Archive for July, 2013

Summer Road Trip

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

We drove 4,343 miles, stayed overnight in seven different locations, camped a total of 15 nights and hiked 65 miles in 22 days. And we survived! It was the most time we had ever spent together as a family, and we are most definitely better for it. While we had many discussions over the course of the trip, two repeating themes for Coleman included having another sibling (in addition to Gabby) and talking about the logistics of eventually owning an RV. Neither is going to happen, but we can keep talking about it if he wants!
We left Las Vegas on June 28 at 8:00 a.m. I had hoped we would make it to Jackson Hole in a day, but we got distracted by a splash pad in Provo along the way. Then we had dinner in a restaurant, and once 7:00 p.m. rolled around, the nauseous look on Coleman’s face convinced me that we had to spend the night in a dumpy motel in Pocatello, Idaho. Coleman and Gabby loved the motel with Coleman proclaiming “These beds have good design!”

The next day we checked into Gros Ventre Campground outside of Grand Teton National Park. Our campsite wasn’t far from this river where Brian caught a cutthroat trout that we actually ate as an appetizer. Talk about fresh fish!

Coleman loved all of the Coleman camping gear. Gabby wasn’t as enthusiastic about his name being everywhere since her name wasn’t monogrammed on any of our gear.

The first hike of the trip was to Taggert Lake, a hike I had done two times in snowshoes. The first lesson of the trip - always be prepared for swimming.


This was the best part of the hike for the kids, and all I could worry about was them getting wet.

Coleman enjoyed the wildflowers when the hike was over. Neither he nor Gabby were thrilled about this first hike. It was a little hot, and it was 4 miles. We hadn’t toughened them up yet.

That night the kids had s’mores for the very first time.


Our second hike of the trip was to Inspiration Point above Lake Jenny in Teton Park.


On Day Three, we went on a guided hike with Cathy Shill from The Hole Hiking Experience. She took us to Munger Mountain outside of the national park. We saw no hikers at all - just cows, flowers, butterflies and beautiful hills. Cathy taught us a lot about our surroundings. It was the kids’ best hike yet, and I think some of that had to do with catching butterflies with Cathy’s net.

We drove through Yellowstone the next day on our way to Missoula, Montana. We were right by Old Faithful and stopped, but didn’t wait around long enough for it to erupt. As you can see from this picture, Coleman wasn’t thrilled about us stopping for a look. He was positively miserable.


We started the Fourth of July off with a hike up to the M on a hill by the University of Montana. Coleman hiked the whole way up by himself and was a champ. Here he is actually on the M.


And on the way down.


Brian really wanted the kids to ride horses while we were in Missoula. I didn’t see what the big deal was, but we fit it into the schedule. Coleman LOVED it, so I was glad Brian was persistent in making it happen.

The first thing they did was groom their horses. Coleman got to ride Cool Dude.

Cool Dude wasn’t so cool when he decided to eat grass in the field. Coleman’s hand got pinched between his reins and the saddle when Cool Dude bent his head down to eat. Luckily, Coleman shook it off because riding him was too much fun.


Pure joy.


Coleman practiced using the reins.

The lesson was led by Maggie who worked at Dunrovin Ranch. She let them canter at the end, which was the best part. The kids were giggling the whole time.

Our first hike in Glacier was to Avalanche Lake. Brian fished while the kids played in the rocky beach.


The next day we hiked four miles on the very remote Trout Lake trail. We saw at least 20 piles of bear poop on the trail and saw zero hikers for the first 2 hours. It was like we were in a horror film where a bear could jump out at any moment. We made lots of noise so the bears would stay away. Coleman even came up with a little ditty - “Bears are stupid, bears are dumb. Bears like to kick their bum.” It’s not grammatically correct, but it was fun to shout out anyway.

Coleman had a great hiking stick to help him keep up.


It was around this time that we decided we weren’t going to be able to make it four miles one way (we’d already done a 2,000 ft climb) to see Trout Lake. And the horse flies and mosquitoes were ridiculous. We had ice cream in Apgar after it was over, negating all of the calories we burned.

We did one of our most memorable hikes the next day to Hidden Lake. The first mile of the hike was mostly through snow. In July!

The kids did a lot of slipping and sliding. Coleman’s walking stick helped immensely. Gabby fell down every few feet.

Look ma, an ice doughnut!

Eventually we made it to some trail that wasn’t covered in snow.


Coleman was so happy to see mountain goats.


Three miles later we made it to the lake. Coleman and Gabby played with some ice in the lake and built cairns. Brian caught two fish within 10 minutes, one of which was an endangered species.

This was at the completion of our longest hike at that point - 6 miles.

The next day we drove to Calgary to visit Matt and Carmen Davis. The big rodeo event was happening called Stampede, and we felt the need to participate in some way so we went to the carnival. It was funny to see the long lines of people waiting to ride average carnival rides (Disneyland it was NOT). I got the feeling that they don’t get much entertainment in Calgary. Brian blew about $40 helping the kids win stuffed animals; Coleman got a minion from Despicable Me.

The First Nations section of the carnival was the most interesting. Many Native Canadians set up their teepees in a kind of open house.


We had to take a picture with these guys.


We drove to Banff National Park in Canada. We all had fun pronouncing Banff like Emeril would pronounce Bam. Banff! Matt Davis took us the Moraine Lake trail on the other side of Lake Louise. It was a really scenic hike.

Coleman walked most of it himself without asking to be carried.


Beautiful mountains. Grandma Wendy, please note that Gabby is wearing Coleman’s Burberry coat; we were glad she could get some use out of it too.

Coleman is on top of the world!


Not long after this picture was taken, Gabby and I started walking back to the car. Meanwhile, Coleman was standing there and the wind blew his hat off his head. Coleman screamed, and Brian commented “That hat is gone for good.” Then Coleman really started crying, and Brian quickly looked around for a stick to help retrieve the hat. The lake was above tree line, so there wasn’t a stick in site. Brian took off his shoes, rolled up his pants and walked out into the icy lake. He got to the hat just in time, but his pants got soaked. When he gave the hat to Coleman, he was still crying and didn’t show the appropriate amount of gratitude for what Brian had just endured. Then Brian said “Well that just ruined my f-ing hike!” (Coleman just repeated this for me verbatim or else I would have left off the f-ing part.) Luckily, Matt had an extra pair of shorts in his pack, which literally saved the day because if Matt hadn’t had those shorts, Brian would have been wearing his bright yellow boxers as shorts back to the car. And it was cold!


Later Coleman was very happy that he didn’t donate his favorite hat to the lake Gods.


We went to Lake Louise and had some food before heading back to the campsite.


The next day we did the Johnston Canyon hike.


Coleman loves doing hikes with waterfalls.


We were happy that he held Gabby’s hand since the hike was a bit dangerous with trails right by sheer drop offs into the rapids below.


After hiking we had lunch in Banff at the Elk and Oarsman Pub & Grill with great views from our rooftop table.


After lunch, Brian went biking with Matt, and Carmen went with me on a boat ride of Lake Minnewanka. Coleman got to drive the boat.


The next day we drove to the Columbia Ice Fields and saw tons of glaciers. This is the glacier by the visitor center.


Coleman would have liked to go in this snowmobile, but we didn’t have time. We drove at least two hours north of our campsite to see these glaciers.


We had lunch at a picnic table near the parking lot. Coleman climbed on this bear, showing him who’s the boss.


Then we actually saw a bear on the way back. We pulled over to take pictures.

We said goodbye to Matt and Carmen in Banff and then went to the hot springs. Brian and I rented the singlet swimsuits so our own swimsuits wouldn’t smell like sulphur. I really wish I had a picture of that because it was pretty funny. Most people were in their own swimsuits.

Then we had dinner at the Maple Leaf. The kids’ burgers were actually better than our ribeye for two. We took this picture on the way back to the car. Coleman didn’t appreciate the humor.


I took this picture on our last night camping at Two Jacks in the main campground. We were initially disappointed that we couldn’t camp in the lakeside campground, which was smaller and had showers. However, we came to really appreciate our campsite. It was spacious, surrounded by trees and removed from our neighbors. It was also close to the bathroom. The next morning, Coleman saw a bear on the way to the bathroom. It scratched at a tree and then went off walking in the woods, right by our tent. I was in the tent at the time packing up. When Coleman returned from the bathroom and told us about the bear, I was annoyed he didn’t tell us at the moment he saw it. We would have liked to have seen it too! Coleman saw four bears on the trip. Brian and I saw three. Gabby told Grandma Wendy she saw “the shadow of the bear” when she was walking with Coleman to the bathroom. She was a little ahead of Coleman and didn’t see the bear either.


After we left Canada, we went back to Glacier National Park, but this time we stayed on the east side in a KOA campground, which is a bit luxurious compared to other campgrounds. There was a pool, hot tub and showers. We did a hike that afternoon of some waterfalls in Sunrift Gorge.


On a dock at St Mary’s Lake.


The kids had to get as close to the water as possible, which always gives Brian a heart attack. There were people cliff jumping into this water several feet down the river. Insane! The water just looks cold.

The next day we did the longest hike of the trip - 10 miles to Iceberg Lake. I carried Gabby the entire way to the lake and Brian carried Coleman on his shoulders when Cole got tired. It took us 4 hours to do the entire hike. We felt like we’d really accomplished something. We were elated when it was over.

It got hot at the end of the hike, and we let the kids take their shirts off. They look like little rednecks!


After receiving some bad advice from a Yellowstone park ranger, we decided to do a hike to Clear Lake and Ribbon Lake. The best part of the hike was the beginning in these meadows of bison.


It was supposed to be a loop trail, but the trail was poorly marked, and we ended up hiking out the way we hiked in through TONS of mosquitoes and horse flies (7 miles total instead of 5). We survived, but with lots of bug bites.


After making the kids do that hellacious hike, we spent some time doing something they like doing - playing on the beach of Yellowstone Lake.


He’s a happy boy now! Who would have known there were beaches in Yellowstone?

Then we had ice cream for probably the 10th time of the trip. Coleman had rocky road, and once he got to the cone part, I said “Coleman, where is your tooth!?” He had swallowed his front tooth. He couldn’t quit crying after that, even after I bought him yet another souvenir (a Yellowstone pillow with a bear on it). The next day, we all got a good laugh out of it (the tooth fairy brought him $5). I told him he could use a fork to find it in his poop if he wanted. He didn’t really like that idea.

Touring the mud volcano.


Our final hike of the trip was up Mount Washburn, which could be the best hike in Yellowstone (I talked to another park ranger after the Clear Lake fiasco for hiking advice). At the top, you can see the entire park in every direction.

On the way up.

Near the top we saw lots of big horn sheep.


We made it!


A view from the top.


Hard to miss Daddy in that bright orange jacket!


We stopped for a break on some rocks on the way down.

Next stop was Norris Geyser. We walked along the nature trail next to bubbling water and mud. Brian bought a book later that day called Death in Yellowstone. I am so thankful he did NOT read that book before we went on this walk. If one of us (Gabby) had accidentally fallen off the boardwalk, we could have died. No joke.


The mud and water is so hot it will burn the skin right off.


Coleman became a junior ranger while we were there and got the badge you can see pinned on his shirt. He did several activities in a book and listened to a ranger lecture on bear safety. He was really happy to get that badge!


One of the things you have to do in Yellowstone is watch Old Faithful erupt, and it happens like clockwork about every hour and a half. He was a little happier (understatement) being at Old Faithful this time.


I feel so fortunate to live in a country with such beautiful landscape and national parks. God Bless America!

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