The Adventure Begins

The adventure has begun! We’ve decided on a few ground rules because we’re in the trial and error stage of cat travel: 1.) We’re only driving in 4 to 6 hour stints to not stress out the kitties. 2.) The cats will be harnessed in the car unless they appear uncomfortable (other than the norm) 3.) We’ll stop and see who we can if they’re around when we’re around. Planning too far in advance might put us in a bad spot for the kitties and since they’re our kids – they rule.

The house has been closed on and we’ve barely left the starting gate! A mild hurricane, family time and bad bank issues kept us hanging at my mom’s house for a few days longer than anticipated. On the plus side, the movie theater we’d been hoping to try out – well, 3 movies in a week may seem excessive to you but we’ve missed a lot from packing, moving and selling so we’ve been treating ourselves.

First things first: THE HOUSE IS SOLD AND NOW WE’RE WAITING FOR OUR MONEY. Let’s just say NEVER SUN TRUST. EVER.

We’re heading up I-75 to see family, friends and some sights then will head west to begin our search for what’s next. Hotel/motel pet friendlies are few and far between IF you’re unprepared for grunge not related to the 90’s music movement.

The first day went okay with the cats considering it was the longest trip for the babies: Sookie the Russian Blue and Pinky the mutty-mouse. Pinky was fairly vocal for a while but then calmed down and seemed to enjoy the sights from the back seat window.

Click the link below for kitty-video.

First long car ride for the kids!

We stopped in Valdosta – about 5 hours from our starting point in Florida. Pet friendly Motel 6 was not human friendly with no AC and plenty of filth. We then moved over to Quality Inn that was $30 more a night and was in pretty bad shape as well BUT had great AC, hot water and was mostly clean – but dingy.

The dreaded south
The dreaded south

I was hoping to see my Laura (and yes, I mean MINE) and meet her beau Dave in Atlanta. Luckily, Dave recommended the La Quinta in Roswell. CLEAN AND PET FRIENDLY AND NEWLY RENOVATED! We stayed an extra night because we were so stressed from the first night out as homeless globe trotters!

We stopped in Little Five Points in Atlanta first for a bite and to kill some time before check in. Junkman’s Daughter let us bring the girls into the store in their stroller. We found a suit that matched Sookie’s harness that Travis could wear to be father and kitty twins but decided the car was too full.

Matching suit in Little Five!
Matching suit in Little Five!

We then went for some grub at an indoor/outdoor cafe. Unfortunately, it was record heat and the cats were practically melting! The stroller we bought is VERY WELL VENTILATED but between the drive, the excitement of being out and about and the heat, we rushed them back to air conditioning.

We ended up having a great time with Laura and fam then spent the next day dinking around historic downtown Roswell.

Yummy lunch...
Yummy lunch…
So we had dessert too!
So we had dessert too!
Then it rained
Then it rained

Walking back to the car in the rain, we saw a big set of stairs. We followed them up and found Barrington Hall, the mansion of the founder of Roswell! We took the tour and had some Lavender fudge, offered to us by the docent, leftover from the Lavender festival they’d just hosted! DOUBLE DESSERTS!!

Barrington Hall
Barrington Hall
Beautiful rose
Beautiful rose

AND, I scored the recipe!

LAVENDER FUDGE
Ingredients
16 oz. chocolate chips
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 tbl. dried lavender flowers
3 tbl. unsalted butter
Garnish
Fresh Lavender
Directions
1.) Grind lavender finely in a clean coffee grinder
2.) Melt everything together in a double boiler. Add butter. Stir until smooth and melted.
3.) Pour into a pan lined with wax paper (approx. 9″ x 9″).
4.) Cover with plastic.
5.) Cut into 1″ squares. Wrap like “sweets” in twists of wax paper.
6.) Sprinkle fresh lavender on top to decorate.

The kitties enjoyed the room, not being in the car and the view from the second floor. We wiped them both down because they smelled like the filthy hotel from the day before.

Kitties loved the second floor window at La Quinta!
Kitties loved the second floor window at La Quinta!

Pinky had completely forgotten that she was okay with riding in the car. Sookie, on the other hand, settled faster. We really thought Pinky would do better as she’s the more adventurous of the two.

Pinky protesting ON MY SHOULDER!
Pinky protesting ON MY SHOULDER!

Our next layover was in Richmond, KY – a random stop on the way up to see my cousins in Ohio!!! The cats did okay. Pinky the mutty-mouse was pretty vocal off and on in protest of driving. Not sure if it’s because we won’t let her drive or if she can’t remember that we did this the day before yesterday and she didn’t mind.

Stay tuned for the next post on our journey. I’ll try not to focus on the lowlights as they’re few and far between but I must say, some of the pet friendly places we’ve encountered to date are pretty bad. The higher end places (La Quintas) are not as plentiful as we need BUT the independents ARE GLORIOUS!!! We are currently out west and I have a lot of catching-you-up to do.

THE GRAND PLAN

The grand plan overall is to throw everything into storage and head west. We’ve spoken to others who’ve done this and have decided when we find it, we’ll know. If you’ve read my blogs since last summer, you know that we fell in love with the west during our fantastic trip to Yellowstone and Jackson, WY. Our home is currently under contract and we’re exploring our opportunities in the western states!

Insanity. Number one consensus when our friends ask what we’ll do. Except from those who’ve gone before us…

As we contemplate the house closing, we’re mentally packing. We’ve got 3 weeks (plenty of time) and are selling at least a bedroom’s full of stuff. I can’t really plan where we’re going and when until the sale is final but the general idea is we’ll be stopping to see friends everywhere as we embark on this adventure.

Did I mention we’ll be traveling with 2 cats? Sookie, the Russian Blue and Pinky, the black mutt-y mouse. We’re on lesson 6 of harness training and have acquired a spiffy animal carriage so that they can come out and about with us.

Note the bitchin’ CUSTOM harnesses we got on Etsy. Cotton, machine washable with handles and plastic fittings for air travel.

Harnesses for cats! Who knew?
Harnesses for cats! Who knew?

We’d tried more basic harnesses, but we needed something that would allow us to pick them up out of harms way and to do so comfortably – for all of us. At least that was the thought. Pinky doesn’t like to be held and it’s turned out to be great for her as she is much less squirmy. Perfect for airport security. Then I’ll just be the squirmy one.

When they first tried them on, we only allowed them to wear the harnesses on the carpet because they kept falling over. We felt like bad cat parents for laughing so hard! They both move easily now (a week in) but Pinky moves less than normal- a good thing for travel since she’s the most likely to try to kill something and take off with it – and Sookie, who will do ANYTHING for a treat is cruising along just fine.

I preface the link below with PLEASE DON’T JUDGE US. We’re willing to do whatever we need to get the kids acclimated to travel with us to avoid long-term boarding with strangers and have read that this was the lesser, though painstaking, of 2 evils.

Harness training

Their first car ride, the two cats were very curious. We only drove down the street to get them used to it. Sookie got stressed about 10 minutes in so we went back home. Nothing that a little Party Mix couldn’t handle but I’d read it would be slow going at first. Click the link to see our first car ride adventure:

Kittehs in the car!
The difference between the car and the carriage – I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that they’ve now had a few rides in the car and it’s ALL good? Here’s hoping! One week in and second day in the carriage. Click the link in green below to see them enjoying their second trip around the neighborhood.

Kitties on their 2nd stroller ride!

We started acclimating them to their harnesses one week ago, so they’ll have a month’s worth of mini travel experiences by the time we begin our trek. We begin with the harnesses which they allow us to put on them now for the most part.

I’ve been researching cat friendly hotels and motels. Riiiight. Websites say dog friendly and sometimes cat but we’ve stayed in one before so I’m bringing Febreze and Tilex. We’ve also decided to camp a bit as well – because brown dirt is better than other-people dirt – but most likely in the northern U.S. because JUNE sucks in the south! We have an 8 man tent for Travis, me and the two girls but we bought the model we did JUST so kitties would have a nice enclosed porch. Yeah, that’s how we roll. #catthuglife #spoiledbratcatlife

We haven’t even planned our stops yet because until the house closes, we can’t risk losing reservations all over.

THE MAIN AREAS WE’RE LOOKING: CO, OR, WA! All 3 for various reasons. Love the idea of CA BUT not the expense. Don’t like the idea of buying again in CO because of fracking but LOVE the idea of single payer. Go COLORADO!

Hoping to see so many of you when we’re out and about! I’ll be posting regularly and am considering starting a vlog. Suppose it depends on if I have more to say to you than cat and Travis conversations. Stay tuned!

Barney’s Butterscotch Cookies (a.k.a. the cookies of lies)

I was writing on The Grand Tetons Facebook page and someone asked for a yummy family recipe that my mom has been making since I was a kid and now I make every year. The recipe was from Barney the cook at my great great uncle Frank’s V Bar V Dude Ranch in Hobac Canyon from the early 1900’s. It’s currently the Black Powder Ranch and if so inclined, read my post about our grand trip out west to meet distant relatives and see where the family buildings still stand.

My significant other calls these cookies “cookies of lies” because he’s a chocolate and peanut butter fiend and there are neither in these. I find them to be delicious nonetheless.

BARNEYʼS BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES

CREAM TOGETHER
1 cup butter or margarine 4 cups brown sugar ADD, ONE AT A TIME
4 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
SIFT TOGETHER
6 cups flour
1 Tbsp. soda
1Tbsp. cream of tartar
Start with a big bowl. Mix everything together. Add nuts — pecan or walnut pieces — if you like. Form into rolls. Chill overnight or freeze.
Slice and bake at 375 degrees until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Let rest on cookie sheet for a couple minutes before removing with spatula.

Family, Tetons And Yellowstone: The Wow, The Beautiful And The Ugly

Our visit out west so far has been the vacation that keeps on giving. We had such a memorable experience that it comes up repeatedly in family conversation and now that the holidays are upon us, we end up sharing photos to friends visiting from across the country, people we’ve not seen in a few months and sharing with the people on the National Park Facebook pages. We found that it’s common to want to sell everything and figure out a business to start in Jackson Hole and that many consider this a once in a lifetime experience. It’s twice for me and I can’t imagine not going back.

OUR family summer vacation in the wild west: We met family that we’d never met before so I’ll begin with meeting Dick Stewart, a.k.a. “the hot cousin” and his wife Karen. They could not have been lovelier people and surpassed our expectations for hangout factor in Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons!

We all met at Cafe Genevieve for dinner (great aunt Genevieve to me) where our family used to live in the teens of the last century. Genevieve moved out from Michigan and married my great uncle Roy Van Vleck who owned the local mercantile in Jackson Hole along with his brother Frank.

Genevieve was a member of the first ALL FEMALE government in 1920, the same year that the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote.

Jackson-Town-Council-1920

My mom contacted the local newspaper to see if she could get any information on the family and as it turned out, the writer she connected with knew Dick and Karen because she’s Karen’s sister! Connie, local journalist, joined us after dinner for wandering around Jackson looking at formerly owned old family buildings.

My relationship to the Stewarts: Dick is the grandson of Roy Van Vleck who was my great uncle. You figure it out as I’m completely lost on this one, but we ARE related and you can tell when you meet him because he’s awesome. I’m just sayin’.

We walked around where great uncles Roy and Frank’s mercantile used to be in Jackson Hole, drove out to the old V Bar V Ranch, once owned by my great uncle Frank, and then spent an afternoon dinking around in Grand Teton National Park with Dick, who showed us a current home he’s working on, where the old family home used to be and the one that replaced it in Kelly, WY.

Beautiful country and “grand” is an understatement! At one point, I promised cousin Dick that I would make an effort to use a word other than “Wow!”

Our first afternoon view as we pick up our rental from the airport! Yes, it IS that cool!
Our first afternoon view as we pick up our rental from the airport! Yes, it IS that cool!

Click the link to see the view from our cabins in Jackson Hole:
Cabin view video!

Cafe Genevieve is known for its Pig Candy. Recommended on Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives. Travis became obsessed with trying some and they were offering it for Christmas delivery this year. He also tried the ramen that was on the show.

Cut and paste the link to see the edition of the show!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/cafe-genevieve-0235411.html

Travis' Pig Candy from Cafe Genevieve.
Travis’ Pig Candy from Cafe Genevieve.
Connie (local journalist and family friend) and Karen Stewart in front of random stuffed moose in downtown Jackson Hole.
Connie (local journalist and Karen’s sister!) and Karen Stewart in front of random stuffed moose in downtown Jackson Hole.
Mom and Dick Stewart in front of former family mercantile building.
Mom and Dick Stewart in front of former family mercantile building.

Mom presented Dick with a stack of family pictures she had of family visiting Frank, Roy and Genevieve out west. She’d been meeting with our Aunt Sue for a few months off and on to help identify anyone so that they’d be documented in the pictures.

Next morning, we ventured off to the ranch once owned by great uncle Frank Van Vleck. It’s still a working dude ranch (the Black Powder Guest Ranch but V Bar V when Frank had it) and offers small cabins at $100 a night during season. The manager said they also offer hunting trips and have a dressing and storage area in back of the lodge. Back in the old days, it was a three-day snowshoeing expedition into town during the winter. A winter that sees 400 inches of snow! My guess was it was a relationship killer as well. His wife made it a few years out there but eventually moved back into town. Modern technology (snow mobiles and snow coaches) wouldn’t leave everyone so isolated anymore.

Used to be the V Bar V ranch but still has original buildings from the 1920's!
Used to be the V Bar V ranch but still has original buildings from the turn of the early 1900’s!

Cut and paste the link if you’re interested in seeing more of the ranch.
http://blackpowderranch.homestead.com/~local/~Preview/Lodging.html

The old original lodge still stands.
The old original lodge still stands.
Small cabins and covered wagon around the ranch in Hoback Canyon.
Small cabins and covered wagon around the ranch in Hoback Canyon.

Once we returned to Jackson (they’re thinking about dropping the “Hole” part), we met with Dick again and headed into the Grand Tetons where he was working on a cabin within the park.

Owning property within the Tetons was once an acceptable arrangement but it seems that unless a current generation is maintaining regular residence within the park, the lease will not be passed on to the next generation so cabins like these are about to become a thing of the past as younger generations move to bigger cities. This also prices younger generations out of the market.

Gorgeous diseased wood with antique fixtures original to the cabin.
Gorgeous diseased wood with antique fixtures original to the cabin.
We'll call this "vintage" mauve with wallpaper galore.
We’ll call this “vintage” mauve with wallpaper galore.
Giant butterfly wallpaper. Also vintage - and damn! You can't beat the view of the lake!
Giant butterfly wallpaper. Also vintage – and damn! You can’t beat the view of the lake!
Vintage cowboy wallpaper in the other two bedrooms.
Vintage cowboy wallpaper in the other two bedrooms.
Please note that though this place has electric and gas, it also still has original oil lamps with reflectors!
Please note that though this place has electric and gas, it also still has original oil lamps with reflectors!
Hated the paint but LOVE the stove!
Hated the paint but LOVE the stove!
The deer outside agrees with me.
The deer outside agrees with me.

Next, we stopped for a bite then headed back through the Grand Tetons park. It had been raining off and on and a more beautiful view couldn’t be had…

Travis grabbed this shot while we were driving back toward the Tetons!
Travis grabbed this shot while we were driving back toward the Tetons!

Click on the link below to see the mountains.
Pulled over for the view!

Next, we were off to Kelly, located just along the boundary of the park. Here is where the “new” family home was built when the family lost the lease in Grand Teton. The old house was moved to the edge of Jackson Hole and, I believe is located near the Wildlife Museum on the mountainside overlooking the Elk Refuge. Feel free to correct me if I’m a bit off on that one, kids! The “new” home was built in the mid 70’s and of course, much like the rest, I walked around and said “Wow!” a lot until I decided that I would switch to saying “Bitchin’!” I didn’t take any pics inside the cabin because I was too busy being amazed BUT I do have some video of outside views and we walked down the river located, uh, in the backyard. TOO COOL!!!! Literally. The water was FREEZING! I say that about everything though as I am a Florida dweller.

Video of the view from the Stewart cabin.

Finally, we had hugs and headed back to the Cowboy Village to begin the next leg of our trip. I’d like to take a moment to thank “hot cousin” Dick for giving us a grand tour of the area! We had a wonderful time!

20150826_192603

TIPS: I intentionally planned this trip for the week BEFORE Labor Day and the week AFTER school started. From what I’d read and as it turned out – this was a sublime time to visit. Florida at the end of summer is super hot and it was a nice break in the weather, without being too cold. Crowds were down BUT the parks have experienced record numbers this year (2015) including a 10% jump in the month of August from last year.

Book as early as possible to get a cheaper room. If you can’t get what you want, book then keep looking for cancellations. It got us into the Old Faithful Snow Lodge! Nicest of the places we stayed.

The next morning, we ventured down to Persephone’s Bakery for breakfast before heading into Yellowstone. Of course, we had to pick up some hamburger sized cookies and coffee actually ROASTED IN Jackson Hole for the trip. The coffee also served as a wonderful car air freshener for the trip as well. NOT KIDDING.

Enjoying outdoor breakfast!
Enjoying outdoor breakfast!
TO. DIE. FOR. BREAKFAST. PERSEPHONE STYLE!
TO. DIE. FOR. BREAKFAST. PERSEPHONE STYLE!

Click here for VIDEO!!!
Boiling mud pot in West Thumb

FIRST ANIMAL: ELK!
FIRST ANIMAL: ELK!

We heard he’s a regular. Not sure what time it was but we were still drinking coffee.

Boiling hot water that looks like a refreshing pool but is an instrument of death.
Boiling hot water that looks like a refreshing pool but is an instrument of death.

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Some of these holes were known for catching fish in the lake then dipping the fish into the boiling water and cooking it on the line! A practice now stopped because people kept accidentally falling into the boiling water.
Some of these holes were known for catching fish in the lake then dipping the fish into the boiling water and cooking it on the line! A practice now stopped because people kept accidentally falling into the boiling water.

Side tracked:

Lower east side of Yellowstone off Yellowstone Lake.
Lower east side of Yellowstone off Yellowstone Lake.

The original plan was to head up to Canyon Village, maybe dawdle in Grand Teton on the way then meander up, check in then either head over to Mammoth Springs or up into Roosevelt. The sticking point was that cousin Dick told us that traffic might hold us up. Now, planning – trusty Google had said it would be a couple hour drive up to Canyon Village from Jackson Hole. NOPE. Most of that was slow moving traffic through Teton. Once you throw in extraordinary excitement of boiling stuff on the side of the road and random animals everywhere, any time management plans get toasted.

Click here for video.
Swimming bison video.

TIP: If you get behind an obnoxious group of Harley riders, pull over and enjoy the view for a while. Otherwise, loud pipes will clear any animals roadside for miles.

Lovely bacteria mat just off of Lake Yellowstone.
Lovely bacteria mat just off of Lake Yellowstone.

Once at Canyon Village, Travis and I walked from our cabins to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The girl at the desk said it was just a quick walk – Pfft! About a quarter of the way down the wooded path, we were beginning to think perhaps we should’ve gotten the bear spray from Mom. We tried to concentrate on making noise but were winded so kinda gave up on that. We did see vicious tiny squirrels and chipmunks and a jogger who was totally breaking the rules by not making noise. 🙂

The most gorgeous:
Grand Canyon Yellowstone

Okay, maybe this is a closer gorgeous:
Closer Grand Canyon Yellowstone

At this point, our views were in the realm of the surreal. I’m looking at this landscape and it’s too incredible to be captured without being there. The Grand Canyon view is really something to behold.

We walked back and just missed a rain shower then regrouped at the cabins – all the while grateful that we weren’t doused in the rain.

Dinner at Roosevelt.

TIP: Don’t ask young staff for information on your location. THEY. ARE. CLUELESS. However, if you’re feeling generous, you might instruct them that the pamphlets at every entrance or desk offer information on their location.

IMG_5682

20150827_180115

Coveted bean recipe from Roosevelt Lodge.
Coveted bean recipe from Roosevelt Lodge.
Roadside bison on the way back from dinner in Roosevelt.
Roadside bison on the way back from dinner in Roosevelt.

The Canyon Village Lodge was to be our crash pad for 2 days. Despite reviews on Trip Advisor, we DID have Keurig coffee AND tea available in our rooms. They DID NOT have television or Wifi (in room) but you’re in a world heritage site so if you don’t like it – go outside because otherwise you’re missing the point! Okay, end rant.

I chose the cabins for us because 1.)They were available 2.)They were less expensive than the rooms 3.)They had their own bathrooms – a theme with all the rooms I reserved.

Lots of doins’ once you get back from trekking the great outdoors. Canyon Village offered a show at the ranger’s station. We’d planned on going until we got too pooped out while perusing the other options: food, shopping, museum and general awe at how much was available to do after dark.

The next morning, we headed back up to Roosevelt. A woman working at the restaurant at Canyon Village told us that there was a family of grizzlies at the Roosevelt stables. A consideration, but with animals, you have to decide whether to stake out an area or travel to see other stuff and hope you cross paths with beasts. It was on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs anyways.

First stop was Tower Falls in Roosevelt. I saw a bald eagle on our hike up to the falls. Though we have them in Florida, it’s only the second time I’ve seen one in the wild. Of course, I was too busy jumping up and down and pointing to get a picture.

Tower Falls in Roosevelt
Tower Falls in Roosevelt

TIP: When the tour buses arrive, it’s worth it to vacate the area and either stop by later or just move on. We were a step ahead of the herd and found we got out of the falls just in time.

Quick stop to see the ONE petrified tree left in all of the park. They were all pillaged at the turn of the last century and this one has been gated so that it is preserved from those who would try to remove it.

As we were driving, we saw folks pulled over and pointing. Up on the hillside was a grizzly bear! The bear was walking quickly with purpose – my guess would be breakfast.

Trav was the only one of us who got a shot of this grizzly. That bear was definitely on a mission!
Trav was the only one of us who got a shot of this grizzly. That bear was definitely on a mission!
The last petrified tree.
The last petrified tree.

Click on the green for video:
Calcite Springs

We drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs where we walked up to some of the springs, had lunch, and went to the museum. I became oddly obsessed with animal poop because there were all different kinds outside of the restaurant.

We observed a large elk across the field from the restaurant that was sitting while traffic lined up to photograph him though we decided he’d had enough tourist attention and chose to drive in the opposite direction. Especially after reading the signs about the animals – with photos of people being chased. Our server at the restaurant also told us that it was rutting season and she was escorted from the establishment in the evenings so that there were no issues with aggressive elk.

I’d never heard of rutting but not long after our return home, the Yellowstone FaceBook page posted video of rutting elk. They make an incredibly eery noise and sometimes fight!

Minute Out In It: Bull Fight

As night falls on Mammoth Hot Springs, elk bugles ring out in every direction. Three or four bulls trot past the glowing windows of Officer's Row, converging near the southern end of Fort Yellowstone. Suddenly two begin a fight for dominance in the light of cars making a late exit from the park. (Note: intentionally spotlighting animals in Yellowstone is prohibited by law).

Posted by Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Click on the green for video:
Mammoth Hot Springs/Palette Spring

Travis at Palette Spring.
Travis at Palette Spring.
Wild life at Mammoth.
Wild life at Mammoth.

Mammoth was relaxing and the museum has several displays of several fairly horrifying accounts of park abuses from its inception. Good place to get an idea of life at the beginning of the national park concept and maybe pick up a Yellowstone Monopoly game (that Santa promised me for Christmas).

A few hours and we were good to go over to Norris Geyser Basin.

We drove through a zigzagged geyser section of Mammoth and stopped to take pictures of Orange Spring Mound.

Click here for video:
Part of Mammoth Hot Springs

I could’ve taken a picture while driving but chose to get out of the car instead of holding up traffic. Interestingly, a semi pulled up while I was taking this picture. I would’ve thought there were restrictions for viewing and driving such a precarious area but remembered a friend from Atlanta who was a truck driver and would sneak into parks to get a view of our national treasures. Guess you can’t blame a person for trying.

Orange Spring Mound
Orange Spring Mound

The Artist Paint Pots in Norris were amazing though it was quite a long hike just to get to them. Mom sat these out and opted to see our pics afterward. It reminded me of Dagobah in Star Wars when Luke goes to find Yoda. Too geeky? Look at the video!

Click here for video:
Artist Paint Pots

Click here for overview:
Upper View of Paint Pots

Paint Pots
Paint Pots

We stopped at another geyser area in Norris. Fortunately, they had a book store and we were able to purchase a poop-identifying pamphlet. An essential as I was still obsessing over the poop we’d seen in Mammoth.

I know we took pictures of the area but the one that stands out the most is of the buffalo who was hanging out by the ladies room.

Bathroom buffalo.
Bathroom buffalo.

We headed to back toward Canyon Village but I’d decided to go a bit south to Hayden to hopefully see some wildlife. We sat for awhile once we arrived and people came and went – mostly went. Eventually, a couple showed up with some equipment. LOCALS!!! They let us use their scopes to see the wolf pack that was on the edge of the clearing – that explained why there was NOTHING ELSE in the valley! Pack of 5. Very cool!

TIP: If you see people with high tech equipment, don’t be afraid to wander over and chat. My binoculars were not powerful enough to catch the wolf pack (though Travis DID think that the geese he saw were blurry wolves) – their equipment made them clear as day in front of us plus we met nice people who were willing to share the experience! Win/win!

We left Hayden babbling about how great it was and suddenly I saw people pulling over so I did too. At this point, Travis was having a fit because he couldn’t see the black bear walking up on us in the car. Unfortunately, the ONE SHOT OF THE BEAR LOOKING AT THE CAR DIDN’T TURN OUT. But, to give you an idea of how close he was to the car for dinner:

Yes, the window's down and that's a black bear and the camera's not zoomed and I'm having a cow!
Yes, the window’s down and that’s a black bear and the camera’s not zoomed and I’m having a spaz attack!

Travis then said, “Pssst!” to the bear, who looked up and he took THE ONLY SUPER BLURRY SHOT ON THE WHOLE TRIP. I then said, “WINDOW! WINDOW!” and drove off because now that the bear was looking at us and was so close, I needed some distance!

We headed back to Canyon for some R & R and for Mom to check on hurricane Erika. Wifi can be purchased in the common area at Canyon. I think it was about $12.

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We crammed a lot into one day!

I just looked over more of Mom’s pictures and felt that I should back that last picture up with some perspective! They do everything BIG here!

Giant fireplace at Canyon Village.
Giant fireplace at Canyon Village.

I’d planned our final leg of the trip in the southern portion of Yellowstone: One night at Yellowstone Lake Cabins and one night at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. My reasoning was based on not only driving but I was hoping to get an all around the park experience for everyone. Our mission once we’d grabbed coffees, was to visit whatever we’d passed by on our way up to Canyon Village the first day.

First stop was Lower Canyon Falls so that Mom could see the falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone since she’d missed it when we’d walked down from our cabin.

TIP: No matter how much you think you’ve trained for hiking, if you’re not used to higher elevations, stay hydrated and take breaks (though Travis and I considered breaks as driving from one site to the next). There are medical stations located throughout Yellowstone. If you have concerns, get to know their locations in advance. The whole place is a loop and the main issue is distance, not getting lost (even if you get off the main loop).

Lower Canyon Falls Video

FYI – For those judging my matter-of-fact commentary on my videos, please know that this is a drastic departure from my pointing out my adorable boyfriend every two minutes. I’m just saying progress rather than perfection…

Stairway to Grand Canyon

The picture above demonstrates one of the many dangers of being in a National Park or anywhere in the mountains for that matter. Please note that the bottom of the stairway is gated BECAUSE IT FELL OFF. And yes, you can walk down and try to look over where it just sheared off and crashed below. I can’t even explain that though I love the pictures we got and I enjoy all my 20 second videos, they DON’T EVEN capture what you’re actually seeing! The magnitude, size, depth…

Inspiration Point Video

Next, a brief and stinky stint (all the muddy looking stuff wreaks of sulfur) at the Cauldron Basin on our way to Lake Yellowstone Lodge.

Sulfur Caldron Video: Note Pink Floyd Reference

We arrived at Yellowstone Lake early but could not check in so decided to go to the cafe and grab some lunch to take down to eat Lakeside. Brilliant idea but not so practical as a chilled wind moved in as we ate, prompting us to grab our dessert cookies and go back to finish in the lounge.

TIP: I highly recommend lunch in the lounge area outside the restaurant! Comfy chairs or regular tables to eat at with a nice view from the bay windows overlooking the lake! It’s also only a short hike to picnic tables down the road bringing you lakeside and there is a nice selection of take-out yummies at the cafe in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

Upon experiencing the wind that tousled our lunch including buffalo brat and left over cookies from Jackson Hole, we chose to forego the boat ride from the Fishing Bridge for fear off losing said cookies. We moved into the lounge to finish our chow then opted instead to take the Lake Yellowstone Hotel historic tour – free of charge – that is an interesting overview of history and a cool walk around the hotel. Having time to kill, we drove over to the Lake Lodge.

TIP: Investigate all the lodges if you can and don’t assume that they’re all next to each other. This one was well down the road.

Mom purchased internet access (about $13) at the lodge to find out how the hurricane was doing and also warmed up by the fire. It’s fairly common to find guests sleeping by the different fireplaces throughout the lodges. The Canyon Lodge sitting area provides wait service so you can actually order drinks or finger foods while enjoying the lounge.

Lake Yellowstone Lodge Video

We drove, after some down time, back to the hotel. We’d been informed that we could not check into the cabins until 4:30p.m. – well after standard check in but the concierge let us know the where and when for the tour. In the meantime bumming around taking pictures:

Gorgeous window at Lake Village Hotel.
Gorgeous window at Lake Village Hotel.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel Tour Video

Turns out the hotel was fully renovated in the 1980’s so I couldn’t figure out why I’d read so many noise complaints online when deciding where to book us. That’s why I chose the cabins. Learning about some of the art (lobby fireplace) and how a far away explosion really rocked the place solidified what a volatile region Yellowstone is.

After the tour, we checked into our cabins and reconvened for dinner at the Lake Hotel restaurant. High end food. And let me just say bison was for dinner!

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Disclaimer for the picture: When we saw the bison outside the restaurant, we attempted pictures but they were coming out super-dark. The wait staff said we could walk out the door next to the table and get a decent photo and that it was no big deal. Number one: Doors lock behind you thus trapping you on the porch. Thankfully, a little girl came out to take photos as well and held the door open so we could get back in. Number two: Once outside, as Travis was taking the picture, I realized that the platform we were on actually had steps and that we were WAY TOO CLOSE for park rules.

TIP: Just because someone who works for Xanterra (private company paid to manage the Yellowstone hotels and restaurants) tells you it’s “okay” doesn’t actually mean it’s okay!

Tasty chicken with mustard creme sauce and baby squash! Fantastic until I tried Mom's bison tenderloin...
Tasty chicken with mustard creme sauce and baby squash! Fantastic until I tried Mom’s bison tenderloin…
We were both jealous after we tasted her dinner.
We were both jealous after we tasted her dinner.

After dinner we strolled down the street to the General Store and got ice cream and watched a tiny chipmunk – because OMG they’re so cute and tiny!!! He/she was too quick, otherwise YOU KNOW I’d have provided a visual.

Lake Yellowstone and Hotel Video

It was dusk as we walked back. We stopped in the gift shop where I purchased “Death In Yellowstone Accidents And Foolhardiness In The First National Park” for some entertainment. The hotel was gorgeous all lit up at night!

TIP: Try the Huckleberry ice cream at the General Store and the HOTEL HAS FREE INTERNET IN THEIR BUSINESS CENTER. We were particularly keen on internet because of an incoming hurricane to our area of Florida (like we could do anything about it).

Lake Yellowstone from in front of the hotel.
Lake Yellowstone from in front of the hotel.
Lake hotel at dusk.
Lake hotel at dusk.

We were awakened at midnight by a storm (and I’m a bad-weather junkie) but rattling windows, holes in the curtains, paint chipped off surfaces, dust and mold – ICK.

Mom was awakened in the middle of the night by a drunken biker fight. Luckily, she didn’t go outside. There are no phones so you can’t call for assistance though she could have pounded on the bathroom wall, as I assume that if I can hear her flush, I can hear her pound on the wall, and Travis and I would have rushed to her aid and pretended to be authoritative.

On a positive note, the lightning felt like it was right on top of us and having gone to bed reading about suspected murder and unfortunate accidents in the park was right up my alley!

I filled out a comment card telling Xanterra how filthy and decrepit the cabin was (Mom’s really wasn’t bad except for the noise) and the girl at the counter said there was a mysterious credit for our cabins for $15? Whatever. Not enough.

GIANT TIP – 20/20 HINDSIGHT: Though the lake cabins are very inexpensive compared to the hotel (about $166 a night per cabin vs. around $450 I think ) – do the historic tour, general store and restaurant/lounge (maybe use the free internet business center) then book over to Old Faithful Snow Lodge. More expensive than the cabins but just over half the price of the Lake hotel, a good night’s sleep, clean, quiet and about 30 miles away.

TIP: The breakfast at the Lake restaurant is well priced and tasty. You don’t have to get the buffet.

We put on our big kid pants and headed to cover what we’d missed just south of Norris. WOW. I know I said I’d use a different word but it fits.

Our 4th and final day inside the park was to be much busier than I anticipated. My original intent was for us to drive to our northern destination and cover the northern loop then venture south after 2 days and cover the southern loop. I’d driven Yellowstone 11 years ago but really thought that 4 days in the park would be plenty. But I’m greedy and this possibly being a once-in-a-liftime experience for the family, I scheduled an ambitious journey and am grateful that everyone was still ambulatory and speaking to me by the time it was over.

We waved good-bye to Lake Yellowstone (okay, I was tired so there might have been a single finger salute somewhere but not where anyone could really see it).

As we headed south, we came across a momma and baby elk walking along the side of the road! Unfortunately, only one good shot exists, as I was driving and needed MORE COFFEE! That means I basically rolled down the electronic windows, yelled “Take a picture!” and then took off too fast! I’m judging that based on the results from three cameras documenting this part of our excursion.

Elk-moose and baby and I've not had enough coffee so you better shoot that picture quick!
Elk and baby and I’ve not had enough coffee so you better shoot that picture quick!

We stopped at Old Faithful for gas then I began the cat-herding because everybody was oh-ing and ah-ing and wanted to dink around in the stores when we had cool shit to see elsewhere!

We started north-west at Kepler Cascades and worked our way back to Old Faithful.

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Kepler Cascades Video

Gibbon Falls was next – where there ARE NO GIBBONS! I’ve read that there’s been some confusion with that…

Gibbon Falls Video

Next, we drove Firehole Canyon Drive. The one way road offers lots of great places to pull over and take pictures. Travis got adventurous and blazed down a super-steep hill so that…well, I’m not sure why other than to just do it.

Firehole Canyon Drive

Firehole Canyon Drive is also one of the few places you can swim in Yellowstone. While we were there, there were several people enjoying the area, some divers and some kids jumping illegally from the lava rock outreaches.

Kids jumping in the no-no zone! Yeah, I'd have done it!
Kids jumping in the no-no zone! Yeah, I’d have done it!

I promised the kid I wouldn’t tell the park rangers but I didn’t say I wouldn’t post it on my blog. What?!

We jumped back onto the southern loop and stopped for a long walk around the Fountain Paint Pot located in the Lower Geyser Basin. The area was the first we’d seen with so many geysers. The landscape had a couple very pretty “pots” but the steam and the sizzling really lets you know that you are standing over some significant molten earth.

Fountain Paint Pot
Fountain Paint Pot

Hissy Fit Video

The boardwalk wound around until we got to multiple geysers. I will post the video below but warn you to turn down your speakers as it was extremely windy and distorted the sound. I would have left it out but THREE GEYSERS!!! I had to post it!

If you watch the video below, you’ll see Jelly Geyser, Spasm Geyser and Clepsydra Geyser lined up front to back.

Triple Geyser Video

When we got back to the car, Mom had had enough walking. It was lunch time but we had one last stop. We could see the Midway Geyser Basin as we approached. It was a chilly day and the steam was coming off the hot water as it poured over the hills along the road.

Fire Hole Bridge Video

Fire Hole Bridge
Fire Hole Bridge
Midway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin

Travis and I decided to try to make it quick so Mom wasn’t sitting for too long. I should have taken a photo of the squirrel in the tree next to the boardwalk who was randomly hurling nuts at tourists. Not the first time I’ve seen that in a National Park. Territorial buggers, though I don’t blame him with record numbers in the parks this year!

The Midway Geyser basin is where the Grand Prismatic Spring is located. The boardwalk is a long walk but SO WORTH IT. On that particular day, the chill made it difficult to see because of all the steam.

Entrance video

Excelsior Geyser
Excelsior Geyser

Excelsior Video

The edge of the Grand Prismatic Spring
The edge of the Grand Prismatic Spring

Where the steam rises up, you can see how the orange gives way to yellow then becomes blue!

Just past the Grand Prismatic is the Turquoise Pool.

The Turquoise Pool
The Turquoise Pool

Turquoise Pool Video

TIP: The next bit you don’t have to take my word for as the Ranger Station provide valuable, entertaining and informative shows, dioramas, graphics and have staff available for whatever absurd question you may come up with. Most are open a tad late but it’s nice if you don’t want to go to bed super early and there are no tv’s (though you’ll hear rumors about tv smuggling and staff did bring one in during 9/11).

And now, for a bit of science.

Just so you know: “If another large caldera-forming eruption were to occur at Yellowstone, its effects would be worldwide. Thick ash deposits would bury vast areas of the United States, and injection of huge volumes of volcanic gases into the atmosphere could drastically affect global climate. Fortunately, the Yellowstone volcanic system shows no signs that it is headed toward such an eruption. The probability of a large caldera-forming eruption within the next few thousand years is exceedingly low.” From yellowstone.net

But from freedompreppers.com (that had a great graphic – I SWEAR THAT’S THE ONLY REASON I was on their site)

Worst than terrorists, huh.
Worst than terrorists, huh.

We had chocolate for lunch because that’s what you do when you’re sight-seeing and think that world heritage sites are more important than real lunch.

Back into “civilization”, we caught the Old Faithful Inn Lodge tour – free and awesome. The tour begins in the lobby and they take you into one of the rooms, much like the Lake Hotel tour. I would have gotten more pictures but we were evacuated FOR A FIRE. Very exciting!

Interior of the Old Faithful Inn
Interior of the Old Faithful Inn
Inside of the Old Faithful Inn front door.
Inside of the Old Faithful Inn front door.
Exterior of the Old Faithful Inn (part of it anyway)
Exterior of the Old Faithful Inn (part of it anyway)
Outside of the Old Faithful in front door.
Outside of the Old Faithful in front door.

After the mild drama, we took a couple more shots then headed to the Ranger Station next to Old Faithful to find out what time it was expected to go off. There’s leeway in times so expect to be hanging out for a little bit. Not a big deal as there are benches covering about a third of the radius around the geyser!

Old Faithful Video

Next, we watched THE geyser blow, then we ventured over to the Old Faithful Lodge for a look around and some time by the fireplace (as became a tradition at each lodge). The Old Faithful area offers a gas station, general store, bars, ice cream, Xanterra owned store, Ranger Station, Inn, Lodge and Snow Lodge!!! And look for stuff in between.

Old Faithful Lodge fireplace.
Old Faithful Lodge fireplace.
View walking back from the Ranger Station.
View walking back from the Ranger Station.
Old Faithful Inn Restaurant
Old Faithful Inn Restaurant

I’d made reservations a few months in advance. I believe you have to wait until you’re 3 months out. I’d planned for early dining and had for most of the trip because as east-coasters, 5:30p.m. was really 8:30p.m.! I got the buffet, a hefty price but SO WORTH IT! Prime rib and apple crisp! Both Travis and Mom had dinner envy!

TIP: If you are taller than me (and I’m sure you are) watch your head on the outskirts of the restaurant. Low lighting nails people all the time, including our waiter, who warned us about it and then hit it.

Mom was exhausted so we wandered around on our own a bit.

Antique cars used for site seeing.
Antique cars used for site seeing.

Sightseeing car.
Sightseeing car.
Old Faithful Snow Lodge at dusk.
Old Faithful Snow Lodge at dusk.

Our last adventure for the evening was let staff know that a raven had gotten into the garbage outside of one of the restaurants. We didn’t want her to get sick. We then headed to the Snow Lodge, sat by the fire and shared a Huckleberry soda.

In the morning, we went to the post office to send post cards out. Yes, it’s a real post office!

Sign at the post office.
Sign at the post office.

We stopped and took a couple of shots on the way out of the park but spent the rest of our afternoon back in Jackson Hole.

For the fishermen.
For the fishermen.

I took a shot of the sign at the lake on the way out. VERY STRICT guidelines for putting in a boat! And you can tell by the sign that the attendant is over answering the same questions.

Our last "view" stop before Jackson Hole.
Our last “view” stop before Jackson Hole.

I can’t imagine not going back. Though it was my second visit to Yellowstone, I feel as if there was so much more we could have done and seen. I would love to spend more time in the Grand Tetons as well. I spent maybe 3 weeks afterward trying to think of a way for us to open a business in Jackson that wouldn’t leave us snowbound for the winter. Alas, we are still here in Florida – but we’re working on it!!! Beautiful country well worth it’s title as a World Heritage Site.

Old Faithful And FIN

Our 4th and final day inside the park was to be much busier than I anticipated. My original intent was for us to drive to our northern destination and cover the northern loop then venture south after 2 days and cover the southern loop. I’d driven Yellowstone 11 years ago but really thought that 4 days in the park would be plenty. But I’m greedy and this possibly being a once-in-a-liftime experience for the family, I scheduled an ambitious journey and am grateful that everyone was still ambulatory by the time it was over.

We waved good-bye to Lake Yellowstone (okay, I was tired so there might have been a single finger salute somewhere but not where anyone could really see it).

As we headed south, we came across a momma and baby elk walking along the side of the road! Unfortunately, only one good shot exists, as I was driving and needed MORE COFFEE! That means I basically rolled down the electronic windows, yelled “Take a picture!” and then took off too fast! I’m judging that based on the results from three cameras documenting this part of our excursion.

Elk-moose and baby and I've not had enough coffee so you better shoot that picture quick!
Elk and baby and I’ve not had enough coffee so you better shoot that picture quick!

We stopped at Old Faithful for gas then I began the cat-herding because everybody was oh-ing and ah-ing and wanted to dink around in the stores when we had cool shit to see elsewhere!

We started north west at Kepler Cascades and worked our way back to Old Faithful.

IMG_5893

Kepler Cascades Video

Gibbon Falls was next – where there ARE NO GIBBONS! I’ve read that there’s been some confusion with that…

Gibbon Falls Video

Next, we drove Firehole Canyon Drive. The one way road offers lots of great places to pull over and take pictures. Travis got adventurous and blazed down a super-steep hill so that…well, I’m not sure why other than to just do it.

Firehole Canyon Drive

Firehole Canyon Drive is also one of the few places you can swim in Yellowstone. While we were there, there were several people enjoying the area, some divers and some kids jumping illegally from the lava rock outreaches.

Kids jumping in the no-no zone! Yeah, I'd have done it!
Kids jumping in the no-no zone! Yeah, I’d have done it!

I promised the kid I wouldn’t tell the park rangers but I didn’t say I wouldn’t post it on my blog. What?!

We jumped back onto the southern loop and stopped for a long walk around the Fountain Paint Pot located in the Lower Geyser Basin. The area was the first we’d seen with so many geysers. The landscape had a couple very pretty “pots” but the steam and the sizzling really lets you know that you are standing over some significant molten earth.

Fountain Paint Pot
Fountain Paint Pot

Hissy Fit Video

The boardwalk wound around until we got to multiple geysers. I will post the video below but warn you to turn down your speakers as it was extremely windy and distorted the sound. I would have left it out but THREE GEYSERS!!! I had to post it!

If you watch the video below, you’ll see Jelly Geyser, Spasm Geyser and Clepsydra Geyser lined up front to back.

Triple Geyser Video

When we got back to the car, Mom had had enough walking. It was lunch time but we had one last stop. We could see the Midway Geyser Basin as we approached. It was a chilly day and the steam was coming off the hot water as it poured over the hills along the road.

Fire Hole Bridge Video

Fire Hole Bridge
Fire Hole Bridge
Midway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin

Travis and I decided to try to make it quick so Mom wasn’t sitting for too long. I should have taken a photo of the squirrel in the tree next to the boardwalk who was randomly hurling nuts at tourists. Not the first time I’ve seen that in a National Park. Territorial buggers, though I don’t blame him with record numbers in the parks this year!

The Midway Geyser basin is where the Grand Prismatic Spring is located. The boardwalk is a long walk but SO WORTH IT. On that particular day, the chill made it difficult to see because of all the steam.

Entrance video

Excelsior Geyser
Excelsior Geyser

Excelsior Video

The edge of the Grand Prismatic Spring
The edge of the Grand Prismatic Spring

Where the steam rises up, you can see how the orange gives way to yellow then becomes blue!

Just past the Grand Prismatic is the Turquoise Pool.

The Turquoise Pool
The Turquoise Pool

Turquoise Pool Video

TIP: The next bit you don’t have to take my word for as the Ranger Station provide valuable, entertaining and informative shows, dioramas, graphics and have staff available for whatever absurd question you may come up with. Most are open a tad late but it’s nice if you don’t want to go to bed super early and there are no tv’s (though you’ll hear rumors about tv smuggling and staff did bring one in during 9/11).

And now, for a bit of science.

Just so you know: “If another large caldera-forming eruption were to occur at Yellowstone, its effects would be worldwide. Thick ash deposits would bury vast areas of the United States, and injection of huge volumes of volcanic gases into the atmosphere could drastically affect global climate. Fortunately, the Yellowstone volcanic system shows no signs that it is headed toward such an eruption. The probability of a large caldera-forming eruption within the next few thousand years is exceedingly low.” From yellowstone.net

But from freedompreppers.com (that had a great graphic – I SWEAR THAT’S THE ONLY REASON I was on their site)

Worst than terrorists, huh.
Worst than terrorists, huh.

We had chocolate for lunch because that’s what you do when you’re sight-seeing and think that world heritage sites are more important than real lunch.

Back into “civilization”, we caught the Old Faithful Inn Lodge tour – free and awesome. The tour begins in the lobby and they take you into one of the rooms, much like the Lake Hotel tour. I would have gotten more pictures but we were evacuated FOR A FIRE. Very exciting!

Interior of the Old Faithful Inn
Interior of the Old Faithful Inn
Inside of the Old Faithful Inn front door.
Inside of the Old Faithful Inn front door.
Exterior of the Old Faithful Inn (part of it anyway)
Exterior of the Old Faithful Inn (part of it anyway)
Outside of the Old Faithful in front door.
Outside of the Old Faithful in front door.

After the mild drama, we took a couple more shots then headed to the Ranger Station next to Old Faithful to find out what time it was expected to go off. There’s leeway in times so expect to be hanging out for a little bit. Not a big deal as there are benches covering about a third of the radius around the geyser!

Old Faithful Video

Next, we watched THE geyser blow, then we ventured over to the Old Faithful Lodge for a look around and some time by the fireplace (as became a tradition at each lodge). The Old Faithful area offers a gas station, general store, bars, ice cream, Xanterra owned store, Ranger Station, Inn, Lodge and Snow Lodge!!! And look for stuff in between.

Old Faithful Lodge fireplace.
Old Faithful Lodge fireplace.
View walking back from the Ranger Station.
View walking back from the Ranger Station.
Old Faithful Inn Restaurant
Old Faithful Inn Restaurant

I’d made reservations a few months in advance. I believe you have to wait until you’re 3 months out. I’d planned for early dining and had for most of the trip because as east-coasters, 5:30p.m. was really 8:30p.m.! I got the buffet, a hefty price but SO WORTH IT! Prime rib and apple crisp! Both Travis and Mom had dinner envy!

TIP: If you are taller than me (and I’m sure you are) watch your head on the outskirts of the restaurant. Low lighting nails people all the time, including our waiter, who warned us about it and then hit it.

Mom was exhausted so we wandered around on our own a bit.

Antique cars used for site seeing.
Antique cars used for site seeing.

Sightseeing car.
Sightseeing car.
Old Faithful Snow Lodge at dusk.
Old Faithful Snow Lodge at dusk.

Our last adventure for the evening was let staff know that a raven had gotten into the garbage outside of one of the restaurants. We didn’t want her to get sick. We then headed to the Snow Lodge, sat by the fire and shared a Huckleberry soda.

In the morning, we went to the post office to send post cards out. Yes, it’s a real post office!

Sign at the post office.
Sign at the post office.

We stopped and took a couple of shots on the way out of the park but spent the rest of our afternoon back in Jackson Hole.

For the fishermen.
For the fishermen.

I took a shot of the sign at the lake on the way out. VERY STRICT guidelines for putting in a boat! And you can tell by the sign that the attendant is over answering the same questions.

Our last "view" stop before Jackson Hole.
Our last “view” stop before Jackson Hole.

I can’t imagine not going back. Though it was my second visit to Yellowstone, I feel as if there was so much more we could have done and seen. I would love to spend more time in the Grand Tetons as well. I spent maybe 3 weeks afterward trying to think of a way for us to open a business in Jackson that wouldn’t leave us snowbound for the winter. Alas, we are still here in Florida – but we’re working on it!!! Beautiful country well worth it’s title as a World Heritage Site.

Yellowstone Lake Part IV

If you’re just joining me on the trip, you’re doing it backwards. But that’s okay too! This was to be the final installment of my family summer vacation to Jackson Hole, Wy, the Grand Tetons and all around Yellowstone until word count and masses of pictures got in the way. The trip of a lifetime and until writing this segment, I didn’t realize that we really covered more ground, food, tours, than I could fit into one post! Well, I could but…

I’d planned our final leg of the trip in the southern portion of Yellowstone: One night at Yellowstone Lake Cabins and one night at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. My reasoning was based on not only driving but I was hoping to get an all around the park experience for everyone. Our mission once we’d grabbed coffees, was to visit whatever we’d passed by on our way up to Canyon Village the first day.

First stop was Lower Canyon Falls so that Mom could see the falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone since she’d missed it when we’d walked down from our cabin.

TIP: No matter how much you think you’ve trained for hiking, if you’re not used to higher elevations, stay hydrated and take breaks (though Travis and I considered breaks as driving from one site to the next). There are medical stations

Lower Canyon Falls Video

FYI – For those judging my matter-of-fact commentary on my videos, please know that this is a drastic departure from my pointing out my adorable boyfriend every two minutes. I’m just saying progress rather than perfection…

Stairway to Grand Canyon

The picture above demonstrates one of the many dangers of being in a National Park or anywhere in the mountains for that matter. Please note that the bottom of the stairway is gated BECAUSE IT FELL OFF. And yes, you can walk down and try to look over where it just sheared off and crashed below. I can’t even explain that though I love the pictures we got and I enjoy all my 20 second videos, they DON’T EVEN capture what you’re actually seeing! The magnitude, size, depth…

Inspiration Point Video

Next, a brief and stinky stint (all the muddy looking stuff wreaks of sulfur) at the Cauldron Basin on our way to Lake Yellowstone Lodge.

Sulfur Caldron Video: Note Pink Floyd Reference

We arrived at Yellowstone Lake early but could not check in so decided to go to the cafe and grab some lunch to take down to eat Lakeside. Brilliant idea but not so practical as a chilled wind moved in as we ate, prompting us to grab our dessert cookies and go back to finish in the lounge.

TIP: I highly recommend lunch in the lounge area outside the restaurant! Comfy chairs or regular tables to eat at with a nice view from the bay windows overlooking the lake! It’s also only a short hike to picnic tables down the road bringing you lakeside and there is a nice selection of take-out yummies at the cafe in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

Upon experiencing the wind that tousled our lunch including buffalo brat and left over cookies from Jackson Hole, we chose to forego the boat ride from the Fishing Bridge for fear off losing said cookies. We moved into the lounge to finish our chow then opted instead to take the Lake Yellowstone Hotel historic tour – free of charge – that is an interesting overview of history and a cool walk around the hotel. Having time to kill, we drove over to the Lake Lodge.

TIP: Investigate all the lodges if you can and don’t assume that they’re all next to each other. This one was well down the road.

Mom purchased internet access (about $13) at the lodge to find out how the hurricane was doing and also warmed up by the fire. It’s fairly common to find guests sleeping by the different fireplaces throughout the lodges. The Canyon Lodge sitting area provides wait service so you can actually order drinks or finger foods while enjoying the lounge.

Lake Yellowstone Lodge Video

We drove, after some down time, back to the hotel. We’d been informed that we could not check into the cabins until 4:30p.m. – well after standard check in but the concierge let us know the where and when for the tour. In the meantime bumming around taking pictures:

Gorgeous window at Lake Village Hotel.
Gorgeous window at Lake Village Hotel.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel Tour Video

Turns out the hotel was fully renovated in the 1980’s so I couldn’t figure out why I’d read so many noise complaints online when deciding where to book us. That’s why I chose the cabins. Learning about some of the art (lobby fireplace) and how a far away explosion really rocked the place solidified what a volatile region Yellowstone is.

After the tour, we checked into our cabins and reconvened for dinner at the Lake Hotel restaurant. High end food. And let me just say bison was for dinner!

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Disclaimer for the picture: When we saw the bison outside the restaurant, we attempted pictures but they were coming out super-dark. The wait staff said we could walk out the door next to the table and get a decent photo and that it was no big deal. Number one: Doors lock behind you thus trapping you on the porch. Thankfully, a little girl came out to take photos as well and held the door open so we could get back in. Number two: Once outside, as Travis was taking the picture, I realized that the platform we were on actually had steps and that we were WAY TOO CLOSE for park rules.

TIP: Just because someone who works for Xanterra (private company paid to manage the Yellowstone hotels and restaurants) tells you it’s “okay” doesn’t actually mean it’s okay!

Tasty chicken with mustard creme sauce and baby squash! Fantastic until I tried Mom's bison tenderloin...
Tasty chicken with mustard creme sauce and baby squash! Fantastic until I tried Mom’s bison tenderloin…
We were both jealous after we tasted her dinner.
We were both jealous after we tasted her dinner.

After dinner we strolled down the street to the General Store and got ice cream and watched a tiny chipmunk – because OMG they’re so cute and tiny!!! He/she was too quick, otherwise YOU KNOW I’d have provided a visual.

Lake Yellowstone and Hotel Video

It was dusk as we walked back. We stopped in the gift shop where I purchased “Death In Yellowstone Accidents And Foolhardiness In The First National Park” for some entertainment. The hotel was gorgeous all lit up at night!

TIP: Try the Huckleberry ice cream at the General Store and the HOTEL HAS FREE INTERNET IN THEIR BUSINESS CENTER. We were particularly keen on internet because of an incoming hurricane to our area of Florida (like we could do anything about it).

Lake Yellowstone from in front of the hotel.
Lake Yellowstone from in front of the hotel.
Lake hotel at dusk.
Lake hotel at dusk.

We were awakened at midnight by a storm (and I’m a bad-weather junkie) but rattling windows, holes in the curtains, paint chipped off surfaces, dust and mold – ICK.

Mom was awakened in the middle of the night by a drunken biker fight. Luckily, she didn’t go outside. There are no phones so you can’t call for assistance though she could have pounded on the bathroom wall, as I assume that if I can hear her flush, I can hear her pound on the wall, and Travis and I would have rushed to her aid and pretended to be authoritative.

On a positive note, the lightning felt like it was right on top of us and having gone to bed reading about suspected murder and unfortunate accidents in the park was right up my alley!

I filled out a comment card telling Xanterra how filthy and decrepit the cabin was (Mom’s really wasn’t bad except for the noise) and the girl at the counter said there was a mysterious credit for our cabins for $15? Whatever. Not enough.

GIANT TIP – 20/20 HINDSIGHT: Though the lake cabins are very inexpensive compared to the hotel (about $166 a night per cabin vs. around $450 I think ) – do the historic tour, general store and restaurant/lounge (maybe use the free internet business center) then book over to Old Faithful Snow Lodge. More expensive than the cabins but just over half the price of the Lake hotel, a good night’s sleep, clean, quiet and about 30 miles away.

TIP: The breakfast at the Lake restaurant is well priced and tasty. You don’t have to get the buffet.

We put on our big kid pants and headed to cover what we’d missed just south of Norris. WOW.

Yellowstone: The Saga (a.k.a. Part Tres)

The Canyon Village Lodge was to be our crash pad for 2 days. Despite reviews on Trip Advisor, we DID have Keurig coffee AND tea available in our rooms. They DID NOT have television or Wifi (in room) but you’re in a world heritage site so if you don’t like it – go outside because otherwise you’re missing the point! Okay, end rant.

I chose the cabins for us because 1.)They were available 2.)They were less expensive than the rooms 3.)They had their own bathrooms – a theme with all the rooms I reserved.

Lots of doins’ once you get back from trekking the great outdoors. Canyon Village offered a show at the ranger’s station. We’d planned on going until we got too pooped out while perusing the other options: food, shopping, museum and general awe at how much was available to do after dark.

The next morning, we headed back up to Roosevelt. A woman working at the restaurant at Canyon Village told us that there was a family of grizzlies at the Roosevelt stables. A consideration, but with animals, you have to decide whether to stake out an area or travel to see other stuff and hope you cross paths with beasts. It was on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs anyways.

First stop was Tower Falls in Roosevelt. I saw a bald eagle on our hike up to the falls. Though we have them in Florida, it’s only the second time I’ve seen one in the wild. Of course, I was too busy jumping up and down and pointing to get a picture.

Tower Falls in Roosevelt
Tower Falls in Roosevelt

TIP: When the tour buses arrive, it’s worth it to vacate the area and either stop by later or just move on. We were a step ahead of the herd and found we got out of the falls just in time.

Quick stop to see the ONE petrified tree left in all of the park. They were all pillaged at the turn of the last century and this one has been gated so that it is preserved from those who would try to remove it.

As we were driving, we saw folks pulled over and pointing. Up on the hillside was a grizzly bear! The bear was walking quickly with purpose – my guess would be breakfast.

Trav was the only one of us who got a shot of this grizzly. That bear was definitely on a mission!
Trav was the only one of us who got a shot of this grizzly. That bear was definitely on a mission!
The last petrified tree.
The last petrified tree.

Click on the green for video:
Calcite Springs

We drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs where we walked up to some of the springs, had lunch, and went to the museum. I became oddly obsessed with animal poop because there were all different kinds outside of the restaurant. We observed a large elk across the field from the restaurant that was sitting while traffic lined up to photograph him though we decided he’d had enough tourist attention and chose to drive in the opposite direction.

Click on the green for video:
Mammoth Hot Springs/Palette Spring

Travis at Palette Spring.
Travis at Palette Spring.
Wild life at Mammoth.
Wild life at Mammoth.

Mammoth was relaxing and the museum has several displays of several fairly horrifying accounts of park abuses from its inception. Good place to get an idea of life at the beginning of the national park concept and maybe pick up a Yellowstone Monopoly game (that Santa promised me for Christmas).

A few hours and we were good to go over to Norris Geyser Basin.

We drove through a zigzagged geyser section of Mammoth and stopped to take pictures of Orange Spring Mound.

Click here for video:
Part of Mammoth Hot Springs

I could’ve taken a picture while driving but chose to get out of the car instead of holding up traffic. Interestingly, a semi pulled up while I was taking this picture. I would’ve thought there were restrictions for viewing and driving such a precarious area but remembered a friend from Atlanta who was a truck driver and would sneak into parks to get a view of our national treasures. Guess you can’t blame a person for trying.

Orange Spring Mound
Orange Spring Mound

The Artist Paint Pots in Norris were amazing though it was quite a long hike just to get to them. Mom sat these out and opted to see our pics afterward. It reminded me of Dagobah in Star Wars when Luke goes to find Yoda. Too geeky? Look at the video!

Click here for video:
Artist Paint Pots

Click here for overview:
Upper View of Paint Pots

Paint Pots
Paint Pots

We stopped at another geyser area in Norris. Fortunately, they had a book store and we were able to purchase a poop-identifying pamphlet. I know we took pictures but the one that stands out the most is of the buffalo who was hanging out by the ladies room.

Bathroom buffalo.
Bathroom buffalo.

By this time, we were heading to back toward Canyon Village but were heading a bit south to Hayden to hopefully see some wildlife. We sat for awhile once we arrived and people came and went. Eventually, a couple showed up with some equipment. LOCALS!!! They let us use their scopes to see the wolf pack that was on the edge of the clearing – that explained why there was NOTHING ELSE in the valley! Pack of 5. Very cool!

TIP: If you see people with high tech equipment, don’t be afraid to wander over and chat. My binoculars were not powerful enough to catch the wolf pack (though Travis DID think that the geese he saw were blurry wolves) – their equipment made them clear as day in front of us!

We left Hayden babbling about how great it was and suddenly I saw people pulling over so I did too. At this point, Travis was having a fit because he couldn’t see the black bear walking up on us in the car. Unfortunately, the ONE SHOT OF THE BEAR LOOKING AT THE CAR DIDN’T TURN OUT. But, to give you an idea of how close he was to the car for dinner:

Yes, the window's down and that's a black bear and the camera's not zoomed and I'm having a cow!
Yes, the window’s down and that’s a black bear and the camera’s not zoomed and I’m having a spaz attack!

Travis then said, “Pssst!” to the bear, who looked up and he took THE ONLY SUPER BLURRY SHOT ON THE WHOLE TRIP. I then said, “WINDOW! WINDOW!” and drove off because now that the bear was looking at us and was so close, I needed some distance!

We headed back to Canyon for some R & R and for Mom to check on hurricane Erika. Wifi can be purchased in the common area at Canyon. I think it was about $12.

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We crammed a lot into one day! Stay tuned for Yellowstone Lake Hotel and Old Faithful.

I was just looking over more of Mom’s pics and felt that I should back that last picture up with some perspective! They do everything BIG here!

Giant fireplace at Canyon Village.
Giant fireplace at Canyon Village.

Yellowstone a.k.a. My Summer Vacation Part II

You REALLY didn’t think that was it, did you? Well, here’s installment two of our summer vacation in the wild west. I have so many photos, I’ll include them with limited commentary so that I can make this post more about the pictures.

TIPS: I planned this trip for the week BEFORE Labor Day and the week AFTER school started. From what I’d read and as it turned out – this was a sublime time to visit. Florida at the end of summer is super hot and it was a nice break in the weather, without being too cold. Crowds were down BUT the parks have experienced record numbers this year including a 10% jump in the month of August from last year.

Book as early as possible to get a cheaper room. If you can’t get what you want, book then keep looking for cancellations. It got us into the Old Faithful Snow Lodge! Nicest of the places we stayed.

The morning of the August 27th, we ventured down to Persephone’s Bakery for breakfast before heading into Yellowstone. Of course, we had to pick up some hamburger sized cookies and coffee actually ROASTED in Jackson Hole for the trip. The coffee also served as a wonderful car air freshener for the trip as well. NOT KIDDING.

Enjoying outdoor breakfast!
Enjoying outdoor breakfast!
TO. DIE. FOR. BREAKFAST. PERSEPHONE STYLE!
TO. DIE. FOR. BREAKFAST. PERSEPHONE STYLE!

Click here for VIDEO!!!
Boiling mud pot in West Thumb

FIRST ANIMAL: ELK!
FIRST ANIMAL: ELK!

We heard he’s a regular. Not sure what time it was but we were still drinking coffee.

Boiling hot water that looks like a refreshing pool but is an instrument of death.
Boiling hot water that looks like a refreshing pool but is an instrument of death.

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Some of these holes were known for catching fish in the lake then dipping the fish into the boiling water and cooking it on the line! A practice now stopped because people kept accidentally falling into the boiling water.
Some of these holes were known for catching fish in the lake then dipping the fish into the boiling water and cooking it on the line! A practice now stopped because people kept accidentally falling into the boiling water.

Side tracked:

Lower east side of Yellowstone off Yellowstone Lake.
Lower east side of Yellowstone off Yellowstone Lake.

The original plan was to head up to Canyon Village, maybe dawdle in Grand Teton on the way then meander up, check in then either head over to Mammoth Springs or up into Roosevelt. The sticking point was that cousin Dick told us that traffic might hold us up. Now, planning – trusty Google had said it would be a couple hour drive up to Canyon Village from Jackson Hole. NOPE. Most of that was slow moving traffic through Teton. Once you throw in extraordinary excitement of boiling stuff on the side of the road and random animals everywhere, any time management plans get toasted.

Click here for video.
Swimming bison video.

TIP: If you get behind an obnoxious group of Harley riders, pull over and enjoy the view for a while. Otherwise, loud pipes will clear any animals roadside for miles.

Lovely bacteria mat just off of Lake Yellowstone.
Lovely bacteria mat just off of Lake Yellowstone.

Once at Canyon Village, Travis and I walked from our cabins to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The girl at the desk said it was just a quick walk – Pfft! About a quarter of the way down the wooded path, we were beginning to think perhaps we should’ve gotten the bear spray from Mom. We tried to concentrate on making noise but were winded so kinda gave up on that. We did see vicious tiny squirrels and chipmunks and a jogger who was totally breaking the rules by not making noise. 🙂

The most gorgeous:
Grand Canyon Yellowstone

Okay, maybe this is a closer gorgeous:
Closer Grand Canyon Yellowstone

At this point, our views were in the realm of the surreal. I’m looking at this landscape and it’s too incredible to be captured without being there. The Grand Canyon view is really something to behold.

We walked back and just missed a rain shower then regrouped at the cabins – all the while grateful that we weren’t doused in the rain.

Dinner at Roosevelt.

TIP: Don’t ask young staff for information on your location. THEY. ARE. CLUELESS. However, if you’re feeling generous, you might instruct them that the pamphlets at every entrance or desk offer information on their location.

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Coveted bean recipe from Roosevelt Lodge.
Coveted bean recipe from Roosevelt Lodge.
Roadside bison on the way back from dinner in Roosevelt.
Roadside bison on the way back from dinner in Roosevelt.

Stay tuned for Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake Hotel and Old Faithful…Yeah, we did THAT much!

My Summer Vacation Part I

Okay friends and family and future friends: A precursor to events of OUR family summer vacation in the wild west: We met family that we’d never met before so I’ll begin with meeting Dick Stewart, a.k.a. “the hot cousin” and his wife Karen. They could not have been lovelier people and surpassed our expectations for hangout factor in Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons!

We all met at Cafe Genevieve for dinner (great great aunt Genevieve to me) where our family used to live in the teens of the last century (see previous post for a little background). My mom contacted the local newspaper to see if she could get any info. on the family and as it turned out, the writer from the paper knew Dick and Karen (because she’s Karen’s sister)! Connie, local journalist, joined us after dinner for wandering around Jackson looking at formerly owned old family buildings.

My relationship to the Stewarts: Dick is the grandson of Roy Van Vleck who was my great, great uncle. You figure it out as I’m completely lost on this one but we ARE related and you can tell when you meet him because he’s awesome. I’m just sayin’.

We walked around where great great uncles Roy and Frank’s mercantile used to be in Jackson Hole, drove out to the old V Bar V Ranch and then spent an afternoon dinking around in Grand Teton National Park with Dick, who showed us a current home he’s working on, where the old family home used to be and the one that replaced it in Kelly, WY.

Beautiful country and “grand” is an understatement!

Our first afternoon view as we pick up our rental from the airport! Yes, it IS that cool!
Our first afternoon view as we pick up our rental from the airport! Yes, it IS that cool!

Click the link to see the view from our cabins in Jackson Hole:
Cabin view video!

Black Petunias down the street from Cafe Genevieve,  in what turned out to be a former family residence.
Black Petunias down the street from Cafe Genevieve, in what turned out to be a former family residence.
Mom in Jackson Hole Town Square.
Mom in Jackson Hole Town Square.
Travis' Pig Candy from Cafe Genevieve.
Travis’ Pig Candy from Cafe Genevieve.
Connie (local journalist and family friend) and Karen Stewart in front of random stuffed moose in downtown Jackson Hole.
Connie (local journalist and family friend) and Karen Stewart in front of random stuffed moose in downtown Jackson Hole.
Mom and Dick Stewart in front of former family mercantile building.
Mom and Dick Stewart in front of former family mercantile building.
Used to be the V Bar V ranch but still has original buildings from the 1920's!
Used to be the V Bar V ranch but still has original buildings from the 1920’s!

Next morning, we ventured off to the ranch once owned by great great uncle Frank Van Vleck. It’s still a working dude ranch (the Black Powder Guest Ranch) and offers small cabins at $100 a night. The manager said they also offer hunting trips and have a dressing and storage area in back of the lodge. Back when Frank Van Vleck owned it, it was a three-day snow shoeing expedition into town during the winter. A winter that sees 400 inches of snow!

The old original lodge still stands.
The old original lodge still stands.
Small cabins and covered wagon around the ranch in Hoback Canyon.
Small cabins and covered wagon around the ranch in Hoback Canyon.

Once we returned to Jackson (they’re thinking about dropping the “Hole” part), we met with Dick again and headed into the Grand Tetons where he is working on a cabin within the park. This was once an acceptable arrangement but it seems that unless a current generation is maintaining regular residence within the park, the lease will not be passed on to the next generation so cabins like these are about to become a thing of the past as younger generations move to bigger cities. This also later prices younger generations out of the market.

Gorgeous diseased wood with antique fixtures original to the cabin.
Gorgeous diseased wood with antique fixtures original to the cabin.
We'll call this "vintage" mauve with wallpaper galore.
We’ll call this “vintage” mauve with wallpaper galore.
Giant butterfly wallpaper. Also vintage - and damn! You can't beat the view of the lake!
Giant butterfly wallpaper. Also vintage – and damn! You can’t beat the view of the lake!
Vintage cowboy wallpaper in the other two bedrooms.
Vintage cowboy wallpaper in the other two bedrooms.
Please note that though this place has electric and gas, it also still has original oil lamps with reflectors!
Please note that though this place has electric and gas, it also still has original oil lamps with reflectors!
Hated the paint but LOVE the stove!
Hated the paint but LOVE the stove!
The deer outside agrees with me.
The deer outside agrees with me.

Next, we stopped for a bite then headed back through the Grand Tetons park. It had been raining off and on and a more beautiful view couldn’t be had…

Travis grabbed this shot while we were driving back toward the Tetons!
Travis grabbed this shot while we were driving back toward the Tetons!

Click on the link below to see the mountains.
Pulled over for the view!

Next, we were off to Kelly, located just along the boundary of the park. Here is where the “new” family home was built when the family lost the lease in Grand Teton. The old house was moved to the edge of Jackson Hole and, I believe is located near the Wildlife Museum on the mountainside overlooking the Elk Refuge. Feel free to correct me if I’m a bit off on that one, kids! The “new” home was built in the mid 70’s and of course, much like the rest, I walked around and said “Wow!” a lot until I decided that I would switch to saying “Bitchin’!” I didn’t take any pics inside the cabin because I was too busy being amazed BUT I do have some video of outside views and we walked down the river located, uh, in the backyard. TOO COOL!!!! Literally. The water was FREEZING (I say that about everything though).

Video of the view from the Stewart cabin.

Then we had hugs and headed back to the Cowboy Village to begin the next leg of our trip. I’d like to take a moment to thank “hot cousin” Dick for giving us a grand tour of the area! We had a wonderful time!

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Stay tuned for Part 2 coming shortly.

I’m feeling Kardashian

I’m feeling Kardashian today. Though they hold no real value to the world, the Kardashians continue to make headlines for no particular reason other than living their lives. I feel the same way about my life right now with the exception that I’m not making news.My feelings in part centers on recent family research. I come from some bad ass chick stock!

This is my great great aunt Genevieve – on the far right. She was an elected member of the first ALL FEMALE government in the United States in 1920! They were known as Jackson Hole Wyoming’s “Petticoat Government” and she went on to be elected mayor.

Jackson-Town-Council-1920

The home where they lived and started the local mercantile is now on the National Register of Historic Places and still exists as a restaurant named for her: Cafe Genevieve. Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/diners-drive-ins-and-dives/videos/dv2100/seriously-saucy.0235411.html

Not sure if the link above will work but if you’re interested, Google Cafe Genevieve on the show’s website and you’ll get the glorious obsession we have now for fresh ramen, pig candy and fried chicken!

I really need to work on my spectacular-ness to catch up to the old girl!

Maybe I’ll get an idea from “translating” my great great grandma’s recipe book/daily ledger/home remedies from the late 1800’s. It’s in faded sections and written in spidery script and though I’ve not gone blind yet – well, I’m on a break from the last few pages.

Anyone need 5 different recipes for molasses cake? I take it that that was a “thing” back then! My favorite is the stomach remedy with rum and opium! Stomach. What stomach? Or here’s one for “bowel complaint”:

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*Warning: reading for too long may cause drowsiness or partial temporary blindness.

More to come…

BS ALL DAY

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