Monday, August 18, 2014

Road Trip 2014- part two

Day five:
Rain. Cold rain. An all-day down-pour. There isn't much to do at Yellowstone in the rain with a baby...but we swindled a few garbage bags from a visitor center, bundled up, and made the best of a wet situation. We watched Old Faithful erupt from inside, warmed our hands in geyser steam, and ate PB & J's in our car. We hopped puddles at the Artist Paint Pots. Towards evening the sky cleared and we mingled with buffalo that marched down the road. I forgot to plug our cooler drain that morning and water leaked onto our bed the entire day. Whoops!-thankful for the laundromat. 

Day six:
More rain. We decided to abandon ship and head south early in search of dryer weather. We slowly made our way out of the park, stoping at geyser basins along the way. Curiously, throughout the trip, travelers from abroad always stopped to take our photos. We found this hilarious. Our impromptu picnics in parking lots always turned into photo shoots.  We arrived at Grand Teton National Park and set-up camp in the mist. Juni played with pebbles in the campsite and chased after deer. The smell of pine trees in the mountains was bliss. 

Day seven:
We discovered coffee and donuts at the park store- a mini vacation for Luke and I during morning nap time. Since it was still drizzling, we headed to Jackson for a morning in the city. We took Juniper to the children's museum and ate lunch downtown. The sun peaked out hours later and we hiked through fields of sage and wild flowers. Mountain climber Juni crawled through the rocks and brush, tasting stones and forging his own path. We spotted a moose! At times the mountains would disappear behind a dark, foggy curtain. We had pizza for supper, with a side of scenic mountain gorgeousness.

Day eight:
We hiked to Taggart lake and dipped our toes in the cold mountain water. We munched on leftover cold pizza and root beer. We saw a black bear and grizzly bear up close (from our car). As the light turned golden, we made our way back to Yellowstone and east around Yellowstone lake. We cooked up some eggs and ate amongst the flowers. A raven begged for crumbs. We exited the park from the east gate and held our breath while driving the high, winding mountain roads to Cody, WY.

Day nine:
We splashed in the pool at the Cody KOA campground with juni. We picnicked along a river in Bighorn National Forest. The drive east was hilly and scenic and cause for some nail-biting (ever notice how "dinged" the guard rails are?!?). "We" (Luke) found a short-cut to our next destination...all was well until we hit road construction...and then unpaved, gravel roads with treacherous drop-offs and no the dark (it took us 30 minutes to drive 5 miles)...and we finally made it to Custer State Park late at night. 

Day ten:
At dawn we drove Needles Highway. The animals were active and we saw hundreds of deer, bison, and prairie dogs (my favorite!). We toured Wind Cave at Wind Cave National Park and were dazzled by its infamous 'box work' formations. We fed the begging burros carrots and celery. Juni loved them and tried to grab their donkey lips. We stopped our car for a large heard of buffalo crossing the road. A gruff looking (and sounding) male made the (too close) on-lookers back away in a hurry. 

Day eleven:
On the road again. We pit-stopped at a butterfly house in Sioux Falls. A storm chased us through Minnesota. We arrived back home around midnight. Home sweet home. 

Where we stayed:
Colter Bay Campground- Tetons
Sylvan Lake Campground- Custer 

Where we played:
Grand Teton National Park
The Clubhouse- Jackson, WY
Bighorn Sheep National Forest
Custer State Park
Wind Cave National Park
Sertoma Butterfly House- Sioux Falls, SD

Favorite Eats:
Liberty Burger- Jackson, WY
Leeks Marina and Pizzeria- Tetons

Road Trip 2014- part one

Day one:
We set sail on Thursday afternoon at nap time. Pitstop #1 included ice cream on the banks of the Mississippi. We drove into the night- fireflies, flashing windmill beacons and the big dipper- illuminating our way to South Dakota. Road construction lasted (almost) the entire way. We landed in Hannah's (Luke's sister) driveway in Sioux Falls, SD around 2 a.m. 

Day two:
A long day of interstate driving though SD with pitstops to stretch and eat. The afternoon was spent exploring and sweating at Badlands National Park- it was SO hot. Our national park passport got its first stamp! We pressed on to Spearfish, SD and camped at a KOA, surrounded by Sturgis-bound bikers. 

Day three:
We rose early to the sound of motorcycles and had breakfast with bikers. One leather-clad friendly guy offered to babysit juni for for the day- lol. We fueled up with Starbucks and headed north to Wyoming and Montana. It was flat and dusty and empty. Desperate for a stop, we pulled into a sketchy gas station for a fill-up and bottle of Pepsi from Mexico (the good stuff). We arrived in Billings, MT after hours of desolate National Forest and reservation land. Google maps led us astray and we ended up in (another) sketchy part of town, where we were warned by locals of the "transients" nearby. We took a much needed mental break at an indoor water-park. Juni splashed in the water and crawled around gleefully. After a pancake supper, we drove-on. At sunset we glimpsed mountains in the distance and saw our first buffalo, resting in a valley meadow. We made it to Gardiner, outside the north gate of Yellowstone, around 11p.m. We messed up our reservations, got stuck going up a very steep gravel mountain road, and every camp ground/ hotel in town had no vacancy. We got lucky on our way out of town and found a campsite to call home for the night. It was a LONG day.

Day four:
We awoke to Elk in our campsite. With coffees in hand- we drove through the iconic stone arch into Yellowstone National Park. First stop was the terraces at Mammoth hot springs. Afterwards we took a dip in a natural hot tub (where the boiling and Gardner rivers meet). We set-up camp, played in the dirt, cooked over an open fire and concluded the day with a drive at dusk to search for wildlife in Haydens Valley (we saw a grizzly bear!).

Where we stayed:
Canyon Village Campground- Yellowstone

Where we played:
Badlands National Park
The Reef Indoor Water Park- Billings, MT
Yellowstone National Park

Favorite Eats:
Pickermans- La Crosse, WI
The Pearl- La Crosse, WI
Good Earth Market- Billings, MT