July 7, 2016
Nice lie-in in the a.m. Jackie grabbed brekky with the kids while I engaged a very nice gent from the RV park, Wayne, in diagnosing the fridge issues. Nothing obviously wrong so this would need a more detailed look at an RV repair place. I called Road Bear and they suggested some places in Idaho Falls but given that it was 4th of July weekend and we were almost done with our trip we decided we could ice-box it out for the rest of the trip. The kids enjoyed a last hour in the pool and we began our homeward journey west.
We had a very posh lunch in the car-park of a Fred Meyers in Idaho Falls. We’ve been learning that at times the expectation of RV traveling does not match the reality. Expectation is finding a bijou little place that does a cheeky potato and leek soup overlooking a valley of lavender. Reality is you end up making you own hang sangwiches in the car-park of a grocery store. Not a problem at all mind you – we have very much embraced pragmatism in favor of starving ourselves until we find the right spot.
We edged the Snake River for much of the trip. As we entered Idaho the rocky canyons gave way to endless swaths of arable land. Potato crops as far as the eye could see.
We landed in Eden, Idaho in the afternoon. I did not know what to expect of the journey from Jackson through Walla Walls so I had picked this site purely on the basis of the pool with slide. The park was busy but the kids were delighted to see another pool so we watched from a distance reading our books and disposing of some of the ship’s (RV’s) ballast (cider).
Day 11 verdict: Looking forward to some downtime with 0 sightseeing tomorrow. Park is a little dicey, the receptionist was less than welcoming but the kids played endlessly in the pool (until someone vomited) and made some new friends.
July 7, 2016
2 final tasks to accomplish before leaving Yellowstone. Kids have to do their Junior Ranger tests and we need to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. A very friendly ranger asked them a bunch of questions and inspected their books and then designated them as official Junior Rangers. Lauren put a lot of effort into completing her book and was very, very reluctant to let Harry and Ryan do any cogging. They all got the badges they wanted and were very proud of themselves.
We made one pit-stop as we exited the park via the south-west loop. The Grand Prismatic spring is the largest hot spring in the US and famous for the colorful steam generated by the microbial mats that edge the pool.
We were really sad to be leaving Yellowstone. We promised ourselves that we would come back to spend more time, with more binoculars, in this amazing place. Can’t commend the National Park Service enough for the work it does in managing these precious resources.
As we headed south and exited the park it blends seamlessly into Grand Teton National Park. Many spectacular views along the road as the Tetons loom into view.
We are getting short on time now so we have shelved a longer look at the Tetons to another time. For today we contented ourselves with a lunch stop at Colter Bay and a scenic drive on the way to Jackson. We stopped off at Mormon Row / Antelope Flats for a photo-op amongst the old barns that dot the landscape there.
20 minutes later we were in Jackson and waiting on a bus to take us to the town square for a look at another shootout. This one is the longest running shootout in the US apparently and is performed by actors from the Jackson Hole Playhouse. We had dinner/show reservations for the very same place and it was a hugely enjoyable experience. We dined in a small, packed saloon style restaurant while the wait-staff/performers sang old-west inspired songs (very well). We were then moved to the theatre where they put on a really entertaining night performing The Ballad of Cat Ballou. We all loved this. The only low-point was the tip hustling after dinner which was wholly unnecessary.
Hopped in a cab back to the RV park. There was a bar attached to the hotel attached to the RV park but it was very loud and a little local so I settled for some sodas and water. RV note: The fridge had been going downhill since Yellowstone and back on the grid in Jackson it seemed to be completely dead hence the desire for cold drinks at midnight.
Day 10 verdict: Bittersweet leaving Yellowstone. We all want to go back already. Jackson is also very cool and we could defo do with more than one night here to check it out properly. Wyoming people are very friendly.
July 3, 2016
Phase 1 – Bear watch: On foot of our bison carcass intel from Woody we set out just after 6:30 with the kids still in bed (but in their seat-belts) to see if we could spot an elusive bear. By all accounts bear sightings are rare so we were only somewhat hopeful. When we got to the right spot in Hayden Valley there was already a small crowd dotting the road-side and a lot of telescopes and long lenses seemed to be focused on a dot in the distance. We found a dicey parking spot and jumped out with our binoculars. Is it…could be a bison…no..it’s a…BEAR!!! We did our bear checks and ID’d it as a Grizzly. Result! We watched the bear roam around for a while as it’s made it way towards its breakfast. A ranger then yelled at us for our bad parking so we had to move down the road to a better spot. Lauren, Ryan and I then walked back up and a very nice couple let us take a look through their scope. We got a really great view of the bear munching on bison. We moved up the road again for one last look and time ran out on us. We were all super-excited to have seen one of the park’s elusive stars.
Phase 2 – Horse-riding (girls), Brekky (boys). We dropped the girls off to the Canyon corral for a 2 hour ride and myself and the boys had a delicious brekky of eggs, bacon and short stacks.
Phase 3 – Picked up the girls and headed north to Mammoth to check out more thermal features. Had our lunch there and managed to dodge a thunderstorm.
Phase 4 – Drove to Lamar Valley (North America’s ‘Serengeti’) to spot more wildlife. Lots of large bison herds. Amazing scenery.
Phase 5 – Kept going east through Lamar, needed gas so decided to leave the park and make an unplanned stop to Cooke City, MT to take a few pics for the Ma (coz she’s a Cooke). Had a nice pizza dinner and headed back to the park for Lamar Valley Part 2.
Phase 6 – Lamar Valley at dusk. Dusk and dawn are the best times for animal sightings. It was amazing to see multiple herds headed in the same direction back into the center of the valley as we drove past. We spotted out first prong horn deer – another box ticked. We spotted a small crowd off the roadside, usually a tell-tail for something interesting. We learned that they were observing a wolf den high up on a nearby ridge. We scanned the landscape for the next 20 minutes as darkness fell but did not get to see any wolves.
Headed back to camp over Mount Washburn in the darkness. A challenging drive but Day 9 was the day we really got into the swing of moving around the park in the RV with many stop for animals and thermal stuff.
We slept soundly after a very busy and exhilarating day.
Day 9 verdict: From Lauren….”I love Yellowstone – I will bring my own children here someday”.
Photo Note: Most of the photos today were done with the ‘good’ camera so what you see here are a few opportunistic snaps with the phones.
Yellowstone Pro-tip: If you are planning a trip and don’t already have the following then I’d highly recommend the investment:
Good binoculars and/or a spotting scope. Have more than one if possible. The binoculars became the most sought after piece of kit at every stop as we shared one pair between 5.
A tele-photo lens. Use as a binoculars sub and then take better close-up shots.
July 3, 2016
Up at 6:30 for our full day tour. We figured this would be a good option as Yellowstone noobs and we were not disappointed. Our bus driver/tour-guide Woody took us around the Grand Loop on the Circle of Fire tour. We checked out the Canyon from the South Rim, West Thumb, lots of thermal features and got great tips for stuff to see on day 3. We also picked up our Junior Ranger books for the kids and they got stuck into their mission to become Junior Rangers. Best intel of the day – Woody pointed out a bison carcass which would attract bears and wolves. Highlight of the day was a lunch-stop at Old Faithful where we got to see this reliable geyser do it’s thing.
We picked up provisions and organized the RV down at the village after drop-off. We brought it down there from the campsite for convenience. It was a bit of a trek form the campsite to the village and while we were initially reluctant to move the RV for short trips we were starting to get into the routine and it proved to be the right thing to do.
We got back to the site by 7pm so we could run the genny for an hour. 8pm is the cutoff for generator noise which seems a little early but most folks were tucked up by 9pm-10pm so we didn’t quibble. We had a tasty bbq, did some s’mores and charades by the fire and hit the hay early for bear-hunting in the morning.
Day 8 Verdict: We are loving Yellowstone.
July 3, 2016
Blog Note: Comms were very patchy in Yellowstone so finally catching up from Twin Falls, ID on Day 11.
We were excited about our move to Yellowstone but had one more box to tick before we left Cody. After a supplies pit-stop in Walmart we went to check out the excellent Old Trail Town. This is a complex of 20+ restored old west buildings with cool stories and artifacts. One of the restored cabins was a hideout used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Jeremiah Johnson was re-buried here and Robert Redford (who starred as Jeremiah Johnson in the eponymous movie) was a pallbearer at the ceremony.
From there we headed west towards Yellowstone. Took a quick rest stop at the Pahaska Tipi, Buffalo Bill’s hunting lodge before entering the park. Harry is a 4th grader so courtesy of the excellent Every Kid in a Park program we had free admission (normally $30). This would be good for Grand Teton also. Thanks Harry!
Very soon into our drive we had our first wildlife sighting. A big-horned sheep was perched on a precipice overlooking the road. Ryan, our wildlife expert was asleep at the time and was not happy about our sighting in his absence.
As we got closer to Canyon Village, our campsite, we entered Hayden Valley and came across our first herd of Bison (not Buffalo!). I have neither the time not the inclination to wax lyrical but it was quite an experience to see these animals up close and in the wild.
Finally made it to our campsite and we immediately headed off on a hike to check out Yellowstone Canyon. The rangers were not exactly encouraging about a hike directly out of the village. The whole place seems to be set up for driving to a spot, getting out, having a look around and then getting back in your car. That’s an over-simplification but on day 1 that was the vibe we were getting. We set off regardless, without bear-spray and with much anxiety. After 40 minutes we were still in the car park of the Canyon Lodge although we did pass right by a reclining bison breaking the 25 yd rule…but not on purpose. We eventually found the unmarked trail to the Canyon and once we got there it was worth the stress. We hiked down to a great view point and took a load of pics. Lauren, competitive and gazelle-like bounded back up the trail smoking her old man on the return journey.
We finished the evening with a slap up meal back at the village. I had a very tasty Game Meatloaf. Felt a little weird eating Bison and Venison in the same place where these animals are so revered but such is life and they’ll be welcome to take a shot at me as I line up my next landscape shot. Ryan questioned the meat-loaf contents but I made my excuses and left (that’s a Sunday World reference).
Day 7 Verdict: Sorry to leave Cody but Yellowstone, once we got our bearings, was looking awesome.