Sometimes we get suspect looks when we tell people we have taken (or are taking...) our child to Las Vegas. We've taken her twice already, and we've passed through one other time. There's actually quite a bit of stuff to do in and around Las Vegas that doesn't involve gambling or partying it up. Here are some of the things that we like to do when we visit...
The Hoover Dam
This is always a must with K. I believe on our first trip with her when she was 3 that we visited it almost every single day! Some of the parking lots once across the dam are free.
The powerplant tour is pretty reasonably priced. ($15 Adults, $12 juniors) We've done it twice with K. One day we will visit when she's old enough for the Dam Tour, and we'll do that one, too!
Definitely, weather permitting (like, not in summer!) walk the bridge to see it from that perspective.
The High Roller at Linq
Somehow we managed to not get sucked in on our first trip with K, but earlier this year it was very visible from our hotel. I mean, it's Vegas. We opted for a day time ride and had the cabin to ourselves. It's definitely a little pricey, but there always seem to be discounts available if you know what your schedule will allow.
Volcano at the Mirage
Since there are fewer instances than the Fountains at Bellagio, this one is a little more crowded. We still had no issue find a spot with a good view. (FREE)
Just be aware if your child does not like fire that there may be a little bit of a freak out. K wasn't overly impressed.
Nevada Southern Railway
This weekend-only train ride is about 35 minutes. ($10 adults/$5 kids) Some Saturday's have story time on the train.
We happened to be on board during a storytime ride. There was also a small craft to go along with storytime. K was 3 at the time and she very much enjoyed the experience.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
We really only went to Lake Mead for two reasons.
1 - K wanted to get in the lake (we let her put her feet in)
2 - We wanted to do the Junior Ranger program.
Brian Head Ski Resort - Around 3 Hours Drive
Our last trip to Vegas was in February so we popped over to southern Utah for a day of skiing and snowboarding. The conditions were great as it was snowing while we were there. Compared to many ski resorts we have been to the lift tickets were very reasonable. Kids 5 and under are FREE!
Zion National Park - Around 2.75 hours Drive
Again, in Southern Utah, Zion was definitely one of our favorite Vegas side trips. It was a very, very hot summer day when we visited so we chose to do the Narrows Hike. It's in the Virgin River in a slot canyon. K was 3 so we did not go very far into the hike since it can get quite deep. K routinely asks to go "hike in the river" again. Be sure to pay attention to the forecast and/or advisories because flash flooding can occur. We also participated in the Junior Ranger program.
KPipe Spring National Monument - Around 2.75 hours Drive (Near Zion)
We were already close by Pipe Spring in Northern Arizona due to spending the majority of our day at Zion. It's very remote and we had no cell phone service, but it was a neat place to learn about. They, too, have a Junior Ranger program. K got a private tour of the house by the Park Ranger.
Mojave National Preserve - Around 1.5 hours Drive
Located in Southern California, Mojave Preserve has all sorts of things to see! I wish we would have had more time there, but we had dinner plans in Vegas. The Junior Ranger book was fairly easy for K. She loved seeing all of the Joshua Trees, sand dunes, and cinder cones. I think we will return at some point when we have more time to explore.
Death Valley National Park - Around 2.25 hours Drive
Death Valley is also in Southern California.
So going in the summer when it was beyond miserable out was probably not our best idea ever! We did have so much fun though. The heat did keep us in more than out exploring so this may definitely be a better winter destination. K participated in the Junior Ranger program here as well. We did manage to see many of the highlights such as Badwater Basin during our time there.
Yes! We absolutely did it! We first visited Alaska in 2008 on a roundtrip cruise from Seattle. We always said the next time we chose to go it would be one of the one way cruises. Fast forward 10 years and a child later...
We knew 2018 was our year so we began researching, price watching, and saving at the beginning of the year so that we could jump when the opportunity came, and it did in late May. So rather abrubtly we found ourselves on a flight to Seattle to catch a shuttle bus to Vancouver. K has flown a lot so she's a champ when it comes to long flights. If your kids aren't, no worries! Tablets, coloring books, and snacks are all your friends!
We chose a hotel in Vancouver that was only a few blocks walk to the cruise terminal. It was a quite easy walk even with luggage when it came time to board the ship. We found everything that we needed in Vancouver was very walkable - dinner, drug store (for Kinder Surprise Eggs, of course!), and Tim Horton's! We would definitely like to return to Vancouver for a longer visit at some point.
Being on East Coast time we were out an about quite early on our morning of departure. We saw both our ship (Princess Cruises Star Princess) and a Holland America ship arrive. K had contained her excitement fairly well until we were scoping out the ships from Canada Place. We are uncertain if it was because we were face to face with our ship or the chocolate doughnut we allowed her to have for breakfast. She put on quite a show for passengers waiting to depart the ships.
We boarded Star Princess for our Voyage of the Glaciers cruise around lunchtime. We departed Vancouver for Ketchikan a few hours, and it was smooth sailing! Our cell phone plan has service in Canada, but be mindful of roaming charges when having a plan that does not. We easily had service through the first night and perhaps early the next morning. As the morning progressed the ship was in more open waters so there was no more smooth sailing! We have cruised a fair amount so it did not bother us much but I could see if one had not cruised much that it would be uncomfortable.
Ketchikan was our first stop. And in true Alaskan fashion...rain. Nothing a little rain gear could not fix. K enjoyed the free pass of jumping in all of the puddles. We had never really decided what we wanted to do or see so we just walked around. We walked all over the immediate area including Creek Street. K loved all the totem poles everywhere. We visited on Memorial Day so the (Tongass) National Forest Visitor Center was not open. They do have a Junior Ranger program for kids so that is definitely on our agenda for next time! I did notice when we got back on the ship that there is a free shuttle to Wal-Mart. I mean, if you're crew or you forget something, I bet it's great to have that option.
Up next, Juneau. We had promised K earlier this year that we would take her gold panning when we visited Alaska. We did the math and ended up booking a cruiseline excursion (vs. on our own) due to onboard credit. We chose an afternoon tour since we had quite a bit of time in port, plus it was less expensive. We walked to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum ($6 adults, FREE kids) to check it out. It was small but had a few interactive exhibits.
From there we wandered by the Governor's House then back through town to the ship for lunch. After lunch it was time for excursion, when we checked in with the attendant we discovered we were the only three on the tour!! This trip with visted the AJ Mine. I cannot remember exactly what the cost was but it was truly quite reasonable especially considering we had a private tour. The tour consisted of an underground mine tour, a presentation about the mine under a heated canopy, and panning for gold in a heated trough. The young ladies that worked on the tour helped K pan. She loved it! It's HER gold, just ask her...
We still had PLENTY of time for exploring after our tour so we opted for the Alaska State Museum ($12 adults, FREE kids). We had a wonderful time learning about all things Alaska while there. We did not have a ton of time there before closing, but we felt like we got to spend a decent amount of time looking at the exhibts.
Then there was Skagway. Unfortunately for many, the train was not running that day due to a rock slide. Fortunately for us, we had secured a car rental before we even left South Carolina. Our first stop of the day was to the Visitors Center for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (free) for K to get her Junior Ranger Badge. Now, we have been to A LOT of National Parks, and we have never seen a visitors center so busy! We assumed that perhaps it was a direct correlation with the trains being canceled for the day. They have many first come, first served presenations throughout the day. Those tickets are handed out from the visitors center. We picked up the rental car, stopped by the grocery store (There's an IGA), and headed towards Carcross.
It is an easy drive up. We saw a bear. K wanted to snuggle it...uh, no! (But it's just so cute...) We arrived in Carcross, Yukon in time for lunch. It has changed a good bit in 10 years. They now have a built up tourist area with some shops and a visitors center. I suppose built up may be an exaggeration but it definitely has more facilities than it had 10 years ago. We ate lunch at Bistro on Bennett. The food was good, K ate well-that's always a plus! The locals pointed us to Caribou Crossing. So what the heck, we visited 10 years ago and may as well take K. Still looked relatively the same to us....Caribou Crossing is the lunch stop for most, if not all, of the cruiseline tours.
We hopped back in the car for a little more interesting scenery of Emerald Lake and the Carcross Desert. We spent a little more time at the desert to let K run around a bit. While we were there the naturalist from our ship stopped by with a guest. We got to chat with her for a few minutes. It was quite enjoyable. Upon leaving we made our trek back to Skagway with a stop for a photo op at the Yukon sign and then the Alaska sign. The car rental for the day was around $150. Yes, steep for a day rental, but much less than the cost of a cruiseline excursion to the Yukon.
The next two days may possibly be our favorites! Afterall, we were on a Voyage of the Glaciers cruise! First up, a day spent sailing in Glacier Bay National Park. The Park Rangers were on the ship for the day (and so was the Junior Ranger program!) offering commentary and a booth set up indoors with park information and cancellation stamps. Our favorite glacier from the day (hands down) was Margerie Glacier. It felt like the port side was glacier viewing for so long! (It could be because a tender was taken down for photo ops for the cruise line.) We honestly could not tell you how many times the glacier calved when we had a front row seat. When the ship was turned for starboard side viewing we took K to the pool. It wasn't so much because we were done gawking at the glacier, but K had been doing adult things all day so we rewarded her.
Then day two of glacier viewing was in College Fjord. We sailed by LOTS of glaciers on the way to Harvard Glacier. It was equally as stunning as Margerie the day before. Lots of icebergs and calving to be seen (at least on the day we visited)! The viewing time was competing with dinner so when the ship turned for starboard viewing it was time to dash! Who wants a grouchy, hangry child? NO ONE!
The next day meant our cruise was over. It was bittersweet that our time was over on the ship but exploring the vastness of Alaska was up next. We took a shuttle from Whittier to the Anchorage aiport for the rental car then on to Denali National Park ($10 adults, FREE kids)! Oh my, it's a long drive but so worth it to see Denali. We got a clear, picture perfect view which we later learned that most do not get especially on the first shot!
Due to work schedules and having to return to the East Coast we did not have the opportunity to take one of the Denali bus tours. With what we got to see, we felt the park itself was lacking. We are not willing to "write it off," but we will definitely plan around a bus tour next time. K got her Junior Ranger badge and got to see Denali so she was completely satisfied with her trip! Now, I will add that that far north in June the sunset was at midnight. It never actually got dark. It was so strange to experience that.
Back to Anchorage for a night before our journey home...Our hotel was beside the seaplane base. So $90 later we found ourselves flying above Anchorage in a DeHavilland Beaver. It was so cool! K had asked when we were in Vancouver to fly but it was way more expensive there than Anchorage. It was such a perfect way to end our trip to the 49th state.
K rocked our time in Alaska. We were a little nervous as this was her first non-Caribbean cruise. We honestly did not love our first cruise there ten years ago. It was our first trip on Princess, and we will be back!!! Probably next summer, on Star, roundtrip from Seattle...
We saw bald eagles, moose, bear, deer, whales, sea lions, and on and on! Princess is absolutely solid on their Alaska presenation. They had naturalist presenations and other Alaska themed presenations and activities throughout the week. Oh, and puppies! They did have sled dog puppies onboard for a little bit in Skagway. (Bittersweet-when we were heading to the ship to be able to see the puppies we got the call that our dog was not doing well. He passed away overnight that night.) We had the privilege of sailing with Captain Michele Tuvo. He leads his ship well. Our interactions with him as well as watching him interact with guests throughout the week alone sold us on sailing with Princess again!
50!!! Every single state!!!!
I was probably in middle or high school when I decided it would be cool to visit every state. I am not certain that I ever believe it would be a reality. Lets break this down....at 11, I had visited as many countries as states--5. I would guess 8 by the time I graduated high school, and 2 more by the end of college. I was out of college (with "my own money") by the time I started checking them off. We had managed to get to roughly half of the US before our daughter was born. I was largely pregnant when a friend said, "K's going to be the only kid that starts kindergarten having visited all 50 states." I laughed because I knew it would not be close, but she knew better. It was on. (For the record - 43 was where K stood starting kindergarten.)
We are always intentional about incorporating learing with our travels. We pulled K out of school after a half day on Friday so that we could make it to Berea, Kentucky to have dinner with Friends and, ultimately, to just outside of Cincinnati for the night. Our first round of learning was at the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. The Junior Ranger booklet was fairly easy as most of it worked in conjuction with the house tour.
K was much more interested in our next stop - Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. To be honest, I think it was our favorite as well! Due to the small amount of time we had to spend all of our time was spent at the Wright Cycle Company complex. The downstairs of the visitors center has information and exhibts about the Wright Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Wright Cycle Company is next door. The Junior Ranger booklet here was slightly tougher than the one from the Taft house, but still not hard.
Many of the exhibits are interactive. We circled back to some of them multiple times because K loved them so much. We really enjoyed the video about the Wright Brothers at the visitors center.
We crossed into Michigan around 4 PM on September 1st! We were all quite excited because that meant 50 states for the two of us and 49 for K. In hindsight, we wished we had planned a little better to have visited Michigan prior to taking K to Alaska. That would have meant states 49 and 50 would have actually been states 49 and 50. Oh well....... Anyway, we often laugh a little how our 50th state is a state in our own timezone.
Our final stop on our drive up was at River Raisin National Battlefield Park. Now, we are not so well versed in the War of 1812. We have learned about it here and there, but we are much more versed in the Revolutionary War or Civil War. We got there around 45 minutes before closing time so our time was very rushed. We, unfortunately, missed part of the video. We did learn that there are some major improvements coming to the park in the near future. We hope to visit again once the park is made more similar to how it was at the time of the battle. We were able to walk the small trail before leaving. I want to say it was about a .6 mile loop. We did it fairly briskly because we were certain a storm was rolling in. Maybe we bailed before it happened, but we never actually saw any rain.
Sunday brought new adventures! We headed over to Ontario to visit Point Pelee National Park. We were not quite sure what to expect, but we really enjoyed it! I am certain that we will return for a longer stay. The drive over to Leamington is about an hour and a half from Detroit. We crossed into Ontario via the Ambassador Bridge. It was quite possibly the easiest border crossing we have ever encountered - both directions. We sat in line to get into the parking area of an amusement park longer than the cumulative amount of time crossing the border.
We had never visited that part of Ontario before, and there were lots of crops and greenhouses in the area. It looked a lot like parts of Iowa. We made a stop in Leamington at a store to pick up a picnic lunch and headed to the park.
From what I recall, entrance fees were fairly reasonable. We have a Parks Canada pass so I am not certain exactly what the daily rate is. First stop...lunch. We chose to have our picnic at Northwest (I believe) Beach. We could not have asked for a better lunch view. There were a handful of picnic tables still open on the beach. Here's were things went south....we did not have our swimsuits! I got fired as the family travel agent. hahaha. Seriously, in my research I knew about the tip and the marsh but somehow never saw anything on the beaches. Come on, we are not mean parents. Shoes and socks were off and we at least waded in the water.
There were nice facilities for changing, rinsing off, and restrooms - wait, washrooms...we were in Canada. :)
The Marsh Boardwalk area has some construction around it so the main parking lot there is closed, but the trail from the beach to we were at to the boardwalk was an easy walk. The tower is currently closed with the construction. It was neat to walk along the boardwalk and see the lilypads, cat tails, etc. There are canoes available for rent if one wanted to canoe out in the marsh.
Next up the tip! There is a shuttle from the visitors center down to the tip area. The ride was approximately 10 minutes. The first announcement was in French. K looked confused, and we were acting as if we knew exactly what was being said....:) The park advises against swimming or even wading in the water at the tip due to the currents. There have been a number of drownings that have occurred due to people not adhering to these warnings.
Once off the shuttle there is a large "42" marker for crossing the 42nd parallel. There is also a sign about being in Carolinian Canada. Being Carolinians we had to take that photo op. Getting good photos at the actual tip was a little tough because, afterall, most people are there trying to do that!
Wild Ontario was in the park while we were visiting. They had a small falcon and an owl out for viewing, and small hands on area with wings, claws, etc. Honestly, seeing the owl up close was very neat.
July 13-18, 2016
Ok so...we just got back from our first trip to Las Vegas in 10 years. We went with some of our dear friends for a belated wedding celebration. (The groom is a Las Vegas native.) As crazy as this sounds, even with our 3 year old in tow this was our favorite Vegas trip yet!! It was our third together and first with little K. Many people thought we were crazy for taking little K there. Honestly, there is much more to Las Vegas than just the strip. We actually only went twice the entire trip each for a very brief amount of time. When it came time to leave little K was asking to go back and we are ready to take her back. We chose to stay at the Fiesta Henderson this trip because of its proximity to our friend's parents house along with having little K with us. We would definitely stay there again in the future.
We took a 8 am Southwest flight direct from Atlanta to Las Vegas so we arrived around 9 am. After getting the rental car our first order of business was a Starbucks run, of course. Little K was already snoozing in her car seat before even getting to Starbucks. Stop number two was lunch with our friends and his little brothers at In N Out....again, surprise!!! Right?? We headed to the Hoover Dam for the Power Plant Tour after lunch. My word was it hot out there. The Hoover Dam is always once of our stops on every trip. We were actually there multiple times this trip.
The second day eastern time got us, we were up by 3:45. We made the best of it and got an early start over to Zion National Park in Utah with two things in mind the Junior Ranger Badge and hiking some of the Narrows. Check and check. We opted to purchase the annual park pass for $80 because this one trip alone would be valued more than that if priced individually. From Zion we drove down to Pipe Spring National Monument in Arizona. It was neat to see and little K even got a private tour of the fort by one of the park rangers. We got back to Las Vegas at about 8:30 pm. It was quite a long day.
Day three brought sunny, hot California. We visited Death Valley National Park where the sign at the visitors center said 115 at 9 am! It was almost like being in another world. We had a good time and we would likely go back, but not in July! That evening started the wedding celebration festivities. And afterwards, like late, we went to the strip. Little K got to see the fountains at Bellagio and then we heard, "I'm ready to go." So we got in all of that mess for one song...yes.
Number four...story and craft time on board the Nevada Southern Railway. It was fun for the cost, but not the best train ride we have ever been on. We would do it again if little K wanted to on the next trip. I know this will come as a surprise, but we ended up at In N Out again for lunch. Then later on in the afternoon more festivities.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area was on the agenda for day 5. If any of you guys are looking for the Junior Ranger Centennial Badges, they have them!! We had to run to the Hoover Dam again to get "presents" for little K's school mates before day 3 of the festivities began.
There is the quick overview of what all went on while we were out west, but I know you guys really just want to see the K Cam pics.
Hoover Dam (and the hotel pool???)
The drive to Zion, Zion, and Pipe Spring
Las Vegas sign
Lake Mead (Thank you, daddy...)
It is a beautiful day here in South Carolina!
We decided to take a trip about 30 minutes from home to Ninety Six National Historic Site. We had visited last summer for little K to get her Junior Ranger badge, but this time our "goal" was to complete the Centennial Junior Ranger Booklet ahead of our trip west. This was our fourth visit to a National Park Site during 2016 - Lewis & Clark National Historical Park in Oregon, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Washington, and Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas were the other three. (Come on, it is the Centennial year for the National Park Service. Visit all the parks!)
Here are the photos that little K captured this morning...Complete with the obligatory leg shot to start. Enjoy!
Next little K will be visiting Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and California. We will see you soon!
We decided that little K was old enough for her own camera for family vacations. Enjoy. :)
Germantown, Tennessee May 28, 2016
Crater of Diamonds Murfreesboro, Arkansas May 29, 2016
Hot Springs National Park Hot Springs, Arkansas May 30, 2016
The ride home through Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia May 31, 2016
Stay tuned for more installments of the K Cam as the summer goes on.
Well good evening!!
I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted. Ok, truth be told, I can. I completely missed my last trip update. Make that two.
We took a wonderful 8 night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas in November 2011. Shortly after we returned home I found out that by November 2012 (August actually...) there would be Baby B taking over our house. My new hobby was spending tons of time on BabyCenter because I wasn't exactly the most kid friendly. We took a baby moon up to Niagara Falls and Toronto in May 2012. I was still glued to BabyCenter so no updates then either.
It's 2013 and I will keep up with this blog better...I hope.
I want to do three trips this year. So far, I've only got buy in for one.
I'd like to donate more money to Royal Caribbean! (Already over ruled on that one so far...) I figured that we should do the Bahamas weekend cruise since Baby B needs to have her first out of womb cruise experience. Mommy needs a beach. :)
I know this will come as a huge surprise to you all. I want to go to the Yellowstone area. Baby B needs to learn to appreciate it from a young age. There is a canin near Island Park, Idaho calling my name. Plus, we need some practice flights as a family.
And, finally, the only thing with buy in...London!!!! Baby B will be joining us for a trip across the pond for the wedding of a lovely friend we made on our European cruise a few summers ago. I. Can't. Wait!! We will be visiting in November. I have already started on my must see list. My most recent addition - the Harry Potter studio!!!! I didn't even know it existed until a week or so ago. So what else would you guys recommend? Baby B will turn 15 months while we are there so please keep her in mind.
As I had posted previously, we decided to go back out to the Yellowstone National Park area for latest vacation.
September 3, 2011 - Driving and Flying...then driving some more.
A 9 am flight from Atlanta meant a 4:30 am wake up. We should have just booked a hotel in Atlanta the night before, but we procrastinated too long to get the Park, Sleep, Fly deals at a reasonable price. The drive to Atlanta was uneventful (thankfully), and we parked the car at The Parking Spot 2 since I had printed a $5.99/day coupon earlier in the week. We hopscotched across the country from Atlanta to Chicago to Denver to Jackson. The flight to Jackson was delayed a little so we arrived around 5 pm. I was not expecting that airport to be so small!! But it did make getting the bag and the rental car a breeze. We arrived at the cabin we rented in Idaho about 9 pm and called it a night.
September 4, 2011 - YELLOWSTONE!!!!!!!!
We finally got out of the cabin about 9:30 am and headed straight towards the West Entrance. Our plan was to hit Norris then work our way back down through all the geyser basins. We passed a VERY crowded Gibbon Falls, then attempted to visit the Artist's Paintpots...got quite lucky at Norris and actually found a parking spot. Made the decision that the geyser basins should be avoided, but since we were parked at Norris may as well wander the Porcelain Basin since we were too tired to walk it on our 2010 trip. We opted to visit the Back Basin later in the week (which we never got around to visiting...). After Norris, we decided to adjust our day by heading to Tower, out of the North East Entrance for some lunch, down to Canyon in order to cut back to Norris to call it a day. It was a pretty fun drive through the park. We saw lots of waterfalls, beautiful vistas, a petrified tree, and a LOT of bison. We stopped for lunch in Cooke City, MT at a place called The Bistro. The food was pretty good, but not quite what we were expecting since the word "Bistro" was in the name. (Perhaps we have worked in Greenville too long...) For the record, we were able to stop at the Artist's Paintpots and Gibbon Falls with no crowds on the way back towards the West Entrance.
September 5, 2011 - Operation Avoid Yellowstone: Virginia City and 1959 Earthquake Area, Montana
The crowds at Yellowstone were awful due to the holiday weekend so we were off to visit the old gold mining town of Virginia City. We thought it was slightly creepy there...interesting and creepy at the same time, actually. The city is pretty much a museum. There are lots of old items, furnishings, and displays from the city throughout its history. My favorite part of the day was visiting the earthquake area. In August 1959, there was a 7.5 earthquake that struck Hebgen Lake. It was nearly midnight when the earthquake occured. The quake caused a large portion of a mountain to give way sending the debris to the canyon below. The debris dammed up the Madison River creating Earthquake Lake. There was a campground at the base of the slide area. Twenty-eight people died from the landslide or from other injuries caused by the quake. We stopped by another campground to see a huge fault scarp. It was amazing how "fresh" it looked after fifty-two years! We visited Hebgen lake to see the destroyed highway and houses that had fallen into the lake. We hiked at Refuge Point to see the Ghost Village. Ghost village is a collection of cabins that were lifted off of foundations when the dammed Madison River formed Quake Lake and settled in the valley once the spillway was made by the Army Corps of Engineers.
September 6, 2011 - Geysers, Hostprings, and Animals...oh my!
We started our day by driving Firehole Canyon Drive. The falls were so beautiful! We tried to visit many of the "side streets" off of the Grand Loop as many of the roads were closed during our first trip to Yellowstone. Our next stop was the Lower Geyser Basin. We were most intrigued by Red Spouter. It was a huge, hissing fumarole this time of year. Since we visited it early spring last year, the Red Spouter was spouting boiling, muddy water. Firehole Lake Drive was incredible. There were many hotsprings right beside the street. We happened to be in the right place at the right time when White Dome Geyser erupted. There was only one other person at the geyser with us (and several others closer to their vehicles). It is incredibly nice how few pepole there were nearby compared to the "main" geyser basins. The Firehole Lake and Hot Lake area was our first favorite experience of the day. The size and heat were pretty amazing. (I am completely amazed by the thermal areas anyway, by far my favorite part of the park.) We headed to Gardiner, Montana in hopes of having lunch at Rosie's. Rosie's was closed!!!! We ended up eating at the Town Cafe...wow. I'll leave it at that...We missed Rosie's! We changed into our swimsuits after lunch for a dip in the Boiling River. YNP allows swimming where the icy Gardiner River and the hot Boiling River mix. It is such an odd feeling to have one leg FREEZING and the other in really hot water. When we arrived in Mammoth after our soak in the river, there were Elk just hanging out by the road. A park ranger was out to make sure no one got too close to the Elk. September is their mating season and the males can be quite aggresive. While at Mammoth we wandered around the terrace areas for a little bit before heading out of the park. On the way out we stopped by one of the springs right near Madison junction and saw a wolf and a dead bison...I think Kevin liked the bison the best...He took lots of pictures of it.
September 7, 2011 - More Geyser Basins!
First stop...the Midway Basin to wander the boardwalks. The Midway Basin is home to Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. They are both beautiful and large. There were many people on a rock behind Grand Prismatic getting an amazing view. We were jealous! We knew of the rock, but did not know where to find the trail. We left Midway Basin enroute to Biscuit Basin and approached the trail (Fairy Falls) to get to the rock! DETOUR!!! We only went far enough down the trail to reach the trail up the rock overlook. The view was absolutely stunning!!! After our detour we headed to the Biscuit Basin. We saw both Mustard Spring and Jewel Geyser erupt while there. The West Thumb Basin was our next stop. The West Thumb Basin is at the edge of Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Lake is an alpine lake. It is so cool how the cold lake water and the hot thermal water are in the same area. It was getting kind of late in the day so we decided to make our way back towards Idaho. On the way we stopped at the Upper Geyser Basin to see Old Faithful erupt. There was a storm in the area so it was amazing to see the white plume from Old Faithful in front of the dark storm clouds! The temperature dropped dramatically because of the storm. We had to pull out the fleece pullovers when we stopped at the Black Sand Basin before leaving the park for the day.
September 8, 2011 - Canyon and Cody!
We started our day by headed straight to canyon area. Canyon is Kevin's favorite area of the park. We took the trail to the brink of the lower falls. The view was incredible! Our next stop was to the Mud Volcano area. The area is highly acidic (and stinky!) and there are spots in the parking area where the asphalt has been eaten away. Our first Yellowstone traffic jam came after we left the Mud Volcano area. It probably took us over an hour to get through it. The bison that were in the fields beside the roads were funny to watch. The were grunting loudly and rolling around in the dirt. We ended up having our picnic in the car since the bison kept playing in the road for so long. We stopped by the Fishing Bridge for a few pictures before heading towards the East Entrance. We saw lots of thermal areas along the lake shore. It seemed like it took forever but we finally reached the East Entrance and headed towards Cody. Cody was not what we had pictured!! Not in a bad way or anything, but it was just way smaller than we thought it would be. We got out and looked around at the Buffalo Bill Dam. We ate dinner in Cody, and then headed back towards Idaho. It was a LONG drive! The bison were STILL in the road when we got back to that area in Yellowstone. There was much less traffic so no huge traffic jam this time. We finally got back to the cabin around 10 pm.
September 9, 2011 - Just taking a drive...
We got up and decided we wanted to drive into Montana for the day. Helena or Bozeman were our choices. We ended up choosing Bozeman just because it was closer. Bozeman was bigger than we had anticipated. We had an AMAZING pizza at a place called Buffalo Bump Pizza Deli. We ordered the Big Sky Bird which had buffalo chicken, grilled chicken, bacon, fontina, and mozzerella! YUM! We wanted to call it a day early since we needed to pack. We stopped in West Yellowstone to mill around before heading to pack. West Yellowstone has bunches of those shops like Myrtle Beach and Gatlinburg. Nothing too interesting to us so we headed back to the cabin about 4 or so.
September 10, 2011 - Is it really time to go home??
We left the cabin bright and early to head back to Jackson. It was a nice scenic drive. Maybe we just noticed more of the scenery since we were not as tired as the first time driving through. There was some sort of festival at the square when we got to Jackson. We wished we would have had a little time to check it out. We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Well, until we encountered the large group of people that could not figure out the self check in kiosks at the ticket counter!!!! Security was a breeze, ate a quick lunch, and then boarded the flight for Denver. Vacation was over. :( It was as if someone had pushed fast forward once we arrived. We got to Atlanta around 9 pm, picked up the car at The Parking Spot (only $50 for the week!), and headed back to Anderson.
It was so nice that more of YNP was open this time than our last visit. We managed to see almost completely different things than our first trip. We could probably visit there every year and still find new things to visit.
Now...where should we visit next?
My mind is on Yellowstone!!
It seems vacations are always planned just when you need them the most. I actually think this one is probably a little delayed past the "I need it" point! It also seems that once vacation time arrives it suddenly vanishes. As the days left until departure are dwindling, I still have a few things that I need to finalize before our departure.
So who is an obsessive planner when it comes to vacations? Not me! Friends would probably say that I do have everything planned, but I don't plan everything. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing right?? Is it really relaxing to have every minute of the day planned? I would have to say no. We go into our vacations knowing what we would like to do but without a rigid schedule.
For example, I have to nail down flights, lodging, and rental car. I just need ideas for other aspects of the vacation. I want to spend time in Yellowstone. I would like to visit Virginia City and Quake Lake. For the life of me I cannot commit to whitewater rafting.
ADD Moment - I forgot to call the cabin rental company again!!!!! I said almost every day this week that I need to call them. Maybe next week...
Ok - back to whitewater rafting.
I need to make a decision. To be honest, I am a little nervous about it. I have never been, and I know the water will be cold. What if I fall out of the raft? I am not the most athletic. Am I going to have to paddle the raft? What if...what if...what if... I could be over analyzing everything. (I would never do that, right??) My cheapness, errr...budget minded thought process has me questioning how much is an acceptable price to pay for a 2-3 hour trip. (For the record, the cost is not that high about $40 per person.)
I am also extremely excited about the cooler temperatures and low humidity! It has been a miserable summer in Upstate South Carolina. We had many days of 100 degree temperatures. I think the temperatures should be in the 70s when we visit Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
We are not flying from our home airport on this trip because of the drastic difference in airfare. Wow!! I cannot believe how expensive it is to park at the Atlanta airport now!!!! Luckily, I found out one of the offsite parking lots is selling spaces for $5.99 per day. I think that will be our best bet since our trip is 8 days. The cost will be about half of what we would pay at the airport.
Sorry for all the rambling, but I am just a wee bit excited about the upcoming vacation. Hope that everyone has a fantastic weekend!
For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with maps, globes, and wanting to see the world. Now I'm trying to make all of those childhood dreams into a reality.