We've been home for about a week now from a pretty epic road trip. I packed the car to the gills, kissed Jarrod goodbye, and heading to the wild west with my four little cowboys (and girls). It was pretty wild--especially when you consider the endless hours across a pretty desolate Montana with no cell service. And then we hit the mountains. Hello, beautiful.
We hiked it up to the Glacier Park area, then back down to Big Sky for a few more days, then, because we couldn't very well head home only visiting two National Parks, but we needed to squeeze one more in, we decided to dip south a titch and see what Yellowstone could offer us.
So a 13-year-old with constant ear buds, a 9-year-old with a free spirit, a bossy 7-year-old, and a super intense 2-year-old and one mom head to Yellowstone National Park--sounds like the beginning of a sad joke right? Or a really good reality TV show--but it was real. It was my reality.
And drama, did we love you.
Yellowstone has all the wildlife. We saw exciting things right through the gate--hooray, mom didn't take us someplace boring!
My first impression of the park was a cold, hard memory of me--about Noah's age--sulking bitterly in the backseat with my Walkman blaring, tuning out the sound of my dad's voice urging us to go check out one more flipping geyser. It's kind of one of those funny family memories now, but at the time I had some deep hate for bubbling hot springs and mud pots. My family seemed to be enthralled by the ceaselessness of natural wonder. I, on the other hand, wanted to just go someplace cool, like, somewhere without stinky underground volcanos.
I'm so happy I did not reap what I had sown on that trip so long ago--my kids thought Yellowstone was pretty amazing. And it was until we got to the iconic Old Faithful and drama socked me in the gut outta nowhere.
If you're in Yellowstone, you have to go to Old Faithful. I mean, it's Old Faithful! So if you've never been there, here's the scoop: it's super crowded. Everyone there is wearing their best vacation outfit: "Favorite Dad" t-shirt. Check. Fanny pack. Check check. And there's cameras for miles. Where you park your car is insanely busy. There's busses, vans, and a sea of Thule cargo carriers--my car joined the ranks with his friends. Right off the parking lot is a whole string of shops, ice cream, t-shirts, magnets, stickers, and anything else that will hold a Yellowstone National Park logo. Ya, we bought stuff. When you make your way through the sea of people and souvenirs, you'll find your way on the path to Old Faithful herself.
It's clear as day when you see it. It's surrounded by happy tourists, cameras ready, pencils ready to check it off their bucket lists. My kids were up there, front and center too. They were digging it. Big time.
Those kind ranger folks post a nice big sign when the next predicted eruption of Old Faithful will come. She's supposedly pretty predictable--hence the name. But my stomach dropped when I saw we still had over an hour (+/- minutes) to wait for her to blast off. Travel tip: do not trust the sign.
So, what's a mom alone to do with four kids at a geyser, waiting for it to erupt? That's right, ice cream. I sent Noah with a pocket of cash to run and fetch ice cream for the kiddies to make our wait a little less painful. He was happy to do so. I mean, ice cream doesn't ever become uncool, does it?
You may have guessed--about 10 minutes after he left--the damn thing erupted.
The other two that gave a shit couldn't have cared less--it was sudden tears for both.
He's missing it! He's missing it!! He's never going to see anything like this ever again!
Applause and cheering from the geyser's audience.
Wait! Mom, let me take a picture with your phone--MOM! Your phone's dead! (ya, and the camera was forgotten in the car.)
Tears all around. Yay for Old Faithful.
A few minutes later, I spotted my boy in a dead sprint, his whole body flying through the exiting crowd sans his ice cream filled arms, smiling at his quick pace and for even remembering to get me a treat--which never happens.
When I sheepishly told him he missed it, he didn't believe me. Apparently, sarcasm runs deep and he was trying to call my bluff. No bluff, son, you missed the bloody thing. My mom sonar felt the depletion before I saw it--he was so bummed. And probably a little pissed at me for asking him to get the ice cream.
So we waited for the next one.
I knew I'd be covered in sweat and high fructose corn syrup after another hour or more wait. I knew that Vera would probably fall or throw an epic tantrum and try to ride someone's dog. I knew we'd roll into our hotel super late, but I couldn't pack them up and leave and have that be their memory of Old Faithful. I had to redeem Yellowstone. We waited and listened to the rangers give an interesting talk about bison. And we waited. And we filled out little Junior Ranger books and earned patches. And we waited. And I did run back to the car for my camera and to change a poopy diaper, but other than that, we didn't go farther than a few feet for the not so faithful wonder.
But when she was ready for the next one, she sure put on a show for my kids.
Noah took selfies--like he did everywhere else we were--he's making a photo book I think.
Jack hugged Noah because he wasn't missing it.
Sophia whooped and hollered.
Vera picked her nose.
And I took it all in for a whole 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
On the way to our stopping point for the night, while trying to not hit lazy bison, I thought about when we'll be here again. Maybe never? Maybe ten years? Will Noah ever be here again? Who knows--but he saw Old Faithful because of me. And I felt pretty good about that.
He also missed it because of me, but I was trying not to think about that small detail.
All of us need to call a Mulligan every once in a while. A redo, a second chance, a replay. We don't always get them, but that day I forced one. Because I could. And now we've got the selfie and the story to prove it.
These last few shots are from the next day when we drove through the Big Horn Mountains. Why aren't those a National Park? Big Horns, I think you are totally National Park worthy.
This vacation was so full of beauty. Some of the most beauty I've seen. The miles in the car were long, but exciting too. We packed our 13 days to the brim with wild west things. More on the South Dakota part of our vacation coming next month.
And now, it's almost August. We left and it was summer. We returned and Back-to-School had invaded the Target aisles. Still digging my heels in and trying not to think too far ahead.
Long live summer.
And summer vacations.