Wednesday, August 28, 2013

on the road again

Soooo, we took our annual summer/fall trip to Yellowstone National Park. We started doing this when we moved back to Utah and have missed only one year. It was the year I'd just had little Lou. She was tiny, I was borderline hysterical, and I think Jess was too focused on deciding if I needed to be committed to a mental facility to even remember Yellowstone existed. 

You may remember from last year that we love to stay in the park. At all the main points in Yellowstone, there is some form of lodging, ranging from deluxe and remodeled to a step above camping. Our friend (who hails from Europe) who accompanied us for a portion of this trip asked if our ultra micro cabin built in the 1920s was part of a former refugee camp. Pretty much. Even then, to snag rooms in the park, it requires diligence and months of planning. Jess and I spent far too much time than we'd like to admit waiting for rooms to pop available when and where we wanted them. Mostly Jess. He became the King of Xterra Reservations. In the end, combined, we made 21 reservations. Twenty one. We kept three (one for friends).

The trick is, anyone and everyone can cancel reservations whenever they want up to 48 hours in advance. This includes the giant groups of Asian tourists. So randomly swaths of rooms will open or maybe one here or there. We're also "particular," and prefer our own bathroom. If you're cool showering with the next hippy over, it's a little easier and cheaper. But ask me if I want to haul my kids to the shared bathroom at night? That's called camping. And this, may I remind you, is a step above camping. As in walls. And a toilet. And a really old bed. So whenever anything suitable came available, we'd snag it. Then we dumped the most expensive ones or ones that weren't in our preferred locations.

Anyhow, this year, we spent two nights at Canyon and two nights at Old Faithful. These two areas are probably our favorites, with the Old Faithful area being numero uno. And not because of Old Faithful. While we do love her, there is so much more there. I'll be throwing up another post of our geyser hunting adventures, but for now, a photo dump to keep the grandma appeased. :)

Here we're waiting for Old Faithful to blow.
We told Annabelle we were eating after Old Faithful did her thing.
And no lie, two seconds after it started,
she goes, "K. Can we eat?" 
A pair of eagles. We saw these just minutes after entering the park.
Turned out to be a good omen.
We didn't see a bear, but we did go on to see plenty more wildlife.

Sometimes these girls do not look very related.
Belle looks like a Christensen, Lou looks like a Cheney.
But then sometimes - TWINS.
Jess took the girls hiking while I went running.
Here you have a darling photo, and then..

...a typical photo of Lou.
Bananas. Girl is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

I celebrated my birthday while in Yellowstone.
And this sweet party planner worked on my "secret" gifts
and beautiful works of art the entire week before we left.

She was so excited to celebrate my birthday,
and these pictures are of her watching me open my gifts.
I know these pictures are a little grainy and fuzzy,
but her face. That face. My tender, sweet Belle.
Oh, how I love her.

This picture cracks me up.
This particular geyser is dried up.
I love that they're sitting there waiting for it to wake up.

The girls were obsessed with baby animals.
Any animal that was slightly smaller than others was from this point forward, "a baby." 

Friday, August 16, 2013

happy camper

So we went camping in Bryce Canyon National Park. I'm going to pause here 

and allow those of you who know me to recover from that spontaneous bout of laughter that just overcame you. Because really? Me? Camping? Let's just say I can officially strike "camping" off my bucket list. Okay, let's be real. Camping was never on my bucket list. Camping wasn't even a stone's throw from my bucket list.

Here's what I have to say about camping. It is so much work. There's the initial packing, which takes a list a mile long. Sleeping pads and bags, towels, fifty bazillion layers of clothes, food that can be prepared and cooked without a kitchen, the tent, the tarps, the flashlights and headlamps. It never ends. Then there's the setting up. There's the keeping kids from tracking dirt into your tent. There's the convincing kids to eat camp food. And don't you forget the never sleeping and the smell. Seriously guys. The smell. What is it about about sleeping on the ground that causes one to smell much worse than sleeping in one's bed? Perhaps it's the dirt. I don't know.

I discovered I suffer from a mild case of claustrophobia while camping. Mummy bag = mild panic attack. Not being able to stand up = sudden bout of nausea. Oh, there was also a little rain storm. Jess dutifully scurried out into the rain at 2 a.m. to secure a tarp around us using found items in the car because Boy Scout that's why. And then the rain stopped only to be followed by some windy goodness that blew the tarp around for an hour. I was jazzed to be up for that hour, just thinking about my hip bone carving a nice groove into the ground.

For the record, the girls did awesome. Acted like sleeping on a foam pad in the middle of nowhere was en bee dee. Lou did keep crawling into corners of the tent in her sleep for who knows what reason, but other than that, they were no worse for the wear. Apparently they have absolutely no idea what real camping is. Real camping is not sleeping. 

I just don't get it guys. You save a couple bucks by camping. You get to commune with nature I suppose. But you smell and you don't sleep. And nature tries to destroy you. I say enjoy nature by day and retreat to the Marriott. Or the Super 8. Anywhere with walls. Done and done.

By the way, the reason for this camping? Someone decided he needed a picture of the Milky Way. And welp. He got it. 

I know, right? Almost makes up for the not sleeping. Almost. :)

And now a photo dump. 

This is the downhill portion of a hike that was entirely too long for those short little legs you see there.
But with only a little help, she made it. Bless her heart!

We pulled over to snap a few shots of this pronghorn deer, and suddenly it started running.
Turns out it was running to Mama. Below is Mama with three babies.

I'm not really taller than him. He just regularly stands on the down slope,
leaving me to play the role of giraffe. Happens all the time, I swear.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

pioneer day

So this Pioneer Day, we got creative. We nixed the traditional Days of '47 Parade (I'm going to be real here and admit that I don't think we've ever gotten out of bed for it), and instead looked for something truly pioneerish. Something of historic value. We found ourselves at the site of the Golden Spike, the spot where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads were joined in 1869, creating the First Transcontinental railroad. 

The site features a lovely little visitor's center, full of locomotive knick knacks, as well as a tiny museum with some authentic artifacts and bunches of authentic information. The two train engine reproductions are sitting outside as well, facing each other. They look like they're challenging each other to a duel, I think. 

We went out and had a look and noticed that they were both running. Turns out, because it was a holiday, they were doing a re-enactment. 

We were trying to time it right to get back for the Butlerville Days Parade, but thought we'd stay for a few minutes and watch the re-enactment. We found a place in the shade to watch, and just as we got settled, an eighty-something year old man in period costume shuffled up to Jess and asked if he'd be staying. Sensing he was stuck between a rock and a hard place, Jess mumbled an answer in the affirmative. Then the old man asked if he'd care to assist in the re-enactment.

Jess got to wear a wool coat and a hat and stand in the heat with his speaking part in hand for forty five minutes while they did the re-enactment. It was seriously a hoot. I had the girls and the diaper bag and the camera bag to juggle in the heat, but I managed to snag a few pictures. For my history loving man, even with the immense sweating he did, he had a ball.

We made it back home for a few minutes of the parade, then a big delicious BBQ at Papa's. And then the big inflatable rides at Butlerville Days and fireworks at the end. All in all, memorable, and successful Pioneer Day, especially considering Jess has finally tapped into his acting career. :)


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