And now back to our family's National Park camping tour in September. After Glacier NP we moved on to Yellowstone National Park, for many of us, our favorite National Park of them all!
Of course, we saw all of the famous stuff like Old Faithful (middle photo above), Mammoth Hot Springs (third photo below), the Yellowstone gorge and waterfalls (above), and a bunch of other grand things!
The thermal things are really cool and bizarre in some cases, but they weren't our favorite part. Our favorite part was just simply soaking in the epic nature and wildlife that surrounded us everywhere.
We camped in a tent under the stars...and loved it!
Each morning I got up, when it was still very dark (AND FREEZING COLD!) and got a fire going and made coffee for Joy and me, a big thermos of hot cocoa for the kids, and another full of hot water for instant oatmeal later. Then, while it was still dark (AND COLD), I'd wake up the rest of the family, and, with teeth chattering, we'd all pile on the layers of flannels and sweatshirts (wishing we'd have had a few more layers or some real winter clothes of some sort) and jump in the Yukon, driving to either the Lamar or Hayden Valleys to spot wildlife. Sometime after sunrise, and usually in a spot where we were able to see a heard of something cool, we'd throw open the back door and have ourselves some instant oatmeal for breakfast.
In the early hours of the morning we shared the road with more animals than cars. It was so much fun to see bison, antelope, wolves, black and brown bears, moose, fox, coyote, elk, deer, birds of all kinds, and so much more! We listened to epic movie soundtracks while we drove--like "Dances With Wolves"--and the funny thing is, it seemed to fit. O.k., so maybe we're dorks, but hey, it was fun!
We made friends with a group of hard-core animal spotters, and they were so, so nice to always share their spotting scopes with us, and to tell us where the best places were to see things. They seemed to always know where there would be bear, or wolves, or something fascinating. And they loved that our kids were so excited about it all. Next time I'll have a post featuring some of the animals we saw.
By 10:00am or so the wildlife viewing was starting to fizzle a bit, and the rest of the Yellowstone tourists were just starting to crowd the roads. So that's when we'd usually try to hit the trails, or get off the beaten path. We're not really crowd-type people.
The weather at Yellowstone was very cantankerous. I guess that's what we get for going in September. So some days we wound up hunkered down in our tent, rain or hail pounding down outside with temperatures in the upper 30's. But whenever we could, we got out and did some hiking, or nature observing.
Joy was doing some homeschooling along the way, and the kids were working on their Junior Ranger badges. At Yellowstone that's quite an involved little program, and they had to work hard to get it done. So they were always observing and finding interesting things along the way. Isn't this such a cute picture of Joy and the twins spotting things in a stream?
Hannah was curious if dandelion "puff balls" smelled good.
And Tyler, well he's just always hamming it up whenever and wherever he has a chance. Never a dull moment with five kids! And we didn't have to work hard to obey the mandate to "make a lot of noise in bear country" to avoid surprising a grumpy bear. Any bear that would have been surprised by was would have had to have been deaf!
All in all we just enjoyed being out in the vast wilderness that is Yellowstone, soaking in the clean, fresh air, and the litter-free beauty in every direction.
And stopping to admire every tree that was turning color--something we haven't seen for the past four years.
Sometime late in the afternoon we'd pack a picnic dinner, then head back out into the valleys to spot wildlife again. Somewhere along the way we'd stop to have our picnic. We had this spot all to ourselves...well, except for the coyote that came along looking for a handout. No, we didn't give him any. Don't worry, Hannah made sure we abided by all the park rules.
And as the sun set each evening, we were usually somewhere along a road, watching the bear, or the elk, or the bison, or simply enjoying the unbelievably beautiful sunsets that God painted each night.
Check back soon for the post featuring the animals we saw.