Most of the folks with whom we shared our vacations plans thought they were great. In fact many of our friends sounded envious as we described our planned trip to The Grand Tetons and Yellowstione National Parks. “What a fun vacation!”, they said. Or, “Wow, it’s beautiful there!” . That is until they learned we were driving. All the “Wow’s!” turned to “You better get a DVD player for your van or you’ll never make it!” For some reason the thought of six people and all their gear packed into a ’98 Toyota Sienna mini van sent most of our friends into a litany of “how it will never work” admonitions. I believe most of our friends started to seriously doubt our sanity. But we didn’t cave in. We did not purchase a DVD player for the van. We did, however, stock up on games, coloring books, books on tape and snacks. We could hardly wait. Our anticipation was rising (ok, maybe anticipation is not the correct word…perhaps anxiety would be better.) The chicks were planning all the things they could do: horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, drawing in their nature notebooks. The Knight and I were thinking of all the things we could do, also: sketch, take photographs of God’s awesome creation, hike, rest. What were we thinking?
Six people in a Toyota mini-van…I have a whole new apreciation for the word “mini”. Thank goodness we purchased the Yakima case for the top of the van…otherwise we never would have made it. As it was there was hardly any space to move…every entry or exit from the rear of the van required a complete shuffle of the gear stored in the center aisle. The Boy was NOT pleased. His long legs could not stretch out, he could not recline or move his seat in any way (Big Sis’ was right behind him with even less leg room). The girls in the back had it even worse…they brought their backpacks un-wisley (and much advised against by Mother Hen) stuffed with too many books and toys in addition to their pillows and blankets.The space behind the driver was packed with baby gear…Tink didn’t care about leg room. The shotgun position was no better…I brought my bag filled with my sketching things and magazines to read (what was I thinking?) in addition to my purse, the bag containing our toiletries/blowdryer and the Knights bag with his computer (for downloading all the pictures he was going to take) and my three pairs of shoes (one can never have too many shoes on vacation, right?).

Well, once we were all packed in like sardines it was time to hit the road. We decided to leave in the evening after AWANA thinking that the chicks would sleep…more importantly that Tink would sleep through most of the drive through Nevada and Utah. She did–not waking up until Elko, NV. I wish the same could be said for the other kiddos…awake off and on for most of the night–except Big Sis’… that girl really loves her sleep–and finally awake for the day by 5 am…barely into Winnemucca before they were asking if we were in Utah yet. We had breakfast and then it was back to driving…our destination for the first day… Salt Lake City… was only a few hours away. We stayed the night and left for The Grand Tetons on Friday morning. We arrived in Jackson Hole, Wy sometime after lunchtime…what a cute little town…it is touted as the last “Real” Western town…yeah, right…that “Gap” on the corner of the main square is SOO Western! And the Hagen-Daz ice cream shop is just what I think about when someone says, “Old West”. Traveling through Utah and Idaho we saw some beautiful country but little of it compares to our first view of the Tetons. “Wow!” does not truly describe how beautiful they are.

We spent three days traversing the park, eating bad, totally overpriced food and viewing God’s magnificient creation up close and personal. We saw a mother moose and her calf…every day. Bison were all over the place and elk and antelope made a few appearances. But the real treat was Yellowstone.

It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. The geological and geothermal features are just awe inspiring ( not to mention a little unnerving…most of the Park is in an ancient caldera…yes, you read that right a caldera…the opening of a volcano. And this volcano IS expected to erupt again…someday). We didn’t actually view alot of the features…the overwhelming sulfur smell made it impossible for The Boy to even get out of the car. But, those features we did see were astonishing. One of my favorites was the “Cooking Hillside”. Here the soil tempurature was so hot all the tree roots baked, killing the trees leaving the landscape looking like the game Pick-up-Sticks. However, it was unnerving when I, wondering how warm the ground was, touched a grassless spot and quite easily noticed the diference in temperature from the surrounding ground. I did the same to a crack in the asphalt parking lot…it was a lot warmer thatn the surrounding asphalt, too! The other unnerving site at that location was the steam rising from a markedly eroded storm drain…makes you wonder what’s going on not far under your feet. To get a good view of the storm drain and other pictures of our trip go here.

Our trip include many memorable moments from the bison following directly behind us down the middle of the road, views of nesting Bald Eagles and swimming Trumpeter Swans, the snowstorm that caught us heading up to Mammoth Hot Springs ( we didn’t make it and had to head back out of the park along a stretch of road requiring snow tires or chains only—we had neither, just the very capable hands of the Knight at the wheel), The Boy and Knight fly fishing along the Madison River (in 40′ weathe– while I sat comfortably in the car with Tink!) and many days of rain. But best of all is knowing that we were creating memories in the hearts and minds of our little chicks. Someday the Knight and I will go back…alone…to sketch and photograph and enjoy all the aspects of these beautiful parks. Until then we’ll peruse the photo’s and play National Park Monopoly and just remember how much fun our Road Trip was.

originally posted 6/8/05