As much as I enjoyed driving down the whole state of Wyoming, as I wrote about in my last post, I paid for it. I woke up the next morning in our Evanston hotel, with such a stiff neck and shoulder that I could not turn my head. I knew I would not be driving anymore. We didn't have too much planned for our trip that day. We were on our way home. We were going to be back to my parents' home by afternoon.
Well, when we got to the Park City exit, which we were not planning to take, Jeff spontaneously took it. He said, "Let's take the kids to the Alpine Slide!" I wanted to say that although usually this would be a great idea, me and my neck would not be able to deal with the Alpine Slide. Instead, I agreed that we should go. I figured that no matter what we did, my neck would hurt. Why should that ruin everyone's last day of vacation?
I called my mom, and told her we would be a lot later than afternoon. We didn't actually arrive at their place until almost midnight.
On their first trip down, Jeff and Riley rode together.
And there is Emilee and Kaitie too.
As soon as they were down, they got back in line, and rode back up to the top.
Riley didn't ride with her dad anymore. She loved riding on her own.
Those two dots on the Zip Rider are Emilee and Jeff.
There is Riley, watching her dad coming in for a landing.
I took a few pictures. I wandered around. I made calls. I sat in the shade and watched people. I shopped a little. After some hours, Kaitie came to be with me. It was a decent enough day for me, and a GREAT one for everyone else.
My mom was still waiting up for us when we arrived. All of us love staying at their summer place.
The next morning, we went to church with my mom and dad. After that, we drove all the way home, in time to see this sunset.
This is the last picture I took of Jeff with his "vacation face."
At our house, we know the vacation is over when the dad shaves......
We started off our last morning in Yellowstone, by seeing a bald eagle. It was hard to get a picture of him at all, but Emilee captured it a little better than I did:
This last day of Yellowstone, really consisted of driving through it and taking the southern exit toward Jackson. Well, we made one big stop, because the girls thought they might like to swim before we left.
Before I go on, I want to write about Riley for a second. She is seven years old. In some ways, she acts younger than that because she is the youngest in the family. In some ways though, she acts much older. Riley packs to prepare. She thinks ahead (for "emergency" situations) more than any seven year old I have ever known. When we needed band aids, Neosporin, sunscreen, or cortizone we knew Riley would have what we needed in her backpack. I believe she always had extra batteries as well. She was the first to let us know when we needed to stock up on water bottles again. What a girl! I just wanted to add this bit of information, because I refer to "our favorite nurse" during this slide show of our stop.
As we finally drove south, the clouds gathered. We were going to stop for a picnic in Grand Teton National Park. Well, it rained all while we drove through there. We ate some snacks in the car, but we didn't really stop until it was clearing up.
The mountains were amazing in the background. This picture doesn't do them justice. It just shows that the weather was very different than the morning. I had never seen these mountains before. Jeff told us he floated down the Snake River right by those mountains when he was younger. This was nostalgic for him.
I tried to capture it from the car window. Emilee and Riley said they thought that was where the Grinch lives!
They loved getting a little cold.....
We finally stopped for our picnic in Jackson. I hadn't been there before either. I know we want to go again. Our stay there was very short.
We went to a visitor's center. The girls checked out the animal displays. We had been seeing live animals in Yellowstone, but not standing next to them and seeing how huge they really were.
Or how scary they really were!
I just had to take a picture of the antler chandelier.
Soon, we were on the road again. Our reservation that night was in Evanston. I drove that day. Wyoming is gorgeous. I like driving in places where I have never been. I like not knowing what is coming up around each bend and turn of the road....
On our second Yellowstone day, we first went to the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. This is a really beautiful area.
We couldn't figure out why this stunning blue pool was called "Black Pool."
Traveling from the West Thumb to Fishing Bridge, we took this picture out the car window.
This is Yellowstone Lake from another view. That thing is huge! Riley had a Jr. Ranger page that gave her ideas what animals to look for. There was also a place on there to tally how many animals she saw. She was really into this activity. She was hoping to see a pelican in this area.
Although I knew what was going on in Riley's mind, I could not say the same for what was going on with Kaitie and Emilee right then.
When we got going again, the road we traveled on was next to a river. I saw what I thought for a minute might be a duck, but it turned out to be a .....
Yay! My girls teased me at how I exclaimed about that pelican. Hey, I was excited for Riley to get to see what she was looking for.
We even got out of the car to see that pelican, and take that picture of it. If we had audio with this picture, Kaitie could be heard quoting Nemo a time...or two...or three, "That's not a duck, it's a .......PELICAN."
So, did you see the news about the woman who was just attacked by a bison at Yellowstone? She unwisely got too close to the animal, and she is lucky to be alive. We looked at the bison from some very safe distances....
Can you see the black dots in the background? I loved looking over at the hills covered with bison. I imagined that is how they looked when this land was first discovered. (I think Riley added hundreds of tally marks to her page here.)
Okay, we saw this one, and several others up close like this. I didn't zoom or crop here at all. This was right out my car window. There was a group of bison that swam across the river, and got out to walk across the road. I spoke to a woman on a motorcycle out my window as these huge animals walked by. The woman was about ready to climb into our car with us!
This is in the canyon area. We loved this waterfall. It seemed to have green and white stripes.
This is down the river a bit from that waterfall. This is The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
The next part of our summer vacation, after seeing Ryan and Brittany in Rexburg, was a visit to Yellowstone.
Two years ago, I had my first trip to Yellowstone. Jeff and I were there that summer with just Emilee and Riley, while Kaitie was in Utah at EFY. (Ryan actually joined us for one day in Yellowstone that trip too.) So this was Kaitie's first visit to Yellowstone.
(Side note: Ten years ago, we took the kids on vacation to Hawaii. We went to Oahu and Maui, so we didn't even get to half the islands. I'm not complaining, of course. It was an amazing trip. I recently expressed the desire to go back. Jeff said he didn't feel the need to go back to Hawaii, because he had already seen that. When we were planning our summer vacation, he said he really wanted to go back to Yellowstone, even though it had only been two years since our last trip. He said he didn't get a chance to see all of it. I don't think our Hawaii conversation is over yet.)
When we got into the park, we did what tourists do and headed straight to Old Faithful.
The benches were mostly taken, so we found a little spot right on the board walk, to wait for the big event.
Old Faithful still looked like this, and we knew it would be awhile yet. (Actually, we really knew from looking at the big clock which tells the approximate time of the next eruption....)
Jeff and Kaitie went and found treats for us, while we waited. (I remember last time we were there it was gray, cold and rainy, and people were eating ice cream. I thought it was crazy! The ice cream was great on this very warm day.)
It wasn't long before we got to see the show we were waiting for!
Next, we went back to the Midway Geyser Basin. I wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, among other things. I took this picture of Jeff and the girls because I thought it was the last I would see of them for awhile. They were going faster than Riley and I were.
Riley and I stopped to enjoy the steam, even though it was a hot day. This was by the Excelsior Geyser. I guess it used to erupt, but hasn't since sometime in the 1800's. A lot of steam comes off of it, constantly. Riley thought it was a little spooky.
This is the Grand Prismatic Spring. Of course I didn't take this picture, but I just wanted to show the aerial view.
This is how it looks from the boardwalk that runs next to it.
We did catch back up with Jeff and the girls, but it was when we were all on our way back to the car.
I liked this view that overlooked the river, especially with these two in it!
This is one of the places where the boiling water runs into the river. I went down to the river on the other side, so I could feel the temperature of the water. It was just as I thought it would be....warm, and comfortable....the right mix of hot and cold water.
So, in my last post, I wrote that we had a mini reunion with Jeff's family in Salt Lake City. Ryan and Brittany joined us for the afternoon. They mainly did this because Ally was flying out of Salt Lake City the next morning, rather than continuing on to Idaho with us. She had to get back to work.
We went to the Salt Lake City airport the next morning, and said goodbye to Ally. Well, she and I exchanged many text messages, as she endured the airport madness, and I crossed from Utah into Idaho.
We were trying to hurry to Rexburg, because we had only a couple of small windows of time to see Ryan and Brittany. We arrived perfectly to check into our hotel, and then pick them up for lunch. After our big burgers at Big Juds, we had a quick tour of their apartment. Their place seemed just right for their circumstances. Modest, but livable. Cute, but with enough issues that they will have stories to tell about it in the future. (Jeff and I started out our life together as students. We still tell stories about the first couple of places we lived.)
Ryan suggested to us some activities for the afternoon. He had to go to work. As we walked back to the car, Jeff asked the girls what they wanted to do. They surprised us by asking if we could just go back to the hotel. They were exhausted from our trip so far. We ended up resting for awhile, and swimming at the hotel.
That night, we returned to Ryan and Brittany's place, where she had prepared us a really good dinner. It was a nice, relaxing time where we ate together again and did some more catching up. It is strange how quickly this year has flown by. Ryan and Brittany have their first anniversary coming up next month.
This is the picture I took of them, right before we left that night. Aren't they cute?
The reunion with my brothers and sisters (last post) ended much too soon. We had to be on our way though, to yet another reunion.
We had told Jeff's mom that we would be passing through Salt Lake City, on our way to see Ryan and Brittany in Idaho. We let her know that we would only be there for one day. Apparently she got right to work in planning a mini reunion for that day.
We met at the park at noon, and stayed until the sun was nearly down. It was a really nice day.
Riley was especially happy to see her Grandma.
Riley was introduced to the homemade foosball table. I don't know how old that thing is, but it is still fun to play with.
I don't know the name of this other game we played (ladder golf maybe?) This picture doesn't show it perfectly.
Maybe you can see that Kaitie is on the right hand team, and is taking her turn to toss the little rope that has a golf ball looking thing on each end. She was on a team with her cousin there in the blue shirt. Emilee is way to the left, with Cousin's Girlfriend, waiting for their turn to toss.
What? Who is this? Ryan and Brittany! We were on our way to see them in Idaho, but they came for the picnic in Salt Lake City as well. It was such a bonus.
Ryan came, so he would have a chance to see Ally. This was the last day of vacation she could spend with us. She had to get back to work. She flew back to Phoenix from Salt Lake City, rather than continuing on to Idaho.
Of all the teams that played this silly game, I might have liked this one the best. I loved all the teams, of course. Ryan and Riley though, have a 17 year age difference. They don't get to interact that much. I enjoy seeing them get a chance to bond here and there.
We had some water fighting too.
The girls almost wouldn't pose for this picture, because I had a camera in one hand, and my water gun in the other. They thought I was trying to trick them!
Riley played with cousins she hasn't seen a lot.
It didn't take them too long to break the ice and get playing.
I found that I was in trouble when facing these partners in crime!
I was in even more trouble when Ryan ditched the little guns in favor of throwing whole cups of water. There aren't pictures of that, because I had to defend myself.
I found the best protection of all was to hold this sweet little girl who I met for the first time on this trip. Did you know I am a Great Aunt? (I've been that for nearly as long as I have been married actually. Jeff is the youngest in his family, so the dynamic is very different than in my family.)
Here is Riley having a talk with her uncle. This is as cute to me as watching her play with cousins.
It was also nice to see Jeff having the opportunity to catch up with his family. Since his mom has started spending winters in Arizona, we just haven't gone to Utah as much as we used to. I guess we need to do that a little more. We appreciated that mini reunion.
(Ryan and Brittany had to go home a little early. They had so much to do. I nearly cried when I realized that we hadn't taken any family pictures. I had fully intended to get pictures of all of us together, and I let that get away from me.)