The Finale

It's our last full day in Yellowstone. Tomorrow we may get to do some sight seeing, but we will begin the trek back to Denver – this time split a little more in half with a hotel stay in Idaho.

I've learned a lot on the trip.

1. No matter how careful you try to be when packing – you will probably still forget one major thing. This time, it was Kate's leggings. The good news is she really only needed them for the first few days of the trip and Selah's leggings fit ok when you roll up the top a little bit. 😉
2. Technology may fail you when you need it most. While I've been pretty happy with the Kindles, the Netflix app has failed me a time or two. 😔
3. When you've got three girls, always bring a brush in the car. And some extra rubber bands for ponytails.
4. Patience, patience, patience. We are probably averaging five-six hours in the car. Every day. To see some amazing things, sometimes you've just gotta sit in a car.
5. There are huge sections of the country that still have limited or no cell service. This was an adjustment at first, but I've ended up enjoying not having a phone all the time.
6. Just when you think you've seen every geyser you possibly can see, there's still one more.

Today has been about finishing up the last parts of Yellowstone we haven't done yet. First up the list was the North Rim Upper Falls.

We stopped at Lookout Point and I took this shot. This section is also called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It does look pretty similar.

Lookout Point is pretty intense. I didn't used to be nervous in places like this – where there's not much separating you from sudden death – but since having the girls, I find myself very nervous leaning over large cliffs to take a photo. The above picture is actually one that a stranger took because I was holding Kate and didn't want to lean over and get the shot. Thank you, kind stranger.

After this, we headed toward the Norris Geysers. This is an impressive collection of more geysers and hot springs.

But the smell of sulphur isn't for the faint of heart. 😂

Here's Kate posing in front of the Steamboat Geyser.

And Selah in front of the Echinus Geyser.

Our next to last stop was the Artist Paint Pots.

Macy especially liked these because of all the colors.

Finally, we stopped by the Firehole River Falls. I didn't get out to take a picture because Kate fell asleep on me. Remind me to ask Jeff if he got one. 😉

We celebrated our last night in town by eating at a hotel restaurant – strategically chosen because of its fast Wifi service and the need to download different shows on the girls' Kindles – and by finding a candy store. Honestly, this was probably the girls favorite part. They each got their own bag and I ran around trying to make sure no one put too much in it.

And now, it's time to go home, do a final load of laundry (I know, I know. I just can't help myself) and maybe watch a movie so I can pack everything up.

Goodbye Yellowstone. We sure will miss you and will tell your stories often.

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Waterfalls

I love waterfalls. How can you not? Something about them is so mesmerizing. That is, when you are able to look at them without constantly scanning to make sure your three children are still safe.

This morning, we got off to a VERY slow start – not so much because of us, but there were super long lines at the gate and then lots of slow traffic due to some deer that were close enough to the cars for everyone to see.

We did eventually make it to the waterfalls, and they were worth the wait.

Pictures just don't do the Canyon Falls justice. But we tried.

I always giggle when the girls pose themselves and call for me to take a picture.

Here we are attempting a family shot in front of the falls. The sun was not our friend again.

Ah, well. Can't win 'em all.

After this, we hit the Tower falls. They were beautiful as well.

After lunch, it was time for the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. By this point, the girls (and I) were a little tired, but we all perked up once we saw the terraces.

I even got them to take a group shot with very little effort.

It took us even longer to get out of the park this afternoon due to road construction. There are parts of the road that become one lane – and each side has to wait about 15-20 minutes for the other side to come through. Yellowstone in the summer is not for the impatient. There are so many people here – buses and buses of them! – and when you add that with animal crossings and road construction, sometimes you've just gotta wait. So we waited until our turn and slowly made our way back out of the park.

Jeff had promised the girls a special treat when we made it back to the house, so he stopped in a convenience store while I ordered some pizzas to go.

This is our backyard. Well, for the next two days. 😉

These s'mores are yummy, Mommy. ❤️

Yes they are, Selah. 😘

Seven Teeth in Three States

I almost forgot to mention that Macy has lost two (two!) teeth on this trip. This makes seven teeth lost in three different states – Texas, California (shout-out to Auntie Kasie and Uncle JB) and Wyoming. I almost want to lie and say four states – because we were SO close to the Montana border when she lost the seventh one, but I won't. Who knows? We've still got a couple more days on our trip. 😉

Rainbows, Elk and Buffalo

Today was our first full day in Yellowstone and we were excited to see some more geysers in action. We started off at the lower geysers – aptly named the Fountain Paint Pots.

We then drove over to the Midway Geyser Basin.

While we were sitting here to look at one geyser, another one went off right down the way. Pretty amazing.

Now it was time to head over to Grand Prismatic.

Hot springs on the way to Grand Prismatic.

This one was definitely my favorite. The colors you can see are just unbelievable.

And here it is with two more of my favorites –

If you're extra awesome, you can hike up 5 miles round trip to get a birds eye view of Grand Prismatic. Alas, we are not that awesome today. Maybe when the girls are older.

From here, we headed back toward Old Faithful to grab some lunch. This worked out pretty well because we saw it go off again. This time, without all the running. Check and check.

After lunch, we were driving along and wondered why the traffic suddenly slowed down. This was a good reason –

This buddy was just hanging out by the road. Talk about your up close experience with nature.

Not too long after that, there was more slow traffic. This time it was buffaloes. These guys are so nonchalant about the constant traffic, some of them just crossed the road about three cars in front of us.

After all the animal sightings, it was time for dinner (this time at a 50's type diner) and a drive to the middle of nowhere to find our final house. The girls were ecstatic to be out of the car (as was I) and ran around the yard picking flowers and enjoying the open space. Tomorrow's plan is to see some waterfalls. Here's hoping we all get a good nights sleep. 😴

Yellowstone Day One

I've been really pleased with our location in Idaho, because not only are we close to the Grand Tetons, we can also drive into the lower part of Yellowstone and get a head start seeing things in the park. Today's our last day at this house and I'm actually sad to say goodbye. It's the perfect size with a wonderfully operational washer/dryer and high speed wireless internet. This may not sound like much, but cell phone service is hard to come by in the areas we are in and it's been nice to have the wifi to come home to. And for those of you who know me, having clean clothes is my love language.

We had another early start and got on the road in hopes of seeing a little more Grand Tetons and hitting some photo ops that Kate slept through the day before – and then going into Yellowstone.

Photo op number one – take pictures in front of state signs.

Photo op number two – stop at the place where Ansel Adams took his famous photograph.

Let me try and find the photograph –

Here's a reprint. It'll only cost you 85 bucks. Plus shipping.

Here's our version –

😂😂😂

Apparently Kate wasn't feeling it. Reminder to self – buy dollar store sunglasses for girls before coming to Yellowstone next time.

Ok, ok. Let's try again with Papa.

That's not too bad. Macy looks good in my sunglasses.

And photo op number three – the beautiful Jackson Lake Lodge.

This time, we found a shady spot to stand in and everyone was happy. Including Selah's pet moose. 😊

With all those shots behind us, it was time to say goodbye to the Grand Tetons and their beautiful views and hello to Yellowstone and it's magnificent geysers. Of course, we hit Old Faithful first. And nearly gave ourselves a heart attack when we arrived with only a few minutes before it erupted. You gotta love a family of six running through a parking lot trying to make it to see Old Faithful. Don't worry – we got to see it. 😉

We walked around all the geysers that are near Old Faithful.

They're all so different and so interesting to look at. So many different colors. We had heard that the most colorful was the Grand Prismatic, but we would have to save it for tomorrow.

After a bit of a drive back and some not-so-great Mexican food, we were back at the house, ready to pack it up and move to our third and final house. This one is closer to the West Yellowstone gate. Until then. 😉

The Grand Tetons

After an entire day in the car, we did what any normal people would do on vacation.

We woke up and got back in the car.

Our first stop was Jenny Lake. The trickiest part about Jenny Lake was finding a parking spot. Fortunately, my dad was feeling charitable and dropped us off by the lake and went to find a spot. At this point, we had two choices – hike a couple of miles to the other side of the lake or take a boat across.

I bet you mom's out there can guess which direction I was leaning.

The girls loved the boat ride. The lake is pristine and the views are pretty amazing.

Once we got to the other side, we hiked up to Hidden Falls, an easy hike, but a narrow path with a cliff on one side. At one point, I had to physically hold on to Macy and explain,"You can not run. You can not climb on the rocks that are on the edge of the cliff. If you run too fast and trip, you will fall very far down and you will die. Do you understand?" She solemnly nodded and slowed down a bit. For about two minutes until I reminded her again.

At one point on the hike, a stranger named her Mountain Goat Macy. Yes, he knew her name. I think everyone in a two mile radius knew her name.

The Hidden Falls were definitely worth the hike. They were absolutely beautiful and reminded me of the waterfalls we saw in Costa Rica (in a time long ago before kids).

(someone please remind me to replace these grainy pics with the real deal when I get home)

From there, we walked over to Lower Inspiration Point. If you're wondering, the higher Inspiration Point was closed. It didn't matter. Lower Inspiration Point didn't disappoint.

We made our way back to the boat and drove to a restaurant for lunch with some panoramic views of the Tetons.

From there, we drove into Teton Village to ride the aerial tram to the summit. When we were buying the tickets, Jeff asked if there was still snow on the summit. The guy answered, "There was a couple of weeks ago."

On the tram, I realized everyone around us was speaking Chinese. I had noticed some Chinese tourists around us earlier but now all of a sudden they were everywhere.

The ride up was fun because the tram swings a little when it gets to each tower, which the girls liked. At the top, we met a family with three girls who were quite a bit older than mine. I offered to take their picture in front of the Grand Tetons and in turn, they offered to take ours. I felt a little like I was looking into our future. I hope so, because the girls all seemed to still really like each other.

After the picture, Jeff, Macy and Selah started off downhill and Kate, Dad and I followed behind them. The original plan was just to walk down for a few minutes, see the view, and then walk back up.

Until Jeff found a very special surprise.

This time, the girls threw snowballs at each other and built an official snowman. People giggled at them as they passed by. One couple stopped for a second and then decided to head down the hill to check out the snow. I called out, we're from Houston! Two of my girls have never seen snow. They called back, we completely understand – we're from Baton Rouge!

After the snow, it was time to walk back up and ride the tram. We talked to another Chinese family – this one from
Guangzhou – and then drove off to find dinner.

We ate at a hamburger place that had tons of games to play while you waited – Jeff and Selah played Connect Four and Kate colored in one of their giant coloring books. The food was good and we were tired. Time to head home, do some laundry, and sleep.

Peanuts

We started off day two in Colorado by driving into Estes Park and riding the gondola. It's hard to beat a view like that and kids five and under are free. Gotta cash in before we get too old. 😉

The gondola takes you to the top of Prospect Mountain where you can hike, take plenty of scenic pictures, and most importantly – feed the thousands of chipmunks that live up there. You should see the number of peanut shells on the ground. I've never seen chipmunks so well fed and unafraid.

Selah and Kate trying to lure a chipmunk closer with their peanuts.

Macy and Jeff hiked up quite a bit further than we did (at one point, Kate started to cry and said, "I'm tired of walking!") and Macy had the privilege of feeding a chipmunk out of her hand.

After coming back down on the gondola, we are lunch and then went over to The Stanley Hotel (all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy). After getting over my initial creepiness over the whole thing, we got to do the maze they've got out front (super fun).

At this point, it started to rain, which changed our plans to go back into the park. But we did stop quickly for the quintessential family shot by the sign.

(apologies for the gritty pictures – I'm being super lame and taking pictures with my phone of my digital camera screen)

After dinner and another walk around a beautiful trail (I mean, the scenery here is so amazing, I have to stop myself from posing the girls everywhere we go) it was time to go home, pack and get ready for our big driving day tomorrow. We will be heading from near Estes Park to near Grand Teton National Park – an approximate nine hour drive with no stops. We are about to test the battery life of the Amazon Kindle Fire – fingers crossed it lasts the whole time. 😂