haha...and i thought the last one was long ;)
i wanted to fit in the rest of our trip, i tried really hard. and i wanted to be a little bit succinct. (impossible for me) it's just that each photo and the moment it represents is too special to me, and i am thus compelled to fill these posts with, like, hundreds of photos and thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of accompanying words. that's just the way it goes. this post takes us through the rest of the trip. maybe it will be the last post on our wyoming trip, but then again maybe not ;)
waking up at Slough Creek is a pure dream. have i told you yet about the site we camped in? it might have been the best site in the whole camp: number 3, a "walk in site" (the walk was about ten steps down a hill) right next to the merry little stream. i woke up early here, stretched, made coffee while my family still slept.
joey and em are usually up first. listening for wolves and taking in the freshest morning air you could ever imagine.
heavenly morning campground fulla babies!
the boys making plans for the day....these two and their maps!
we had to say good bye to mikie that morning. it was terrible to see him and marisa have to leave and begin their long journey back home to los angeles after such a short couple days with us, but we were all so glad they came. and hey, for them it was quite an adventure!
the rest of us set off on a little drive through the Lamar Valley to a pretty little hike to Trout Lake.
amy and the kids at the little bridge where the otter hang out. sadly, we didn't get to glimpse any otter that day.
we stopped to eat our peanut butter and jellies across the lake. the water felt good and the mud was squishy under my toes and it felt like we were all alone in the whole world at an enchanted lake, or perhaps on another, quieter, planet.
the herd of bison spreads across the valley. we stopped to watch them for awhile.
(photo by darin)
back at camp, some of us did some more bathing in the swimming hole upstream a bit. it was a cloudy afternoon and absolutely gorgeous, a little bit cool and sprinkly.
joey and em cooked the family dinner that night: a mexican feast complete with homemade guacamole, hallelujah, thank you em! (she can't live without it.)
darin showed off his bug bites. he is very sensitive about bug bites, bet you didn't know that.
and lucy quite enjoyed some fresh watermelon (thank you amy and matt!) for dessert!
later that night, em found a huge splinter in lucy's foot and did the dreaded deed of removal, a scene that didn't stay this cute for long....
bedtime in the camp. addie and art's rustic little trailer was festively adorned with twinkly white lights. yes, they actually twinkled!
another gorgeous morning at the creek. we all wanted to stay forever. joey, matt, and bella had gotten up very early to go up to the ridge and try to spot some wolves. wolf groupies flock to the lamar valley and there are usually spotters from the park service with big scopes helping the laymen seek out and spot the elusive creatures. joey, matt and bella got to witness six wolves frolicking that early morning, two adults (black and gray) and four pups! this was a dream come true for joey and a morning that they will never forget.
one tiny grump woke up too early...
but she can never stay grumpy for long. this next might be my favorite photo ever....MY LOVES.
we had a very nice gentleman caller that morning who crossed the river and came right through camp.
(photo by darin)
he was proud to show off his long elegant moss earring. he strode right into camp, past addie and art's trailer where they were still sleeping without a sidelong glance, and ambled straight on down the dirt road. he was bidding us farewell, as it was our last morning in slough creek.
also that morning around 6:30 am pops had gotten up to see a black bear come right through our site. he passed right on by the neighbor eating his oatmeal, lumbering up the hillside right behind our tents. i was sad to have missed that one, but perhaps the visit has some secret hidden meaning for pops since he was the only witness besides our nonchalant neighbor.
it had been a busy morning for wildlife.
maybe this was a reaction shot to the buffalo's visit? we all reveled in his presence for a while.
lucy was excited too. she pants like a wild pup when she gets excited, and she did that every time she saw bison.
after sadly packing up camp and rumbling our caravan down that beloved dusty road, we headed north and west through the park up Grand Loop Road. it felt like the world had been dusted by mystery in the night with the pines all shrouded in mist and the enchanted road unfurling before us.
we stopped at undine falls per darin's request. yes he liked the name, a reference to mythological water nymphs, but it turned out the ethereal falls cascading in three tiers over ancient lava beds, fit the elegant name perfectly. and we were there on the perfect misty gray day, just the kind of day i'd been waiting for. perfect moment for some couples photos there while pops waited in the car with a napping lucy.
we drove north and exited the park for a little while to have lunch in the dusty, wide open road and sky town of gardiner, montana. there is a very distinct feel to montana towns, like a herd of spotted horses might come galloping down the street kicking up a cloud of dust at any moment and then disappear into the wild blue sky. the buildings are a little bit rusty and off kilter, tin sheds and wooden beams, and everything seems to be older and out of time, like a can of pork and beans left over from a cowboy in 1963. it is a cozy and charming feeling, one that i have felt in many other towns in montana as well. one of my favorite things about road trips is getting to know the differences between states, as if each were its own little kingdom.
we spent a long leisurely lunch at k-bar pizza where a jolly pizza tosser was giving out enthusiastic beer samples and just generally being the nicest guy on earth. he even let addie and art bring in sweet potatoes fries from another joint to accompany our meal, cause we were hungry like that.
em's pregnant version of "a beer."
i got to taste darin's white dragon belgian from neptune's brewery and was mighty pleased.
we walked around town, browsed some interesting antiques, antlers and artifacts in some funky little shops, and then headed back into yellowstone.
at my insistence (sorry guys) we stopped at the roosevelt arch to get a family pic. it was built in 1903 and the words "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" are inscribed across the top. this was where early visitors arrived by train and entered the park.
addie is going to photoshop in her babe, who was asleep in the car.
we passed lazy elk hanging out around the hotel and visitor center, and spent the late afternoon visiting the terraces of Mammoth Hot Spring. the minerals here were gathered for hundreds of years by native people to use for white paint. interestingly, the volcanic heat source here at mammoth is still somewhat of a mystery, either coming from the large magma chamber under the entire caldera of yellowstone, or perhaps a mysterious closer heat source. the terraces are living rock, constantly changing by the forces of heat and water, and creating a dynamic plumbing system that brings the hot water to the surface.
photo by darin
that evening we made it to madison campground just in time to set up our tents and jump inside to wait out the rain. we kept thinking it would stop, and then it wouldn't. we had just about given up on making any dinner at all when the stars started to appear and the sky cleared. we had a late quick supper of indian food packets and addie and art came and shared some beers.
the next morning dawned cold and clear, and that's when addie and art came back over to our site and told us they were going to leave that day. she said it was just too cold for her baby, who she now claims simply hates camping. (opposite of lucy, who does better camping than at home!) we were all sad to see them go a day early, but knew they needed to do what was best for them. i was proud of her for attempting this journey and finding creative ways to make it work for them, after so much anxiety about the possibilities. and baby utah really did very well! he was great in the car for the long trip, ate well and played well and was just overall a good sport. he apparently did especially well once they got to a motel on their way home :)
our last morning together.
we headed over to the firehole river swimming area, just a few minutes down the road from our campground. the water here is a perfect temperature, not too cold but not too warm for a summer afternoon. so refreshing!
lucy needed a nap so she was lacking her normal swimming enthusiasm. daddy had to go walk her in the ergo while i got in a good swim upriver a bit.
after swimming and lunch by the river and saying good bye to addie and art, we headed up to a thermal area called Artist Paint Pots. pops was driving the truck and got lost along the way and joey and em had to go back looking for him, so they missed this one. the rest of us had a nice little meander through this colorful hot spring area, with some very cool popping mud pots up the hill.
photo by darin
photo by darin
jarom convinced his family to do one more hike that afternoon, while the rest of us met up back and camp and relaxed for a little while. darin and joey even got in some reading.
that night's dinner was the group meal that addie and art were planning to make. they left all the ingredients for her famous mizithra cheese pasta (a la old spaghetti factory) with instructions on how to brown the butter. we had a delicious meal and were sorry not to be sharing it with them!
we were even graced with a sophisticated mealtime visitor. she and her family were in and out of our campsite the whole time.
with full bellies, we took a lovely evening walk across the road to the Madison River. i really wish i could walk here every night after dinner. it was just perfect.
photo by darin
and we even found a little hot spring area that was the perfect temperature as it mixed with the colder waters of the river. paradise.
photo by darin
the next was our very last morning in yellowstone and we had a long way to drive by nightfall. we were headed that morning into the most crowded area of the park, Old Faithful. we just barely missed an eruption so we walked over to the Old Faithful Inn to hang out, find some espresso and take in the beautiful historic building's rustic charms. The main lobby area was completed in 1904 and the interior feels like a tall treehouse, with log beams and a giant stone fireplace. it is the largest log hotel in the world!
bella got a stuffed animal bison purse at the gift shop that lucy absolutely fell in love with. since it was our last day i was feeling indulgent and ran back with em to get her one too. now they have matching bison purses, what could be better?!
we got to see the massive geyser erupt as our last dramatic Yellowstone sight.
photo by darin
lucy could feel the excitement in the air!
some of our group, you may note that my belly looks HUGE here!
amy wanted to hold lucy from there on out. she never wanted to let her go.
one more stop at the visitor center. while we were there a rare eruption of Beehive geyser occurred and everyone got to run outside and catch a glimpse of its powerful waters rising high into the sky. jarom was so excited and even got a little video on his own camera.
darin had been waiting for a huckleberry shake, but he had to settle for huckleberry ice cream instead...
our last taste of yellowstone as we said our sad good byes. it was so hard to leave!
but we knew we needed to get on the road, and it was a windy grueling drive home. after a trip like that, and being outdoors every day, it is not as fun to be on the road. we had dinner in twin falls at a cafe rio (tasted like heaven) and then made it to a motel in elko nevada by 11 pm. lucy had her first shower ever and then tossed and turned all night, not used to a real bed and the indoor sounds of a motel room. she was also so excited about joey and em's nearness and woke up panting with joy to see them (still sleeping, or trying to) in the bed next to us. we were back on the road before 9 am. broke down in reno where the truck needed a belt of some kind and we were stuck in the parking lot of an In-n-Out for almost two hours. Lucy enjoyed the time taking walks around the strange reno neighborhood.
and then we were home! home sweet home! despite our utter joy in the adventures we'd just had, it was nice to be home and everything seemed so convenient and easy. thanks to my mama for keeping the plants and grass alive and my cats comfy and well fed.
and thanks to all of you for traveling along with us :) next year we'll add two new babies to the cast and crew of our big family trip. it is fun to imagine all the places we'll go and adventures we'll have with these growing families of ours.