After arriving at our campground the Mountainside KOA in West Yellowstone, we set up camp and settled in. This usually consists of a little cleaning and organizing and me setting out to do laundry and making dinner.
For some reason we can’t time it so that we aren’t arriving right when we are starving for dinner and have no clothes.
Oh well, part of the learning process.
Homeschooling started this week and it was a little dicey – which I will share more about later, but needless to say I was very glad we were going to be staying put for 2 weeks. It would allow us a much needed time to breath and get a schedule along with some sort of structure added to our days.
PLUS, everyone at Yellowstone is SO conscious about the bears – it really had me scared! I was hoping to get out and do some trail running, but I was just too nervous. The kids and I set out on a walk to find an ATV trail and when we stumbled on a WARNING: GRIZZLY BEARS sign, we turned around and quickly walked back.
So one of the first things the boys and I attended was a wildlife talk at the ranger station in West Yellowstone. I actually learned quite a bit and so did the boys. It was a great talk and I felt much better about encountering bears (and the chances of it) and much more confident. The boys got their Junior Ranger booklets and were able to check one thing off their list – hearing a ranger talk!
We sat down as a family and talked about the things we wanted to make sure we saw and of course Old Faithful was big on the list. We also talked about the hikes we would want to do.
This campground was really great for us because it was a “resort” and had a Super 8 onsite. Brandon went right over to talk to the manager about working there and they were more than accommodating. Things are basically clearing out for fall so they didn’t mind him taking over a part of their lobby area. He spent Mon-Fri going to “work” by walking over to the hotel lobby and spending the day working. The kids loved running lunch over for him or just stopping by to say hi. Overall it was great for Brandon to have that focused work time. I think we can say he finally is “caught up” if that’s ever possible with owning your own business.
The first and biggest hike we did was called Fairy Falls. It was labeled an easy to moderate hike leading to one of the best views of the Grand Prism Springs. It WAS a beautiful hike through a lot of woodsy areas up to a gorgeous waterfall but we never did find the view we were looking for. It was okay though, it was fulfilling and long – we hiked about 6 miles that day. The neatest thing was how much the boys talked. Brandon and Alec were in front and Austin walked with me. He told me the entire series of a book idea he has. It was mentally exhausting but so rewarding. Unfortunately we cannot find our gorgeous pictures we took on this hike! It will have to live in our memories for now…
One of the highlights of Yellowstone is of course Old Faithful. We arrived at the visitor’s area thinking we would take this hike to a better view, but we saw that the predicted eruption time was only 30 minutes away and they say its a 10 min window on the front or back and it would take at least 30 minutes to do the hike, so we opted to stay right there, browse the museum and catch the next eruption.
Wow there are a ton of people at Yellowstone! They just started coming out the woodwork crowding all around. And this is OFF season. I cannot imagine what its like during July and August.
Old Faithful was amazing. So cool to see. It is something I have wanted to see ever since I was a kid and I was finally doing it! Austin said it was the best thing he’s done yet (well after Mall of America – ay yi yi).
Check out this cool shot I got! Go Instagram!
Another really cool thing we saw at Yellowstone was the Norris Geyser Basin which is one of the geothermal areas of Yellowstone.
I never knew just how dangerous Yellowstone is.
The boys and I found a book in a gift store called “Death at Yellowstone.” Yikes!
But I digress…
It was a really neat experience to see this and I highly recommend it. Especially as an educational tool for your kids – science! It was so cool to hear about all that Alec already knew about these geothermal areas. He was explaining them to us! I sure don’t remember that stuff from science class.
Later in the week we went over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone which was truly my favorite thing in the park. It was a gorgeous hike down to the lower falls which were absolutely amazing. I’ve been to Niagara and honestly this was better to me. We also hiked to a lesser area near the upper falls and were the only ones on the trail! That was a score!
My favorite thing outside of the actual park of Yellowstone was The Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center. We were able to get the school group discount since we are homeschoolers (score!) and the admission was good for two days. It was amazing. I have a lot of issues with zoos, aquariums and the like so this really made me happy. Rather than kill nuisance bears they have relocated them here and they have given them a very natural habitat to live in. They have done this with wolves and injured birds as well. We were able to watch them do “enrichment” where they hide food and scents all over the habitat and then let the bears or wolves out to “play”. It is also full of quiet signs everywhere to remind people not to stress the animals with loud talking or other noises.
The wolves were particularly interesting and when the boys and I came back the next day we just spent time watching a documentary about the “wolf pack” and their socialization. Alec loves wolves and he took a ton of pictures himself including this one. He was mesmorized and this quickly became one of his favorite parts of our trip so far.
All in all Yellowstone was wonderful, beautiful and full of things we didn’t get to. We were a bit put off by the drivers and the crowds but it was still a must see all around.
Outside of park festivities we celebrated Austin’s 9th birthday, saw a grizzly mom and cub (from our car), had our pipes frozen 3 times and even had a bit of snow. A highlight for Alec was becoming friends with one of the young guys who worked at the campground office, hanging and learning about life and art from him.
You can read more about all of our adventures at my husband’s blog.
In the end, as the cold weather was setting in we debated back and forth about heading to Glacier but as we watched the weather we decided – its a go!
On to Glacier!