June 25, 2009

Ahhhh... Time to Relax

June 25, 2009

Well, we're back off the road from our first family vacation in two years visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Last year Tom and I blew the vacation budget through the roof when we went back to N.C. to see Josh's S.F. graduation. Anyway, this trip with the kids was LONG overdue, and Josh and Jess were even able to join us, driving a few thousand miles from Tennessee for a little R&R before Josh heads off to Iraq next month.

True to form, it rained for the first 3 days that we were there and the mosquitoes were horrendous. Honestly, with our track record here lately, I was really surprised it didn't rain the entire time, but we did luck out and got two really beautiful days at the end.

This was Jess' first time to ever visit Yellowstone or Grand Teton, so that was fun for me to watch her reaction. I could happily spend every summer in Yellowstone and never get tired of seeing all the geysers, hot pots, etc., but the boys/men in my life hate it. "You've seen one hot pot, you've seen them all" is their motto, and it drives me crazy! Braden, as we were looking through the photos I downloaded earlier today, summed it up: "Oh, look. Hot water. And look there, there's more hot water, and more, blah blah blah..." We did the typical touristy thing and stopped to watch Old Faithful. The weather was extremely cold, so as soon as it did its thing we hopped back in the vehicles and were off to the next stops: the geyser basins and mud pots. We turned in to my favorite, but every last parking spot was taken, so we had to move on to the next. By this time the boys were already grumbling to head back to camp, so I knew I had to make valuable use of our time. We hit the next spot, but as soon as we (by which I mean Josh, Jess and myself as everyone else opted to wait in the Tahoe) got out, the skies opened up and started pelting us with hail. We speed-walked to the first mud pot, looked at it bubbling, and then ran back to the warmth of the cars. That was Day 1 in Yellowstone.

The next day we spent in Grand Teton N.P., where we spent the majority of our time at Jenny Lake, my favorite spot in the park. Again, there were no parking spots available at my favorite overlook, but we were able to park further down and still got some good photos. While wandering down at the boat dock, we spotted a mama moose and her calf, although we didn't get close enough to get a picture of the baby, and for that I was relieved! On past trips, Tom has had a nasty habit of thinking he was Marlin Perkins on the old Wild Kingdom show and has gone for extreme close-ups. Last time we were in the Tetons, we spotted a moose quite a ways off the road, and the kids and I got to listen to the other people who stopped to look talk about "that crazy idiot" with the camera trying to sneak up on it. None of us fessed up that he was our crazy idiot!

But I digress :) After the lake, Josh and Jess went to Jackson Hole to look around while the rest of us headed back to camp. We decided to drive to the top of Signal Mountain which gives a great view of Jackson Lake, the Tetons, and the valleys all around. It turned out to be one of my favorite stops of the whole trip, and we think we spotted a wolf through the binoculars, although it was a little too far away to be completely certain.

That night, we had a visitor at our campsite: a huge, hairy buffalo. I was in the camper cooking dinner (and taking a break from the teenagers in our midst, although that's another story! Shall we just say that it's not a pretty sight when a 16-year-old has no bars on his cell phone? Withdrawals are never a pretty sight!) when I heard a lot of shouts and screams, and then Jess came running in the trailer to grab the camcorder. I looked out the side window just in time to see the buffalo trotting past. If the window had been open, I could have reached through and petted the dang thing. I ran outside because I heard Tom yelling "Grab the dogs!" Our little 5-pounds when soaking wet Annie had suddenly turned into Guard Dog mode and was chasing the buffalo, which started bucking at the little furry thing at its heels. It was very scary, and she's probably more than a little lucky to be alive. The funny thing was that Josh and Jess had brought their dog, a muscly, hard-headed 6 month old black lab/pit bull mix, which Annie was terrified of. Every time Bull was around, she'd cower behind us, but bring in a 1000-pound buffalo and she's going to save the day. She's got guts, that's for sure! The next morning the word around the showers was that a bear had been spotted elsewhere in the camp that morning.

The final day the boys all went fishing while we girls headed back to Yellowstone. Savannah, Jess, and I spent a good 4 hours at the Old Faithful geyser basin. We tried making it up to "Observation Point" about a mile hike up a STEEP hill from O.F. to see it from a different vantage point, but we weren't quite quick enough to get there before it went off. We continued on anyway, and also got to see a little geyser named "Solitary," which was very cool. It only shoots up about 4-feet, but you can get pretty close to it, and it doesn't really give a warning before it goes off which pretty much gave all three of us heart failure for a moment! We lucked out on several other geysers that day also, arriving just in time to see the River Geyser, which only explodes ever 5-7 hours, go off, and the Grotto Geyser, which the sign said was "unpredictable" went off as we walked past it also. All in all it was a great, beautiful day, and we girls had a lot of fun! I think in the future I will just leave the boys all home and see Yellowstone without them. :)

That night, the boys brough home their catch: 6 fish. The most exciting part was that Evan had caught 3 of them, which was a first for him - he NEVER catches any when we go fishing. Tom and Josh were trying to figure out how to filet them (I'm not sure what kind they were, but they weren't trout - they were like a mountain white fish) when a couple walking past stopped to see what they'd caught. It turned out that he was a French chef from Colorado, so he ran back to his camp spot and grabbed his knives and came back to filet them for us. It was definitely like watching an artist at work, and he had the most fabulous French accent too, which made him fun to listen to.

Well, there you have it: Vacation, Jones' style! It was hard to come home, but good to be back at the same time. At least here I don't have to worry about bears wandering through when I'm sleeping (let me just say that I can hear any noise, however slight, and imagine that it's a bear in the campsite. Sleep for me was a rare commodity!)

By the way, I'm sorry about the crazy layout here, but blogger is not cooperating and doing what I want!


Jess said...

Every sound I heard was a bear! I had a great time with my 1st Jones' family vacation!!! Miss you guys already! Love you!

Becky said...

Looks like so much fun- I am so glad that you are back though (even though I am sure you are not):). The office has been so lonely without you. Can't wait to hear more about your trip.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

I'm ready to go back. Glad you had fun. I saw a couple of wolves. I still haven't had a chance to look at our pictures yet. I'm going to have to crop some of them. We saw a grizzly, but it was a long ways away. (sniff...sniff)
Like your new pic.

Lo said...

I love Yellowstone, but while at first for me it was all about the hot pots, I'm there for the critters now!
I love you,