Yellowstone Road Trip

When we decided to send Rachel’s car to college with her, I was delighted.

Finally, I get to do a road trip,” I chortled.

The motto for our trip, to which we faithfully adhered.

The motto for our trip, to which nearly all of us faithfully adhered.

For many years, I’ve been trying to get Kathy to agree to spending one of our vacations on the road. I have fond memories of many trips I took as a child and young adult, but Kathy doesn’t seem to think that 12 hours in a car is a good way to unwind. I remember one trip we took from Connecticut to Michigan via interstate 80 across the top of Pennsylvania at Christmas time. That was when I discovered that having heat on the floor is a good thing in a car (our heat would only work on defrost mode). Maybe I can understand Kathy’s reluctance, after all.

The Roosevelt Arch, gateway to Yellowstone from the north.

The Roosevelt Arch, gateway to Yellowstone from the north.

When the dust settled, it was Joshua, David and Sarah who would be traveling with me from Washington to Tennessee — somehow Kathy and Rachel were willing to miss out on the 2500 mile trip and fly (Daniel is traveling in Europe with Aunt Stephanie). I guess it takes all kinds. Now I just needed a destination a little more spectacular than Kearney, Nebraska. Looking at a map, I noticed that Yellowstone National Park was almost directly in our path.

The kids were always very glad to be allowed out of the car.

The kids were always very glad to be allowed out of the car.

So I took the kids to Yellowstone. We spent two days exploring the park, and then rushed on to Tennessee. It was totally worth it, as I think you will see from the pictures, if not from my descriptive prose.

Mammoth Hot Springs was both Mammoth and Hot, and smelled of sulphur, too!

Mammoth Hot Springs was both Mammoth and Hot, and smelled of sulphur, too!

We started our exploration of the park from the north, visiting Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Falls as we moved south. We had all slept well in Bozeman the night before, so we hit the park with cheerful attitudes and eyes wide open.

Tower Falls reminded us of waterfalls back home in Washington.

Tower Falls reminded us of waterfalls back home in Washington.

I broke my toe the day we left, but many of the sights of Yellowstone are accessible via a short walk from the road, so it wasn’t too bad. The kids hardly ever mocked me for my slow pace, although I’m not sure they ever believed me about the toe.

“Face it, Dad, you’re not as young as you were last time you visited Yellowstone,” they hinted. I last visited Yellowstone National Park in 1973.

We camped at Canyon Village, in the center of the park.  Joshua's hammock was well-favored.

We camped at Canyon Village, in the center of the park. Joshua’s hammock was well-favored.

Some people (like my brother) plan their road trips meticulously, but that is not really my style. I did make a few reservations, but my total research time for the entire trip was less than two hours. Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered that our campsite (reserved) was at 8000 feet above sea level. It was about this time I regretted some advice I had given while packing.

Sarah: “Should I bring any warm clothes, Dad?”

Me: “Nah. It’ll be hot, pretty much the whole trip. One sweatshirt and one pair of long pants will be plenty.”

Those words came back to haunt me when the temperatures dropped into the low 40′s, during the night. Unfortunately, I had followed my own counsel, something I usually scrupulously avoid.

Wildlife abounded -- we found this elk in a ditch by the road.

Wildlife abounded — we found this elk in a ditch by the road.

During our visit to the park, we saw many elk, dozens of buffalo, a few small black bears, and lots of chipmunks. The wolves, grizzlies and moose eluded our spying eyes, though. Maybe next time.

Main attractions in Yellowstone include the 'Grand Canyon', which (while not as Grand as THE Grand Canyon) was stunningly beautiful.

Main attractions in Yellowstone include the ‘Grand Canyon’, which (while not as Grand as THE Grand Canyon) was stunningly beautiful.

Not far from our campsite, the Yellowstone River plunges over two waterfalls (Upper and Lower Falls), hundreds of feet into the yellow-rock canyon that gives the park its name. We hiked to the Lower Falls the first day, and found the Upper Falls overlook on the afternoon of the second day of our visit. Both views were well worth the hike, even for “Old Hopalong”.

The Yellowstone River Lower Falls was spectacular.

The Yellowstone River Lower Falls was spectacular.

We settled into our campsite and put up our tent. Rain threatened, and the temperature was dropping fast.

Joshua taught Sarah and David how to braid rope with a series of slip knots, providing hours of amusement for everyone.

Joshua taught Sarah and David how to braid rope with a series of slip knots, providing hours of amusement for everyone.

It was a delight to travel with Joshua, David and Sarah. None of them complained even once, the whole road trip, and they were very pleased and impressed with Yellowstone. Indeed, I was very glad to be able to share it with them myself, since my memories of Yellowstone from 40 years ago are sketchy at best.

We ate noodles and soup for supper -- David (as treasurer) was later persuaded to buy us each an ice cream cup.

We ate noodles and soup for supper — David (as treasurer) was later persuaded to buy us each an ice cream cup.

Joshua and I didn’t sleep very well in the tent. He had the dubious privilege of sleeping at our feet, and being kicked by me, most of the night. I was awoken by two men across the road who thought it was a good idea to shout greetings to each other at 5 am, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was reminded of Proverbs 27:14, and made a mental note to pull all their tent stakes in the middle of the next night. Both Joshua and I felt that our sleeping pads had not really helped much. David and Sarah, sleeping on comparatively-cheap foam mattress pads, were rather smug about how well they slept.

Four of us in a three-man tent was very snug -- but even so, Sarah was cold.

Four of us in a three-man tent was very snug — but even so, Sarah was cold.

On the second day, we started out at Norris, one of the larger collections of geysers (there are an estimated 10,000 geysers in the park). There we found our favorite, the Vixen Geyser, which began spewing water just as we walked up to it, and stopped as soon as we left. Most of the geysers were not particularly spectacular in terms of a high plume of water, but everywhere you looked there were hot springs bubbling and stange colors from the mineral deposits and thermophilic bacteria around the edges. We were able to get within about 20 feet of Vixen Geyser on the wooden boardwalk that spanned the basin.

Vixen geyser, while not particularly large, was very active and energetic.

Vixen geyser, while not particularly large, was very active and energetic.

We were a little disappointed with Old Faithful, perhaps the most famous of the geysers, because of its regular eruption schedule. We had hoped to see a plume of a hundred feet or more, but the one we waited for was only about 40 feet high. It was funny to see how many people (several hundred) were waiting for it to erupt, considering how few were on the trail at Norris, where there were dozens of less predictable geysers and pools.

Old Faithful mostly smoked, but it did get us a little wet.

Old Faithful mostly smoked, but it did get us a little wet.

We brought lots of lunch meat and cheeses, and each day of our trip we made sandwiches — it was a very good way to save money and we were well-satisfied. One of our best lunches was devoured on the porch of the lodge at Old Faithful.

Waiting for the geyser to blow its top ...

Waiting for the geyser to blow its top …

Kathy made travel activity books for David and Sarah, to help them occupy the hours of travel. One game they played was the 50 States license plate game — Yellowstone was a great place to find travelers from all over the country.

Joshua was very pleased to find a rare  Connecticut license plate, since it is the land of his birth.

Joshua was very pleased to find a rare Connecticut license plate, since it is the land of his birth.

We also visited the Grand Prismatic Pool, which was very colorful, but hard to photograph, because of all the steam from the hot springs.

The Grand Prismatic Pool, in some of its glory.

The Grand Prismatic Pool, in some of its glory.

On the way back to our campsite, we drove along the shores of the gigantic Yellowstone Lake, and also happened upon a hike to a viewpoint overlooking the Upper Falls.

The Upper Falls, while shorter than Lower Falls, was also well-appreciated.

The Upper Falls, while shorter than Lower Falls, was also well-appreciated.

We were very glad to have seen most of the major attractions of Yellowstone in a whirlwind, two-day visit. We decided to press on toward Tennessee rather than camp that night, since Joshua was very eager to get to his college in time for a Life Group leadership retreat that he was supposed to be helping to run.

The buffalo feel free to roam pretty much anywhere in Yellowstone, including the roads.  This herd was content to stay in pasture, however.

The buffalo feel free to roam pretty much anywhere in Yellowstone, including the roads. This herd was content to stay in pasture, however.

As we were getting ready to leave, Joshua and I both discovered that we had forgotten to inflate our self-inflating sleeping pads the night before.

“I think sleeping on the ground, directly, would have been softer,” Joshua commented, bitterly. Truly we win the prize for dumbest campers ever.

Joshua started a fire with damp wood, just to prove that he could.  Happily, my fire-extinguishing curse doesn't seem to have been passed on, genetically.

Joshua started a fire with damp wood, just to prove that he could. Happily, my fire-extinguishing curse doesn’t seem to have been passed on, genetically.

We had a great time, and were very glad we took the two days to explore Yellowstone. Now, on to Tennessee!

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Big Sky Country

I’m not quite sure how I come up with some of my ideas. I was worried about David and Sarah (who have not been brought up properly, and don’t have extensive road-trip experience) and I started thinking about the long drive from our home to Bozeman, MT. After some reflection, I decided we would drive through the night (letting them sleep in the back), hoping that the 12-hour trip would seem more like five or six hours to them.

The intrepid road-trippers assemble ...

The intrepid road-trippers assemble …

So I wrote Joshua a note, asking him if that was OK.

“Sure, no problem,” he agreed.

About 7:30 pm on Wednesday, just before we were to leave, Josh turned to me. “I kind of skipped over the part in your email where you said we would be driving through the night. So, we’re not getting a hotel tonight?”

Sarah worked steadily on her Road Trip Activity binder -- and she takes her responsibilities as Navigator very seriously.

Sarah worked steadily on her Road Trip Activity binder — and she takes her responsibilities as Navigator very seriously.

“No,” I said, patiently. “We’ll push on through the night and get to Bozeman in the morning. Then we can rest up at the hotel there Thursday night, and get an early start for Yellowstone on Friday morning.”

Lewis and Clark posing heroically ...

Lewis and Clark posing heroically …

As it turns out, Joshua is still suffering from jet-lag from his two-month trip to Istanbul. We weren’t on the road more than 45 minutes before he was curled up in the passenger seat, fast asleep. So I drove as far as Spokane before we switched off.

Breakfast at Perkins, complete with Mammoth Muffins and biscuits with gravy.

Breakfast at Perkins, complete with Mammoth Muffins and biscuits with gravy.

By then, Joshua was wide awake, and he drove most of the remainder of the distance to Bozeman. We stopped for breakfast, with David’s approval (he is the Treasurer and decides how we spend our cash). We made a short detour to the Lewis and Clark Caverns, but decided to pass (admission cost was high, and none of us fancied a two-hour guided tour in the dark on such a beautiful morning). As it was, we arrived at our hotel before 10 am. Their official check-in time is 3 pm, so we prepared ourselves for a long nap in the parking lot. I had called and asked for an early check-in, but the clerk on the phone had seemed doubtful they could get us in before 12:30 pm or so.

David and Sarah were very cheerful, even with only a few hours' sleep.

David and Sarah were very cheerful, even with only a few hours’ sleep.

“It can’t hurt to ask,” I assured myself, and approached the front desk. Much to my surprise and delight, they let us have our room right away! We brought up our suitcases and I took the kids straight to the pool.

... and of course, the hot tub!

… and of course, the hot tub!

We spent the day napping, swimming, enjoying a tasty lunch of sandwiches and snack foods, and watched God’s Not Dead, an excellent movie that was recently released on DVD. We plan to hit the sack early and get an early start tomorrow on our whirlwind tour of Yellowstone.

So far, we've had the pool to ourselves, which has been an added delight.

So far, we’ve had the pool to ourselves, which has been an added delight.

So far, Rachel’s car is holding up very well. With the weight of four of us and all our luggage, plus the car-top carrier full of camping gear, the engine has labored a bit on the steeper climbs, but at such times we all lean forward and chant “I think I can”, which seems to help. The car-top carrier, contrary to all my expectations, has remained firmly attached to the roof; as far as I can tell, it hasn’t slid backwards at all.

Rachel's little car sees the light of a new day, dawning!

David stretches his legs at Lewis and Clark Cavern.

Morale is high, in spite of weariness, cramped quarters and my broken toe. David and Sarah haven’t complained even once, and the dread words, “How much farther?” have not yet been spoken on our journey. The road trip activity binders that Kathy created for the kids have kept them almost fully occupied, which makes Joshua and I very jealous (we were not given activity binders). Joshua and I (in the moments we were simultaneously awake) have made progress in settling the age-old question of which vice is the root of the others, Pride or Sloth. Speaking as I do with considerable expertise in both fields, Joshua weighed my words carefully.

Montana is beautiful country, if a little more rugged and brown than the scenery our Washington-bred eyes have come to expect. We are looking forward to the various attractions of Yellowstone, tomorrow — hopefully I will get a chance to take some pictures to share on this blog.

Tim

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Tennessee or Bust

Although it feels like it’s still the middle of summer, our hearts are turning toward school. At least for Joshua and Rachel as Union University begins classes on August 19th.

image Packing up!

image Road trip snacks

Tonight Tim, Joshua, David and Sarah pull out (in Rachel’s little Kia) for parts east/south. We were incredibly blessed by some friends who serviced Rachel’s car last night and got it all ready fo a big trip (and life in a college town).

They’ll make a stop in Yellowstone and then head on to Jackson to drop Joshua off on campus for his Life Group retreat.

image Love the new Starbucks mug Joshua brought me from Istanbul!

Rachel and I will head out next week, meet up with my mom and Daniel in Michigan and then drive to Union.
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Sarah makes sure we don’t forget bug spray.

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Rachel didn’t think this sword would fit in her car, but Joshua wanted to try.

Such exciting times and changes for our family. Next year will be so different with Joshua and Rachel both in college and Daniel full time at the vocation school.

And off they go…
image Joshua doesn’t look too sure about this trip.

image And with Tim driving (broken toe and all), who can blame him!

Praying for a safe trip!

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Duckabush Week

I downloaded the WordPress app to my phone. I’m eager to try blogging “on the go.”

This has been such an incredibly gorgeous, busy, full summer for our family! Daniel and Joshua have both been traveling. Rachel graduated from high school and finalized plans to head to Union University in the fall, and we have spent many many days at the lake, beach and pool.

We had a wonderful week on the Olympic peninsula in July.  The kids all went off to day camp at Wilderness Northwest and the moms enjoyed lots of down time.

We drove up to Mt. Walker one afternoon.

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Back at camp Grandpa made an appearance as the king of the jungle.

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Rachel was the only counselor from our family this year as Joshua was in Turkey and Daniel was in Seattle at World View Academy. We were missing several of our CITs, but Jenny and Luke joined Rachel in making it a great camp for the kids.

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Of course, Zoe is always one of our favorite little campers.
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The weather was a little chilly (pretty much the only week in the whole summer that was cold) but we managed to have smores and play outside with friends.
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We had some kids in a camper, others in a tent on the deck, more in the house, and still managed to make sure the moms all got their own space.

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Definitely one of the best weeks of the year. Huge thanks to Jody Weed and Kara Boone for running the camp, Ray Canterbury for working with the counselors in training, Rachel and Jenny and all the teens for serving the campers and making it fun, and all the other many people who give of their time and effort.

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Happy Birthday, Squared!

Today is a very special day in our household — not one, but TWO birthdays shared by Kathy and our ‘caboose’, Sarah.

I spent my time on the train today poring over old photos of our family. I built this slideshow to show how loved Sarah is by our family and by her many friends; there were so many photos, I had to limit this first presentation to 2002-2005. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more in the upcoming days.

You can switch to full-screen mode by clicking on the icon at the bottom right of the slideshow.

Sarah turns twelve today, and Kathy turns, well, a few years older than twelve. Both of them keep our family young with their joy and enthusiasm. Truly, their birthday is one of the high points of the year — and no less this year with the lovely summer weather we have been enjoying. And of course, Kathy and Sarah share a love for celebration and traditions, which makes it even more fun.

One tradition I started (in our home, if you do something once, it is halfway toward being a ‘tradition’) with Rachel was the “Twelve things I love about ____” blog post, so I must not be remiss in telling these twelve things about Sarah.

Twelve things I love about Sarah

  1. She has great childlike faith.
  2. Whenever Sarah is sad, or worried about something, she usually confides in Kathy or me. Since we try to be a praying family, our solution is often to pray for her. It often impresses me that Sarah is comforted by our prayers for her, knowing that the matter has been brought to God’s throne, and it is settled. She knows her Bible and dearly loves Jesus, and so she doesn’t seem distressed if there is no immediate relief from the sorrow or concern, but faithfully trusts that God will answer our prayers.

  3. Sarah is very persistent.
  4. In less than two weeks, Sarah will complete her fourth year of IXL math (although she has accomplished this in only 2.5 years). In this time she has completed 41,700 problems, many of them quite difficult. I require my kids to reach 100% mastery on each IXL skill, and they are not allowed to use calculators until they reach high school math. Sarah steadily works away at her math, and I am very proud of her.

  5. She observes and doesn’t rush into trouble.
  6. Like her oldest brother (Joshua), Sarah has the personality of an observer. She doesn’t like to leap into new things without gathering information, and she avoids a lot of grief (and some sin) by being a bit more careful about what she does and says. I really admire this trait in her.

  7. Sarah is a loyal friend.
  8. It is very interesting, watching Sarah navigate the complicated and sometimes drama-filled waters of friendship as she enters middle school. Over the years, my youngest daughter has had many good friends, and she tends to those relationships carefully and loyally. She tries hard to avoid gossip, and she is willing to rebuke a good friend when necessary.

  9. She is tender-hearted.
  10. Sarah takes after her mom in mercy, and she is careful of the feelings of others, even when they are callous toward her feelings. Time and again I have seen her exercise compassion to friends and relatives, even when they didn’t deserve it.

  11. Sarah is joyful.
  12. Sit quietly in the same room with her, and you’ll soon hear her singing whatever song is playing in the sound track of her life. Sarah is seldom gloomy or sour, but instead the joy of the Lord flows out of her, usually in song.

  13. She is patient.
  14. As the youngest child in our family, Sarah receives more than her fair share of criticism and correction, but she often bears it cheerfully and simply waits for her turn, and isn’t unduly upset if she never gets a turn at all.

  15. Sarah is content.
  16. Some people are high-maintenance, but not my twelve-year-old. Leave her alone and she’ll soon find something to do with her time, whether reading or writing an email to one of her friends. She doesn’t demand to be constantly entertained by others, but quietly expresses herself in creative ways.

  17. She is crafty.
  18. Not the devious kind of ‘crafty’, but creative and clever with her hands. Sarah is always drawing or making something beautiful, and she doesn’t seem to mind if it doesn’t turn out perfectly. Her mind seems to constantly produce new ideas for her hands to execute.

  19. Sarah is submissive to parental authority.
  20. Some children resist and oppose their parents, assuming that they know best, or suspecting that the parent does not seek the best for the child. But Sarah trusts and respects us as her parents, and takes it to heart when we correct or rebuke her. It is a delight to parent a child who trusts in this way, and of course it makes me want all the more to be trust-worthy and faithful as her Dad.

  21. She is generous.
  22. Sometimes the youngest in a family will seem a little spoiled, and occasionally greedy, but not Sarah. She loves to buy presents for her siblings and is unstinting in spending her money on them. I am proud of the way that Sarah shares and gives to friends and family so generously.

  23. Sarah is a good communicator and an excellent listener.
  24. I am often struck by the maturity and wisdom she exercises in communicating with friends and family members. But Sarah is also skilled in patiently listening to others.

Now that I finished, I went back and read the blog I wrote about Rachel — it is interesting to see how many things overlap, between my two girls. I guess it is no accident — after all, they roomed together for many years, and Rachel has faithfully taught Sarah many of her strongest virtues.

Happy birthday to both of you, Sarah and Kathy!

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The musings and ravings of a bloggart family