Wednesday, October 19, 2016

National Park Trip 2016 {Mount Rushmore & Wind Cave National Park}

The trip through Wyoming to South Dakota wasn't a short one, but it was beautiful.  
Sometimes you have to get out and stretch.

We got to Mount Rushmore just as the sun was going down.  It was perfect timing because their evening program is at 9:00 each night.  We hadn't eaten dinner and our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were wearing thin.  We snapped a few pictures and got some dinner in the cafeteria.  

Don't let these pictures fool you... there were lots of people.  I just waited for awhile as to not get them in my picture ;) 

During the program, they show a movie which tells you about the history of Mount Rushmore and why each of the presidents was chosen to be on the monument.  So interesting.  I honestly had no idea.  Then the Ranger talked for a bit and allowed every person who had served in the military to come up front and take down the flag.  They all said their name and rank and years they served.  The whole thing was inspiring, and sitting there with all five boys, made me wonder if any of them will choose to serve our country, and how it would make me scared and proud at the same time.

When the program ended, we were walking up the steps and Asher said to me, "I haven't felt good about America in a long time, but I feel good about America tonight."  Sweet boy.

I wasn't sure if Mount Rushmore was going to be worth it.  After all, it's just some faces carved in the side of a mountain.  But again, we left feeling inspired and proud to be Americans.  So I say it's worth the stop!
The next day we headed to Wind Cave, just a short drive.  It was Graham and Nathan's favorite stop.  It's not much to look at when you drive up.  It's just a big, vast prairie.  Underneath the ground is a system of caves so vast, they haven't even been able to explore more than 10 percent of it.  You can sign up for tours and we thoroughly enjoyed ours.  Graham wants to go back and do the four hour crawling tour (you have to be 16 to do it).  I told him he'd have to go on that tour by himself!  But the walking tours are super cool.  It's dry and cool down there and it's simply amazing.

This is the only picture of us I took, as we were descending.  It's less creepy than I thought it would be, but I can't say I wasn't happy to see the light of day after being down there an hour! :)

It's a must-see if you are in the Black Hills area, in my opinion.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

National Park Trip 2016 {Upper Falls & Artist's Point}

We packed up and headed toward Cody, Wyoming.  But on the way... we had to see some of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  We decided to hike the path between Upper Falls and Artist Point.  The hike is family friendly but with lots of drop offs.  We had a "one child and one adult" policy, meaning that you could go peer over the ledge, but only with supervision.  
It's hard to see in the picture, but you could completely plunge to your death here.  We opted to always be behind a tree limb.

My dad laughing... something about standing on the edge of such treachery makes you giggle ;) 

The views along the way were spectacular.

On this trip, Graham discovered his love for hiking.  It's fun to see him in his element.

Artist Point.  I guess I can see why many a painter has wanted to capture this.

It's *kind of* beautiful.

Enjoying the view.

All of us.  A once in a lifetime view and experience.

On the way out of the park we saw some more wildlife.

Yellowstone Lake is massive, and so untouched.  I half expected to see dinosaurs roaming around.

Taking in the view, for the millionth time on this trip.  It really doesn't get old.

We stayed the night in the left two teepees, our first glamping experience.

Super comfy inside.

On the way out of Cody, we got a flat tire, about 1 mile from the best tire shop we've ever seen.  $15 later, we were on the road heading toward the Black Hills.

Friday, October 7, 2016

National Park Trip 2016 {Old Faithful!}

We almost didn't do Old Faithful.  It had mixed reviews; some tourists had been under impressed and our time in Yellowstone was limited with SO much to see and explore.  In the end, we decided to stay an extra day in the park.  Our Air BNB host in Cody graciously pushed back our stay a day.  So thankful, and am also grateful that we didn't miss Old Faithful.  It's an icon, an American experience I'm glad we didn't miss.

The cool thing about Old Faithful is the massive amounts of people that are there, all gathered around to watch this geyser erupt.  I mean, every 90 minutes, hundreds of people gather.  I got teary thinking about ALL the people who have gathered to watch this very thing over the history of America.  It made me hopeful that people still care enough, even in our modern, techy age, to bring their families to see this natural phenomenon.  I loved hearing the "ooooh's" and "aaaaahhh's" from all over the crowd.
This picture is entitled, "The fanny pack is back!" ;) 

Waiting... we chose to wait on the opposite side from the crowd because one of the park rangers said it was his favorite place to watch.

Old Faithful Inn in the background.

The spray gets you!

Old Faithful Inn exceeded my expectations as well.  I mean, the LOGS!  Lots of places to sit and enjoy the views.  And it was one of the few places in Yellowstone that had some sort of cellular service.

The architecture, the furniture, loved all of it.

Loved my overpriced iced caramel latte.  Had to document the moment, and once again, the fanny pack.  EVERYONE in Yellowstone was so jealous of my fanny pack! ;)

Even the bathroom floor had to be documented.

Since Old Faithful was the only thing on the agenda for that particular day, we got to have a relaxing evening in West Yellowstone.  We ate at the Three Bears Restaurant, adjacent to our hotel, the Three Bears Lodge.

The Three Bear Lodge was pretty adorable, complete with a "baby bed" that was just right for this one.  

Then we got to walk around the quaint town of West Yellowstone.  It was filled with souvenir shops and restaurants.  Our last night in Yellowstone was a good one.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

National Park Trip 2016 {Gibbon Falls, Norris Geyser Basin, & Mammoth Hot Springs}

We collectively decided to head to North Yellowstone on our first full day in the park.  I'm sure there's people who plan their time in the park in great detail.  I'm here to tell you that you can be a bad planner and still see lots of things and have lots of fun.  Yellowstone is so massive that there's no possible way to see it all anyway.  There's just not a bad way to do it.  It's ginormous and incredible and everywhere you look, there are wonderful things to be seen.  

Our first stop was Gibbons Falls.  We spent a few minutes at the overlook.  It's not a major Yellowstone attraction, but it's amazing!  And again, the boys really appreciating it was one of my favorite things.  

This particular day, it's always easy to spot me (in the bright pink) and Nathan (in the bright orange).

(See... I spy someone in pink!)
Our second stop was at the Norris Geyser Basin.  We did a little slow hike and were in awe of the different pools of bubbling water and small geysers erupting randomly.  My parents were able to do this one with us which was fun.  We later found out this is where someone died this summer when he wandered off of the boardwalk to admire the pools more closely and fell into one of the boiling pools of water... yikes!  The signs are very clear, that the ground is unstable and the pools are very hot.

One funny thing is that Chris ran into someone that he went to high school with at the visitors center here.  What are the odds of that?  We were in the middle of NOWHERE! 

Next, we made our way north to Mammoth Hot Springs.  It has a neat little village with a couple of lodges and restaurants.  

This map was so amazing... it was in a big beautiful historic conference room.  A man was playing the grand piano and Nathan and I loved it so much... 

... that we had to take a selfie with it.

Moose running through town... very Yellowstone.

The area was bizarre.  So beautiful with random areas like this one in the middle.  It felt very Star Trek-y... that's probably not a real adjective.

I love this kid.

These two as well!

On the drive home, we stopped to see some wildlife.  The beautiful valleys in Yellowstone might have been my favorite.  And I definitely recommend staying in the park until sunset.  Such amazing light.