Rocky Mountain Road Trip

Saturday, June 24th
Day 1

11am Left home. Feeling sad we didn’t say goodbye to our neighbors who were moving to Iowa that day.

11:30am Jenni realizes her wallet is still at home! Turn around and go back. Glad we came back because we forgot a jacket for David, and to turn on the dishwasher. We stop by our neighbors and say a proper goodbye.

12pm Drove and drove and drove. Thermos lunch, and lettuce wraps for second lunch.

8pm Hotel in Spokane, Washington. Turkey Tacos microwaved for dinner.

Sunday, June 25th
Day 2

6am Microwaved food for thermoses. Jenni and kids fasted.

9am Digital body scan appointment in Sandpoint, Idaho.

1pm Drove east. Sandwich wraps for second lunch.

6pm North American RV Park and Yurt Village in Coram, Montana. Clean. Very nice bathrooms, no need for quarters for showers. Cooked dinner on our camp stove: turkey tacos and Taiwan A-Choy. Probably squash too. Kids played their make-believe kingdom of Pistention, “cooking” grasses and rocks, took videos of Cupcake, Vi’s doll, and played on the swings.

10pm Bed in our yurt. Hardly slept. Too close to the highway and the train tracks. Train horns blasting throughout the night! Ugh!

Monday, June 26th
Day 3

11am Tried to go through Glacier National Park but the Going-To-The-Sun Road was closed 16 miles into the park! Headed south and around the park.

3pm Checked in to St. Mary Campground. Set up camp. Went to St. Mary Visitor Center (WiFi), bought bear spray. Park ranger gave a demo on how to use it and some info about bears. Kids got their Jr. Ranger packets.

6pm Cooked dinner: hot dogs over a fire, butternut, A-choy.

8pm Shower.

10pm Bed in our tent. Super windy, thunder and lightning and rain. Wolves howling. Didn’t sleep well.

Tuesday, June 27th
Day 4

6am Sun is bright. Got up.

7:20am Went to Many Glacier

8:20am First in line to the boating office. Cute robin and babies in a nest! Tried to get on the 9am ferry to Grinnell Lake. Hoping for our name to be called on the wait list. Found out they take reservations 3 days in advance. Didn’t get called. Looked around in the Many Glacier Lodge, eating a snack, looking in the gift shop.

11am Tried again to get on a ferry. No luck.

12pm Drove down to the Going-To-The-Sun Road and went as far as we could. Took lots of pictures! So beautiful! Turned around at the roadblock at Jackson Glacier and stopped for a hike at St. Mary Falls. The water is so crazy aqua blue! Pretty flowers everywhere throughout burnt forest. Saw a baby deer that wouldn’t budge from it’s eating spot right next to the trail. St. Mary Falls was delightful! We hiked beyond to Virginia Falls. Wow! So impressive! Worth the 5.8 mile round trip hike! Vi and Bruce were jumping and squealing in the freezing glacial spray! We could see sparkling rainbows too.

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Stopped by the St. Mary Visitor Center on our way back. The kids finished their packets and got sworn in for the first time as Jr. Rangers. A very proud moment.

009 Glacier National Park

5pm Back at our camp site. Kids played in the tent with Lego blocks, reading books, and making more videos of Cupcake and Samantha, Kadie’s furry doll. Cooked dinner: fired grilled chicken, spaghetti squash, boiled potatoes, baby bok choy. David and Jenni actually got to sit and relax by the fire while food was cooking. So nice!

8pm Showers were cold. Bad time of night to try to get a warm shower when lot’s of other campers are also getting ready for bed. Missed a ranger bear talk.

10pm Bed. Clear and cold night! Jenni didn’t sleep much due to tummy ache.

Wednesday, June 28th
Day 5

2am David woke and took photos of the stars. Jenni hung out with him and shivered. Brrrr!

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7am Noticed wet air mattresses and sleeping bags. Discovered that the ground, tarp, being too big for the tent, collected puddles of water from the storm a few nights back. Spent the morning propping up the edges to let the wind dry the tarp.

9:30am Traveled back to Many Glacier for our reserved ferry ride. Found out The-Going-To-The-Sun Road is now fully open!

11am Boarded Chief Two Guns to ride across Swiftcurrent Lake. Met a nice family from Massachusetts who happened to have forgotten sunblock and asked to borrow ours. We happened to have forgotten our bear spray and they kindly offered for us to hike with them. We hiked over a wooded hill and boarded the Morning Eagle to ferry across Lake Josephine. Both lakes were magnificent blue, which looks more intensely aqua the closer to a glacier you are. The 1.9 mile round trip hike to Grinnell Lake, Grinnell Falls, and Hidden Falls were just gorgeous! Part of the trail was detoured because of a fallen bridge. However, some people insisted on coming across the creek on some fallen logs. One gentleman lost his balance and fell hip deep into the icy water. David and our new friend, Win helped the guy out. When we made it to Grinnell Lake, it was magical. So beautiful! We took off our shoes and socks (except Kadie) and waded out into the frigid water. Quite exhilarating! Refreshing! We saw butterflies, chipmunks and mosquitoes. Our new friends had traveled quite a bit already and so Michelle and I talked about the Tetons and Yellowstone, Disneyland, etc. They have two daughters, one Kadie’s age, also quiet in demeanor and plays violin, and the other Violet’s age, also talkative and outgoing. They got along so well, we exchanged email addresses and thought it might be nice for the girls to be pen pals.

Learned from the ferry boat drivers that once, a while ago, a giant fire was headed towards Many Glacier Lodge. It was saved by a last minute wind change. Lodgepole pines need fire to open their seeds and plant new forests. Bighorn sheep horns keep growing all their lives. When they can’t see anymore, they rub their horns to shave it down. They also have two skulls to protect their brains from the trauma of butting heads with each other. In late summer, bears eat up to 50 pounds of huckleberries a day, thus they have purple scat. They also go high up on top of mountains to flip over rocks and eat tons of moths. Both Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes are super shallow. Grinnell Glacier was named after the park founder’s good friend.

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3:30pm Made it back to the campsite. Fixed the tent. Cooked hamburgers over the fire, had potatoes and green beans.

7:30pm Cleaned up. kids in PJs. Drove Going-To-The-Sun Road. Saw a herd of elk. But the view! Wow upon wow upon wow! Amazing and breathtaking all the way through to Logan Pass! We took tons of photos in the fading light. We cranked up Caspar Babypants music and went through the car wash-like waterfall the Weeping Wall not once, but twice! This was quite a highlight for the kids.

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9:30pm Carried kids to bed. Jenni finally tired enough to sleep a bit more. The night was cold and wet.

Thursday, June 29th
Day 6

2am Kadie upset about mosquitoes and Bruce whapping her in the face in his sleep.

7am Broke camp. Long travel day to Billings, Montana.  Saw a herd of mustangs in the Blackfeet Reservation area! Ate tuna, rice and seaweed.

6pm Dinner with the Jones family. Yay!

11pm Tried to sleep. Kids all in one room. Dog in living room. Not much sleep.

Friday, June 30th
Day 7

Costco, health food stores, set up tent to dry out. Kids played with squirt guns. Picked cherries. Rachel baked a pie. Caught up with Rachel and Brian. So good to see them! Slept out in tent that night.

Saturday, July 1st
Day 8

6am David joined Brian for a men’s fellowship gathering

Jenni and Rachel when to Natural Grocers and shopped for cowboy boots. Found some! David worked on photos. Kids watched Moana and Secret Life of Pets. Rachel took the kids to a spray ground park, then got out the kiddie pool. Tried to reserve a boat float trip on the Snake River out of Moose, but Bruce was not quite heavy enough or old enough. Maybe next time. It was a tip from our Massachusetts friends as a great way to see wildlife.

11pm Stayed up chatting and laughing with Brian and Rachel.

Sunday, July 2nd
Day 9

Went to church with the Jones’ and heard Rachel’s testimony of what she’s found ministry to be in working with released prisoners who stay at a halfway house. Rachel inspires me in many different ways.

Tried to find an old time photo place, but it no longer existed.  Kids played (swing, rock climbing and high platforms in their room!), watched Princess Diaries. Jenni cooked and cooked. Did a mini Fourth of July with pop its, snakes and smoke bombs. Went to a park and met Theresa whom I had emailed before when starting GAPS 3+ years ago. It was very nice to meet her. We had very stimulating conversation about diet and detoxing.

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Monday, July 3rd
Day 10

Packed up the tent. Tons of earwigs in every fold! Yuck!

Hugged goodbye.

Beartooth Mountain Highway is so beautiful! At the pass, we stepped out to take in the view. Bruce petted a chipmunk that had popped up right in front of him. Funny, but he now knows you’re not supposed to touch wildlife. He just couldn’t help it that it popped up right in front of his hand. Later we stopped to touch the snow, and Jenni saw mountain goats!

006 Yellowstone

Lamar Valley held our viewing of the great big bison. Also, followed a coyote on the road. We stopped in Canyon for burgers, Jr Ranger packets and an evening wildlife bus tour. We rode in the back, and viewed more bison, elk, prong horned antelope, 2 black bears, and a lightning show. It was a bit too much for the end of a travel day, but it was also nice to get to cuddle the kids and not be driving. Points for family time. But perhaps we would just drive ourselves next time, and not on the first day entering the park.

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11pm Made it to Madison Junction Campground and set up our tent in the dark.

Tuesday, July 4th
Day 11

Old Faithful was our “fire works” of the Fourth of July. The famous lodge was very cool. Of course we hit a gift shop. We walked around Geyser Hill and saw the wonders. The kids attended a Ranger talk on bison. Saw and touched horns, footprints and fur pelts of several animals including otter, wolf and moose. Upon exiting the lodge, I thought there was a large statue of a bison in the middle of the parking lot. It was no statue! And we were too close for comfort. Got out of there and worried about the people going up to take photos.

Back at the campground, we ate, took a camp shower rinse in a pop up pod (no showers at Madison Campground!), and met our camping neighbors from Seattle who had a 5 year old girl named Belle, and a younger brother. The kids all played together. That night we were serenaded with Moana songs by kids somewhere in our loop. We enjoyed a campfire that night.

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Wednesday, July 5th
Day 12

We hung out for the morning, fire cooking chicken, boiling potatoes, fried ham and eggs, and toasted waffles on sticks (Montana huckleberry jam, Oregon blueberries on top).

Hiked a bluff to view the Grand Prismatic Spring! Also walked on the boardwalks to see it/smell it up close.

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Took a drive on the south loop past West Thumb and Yellowstone Lake. Saw more bison and mule deer through Hayden Valley.

3pm Drove to South Rim of Canyon. Bad time to visit Artist Point. Too hot, too crowded, and too noisy! Something about shouting foreign tourists that sort of ruin the serene, exquisite beauty of the Lower Yellowstone Falls that I had hoped to imagine Thomas Moran painting pictures of in awe and wonder. Almost hiked to Sublime point, but decided against it because it was steep and we were tired. Drove to the North Rim: Hiked down to the Brink of the Lower Falls. So much water pouring over the edge! Very impressive. Very green water. Inspiration Point was closed. Very disappointed. The Grand View of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was very pretty! So glad I saw it! By then the kids were done, so they munched on snacks and listened to Veggie Tales Travel songs while David and Jenni took turns taking in the different view points along the canyon.

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Kids and Belle did a Moana sing-a-long marathon at the campsite.

Thursday, July 6th
Day 13

Got up, ate in the car to get to Mammoth Hot Springs. Was surprised to see most of it has gone dormant. Jenni remembers more of it flowing with water back in the 1980’s. There were mule deer hanging out in the old historic Fort Yellowstone. The kids finished their packets and got sworn in from the very first National park as Jr Rangers at Mammoth Visitor Center.

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There were taxidermy animals on display: bear, Moose, fox, eagle, wildcat, pika, wolf and pups, beaver and chipmunk to name a few. They have quite the historical photo collection too. Made reservations for a dinner show in Teton area, and a hotel close by for our beginning journey towards home.

3pm Ate at Mammoth’s dining room: burgers on gluten free buns. A long wait for food, but a highlight for the kids. Went back to the campground and looked for moose along the Madison River. No sightings. Played with rocks and waded in the Madison river. Kids started out with rolled up pants and sleeves… ended up pretty wet. Bedtime.

Friday, July 7th
Day 14

Broke camp. On to the Tetons! Stopped in Colter Bay along Jackson Lake. Picked up Jr Ranger Packets for Grand Teton National Park. Drove down Teton Park Road taking lots of photos! Bruce rang the bell at the Chapel of Transfiguration (there was to be a wedding there that day).

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Moose Visitor center was pretty neat. There were furs, statues of animals and people famous to the area, geology stuff, and a big relief map of the Tetons with names of each peak, glacier and lake. So nostalgic to Jenni, to have come back to the area of the ranch she worked at the summer she turned 19.

Drove up the road along the Snake River and took more photos. Headed east of Moran to see the Diamond D Ranch Outfitters. Jenni told a few tales of her adventures on the ranch. No one was home, so after walking the grounds, headed to the Buffalo Valley Cafe for dinner. The view of the Tetons was hazed over at Oxbow Bend.

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Drove up between Teton and Yellowstone to a cabin at Flagg Ranch. Did laundry, washed hair in showers that turned scalding every time a toilet flushed. Shared a double bunk bed. Not much sleep.

Saturday, July 8th
Day 15

5am Got up and headed to Jenny Lake. Most popular place, and construction made parking scarce.

7:30am Found a good parking spot, got ferry tickets, and got in line behind one early bird couple waiting for the visitor center to open. Determined to get 5 of the 25 tokens for getting a ranger led tour into Cascade Canyon. Got them! Our ranger guide was Bridget from L.A. Found out adults can become Jr rangers too! Jenni grabbed a packet and started working on it in the ferry ride across Jenny Lake. Hiked to Hidden Falls. Very pretty! The early bird couple (or was it David’s new fellow photography fanatic friend?) asked us if St. Mary and Virginia falls were prettier than these falls. It’s hard to say, but Jenni likes the crazy blue glacier water so much, and the amount of water was impressive, and the mountains of Glacier National Park are so incredible….the glacier ones win as favorites.

Learned about history – why people came to the Teton area at first (capital gain), and now mainly for leisure. The geology lesson was about dais rock stripe in Mt. Moran, and glaciers are hard packed ice without air bubble in them, and they slide, making a u-shape canyon. The pikas only live in cold areas, and the climate has changed faster than they can adapt and are dying out. Another interesting fact: fault lines usually move toward each other and push up rolling hills that lead up to mountain ranges. Not so for the Tetons! Fault lines are moving away from each other, so the valley drops lower as the Tetons grow taller. Fastest growing mountains! Young mountains with jagged peaks not yet worn down smooth by wind and rain. The park became a park all because a group of people saw the beauty and wanted to save it from private ownership and destruction from poachers and miners, etc. Jenni and the kids were sworn in as Jr Rangers up top of Inspiration Point. Jr Ranger’s have a responsibility to share and help educate others to want to protect these beautiful parks as well as other wild places wherever they go.

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Went back north for a picnic lunch at Signal Mountain lodge near the boat launch. Kids played with floating bark and stick “boats” in the water. Vi stood in Jackson Lake with her tennis shoes. Jenni soaked up a little too much sun. Ouch.

Stopped by Menor’s Ferry. You can take an actual ride on the ferry pulled by rope in August for free. Cool little historic spot.

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Drove to Jackson Hole. Took a few more pictures of the mountains along the way. It was hard to say goodbye. Took some old time western photos in town before heading to the Bar J Ranch to eat chuckwagon dinner and watch the Bar J Wranglers sing old cowboy western tunes. Jenni saw these guys (Babe Humphry (sort of retired now) and sons Scott and Brian, fiddler Tim) 20 years ago and they’re still singing!

Highly recommend the show! Funny and entertaining with family friendly jokes! The ranch makes coffee  by filling boot socks with the grounds and boiling it in 30 gallon pots. No joke! Pork ribs – yum! Bar J BBQ beef, so tender! They move their herd east to get fat, then bring them back and serve their guests at $25 a plate! But the delicious dinner and excellent show were so worth it! Great musicians including a fiddle champion, and incredible yodeling. David really liked the bass singer’s version of 16 Tons, a miner’s song. The Wrangler’s fans on “bookface” requested lots of songs, so they put together a great medley (including Michael Jackson, 7 Bridges Road, Ghost Rider, Macarena, and Barbra Ann to name a few) that brought many cheers. Babe came out to do one of his patriotic songs. Tim did the Mockingbird Song, and Jenni really enjoyed Foggybottom Breakdown. David, also thought it remarkable that no one held up cell phones recording them.  The crowd all just watched and enjoyed! What a great way to end our vacation! It was late and we had been up since 5am. Bruce fell asleep in Jenni’s arms. Violet kept trying to lay down on the bench. Finally headed towards Idaho in the dark. Startled by a deer right by the edge of road.

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10:45pm Got to hotel to find our online registration we made back in Mammoth never went through and the manager was in another city and couldn’t help us. Drove on and found a hotel that said no vacancy (think the manager just went to bed or something, hardly any cars there). Thank God! Super 8 was open and had a room for us.

11:40pm Carried sleeping children to bed and crashed.

Sunday, July 9th
Day 16

Woke in hotel. Took it easy. Ate complimentary fruit cups and whatever we had to microwave. Played in the hotel pool! Super chlorinated. Ugh. But had fun with excessive spa foam and kids made Santa beards.

Traveled 2.5 hours to Shoshone Falls. Water was pretty low, but the falls and canyon around were still nice for a photo. Traveled 2 more hours to Boise, listening to Cowboy songs. David and Jenni passed time by making up stories about meeting each other in the era of the Old West. What jobs and what circumstances would we meet and fall in love. Jenni – a rancher or a teacher. David a musician, a bounty hunter chasing bandits. Jenni realized it was so nice to have a vacation from seeing Cannabis shop signs everywhere like in Portland.

Air B&B house was very nice. But Glade Plug-ins in each room made Jenni feel sick. They were banished out side. Cooked dinner. Getting tired of hot dogs. But grateful to be going home soon.

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Monday, July 10th
Day 17

1am Violet threw up (tried peanut butter day before?)

3am Bruce bloody nose

6am David awake.

7am Freddy’s run for oxyclean.

10:20am Done scrubbing sheets, returned chemical air perfume thingys, and left for home. 8 plus hours.

Evening…home! Yay! Our own beds! Wow! Tall sunflowers!

Reflections: Super tiring but worth it all for the amazing views of beautiful landscapes and fun to see wildlife! Great family bonding through both highs as well as the lows. Kids now have a bunch of Jr Ranger badges and patches, as well as more knowledge of the parks and wildlife. Kids now have many Caspar Babypants albums memorized. Kids enjoyed each other most of the whole trip! Other highlights were daily devotions in the car, that have continued most daily at home this whole summer. God is an amazing creative artist! Fell in love with His nature and with Him all over again!

Other after thoughts: Bruce couldn’t stop running everywhere he went for the next week after being home. All that sitting…now freedom! Kids were a bit more reluctant to hike. Maybe it’s because we did a super long hike in Sequoia National Park the year before (7.8miles) and Jenni tends to just plow through and not stop for rests, whereas kids really need breaks. We did over 8 miles a day in Disneyland, just there were lot’s of fun breaks. Next time we visit, we need to plan a year or more in advance if we want to get a cabin or hotel. Camping in bear country was not my first choice. Going down the road to the bathroom in the middle of the night, in the dark, by yourself, with a flashlight and bear spray makes one a bit nervous and spooked. Coming back to the tent and hunkering down in the sleeping bag after the adrenaline kicks in from fear of bears does not help trying to sleep afterwards. What a relief to come home and not have to be on the alert for those such things anymore. But that’s what adventures entail: a little discomfort, being a little hungry, wet and tired, but seeing wonderful things, learning new things about the world, and having great stories to share in years to come.  So glad we stepped out the door for a time. So glad to be home again too.

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2 replies on “Rocky Mountain Road Trip”

We loved your pictures, especially of the Diamond D and the Tetons. Brings back a lot of happy memories. Your story of your trip was awesome. Not only are you a fantastic photographer but a great writer. You took us along with you the way you described everything. So happy Jenni got to go back. That is something I want to do. We have a motor home so maybe we will and can come out to meet Jennis wonderful family. Please give her our love.

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