I think, at first, he just "yes, dear"ed me because he didn't think I would actually follow through--I'm not exactly an "outdoorsy" person. I aspire to be...I admire that quality in others...but frankly, I really am more of a spa-getaway in a cushy resort type of person. Last time I told him we were going camping, we went, pitched the tent, started a fire, and came home because it was DARN COLD! However, I was determined that would not be the case this time.
He started selling burgers at the farmer's market this year, so our Fridays are kind of eaten up by that, which is why we really needed a long weekend for a camping trip. So Saturday morning, I got everyone packed up, made Rob dig out the camping equipment, and we headed to West Yellowstone, MT. Now, let me say this. I attempted to find a campsite in Yellowstone Nat'l Park, but being that I made reservations the day before the long weekend started, that just wasn't happening. And so West Yellowstone it was. But let me also say I AM SO GLAD! We stayed in a KOA. Which has toilets that flush and showers. After this experience, I am happy to camp as often as my family wants, but I know enough about myself to know that really, I'm a girl who needs the comfort of a flushing toilet. (Side note: I have this weird, grotesque fear that one of my children will FALL IN to a vault toilet or a port-a-john. Worst case scenario--child drowns in pit of filth. HORROR. Best case scenario? Child is retrieved. I spend the rest of my life thinking about that instance every time I have to kiss them for the rest of my life. HORROR. So anyway, flush toilets=GOOD.)
It was a great little campground and we had a lot of fun. I had the foresight to plan our meals before we went and to get everything prepared. Unfortunately, I forgot to have Rob collect the meat for our first night's dinner (foil dinners). Lucky for us, we were only a few minutes out of town and ground beef is only about four times the regular cost when you are in a tourist town on Memorial Day weekend.
At any rate, we managed to make our foil dinners--they need some time to cook and we were already running WAY late on dinner since we had to go to town to buy meat, but luckily the KOA also had a pool which is THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER if you are 4 or 5, and so the kids happily swam for an hour while Dad manned their very late dinners. (And I planned this recipe for the next night, which is a PERFECT camping recipe because it is SO easy to chop and mince before you go, and then just throw in a pan and cook and dinner is ready faster than you can roast a hot dog.)
And this guy was in absolute heaven, making muddy boogers and eating rocks and using his newfound walking skills to meander all over the campsite. Seriously, the little Grasshopper was SO HAPPY to throw rocks and eat grass and dirt and generally be left mostly to his own devices outside, which never happens when you are a baby.
Little Bird was, as usual, oscillating between pure joy and misery. I can't really blame it all on personality this time. He caught a TERRIBLE cough at preschool that week, and by the end of the weekend, we all had it. So whenever his meds wore off (am I a bad mom for still dragging us out when I knew he wasn't 100%...?), things went south. But for the most part, he was sweet and helpful and only occasionally telling me to take him home or that I RUINED HIS LIFE by bringing him into nature.
Squirrel, too, was mostly delightful. I think her favorite part of the whole thing was getting to help make dinners and breakfasts. And s'mores. Good heavens. It is entirely possible that if we had waited four more seconds before we busted out the s'mores, she may have actually died. But she was a great help, especially with her baby brother, who she kept coralled in our site and mostly out of danger.
She was also the one who was up at 5:30 in the morning after our first night there. A night in which I received zero sleep....and yet had to get up with her at FIVE THIRTY. I shouldn't be surprised. That's pretty much been her MO--up with the sun like a spring--since birth. And it IS pretty exciting to be on a camping trip when you are almost six.
The first night was mostly awful. Somehow, I got dealt the child-sized sleeping bag for the Grasshopper and I to share, and it comes up to about mid-torso. And temps were below freezing that night. So I spent the entire night curled in a ball with my tushie in the freezing air, worrying only about the Grasshopper staying warm and dealing with him wanting to nurse about every 16 seconds. The nursing part wasn't unusual. But the numb butt part was. And then there was the part where Squirrel woke up at O'Dark Thirty.
The next night, in an adult bag, was MUCH better, even with the sporadic rain.
Except that we need some kind of padding. Sleeping on ground=no good.
How could I do that as a kid? No idea.
After our first night, we spent our full day in Yellowstone.
Unfortunately, we spent the first three hours of our day attempting to get IN to Yellowstone, as there was apparently a "Bear Jam" somewhere along the road that leads to the lower loop.
If you don't know what a bear jam is, it basically consists of all vehicles, in both directions of traffic, slamming to complete stops in the middle of the road without looking around them, and jumping out of their cars into oncoming traffic, leaving doors open and running around like lunatics because:
A) They have seen a bear,
B) The see a bunch of people doing the same thing and think there must be a bear to see.
So after driving 15 miles in two and half HOURS, we finally made it to the loop, and started our day.
The bright side of this was that even though we saw no bears (or other animals) in this time, we did pass some trees where some bison had shed some of their winter coat. I hopped out and pulled some off for the kids to hold. Squirrel declared that it would be perfect for her collection of animal furs, of which I am assuming this is her first piece, but man she carried that dirty hunk of fur everywhere all day. She even asked me if I could crochet a hat for her out of it. If only I had collected more...
First stop: Old Faithful! It was a pretty overcast day, so the sky was the same color as the geyser, but I swear, this is the big kids in front of the geyser shooting into the sky.
And some nice park ranger let Squirrel wear her hat as we were waiting. This was a benefit because when she wanted me to make her a buffalo fur hat, I could remind her that she had already worn one that day.
As we drove through the park, we did see a good amount of wildlife.
Some mule deer:
Some Bison eating grass.
Baby Bison and Mommy Bison:
Baby Bison frolicking in the grass:
Some up close Bison crossing the road:
And some REALLY up-close Bison (insert Little Bird screaming hysterically and telling Rob to
"GO NOW DADDY GO RIGHT NOW!!!!"
We also saw a baby moose, a grizzly, lots of geese, and plenty of various birds.
(That black shape in the middle, WAAAAY off in the distance is actually a grizzly bear. I need a better zoom lens, I guess!)
We stopped at the Mud Volcano area and saw the "Dragon's Cave" which we will henceforth use to terrorize our children if they don't go to bed at night:
Stopped in at the interpretive center at Canyon Village, which EVERYONE thoroughly enjoyed.
(No really, he actually loved it, but this is what Little Bird does any time he has to do something which his loving mother asks him kindly to do.)
And here are some trees that were made into benches, which Squirrel was really excited about, because, well, because that's just how she is. :)
All in all, we had a great time! We were truly pooped by the time we got back to camp that night, and we all crashed early. We packed up camp the next day, and spent the remainder in the town of West Yellowstone. We visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center there and I have to say, I was really impressed. It's a great little facility for bears and wolves who can no longer live in the wild and does a nice job working to educate the public and provide a good "retirement" for the bears that would otherwise have to be put down. If you're in the area, it's worth an afternoon. (Plus, they have a couple of Alaskan grizzlies there and HOLY CRAP those things are ENORMOUS. I had no idea that Alaskan grizzlies are 2-3 TIMES the size of Montana grizzlies. Those salmon must be good eatin'.)
In the end, the preparation and cold nights and hard ground were worth it because it was just us together as a family, leaving everything else behind, and we really needed time all together. And there were flush toilets. I don't really need any time with my family without flush toilets.