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Vacation Recap, Part 6

After a lovely breakfast at the ranch in Wyoming, we got back on the road again for day 6 of our trip. Our first stop was the lovely town of Jackson.

Before we even got to Jackson, though, we got distracted! We happened to be by the Museum of Wildlife Art. Kiddo1 had seen a flyer for it earlier in the week and seemed pretty excited about it, so when I saw a sign for it on the road I had to stop!

Kiddo1 had a great time checking out all the art. The museum had an awesome sculpture gallery out front with life-size replicas of all sorts of local animals.

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Sculpture time!

Inside, there were several galleries of paintings and sculpture to feast our eyes upon. Baby2 enjoyed running the halls (the perk of visiting a museum on week days!) while Kiddo1 soaked in all the pieces. His favorite was this large painting of a wolf.

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Admiring

One of the things we were doing on this trip was to try to find all the “World’s Largest” things we could. We already saw the World’s Largest Egg in Winlock, WA and, you could argue, the World’s Largest Superfund Site  in Butte, MT (even though Superfund is a US thing), so we needed to keep the momentum going.

Luckily Jackson did not disappoint, for it holds one of several Riley’s Believe It or Not museums which is a treasure trove of weird and large stuff.

Feast your eyes on these many large things, shown in small images:

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Big things

Clockwise from top right we have: the World’s Largest Bed Pan Collection, the World’s Largest Belt Buckle Collection, the Word’s Largest Cigar, and the World’s Largest Fishing Creel! All totally expected from Ripley’s, no?

What led us to this museum, though, was the main attraction. Presenting… the World’s Largest Ball of Barbed Wire!

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The main attraction should really have better lighting

Now we’ve really seen some cool stuff! Or something like that.

After the museum we needed to get some lunch and we were just about totally out of food. Luckily we found a great place for some burgers! It was called Liberty Burger and it had grass-fed beef burgers and game. It was nice to be able to find something right there in town that we felt good about eating!

We also got to go by the second grocery store that I was super excited to visit, Jackson Whole Grocers. I was glad I did a little reading about it beforehand because it had just moved and Google Maps was not at all updated yet. The new store is big a beautiful! I can’t compare it to their old one, but when we met up with friends later that night they told us it is a big improvement! We found a couple snacks – we didn’t need much since we were on our way to said friends’ place down in Pinedale, WY.

Pinedale is a very small town about an hour South of Jackson. It does have a brewery, though! We were meeting our friends from home who had moved out to Wyoming a couple years ago. We brought them lots of yummy Pacific Northwest beer. They showed us all the beautiful hiking and scenic viewpoints near their home. Kiddo1 floated in the river (I have a picture but it’s stuck in the lost camera memory card!) and Baby2 watched a little kid catch a fish! They don’t have much beer but they do make up for it with scenery! We had dinner at this sweet little place that is along a lake, the only access is a very long gravel road. How they manage to get good food down there is beyond me! Probably via boat on the lake.

While stopped in Pinedale we unloaded the car and cleaned it out so we could reload it again. No matter how well you pack there’s still a need to shift things around now and then! Surprisingly, though, the back of the van was in pretty good shape. We cleared out the bits of trash and dirty clothes but there wasn’t much! We did a couple loads of laundry (one load of clothes and one of diapers) and settled in for the night with friends, recalling our days of living in the same town and talking about how different small town life is for them. Even though it is different, they still super love it! It was nice to see them happy in their new town.

Tomorrow we start the last leg of the trip, making our way home.

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Vacation Recap, Part 5

Day 5, over halfway done! I feel like I’ve been writing about vacation forever so I hope it is easier to read!

Today was full of more Yellowstone adventures! We made breakfast and cleaned up camp pretty quickly in the morning so that we could make sure to fit in as much site-seeing as possible. It was much cooler for our second campground breakdown than it was for our first one in Yakima! That definitely made the work easier.

We took a clockwise route along the main Yellowstone park road starting at Madison campground. There was so much to see! We stopped as much as time would allow, since we knew it would take at least a few hours to complete the whole loop in the park. Plus it actually took more time than we calculated because, even though they tell drivers over and over to pull over rather than stop in traffic when you see wildlife near the road, people stop anyway! We passed by a large herd of bison which was amazing but slowed us way down! But we stopped to appreciate it anyway.

Another time the traffic slowed way down and there were people pointing at something in the near distance, but we could not figure out what it was! Tons of people were stopping. I kind of wonder if there’s a “mod mentality” thing that goes on there sometimes: people see other people stopped so they stop to see what the other people saw. It it an interesting phenomenon there!

My plan was to show our Yellowstone adventures just in pictures, but would you believe it I can’t find them! We used our phones to take photos almost everywhere on our trip, but since Yellowstone doesn’t have any cell reception (which is both fantastic and frustrating) we took almost all our pictures with our Cannon D40. But somehow I’ve lost the memory card. I’m sure it is around the house somewhere… I hope! When I do find it I will update this post with all the amazing images we saw in the park!

The pictures would have showed a cool sulfur pit. It smelled really bad but it was all smoky and erie. And there was a bison just chillin’ in the middle of it all! Clearly the bison didn’t mind the smell. We saw a bunch of little geysers and hydrothermal features. I liked the places that had boardwalks so that you could get to the main attraction – they had to have boardwalk because the ground is too acidic to walk on! Funny that we saw two very acidic sites (the Berkley Pit and Yellowstone) but both are the way they are for very different reasons!

We could have spent another few days there easily, but we had so much to see elsewhere too! We noted the places that we want to come back to and the places we missed. We hope next time we can spend a couple days in the park and stay at at least two different campgrounds or hotels in the park so we’re not rushing around the loop the whole time.

After the awesome and super large Yellowstone lake came the Tetons, awesome and super as well! We had an excellent view of them both from the road and finally from our hotel for the night which was a charming little ranch about an hour South of Yellowstone. Quite a view! (You can tell we’re out of Yellowstone because we have pictures on our phones!)

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Getting stormy, just after we settled in at the ranch

We didn’t have time to try out any horseback riding or other ranch animal fun while we were there, but we did enjoy the full-service restaurant where we had filets, potatoes, and fresh salads before bed. Finally, a meal we didn’t have to cook in a place that had some non-super-processed foods! Which was great because we were just about out of food at that point!

We met a few fans and alumni of Auburn University while we were at the ranch. Mr. Handsome is a big Auburn fan, always wearing his fan gear everywhere we go, so of course we are bound to run into other Auburn fans here and there. They are always the nicest people to talk to. The conversations usually start with where everyone is from and how we all became Auburn fans. It’s always interesting to hear about the people who are often just as obsessed with Auburn as my husband!

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A lesson after dinner

We hung out in the lodge for a bit after dinner but we were all pretty tired from all the nature! I’ll write all about our more relaxing day 6 next time!

Vacation Recap, Part 4

After our good times with friends and good food stores in Montana, we headed out for a full day 4!

Our first stop was the Berkley Pit in Butte, Montana. home of the Evel Knievel festival that we missed by just a week (but one of our friends went and it did look like a good time, although one you would probably want to go sans children). But we did learn all kinds of interesting and weird facts about the Pit: it was a mining pit, one of the richest in the country. It’s very deep, I don’t remember how much, but more memorable facts had to do with the toxicity of the Pit. The water is as acidic as lemon juice, even though it is filled with only fresh rain water. The folks that watch over the Pit have to shoot at water fowl (to scare them off) so that they don’t land in the water because if they do they’ll die (right away or later from complications I’m not sure…). And the Pit only has a few years left, I think until 2015 or 2020, until it is totally full and will start to overflow and spread toxic water everywhere. So they are building (or just finished building?) a pump to control the water level. WTF??? I just smacked my head like the whole time we were there. I can’t believe how people screw themselves over voluntarily. But that is probably a discussion for another blog altogether (perhaps one for which the writer can actually remember her facts!).

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Beautiful toxic reflection

All those facts about the Pit were interesting, though, and it was a great opportunity to talk with Kiddo1 about how choices have consequences! Plus they had a nice little gift shop. I got myself a copper necklace and Kiddo1 picked up a wolf tooth charm necklace and a magnet (Kiddo1 and Mr. Handsome loved picking up magnets at almost every place we went).

We had a little picnic before taking off…

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Picnic at the Pit, very amusing

And then did more driving through Montana. It seemed like around just about every turn was an idyllic Montana scene: a small river running through evergreen-covered rolling hills with a mountain in the background. If only the road pictures could do it justice:

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Montana!

Our last Montana stop was at the Southern-most tip of the state, that little bit that hangs down between Idaho and Wyoming. There we stopped at Earthquake Lake for a little break and some education before heading into Yellowstone. Earthquake Lake had all kinds of interesting and depressing facts too!

The lake was the site of pretty severe earthquake back in the 50’s. It occurred in the middle of a busy summer night in which the whole area was full of campers. The articles said there were even people camped by the roadside because campgrounds were full and the weather was beautiful. There was no moon that night, it was super dark, and all of a sudden this huge quake hits. They call it “the night the lake tilted” because apparently one side rose by like 20 feet I think, causing the lake’s dam to spill over (although it did hold even though it suffered significant structural damage) and all kinds of violent water sloshing. Geyers in Yellowstone erupted and aftershocks continued for months. It caused millions of dollars of damage, even in the 50s. A few dozen people lost their lives and the survivors had to huddle in the near-pitch darkness and wait until morning until they could both be reunited with their families and seek medical attention.

Luckily our time at the lake was much more pleasant. We toured the Visitor’s Center that gave us all the facts about the Earthquake and took some pictures of the lovely lake.

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Those tree trunks sticking out of the lake weren’t stuck in water before the quake

Then it was time to get into Yellowstone! We were so excited!

We arrived via West Yellowstone so we made Old Faithful our first stop, both because it is also in the West side of the park and because we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it! We only had to wait about 20 minutes for the next eruption so we spent the time in the gift shop (of course) and running into some interesting characters who tried really hard to take pictures of our Baby2. They did ask nicely if they could take her picture but I politely declined. It happened several times while we were in the park, so by the time we left we were ready to be away from people for a little while!

After our gift shop adventure, we found a nice spot to watch Old Faithful, back far enough that we could get a good overall view:

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There she blows!

And we’re glad we were far back because the wind really kicked up and half the people sitting on the benches in front got pretty soaked with sulfur water! Stinky.

After Old Faithful we drove North and tried to fit in the Grand Prismatic Spring, but it was getting to be dinnertime and we still needed to set up camp. Kiddo1 and I rushed through the boardwalks and snapped a couple pictures while Mr. Handsome waited with sleeping Baby2 in the car. We were in a hurry, though, so we didn’t make it all the way back to the Grand Spring, just a few little pools off the parking lot, but it was still pretty cool! We will have something awesome to come back for next time.

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This little pool is a subdued version of the larger spring’s deep blue waters and orange “beaches” of sulfur

After the spring/pools we made our way a couple more miles North to Madison Campground were we stayed the night. We got all educated about what a “bear box” is (we didn’t use it, we just put our foods in the car), bought some Montana-grown firewood and set up our camp and cooking fires.

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Kiddo1 to the right, hacking up a tree stump with the hachet

We made beef stew in the cast iron dutch oven that night and it turned out pretty good. I had seared the meat and combined everything in a large freezer bag and frozen it solid before we left. I kept it at the very bottom of our cooler and it was still a little slushy when I got around to using it. I was a little nervous carrying around frozen beef for that long but we ate it and we’re fine! And it was already cooked so I felt the danger was fairly minimal, given that we were boiling it all again at the campsite.

After dinner we had to have some s’mores, of course:

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S’more and lingering sausage

Then we got everything cleaned up and we headed off to a nature talk at the campsite’s amphitheater. We took a path recommended by the camp director and it was very lovely in the evening!

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Trying to take a picture of Kiddo1 and Baby2 side-by-side but Baby2 was not having it and Kiddo1 had had enough

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Lots of bubblies coming up from the creek bottom

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His must-have standing-on-a-rock picture

We made it to the nature talk… but we didn’t stay very long. Baby2 was not amused and it was getting dark quickly. So instead of sitting with the others and watching the stars come out, we had another lovely walk along the creek back to the campsite. Luckily we had a near-full moon and flashlights to guide us back.

 

It was a great day 4!

Vacation Recap, Part 2

When we left off yesterday we had just finished packing up our campsite in The Inferno Pasco, Washington and were back on the road for day 2. We were sweaty, but on the road.

Day 2 was a short car day. I liked to plan a few short car days to make up for the few long car days we had. We had still packed up the snack cooler that morning with a few things for the peanut gallery to munch on. If they had some snacks we found that they were much more quiet and easy-going. Imagine that! It pays to keep their mouths busy.

Our weird road stop for the day was the milk bottle buildings of Spokane, Washington. They are two buildings in two different parts of town. I’m not sure why they’re milk bottles but they did make for a nice photo opportunity.

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Milk Bottle Buildings!

The neighborhood that the bottle on the right was in was super adorable. Spokane is a pretty cool town. I had no idea it was one of the bigger towns in the area. Even folks from Coeur d’Alene (our next destination) have to go to Spokane for some things.

From Spokane it is a less than an hour to Coeur d’Alene. We were staying with Mr. Handsome’s friends from college who he hadn’t seen for a really long time. They were all so happy to get together! Apparently Mr. Handsome was responsible for his two friends falling in love, so that was a nice story to hear! When we got into town we had lunch at a cool new burger establishment called Crafted.

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Hanging at our lunch table

Then we did a little walk around the very cute downtown Coeur d’Alene. Mr. Handsome’s friends gave Kiddo1 a book about CDA’s own Millie the Moose and Mudgie the Mouse so we went to see a one of the moose sculptures of downtown. Kiddo1 was not into it at the time, hence he is not pictured…

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With Millie the Moose

But he perked up when it came time to peruse the candy shop. Still no photographs allowed of him, though, so I got Baby2 again instead.

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Sugarrrrrrrr!

We hung out at Mr. Handsome’s friends’ house in the evening and had dinner, then a trip on the boat!

Baby2 had never been on a boat before! Our hosts actually had to get a life jacket that was small enough for her. They were so sweet. Kiddo1 did have a blast swimming in the lake. He now thinks lake swimming is super fun. Baby2 was a little timid at first…

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She’s not so sure about this boat

But she warmed up to the idea of aquatic travel eventually.

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Happy!

We ended our evening with ice cream, everyone’s favorite way to end the evening.

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Kiddo1 with Mr. Handsome’s friends’ kids

Although Mr. Handsome and I really ended our day with diaper laundry and an upset little lady. Baby2 was having a hard time falling asleep when we stayed at someone’s house or in a hotel. She did great going to sleep when we were camping though! Luckily our hosts weren’t disturbed (at least they claimed to have not been disturbed). And she did settle down after a bit of snuggling and reassurance.

I mentioned diaper laundry – yes, we still cloth diaper when we travel! It is easy, as long as we can do laundry every other day or so. We keep the soiled diapers in our best wetbag (best at containing the diaper aromas, that is) and we have one backpack dedicated to clean diapers, wipes, covers, and our diaper pad for changes. We’re good at changing a diaper in the car (the minivan provides lots of flat surfaces). I think we have our system down pretty well! I can tell you I’d much rather carry around one cute wetbag with diapers that I know I’ll wash and get all fluffy soft and clean again than to carry around even a few used disposables, or have to stop at a store periodically to buy diapers. Honestly, diapers are no fun either way, but this is my way of dealing with it!

Once all the diapers were cleaned and we were somewhat rested, it was time to start our travels for day 3. We said goodbye to our very gracious hosts and snapped a quick pic of Lake Coeur d’Alene on our way out of town.

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Morning at the lake

We stopped at some of the unique attractions of Northern Idaho! In Wallace, the home of the last stoplight on I-90, we visited a small spaceship!

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Still a spaceship

Kiddo1 says it shouldn’t count as a spaceship because it won’t actually go into space, but what does he know? We grabbed some lunch fixin’s from the trunk and headed over to Kellog, Idaho to see some scrap metal sculptures:

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Scrap metal airplane

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Scrap metal dragon fight

Next step, Montana! And that is where we’ll pick up tomorrow!

Vacation Recap, Part 1

Hi blog! Vacation is over. And has been for awhile now! It is well past time to get back into the swing of regular life again.

There’s so much to post, it is hard to begin. I want to recap as much as I can from what we did, plus I have posts I’d like to finish about how we managed to eat on the road. For now I’ll just jump in and write as much as I can for this part 1!

We started off really well – all packed up the night before except for the coolers and some last-minute items like chargers and soap. We got about a block down the road when Mr. Handsome quickly remembered the only item we all forgot (Baby2’s milk – how could we possibly forget after doing so much prep work for it?) which resulted in a slight diversion to re-position things in the cooler but after a few minutes we were off (again).

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Getting out of town

Our first stop was Mt. St. Helens. We have always wanted to get up there and see all the volcano stuff. It was a foggy day, though, so we didn’t drive up the mountain like we had planned. Instead we hung out at the Visitor’s Center just off the interstate. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was packed full of information! We spent awhile reading about the 1980 eruption, the recovery, and how the mountain has been crazy growing ever since.

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He enjoyed taking pictures of the exhibits

Once Mr. Handsome and Kiddo1 picked up their souvenirs (we have lots of new magnets now) we were off to our second stop: the World’s Largest Egg in Winlock, Washington! It was a big egg in a tiny park nice to very active railroad tracks and a gas station. So of course it sounded like the perfect place to stop and eat lunch. At least three trains went by in the 20 or so minutes that we were there. But we added a “World’s Largest” something to our list of things we saw! And it was a nice day for a picnic: really sunny, light breeze, not too warm. The fog had lifted by then so I bet it was shaping up to be a beautiful day at the mountain! Luckily we live close enough to try another visit later.

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A glimpse of the World’s Largest Egg

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Cute lil park by the railroad tracks

After our two morning stops it was road time for a couple hours. The children adjusted to being in the car really nicely. Baby2 doesn’t really like the car too much but she was pacified by food at first, then toys, then a screen. A little preview of the packing post: we packed a bag of snacks for each day and kept them in a little cooler. Kiddo1 was in charge of distributing snacks (and he did a great job!). For toys I packed  several small bags for Baby2 with random toys in them. She could pull out the toys one by one so she had fun not only with the toy but pulling it out of the bag and discovering what it was. That strategy worked well when used sporadically. When all else failed, though, we had the portable DVD player to fall back on. We only had to use it a couple times, which I found very encouraging!

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Comfy

We passed through Yakima, Washington, where I read there was a new soda fountain just added to the history museum. Of course I had to check that out. We didn’t stop at the museum because we wanted to get to our campsite early, but we made time for a little ice cream.

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Chocolate is our favorite

That night we camped along the Snake River outside Pasco, Washington. The mild conditions at the World’s Largest Egg did not prepare us for the heat of Eastern Washington! Fruit tree country is not all spring days, apparently. It was a balmy 99 degrees when we set up the tent and started cooking dinner. One of the unfortunate aspects of planning a trip to parts unknown is not knowing which campsite to pick: ours was in full sun, which did not make anything better! Beautiful views of the river, though. And the river was literally at the end of our campsite so we could go over and dip our feet in when we needed to.

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Getting the dinner fire going

Kiddo1 did lots of feet dipping while Baby2 watched cautiously. She has been very wary of water lately… we think this might be tied to a similar apprehension to uneven surfaces, like rock or grass. She’s better with grass now but when she has to walk off a nice concrete path she’s very trepidatious.  But that’s okay with me for now! Especially when we were busy getting the campsite set up.

We had our classic camping dinner – sausages and hot dogs cooked over campfire with s’mores for dessert. It was very yummy after a long first day. We broke lots of our food “rules” by having white bread buns and graham crackers (and store bought marshmallows because I never got around to making my own) but it was yummy nonetheless. Plus we did good for lunch – I had packed wraps with spelt flour tortillas, ham, cheese, and homegrown romaine (little did I know how much I would soon miss my awesome homegrown romaine) with watermelon slices.

The campsite was great… but our sleep was interrupted around 2:30 (and 4:30?) AM by what we think was a warning alarm from the nearby dam. A solid tone sounded for about a second and repeated every few seconds for several minutes. The children slept right through it but Mr. Handsome and I were woken immediately. Luckily we’re on the move for this trip so we only had to get through one night near the dam. Live and learn! It was a beautiful site but we will probably choose to camp away from the dam if we were to return to the area for camping.

The next morning Mr. Handsome and I were a bit weary from the sleep interruption (Baby2 slept great, btw, right through everything) but we were excited to start day 2! Unfortunately the environment had yet another blow for us, as it was about 95 degrees at 8 or 9 in the morning when we were again attempting to cook over heat (scrambled eggs and reheated bacon – always cook your bacon before you go camping! So much easier!). Plus we were trying to break down camp. It was so hot! But, we got it all done and managed to get going to our next destination (although we were a bit more sweaty than we expected).

That’s where I need to stop for now. Tomorrow – day 2!