of his car.  He could have easily touched it - maybe he did. Hopefully no one got hurt.
 Our last stop at Norris Geyser Basin was the smelliest.  Annie walked the whole 3/4 mile loop with her nose plugged.  But she unplugged for a quick picture with Mommy. Lily went camera happy here and snapped about 20 pictures. These are her best shots:
After the geysers we were ready to head home. We made it to West Yellowstone just in time for dinner. We tried Pete's Pizza and Pasta on Main Street.  It was average pizza with below average service. Annie liked the decorations.  When we sat down she said, "wow this is a fancy restaurant." Clearly we need to to take our kids out to eat more. 
 We were hungry and tired. Can you tell by the look on Mommy's face? After a night up with the baby, then a 5:45 wake up to pack the car, dress the kids, feed the baby, and a day of sightseeing, Mommy was exhausted.  But it was a wonderful day and the kids had a lot of good experiences.  We are so glad we had a happy first adventure in Yellowstone.  We hope to have many more!