It's always a big deal for me where we go for vacation. As our kids get older, I see vacations as valuable time together, opportunities for them to see things, and I see these years dwindling. It makes me sad honestly.
So in June, after much planning, we packed the pilot for a 9 day trip to Yellowstone. It was a vacation of a lifetime!
Day one. Many hours in the car. Really. We drove from Papillion to Cody, WY. 13 hours in the car. We were all about to freak when we climbed out of the car in Cody. Cody is not impressive at all, but it close to Yellowstone's East Entrance. We arrived, grabbed dinner from the cooler, and the kids hit the pool. We stayed at one of the few options of hotels, the local Holiday Inn. I was not impressed. The outdoor pool was dirty, breakfast was not included, and the room was quite small. It worked for a night and a place to lay our heads. And, it offered up a pretty morning run.
Day two. Happy Father's Day! Day 2 got us into Yellowstone National Park. It was beautiful!! We drove through the East Entrance seeing Yellowstone Lake. The kids loved playing at the beach. I wish we would have stayed longer here (in hindsight) but I felt we needed to keep moving since we got an early start. This place gets busy as the day goes on. We traveled North on the Grand Loop Road, visiting the Upper and Lower Falls, Uncle Tom's steep and scary staired trail, Mammoth Springs (which I found disappointing and crowded). By the end of the day we were all very tired and Yellowstone had become super busy. Time to get to Gardiner to stay for the night.
If Cody is unimpressive, Gardiner is way worse. I was not prepared. The town has very little. Let's just say I had to run the town a couple times to get any mileage at all. We stayed at the Super 8. It was an okay place to stay. It had a tiny indoor pool that the kids loved. The staff here were amazing and very informative. We ate right across the street at a little local grill and ate outside.
Monday we woke to drive right into the North Entrance of Yellowstone. WE visited Norris Basin, Upper and lower Geyser Basins and Old Faithful (which was a late day (maybe too late day) stop. This was the Geyser day. All of them were different, did different things and were so pretty. Old Faithful wasn't that cool, really, I thought steamboat was way cooler. That's just me. Old Faithful was very crowded. But, it did have the best icecream! We ended the day staying in West Yellowstone, aka big tourist trap. It was another non impressive town. Our hotel here was the most expensive by far but was nice. Believe it was well over $300 for the one night. It offered nice sized room, small indoor pool, and a nice outdoor running trail near by that I found after circling the small town and getting no distance in. I could have ran miles on this trail but feared bears (or worse). It was gorgeous. I digress. We had very good pizza for dinner after swimming.
Tuesday we finished up Yellowstone and worked our way through the Tetons, visited Jenny Lake, before arriving in Jackson. Once in Jackson, we road the alpine ski slides (not recommended) and the cowboy coaster (totally recommended!). We stayed at the Quality Inn 49er in Jackson. Room was dated but pool area was updated. And, it included a very nice breakfast. We enjoyed staying here the 2 nights. Jackson is a fun place to visit. We did not get to enjoy the food as we went with ice cream recommendation one night ($40 for ice cream the kids did not like), got subs another night, etc.
Wednesday we got up, the kids swam a bit, before we went down to climb these amazing rock walls at the park near the cowboy coaster. The kids and Chris LOVED IT! They climbed (and maybe I did too) until it was time for our whitewater experience at Barker-Ewing Whitewater. We LOVED this! The air temp was 80 but the water temp was only 41. We should have rented wet suits. We would have had more fun. We all froze the entire time but we kept in the boat. Asher was on the floor in the front to start with until he was just froze solid from taking the brunt of all the water. Chris and I were up front too and Addi was in the middle. We were all very wet. We all had fun despite how cold we were. Chris says this is the best part of the trip.
Thursday we got up with another long drive ahead of us. But first, we hit the rock wall for another climb. So fun! We drove from Jackson to the Rocky Mountain National Park through. Again, in hindsight, probably too big of a day for 3 kids. We drove through the Arapaho National Forest. It looked dead. I was through there when I was a kid but I remembered it to be green (as it probably was then). The roads are so winding it makes you dizzy. Of course, I was driving. The Rocky Mountain National Park was beautiful. I do not, however, like the exposure on the drive as you get far up the mountain. Chris drove for this part. The kids did not seem to mind this as I freaked out as Chris took corners too fast in my opinion. :) Moving at all is too fast. After RMNP we arrived in Estes Park. We settled into our hotel, the kids swam in the indoor pool, before we drove into town to have a burger at Penelope's on Main Street. We were not impressed. :) We started souvenir shopping before calling it a night. We stayed in Estes 3 nights, which was so nice!
We got up early, which turned out to be just early enough, and got to Bear Lake and snagged the last parking spot. It was a close call. We hiked and hiked until the kids thought they would die. We hiked several miles. We were all exhausted. Back to the hotel for more swimming before a nice dinner at Poppy's Pizza a Grill. Chris and I have eaten here before and love it. We love Estes Park. :)
Saturday was our last day. We again snagged the last spot in the parking lot as they closed the park to cars! Seriously. If on the weekend, you must be there by 6am. We hiked to Alberta Falls and Mills Lake. Beautiful!!! We were all exhausted. We got back to Estes, swam, and then stayed in for our last meal with local pizza from Village Pizza. It was just okay. Not sure I would eat there again. Our pizza was burnt and the kids refused to eat it, instead eating whatever food we had left from what we packed. That's sad.
Sunday we woke to saying good-bye. One last picture in front of the park sign after yet another daily run around Estes and we were homeward bound. Back to where we can crossfit and sweat with Kayla, eat home cooked meals (especially eggs for breakfast!), where most people speak and understand ENGLISH!, where going to the bathroom does not include a squatie or porta potty, and we can sleep in our own beds. We loved Yellowstone, Tetons, Jackson, Arapaho, Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park but it's good to be home sweet home.
Pics to come.