Thursday, August 11, 2016

Day 10. Flight home

Our flights back were pretty easy.  We had to get up early, but had time to eat breakfast.  Check in was easy, security was easy, flights went well.  We connected through Oakland of all places.  I took a picture of the kids with the pacific ocean in the background.  Maybe next trip...   

Landed in Atlanta about 8:30 local time.  Ate dinner, headed to the baggage claim.  Realized that James left his backpack at dinner, ran back to find it.  Found our car, drove home, and got in about midnight.  

This was Sunday and we took the next day (Monday) off to recover.  The Kwist family slept to a current record of 9:30am.  I wonder how long that will stand.   We all felt pretty awful for a couple of days as we readjusted to Eastern time.   This note was written by the boys Monday night.  It was thrown at me from the stairs.  It pretty much says, "we can't sleep, can you help us?"    

I really cannot begin to say what a great trip it was.  I am so glad we took the chance on the RVs and so glad we were able to share this experience with friends and family.  I don't know if we will ever do this RV trip again, but I am seriously looking at a trip to Shenadoah National Park and / or maybe California.  One thing at a time.  

I am so glad that we had the opportunity to see something different and amazing and that our kids got to see something different and amazing.  There is really so substitute for traveling as a family.  It doesn't have to be far or big or different just together.  I can't wait for our next trip.  Which is not planned.  I really want a new kitchen.     

Monday, August 8, 2016

Day 9: Return to Salt Lake City

For the first time in their whole lives, the kids really slept in.  We couldn't get them up, and we really needed them to on our last day so we could clean up and leave.

Bye, bye Bear Lake.  Maybe I will put my feet in you later...

One of the sights on the way back.  What is this?  I actually did a little google research on it.

The return time for the RV was between 9-11.  Late fees were $25 an hour.  We weren't going to make that and I told them when we picked it up.  We also had to bring it back clean.  They recommended an RV wash which the Pennas got into.  We drove up and couldn't even get in the road.  We searched for an alternate plan.

Mark was so excited!  It cost $10 and took about 30 minutes.  While Mark cleaned the outside, the boys and I worked on the inside.  Well, mainly me.

But then we were done.  Filled it up, and returned it.  Passed out as much as our unused stuff as we can.  I was so happy for all those people about to head out on their adventures!

For our last night we just  stayed at the airport hotel.  It had a washer/ dryer and a pool, so that was all we needed.  I don't think this video is working.  Sorry...


This hotel was short on food options though.  Well, food with alcohol options.  We ended up on our daily "hike" to the Holiday Inn Express.

This place was described as a burger place called "Wing Tips".  I thought, cool, a wing place, but no, they meant those fancy shoes.  It was a fancy place.

But everyone did ok, although James needed two meals.  It happens.  Back at the hotel, it was our last night of sleep before heading back.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Day 8: Leaving Yellowstone to Bear Lake

And just like that, it was time to head back.  The Johnson had left early early to drive back to Texas.  I was really sad as I had gotten really comfortable in this life.  Getting up in the cold.  Making my instant Starbucks coffee on the stove, walking to the bathroom, enjoying the sunrise and the trees, and just being outdoors.  Man, I really miss it typing all this in.  Oh well....   We probably got on the road around 9, stopped for a hike on the way out and close to the entrance we saw the hordes of people coming in.  

That's not entirely correct.  There was a deer jam.  I'm sure you have deer wherever you live people!  Keep moving!

This picture I think was in Idaho.  I was trying to take a picture of the Speed Limit 80 sign.  I missed it.  We were going to fast!

Our last night we were staying at Bear Lake.  It ended up being about 4-5 hours from Yellowstone and would be ~2 hours from Salt Lake City.  We had booked a KOA and this was my first experience with one of these.  It was good and bad.  I wanted an "easy" place with full hook ups.  I thought we could spend the time cleaning and repacking to prepare to return the RV.  We did and didn't.  The Pennas were the only ones who came with us.

There was a lot of things to do at the campground, er, Kampground.  One issue is that even though we were at Bear Lake, we were still pretty far away and we never even made it there.  It makes me sad but I don't see how we could have fit it in.  The kids had a blast.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Day 7: Old Faithful

After our cowboy cookout, we got back to our campsite pretty late.  When we did get back, I had a border line mutiny on my hands.  Turns out, no one was really interested in going to Old Faithful.  Everyone was worried that it would be underwhelming and really crowded and NOT FUN.  I mean, I understood that.  I also thought it would be crowded and not fun, but this was YELLOWSTONE.  How could we NOT go to Old Faithful.  So, here was the plan.  Leave at 7, let the kids sleep in the RVs, we will pick up Gramma on the way, leave at 7, and get there at 8.  And that is what we did.  Some of us more willingly then others, but we made it about 8 and this is what we saw.

Turns out when they say "Old Faithful" They mean Old Faithful +/- 15 minutes.  This was on the minus side.  So, we had to wait another 90 minutes (+/- 15).  But it was fine.  Why?  We got to have REAL COFFEE.  Totally worth it.  90 minutes passed pretty quickly and we were ready for the next round.  This was the before people.

Behind us somewhere was basically us from another country who kept trying to get people to do the wave.  I know, why didn't we think of that?  But the boys were willing and here they are running to try to get it started.

Didn't work.  But it killed some time.  Then Old Faithful when off for reals.  Yes, it was pretty cool, and getting there at 8 meant it was absolutely fine!

After the show, we went on a the geyser walk to nearby geysers.  We saw various geothermal structures.  It was pretty cool.

Boy Cousins.  This is one of my favorite pictures.

Bathroom break

Morning glory.  You aren't supposed to throw anything in it.  So of course Andy did.  Oh well.

After the hike, we had a couple of options.  We did try to do see some other stuff but it was so crowded.  We ended up heading to our new campground.  That's right.  We move campgrounds.  Why?  Well, I just thought we should try something new.  Yellowstone is such a big park I thought it was a good opportunity to see something different.  After we saw how nice our Canyon Campground was, I was regretting that decision.  And I heard about it, but here we were checking into our third site on this trip.  But it was awesome!  Another great campsite.  The bathrooms were even better, the best yet.  But the real treat was that we could WALK to the nearby river.  

This was a real treat.  I had hoped to spend some time on a river in montana, but that site was just to far.  I was so glad to be able to have a similar experience in the park.  d

Really we took one look at ti and all went to put on swimsuits.  Myself included.  I was hoping to take some sort of a bath.  It didn't really work out, but the river was still nice.

Our last night in the park was a good one.  We had steak and baked potato and cake for John' birthday.   But again, it was just the relaxed atmosphere in the park that made this a great vacation.

We said good night and good bye by the campfire.  The john sons were going to start their trip home and we were leaving the park.  It was a great trip but it was time to think about what was next.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Day 6: Mammoth Hot Springs, Roosevelt Tower and Cowboy Cookout.

We actually changed the itinerary for this day because we booked a cowboy cookout at Tower Roosevelt.  Just due to directions and what not, we decided that it would be best to stay on the north side of the park this day.  This was nice because it allowed us to have kind of a relaxed morning at our campsite and then head to Mammoth Hot Springs.  The road to Mammoth was under construction but we were still early enough to miss most of the traffic.  Mammoth itself was crowded, but we were able to find parking relatively close.  We walked along a boardwalk to see different hot springs and what not. This one was evidently featured in an episode of Star Trek.    

Although looking back, this was probably my least favorite day, maybe because we didn't really have a plan, I think this was my favorite place.  I loved the scenery with the rolling hills.

And I loved the town of Mammoth.  Unlike other places in the park, this one had the feel of an actual town with buildings and streets, and not just a "village" with a store, showers, etc.  Apparently in the past someone planted blue grass and the elk LOVED blue grass.  They were every where.  Just hanging out.  

Lots of old buildings.  Mark is not pointing with his middle finger.

Mammoth is one of the only places that is open in the winter and I could see coming back.   We left Mammoth after lunch and started driving to Tower Roosevelt.  We pulled off at a trailhead for Wraith Falls on the way for a short hike.

Its really in these turn offs and pull offs that you can get off the beaten path and away from  people and see the real Yellowstone.  But then you have to worry about running into bears.

We still ended up getting to Tower Roosevelt super early for our Cowboy Cookout.  We found another little hike behind the lodge so we did that too!

That's hidden falls.  Its up there.

We had apparently reached the end of the trail.

The stream from the falls.  We ran into the Pennas right after this and told them about this hike.  They went to do it themselves, but apparently ran into a ranger who said there was a mama black bear and two cubs on the trail!  On one had I am sorry I missed the bears, but on the other, I was glad not to run into a mama bear!  

We had booked this Cowboy Cookout months ago.  It was highly recommended that we did it and it was something we shouldn't miss!  Unfortuately in some places in the park, including Tower Roosevelt, there was no cell signal.

My parents were driving up from Grand Tetons this day, and my sister and her family had stayed behind in Mammoth to stop at the doctor.  We hadn't really talked to juliet all day, but luckily they were early like us.  I honestly wasn't really sure who was going to show up.  Just like in the old days before cell phones!  Ha!  This was my view as I was waiting for my mom.  

But she made it just in time.  Whew!  We loaded our wagons and headed out.  

They were super nice and let the kids sit up front on the wagon.  It was about a 30 min ride and told stories on the way there and back about the park.   We had a little time before dinner.

Dinner was ok.  We ended up being the absolute last people to eat.  That really put a damper on things, but the scenery was nice.

They told stories at the end as well around the campfire.  

It was nice, but totally a tourist trap.  I'm glad we did it, but not sure if I would do it again.  But it got us to see that park of the park which I'm not sure we would have made it to otherwise.

We made it back to the parking lot and encountered what we called the RV army.  Cruise America 4 Ever!

We had heard bad things about the road from Tower Roosevelt to Canyon, but it ended up fine.  Except we encountered one of the famous bear jams.  I don't want to hate, and I can understand being excited, but seriously people just stop.  ON THE ROAD  to take a picture and they stay there for a long time.  But whatever.  

Ended up getting back late, but had another great day!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Day 5: Moving on to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Words cannot really express how amazing Grand Tetons National Park was.  It was just so awesome and relaxing and EASY and everything you would want out of a vacation.  But it was with mixed feelings that we continued on with our journey.  We stopped to take these pictures of Jackson Lake and the mountains before pushing north into Yellowstone.

I know, right?  Andy was a little grumpy so he was trying to photo bomb us.

But eventually caught up with the wonder of it all as well.

But we continued to head north to Yellowstone.

Looking back Yellowstone is a completely different beast with a different feel.  DEFINITELY more crowded.  The scenery was nice, but just different.  Hotter, more windy roads, more traffic. But still amazing.  And it was a lot bigger.  Because of this, we stopped at the first visitor center we came to in order to talk to a ranger about options.  We were not the only one.  Every other visitor center I have ever been to has been "can I help you?" and this one had like a 15 minute wait.  But after all my research, I did feel it was invaluable to actually talk to someone about my itinerary.  We continued on to the south rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  

Everyone said we would see a lot of wildlife in Yellowstone.  I didn't believe them.  I thought we would see the famous "bear jams" but I was surprised to actually see wildlife.  We thought this was a moose:

But looking at it now, it looks more like an elk.  We saw a lot of elk.  Don't tell the kids we didn't see a moose.  We pulled over to see a bison!  But there were literally bison everywhere.  Here is one that we saw after we parked one time :

We saw a deer jam and I hated to break it to all those folks, but we actually have deer where we live.  Drove right on by that.  We were surprised to see no one stopped at THIS turn off to Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone Lake didn't make it to our final itinerary but Mark especially was really taken by the views.  See, we left something to do for when we went back.

We were actually staying in the Canyon Campground so visiting the Canyon seemed like a good thing to do our first day.  Because we had to drive in, we expected it to be crowded and ended up getting to the parking area around lunch time.  We then promptly made lunch in the RV.  I love the RV!  The Johnsons and Pennas met us there, but my parents, due to a scheduling issue, were not able to find lodging in Yellowstone so stayed another night in Grand Tetons.  I wasn't all that excited about the canyon, because we had just seen the actual Grand Canyon, but this was still nice.

There are two falls, the upper and lower falls.  Here is Andy at the upper falls which was close to where we parked:

The ranger at the visitor center recommended the rim trail saying that it was paved and "easy".  Well, yes it was paved, but there were some uphills and downhills!  And it was pretty hot.  We hiked to the lower falls at artist point.  Its a reverse group picture!

Both falls together!  And a selfie of me!  

And this is my favorite picture of the trip.  Andy is still grumpy but grinning and bearing it.

 The kids were whiny and we were not looking forward to taking this trail back to the upper falls.  My original itinerary had us on another kid friendly hike.  Brian stepped up at this point and did some research to take this trail back. Again, not suggested by the ranger and everyone we talked to said it was really long.  Brian really pushed it though and we ended up taking the back way to the upper falls.  So glad we took the chance, it was wonderful!

Ended up leaving the heat of the canyon rim and got in the shade a bit.  Saw some different things.  One thing I have never hiked to is a geyser!  It kind of smelled.  But it was different!  

The hike was actually to "Clear Lake"  I wouldn't let the kids put their feet in.  Geysers had heated the water so it was warmer than string lake.

Hiked through a meadow back to the RVs.  This might have been my favorite part of the whole trip.

Had to skirt bison to get back to the RVs (I told you they are everywhere) and headed to the campground.  I was really worried about the accommodations.  Again, wasn't expecting water or electricity, but hadn't heard good things.  I think it helped if you have three RVs all together.  It ended up being another great site for us.  We were surrounded by tall pine trees.  The kids had some room to run and we could just enjoy being outside.

Whew again!