We started our trip bright and early Monday morning. We loaded up the van with the luggage, the kids and Utah Dad's parents. As they backed out of the driveway, I was going to move our car into a different parking spot and for just one moment, I contemplated fleeing for a quiet week by myself. But my book was in the van with my family.
After a quick trip at Target for sunglasses and a booster seat (my car has built-in car seats and I forgot that we would need one for Molly in the rental van--a brand new 11-passenger van), we were on our way.
Our first stop was at the Brigham City Temple. As a family, we're trying to see how many temples we can go to this summer. The Brigham City Temple is still the newest temple in Utah and this was our first chance to go see it. It is beautiful and the grounds were lovely.
Our next stop was at the Rexburg Idaho Temple. It too is majestic and stunning. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs. We also shopped for treats at the local grocery store and ate dinner at Applebee's in Rexburg. The kids were feeling a little sick but we treated them with MotionEaze oils and they felt better.
We love to walk around the pathways at The Upper Mesa Falls in Idaho. It's a little scenic detour off the main road and it's worth it.
We didn't stop again until we reached the Western Cabins at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. We checked in, dropped off our luggage and headed out to look for wildlife in the evening light. We were a bit disappointed that we hadn't seen anything. On our way back to the lodge in the dark, we saw a bull elk right beside the road. I rolled down the window and snapped a picture.
Tuesday morning we let Utah Dad's mom sleep in and we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the Snow Lodge. Once we got her out of bed, we set out on a walk around the Upper Geyser Basin at Old Faithful. Neal and Thomas are completely fascinated by the geothermal features of the park so we usually dedicate a full day to looking at the geysers.
We were on the board walk on the southeast side of the Upper Geyser Basin when we saw a grizzly bear with two cubs. She was good at keeping the cubs hidden and you can't see them in the picture below. The bears were about 100 yards away in the trees. We've seen grizzly bears closer on previous trips but we've always been in the protection of our car. It was a little unnerving to realize that we were that close to a bear with only a few hot pools between us and the bear. I also regretted not bringing my older camera and my zoom lenses.
Morning Glory pool is just so beautiful even though it is losing some of it's glory. It's just not as hot as it used to be. We also got to see Beehive Geyser erupt.
I think we stopped to rest near this Mountain Bluebird's nest. She seemed bothered by our presence.
The loop to Morning Glory Pool is about 4 miles and the girls legs were giving out. It was a brutally warm and sunny day. Utah Dad and Thomas hurried ahead to get the van and the rest of us stopped at the Country Store for a rest and to hydrate. It was lovely sitting on the porch, enjoying our drinks and I visited with the manager of the store.
Next we headed to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. We had never been there before in all our trips to Yellowstone (Utah Dad has been there more than 20 times) and it was one of our favorite places this trip. It is along the side of the lake and has beautiful views. Not expecting much, I only had my iPhone camera. It was definitely worth the short walk around the loop.
Black Pool (below) is the hottest pool in the park. A ranger told us that two weeks ago a baby elk calf stepped off the board walk and died in less that two minutes. We could still see the bones in the shallow part of the pool. That freaked us out a little.
Big Cone and Fishing Cone are hot springs out in the lake. The mountain men used to leave the fish on the line, throw it in the springs and let it boil for a minute or two.
We went through Lake (stopping at a store for supplies) and out the East Entrance road to Sylvan Lake. We had a picnic on the shores of the lake. We spent the evening driving through Hayden Valley but didn't see much more than some lone bison. We returned to the cabins after dark and went right to bed. The girls stayed in the cabin with us and the boys stayed in the other room with Utah Dad's parents. The girls got to be extra cozy.
Wednesday morning, we went back to the Snow Lodge for breakfast while Utah Dad's mom (we call her Mamau) slept. Amberly wasn't feeling very well and didn't eat much of her breakfast. We returned to the cabins to pick up Mamau and just as we were loading everyone into the van, Amberly rushed from her seat in the back and threw up. Thankfully, she got it all outside of the van but she managed to get it all over Utah Dad who was standing by the door of the van. He and Amberly went to shower. After they had changed, I volunteered to stay at the cabin with Amberly while the rest of the crew went to see the hot pools and geysers at Midway Geyser Basin. I was thrilled for the break and used the time to read. By the time they returned for us, Amberly was feeling better and we set off again.
We headed toward Canyon Village. On our way to Artist Point we saw a three bull elk along the road and stopped to take pictures.
Mamau just kept walking toward that elk in spite of our warnings not to get closer.
We love the views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Lower Falls from Artist Point.
I captured the view of a rainbow at the Brink of Upper Falls.
After enjoying the views of the canyon and the water falls, we headed up toward Roosevelt and Mammouth. Along the road just south of Roosevelt we were excited to see two black bears within a quarter of a mile from each other. It was in an area where we couldn't stop the car, so I shot these pictures with the door of the van open.
We stopped to eat yummy burgers and ice cream at Mammouth Terrace Grill.
Afterward, we went to see the Mammouth Hot Springs. It was getting chilly so some of us waited in the van while Neal and Thomas and Amberly went on the walk around the springs with Gramps. About this time, I definitely needed a moment alone. I locked myself in a stall of one of the cleaner restrooms that I had encountered in the park and played a game of Sudoku on my phone. Ten minutes later, I was ready to rejoin my family.
Thursday morning we left our cabins and headed south to Grand Teton National Park. The views are always breath taking.
We arrived in Idaho Falls pretty early in the evening. We enjoyed a delicious and filling dinner at Famous Dave's BBQ. After dinner, we took a walk along the beautiful shore of the falls. We enjoyed the views and fed the ducks, geese and gulls. Utah Dad took Amberly, Thomas and Lilly swimming in the hotel pool. Neal watched the disappointing Game 7 of the NBA finals with Gramps. We stayed in the suites at the Best Western Driftwood Inn. It accommodated our large family, had nice amenities including a complimentary breakfast (with cooked-to-order omelets) and a pool.
Friday morning, we went to see the Idaho Falls Temple. We enjoyed the Visitor Center and talking with a Sister Missionary from Guam. The grounds and the temple are just beautiful.
It was fun to have Utah Dad's parents along on the trip. Gramps spent most of the time in the back of the van with the kids. They played all kinds of road trip games and it was fun to hear their hilarious laughter. Mamau spent most of the time in the front seat of the van with Utah Dad who was the driver. I know he enjoyed that precious time he was able to spend with his mom.
Friday was Neal's 12th birthday. I hope he enjoyed his special day.
And at the very last moment of our trip, I had Amberly snap a picture of me (she did a pretty good job). So here's a bit of evidence that I went along. It was worth it. We had a fabulous time and made some great memories together.