Beginnings and endings

Joe and Ethan were heading back to Colorado for a couple months to spend the holidays with family and friends who are still there. There were so many things we had not yet seen or done around the area, so we crammed as much stuff as we could during these last few days.

Went on a little hike with a few HUGE leaves.

We played ping pong.

Visited the lake the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed at, Lake Lure.

We visited a pinball museum with some great retro pieces.

Ethan made the layers of the earth’s crust in science.

Joe had many man-to-man late night talks with Eric.

We visited an apple orchard. They had animals, an apple cannon, and yummy caramel chocolate covered apples.

Ethan got an early birthday gift from his grandmother; a hydroponic pepper growing kit.

Eric and I went on a beautiful sunset date hike.

And we found out we were about to adopt this little guy. Be still our enchanted, doting, little hearts…

It’s so hard to say goodbye

The day after getting set up, we attended a little orientation from the owner of what we could and couldn’t do and where things were around the property. We were told we can’t go on the resort really unless we were working, and if a guest of the cabins said hello or wanted to talk, that we were to say hello back, put our head down and keep walking. A bit strange to me, a person who believes in friendly hospitality, but she said she had an issue in the past, so we accepted it and moved on.

There are egg laying chickens on one part of her property and meat chickens on a different part of the property. The egg laying chickens were right by our site, and she told us the more food scraps we feed them, the more eggs they produce. So, we saved all of our scraps and gave them to the chickens. They were so cute, they would RUN to the fence to fight over whatever was given! The thing that surprised us most was that they fought over the eggshells.

I noticed that Ethan and I had a similar level of care in our footwear choice to feed the chickens. We’re pretty stylin’.

It was fun to get eggs in an unlimited quantity and cool that they were all different shapes, sizes and color!

Since we really couldn’t explore the property much, we decided to get off property as much as we could. There was a mountain near Jefferson, called Mount Jefferson, where a person could hike and stop at some of the vistas. It was absolutely beautiful.

It takes a lot of groceries to feed this crew. On our way home we stopped by the store and had to use Ethan’s lap for some grocery storage. The kids thought it was awesome and Ethan kept asking us to put more groceries on top of him so he couldn’t see.

Ethan and Jillian had a chocolate chip cookie bake-off. We were happily the taste testers and judged. We couldn’t decide which was better, they were both actually delicious, but were were amazed at what a difference there was between the two recipes.

Joe received a Pho kit for Christmas last year, and he decided that since Jillian LOVES ramen so much, he’d make it for their last night with us. Jillian did like it. 🙂

The next day, our crew was broken up again. This time, it was Gabe and Jillian leaving. They are going to spend a few months with their mom in Florida, which is bittersweet. We are so excited for them since they are really looking forward to spending time with their mom and younger siblings, but our family just isn’t complete without them.

We left for the airport around 4:30 am and drove to Charlotte for them to catch their flight. Only one parent could walk them in, so Eric took them to their gate and sadly watched as they departed. We look forward to having you guys back, but we hope you have a blast with your mom!

Heading South

After Bonners Ferry, we were on a mission to make it South to meet Tiffany’s Dad and Chrisma at a lake and then to the Denver metro area for Tiffany to work and us to switch out summer stuff for winter stuff.

Our first stop was another fairgrounds in a place called Moscow, ID. It was a relatively quick and uneventful stay, but we did have a nice little bike ride to Idaho University. Tiffany thought the place felt like Hogwarts with its vividly colorful sunset and interesting architecture.

After Moscow we went to Boise and Idaho Falls, for one quick night each. We weren’t too impressed with those towns, so we quickly got out. On our way leaving Idaho Falls though, we went past Shoshone Falls. It was an oasis in the middle of a desert-like landscape and was a great place for a picnic and walk to break up the day’s drive.

Speaking of picnic, Tiffany has a “no eating in the car” preference. We stopped along the side of the road and she made peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. As she was putting everything away, her open-face sandwich slid down her arm, skidded on the stitching on the leather car seat and landed on the not-so-clean floor mat. Everyone got a good giggle out of the ironic karma of it all.

About 12 minutes from our destination for the night, we had another exciting tire blow out. It blew out on the couch slide side this time. Our poor Liberty looks like she’s been off-roading on some very low clearance trails. We need a giant band-aid. Eric got us all fixed up and back on the road. We’ve realized that duct tape really is quite the useful tool on the road.

The next day we landed at some National Forest Service land just outside The Grand Tetons. Gabe and Jill have a checklist of setting up and tearing down that they are getting very good at executing!

This little slice was a welcome sight after staying in what equated to parking lots for over a week. We had been irritable and tired and we realized part of it was that we had not been in nature for a while to recharge ourselves. We tend to be at peace spending our evenings stargazing and sleeping to the sound of rushing water from the river. We’re learning these little things about ourselves and it’ll be a guide for our adventures in the future.

This site was gorgeous, or as Jillian says, Goblin Core. The flowers and butterflies felt unreal, there were so many varieties of both!

Since it was a hot summer day, we went down to the river for a dip. It was so cold that it made our legs numb, so instead of swimming, we just waded.

Undesirable as it may be to him, Eric actually does need rest sometimes, so I begged him to do that while Jillian and I played in the water. He hides his stillness misery well.

After dinner, Eric held Jillian in his arms and they danced to music from our little boombox by the fire.

On our way out of the Tetons, we went down a steep 10% grade mountain and had our very first pull over to let the brakes cool moment. Chief and Liberty were fine, but the brakes were pungent. The view was worth it though, such a pretty drive. Those Tetons are definitely otherworldly.

Let’s go chasing waterfalls

The temperature outside, in the shade, was 105 degrees. We thought we were so clever coming up north during the middle of the summer, but with a heat wave like this one, there wasn’t much escape.

We got set up on some BLM land for a couple nights, just between the cities of Troy and Libby, Montana. Our poor air conditioner could not keep up with the heat. The generator kept overloading because the air conditioner was working so hard, and it was still easily over 90 degrees inside the trailer. The location was beautifully covered in fern undergrowth, and it felt like a place one would find woodland fairies and magical beings.

Jillian picked this sweet little flower for us from this site’s “garden.”

We’re getting good at creative ways of conservation. Joe had a bowl of cereal and used his leftover milk to make coffee in his bowl.

An employee at the Verizon store in Kalipsell had recommended some awesome stuff, saying that since so much of Glacier National Park was closed, we would maybe enjoy some other things instead. One of the suggestions was a place he called horse island, which we will have to see another time, but the place on our way to the next destination was called Kootenai Falls and the Kootenai Suspension bridge. He mentioned there were spots to get in and cool off in the river, so we set off for something to cool us off.

The hike was more of a shaded nature trail than a hike, but it was so beautiful that anything we wrote would not be able to describe the magical feel of this place.

We tasted the wild blueberries and was told that even though they were pretty, we had to stay away from the orange and yellow poisonous berries.

We could hear the river roaring and every time we got a peek of the teal water we went faster.

The suspension bridge was very well maintained and looked incredibly safe. Everyone eventually conquered their fear of heights and bouncing suspended 130 feet in the air and got to the other side of the bridge.

Just on the other side, we saw this busy little beetle, digging random places in the sand. This video is real time, it was probably one of the cuter things I have seen a bug do.

We crossed a tiny mountain stream where it met up with the roaring teal river, and as soon as we got to the water, we noticed millions of gold sparkling flecks in the water. Although it was pyrite, it was gorgeous. Anyone who knows me knows that water, being outside, and glitter in the same spot is pretty much heaven in my book. Ethan and Eric were the first to get in the river and everyone else did as well. We had fun attempting the perfect head flick of water.

On the way back, Eric and Gabe decided to play trolls at the bridge. I felt like I was in Monty Python or Dora the Explorer.

The parents took our stroll a bit more leisurely than the kids. When we got back to the trailhead, we noticed they had decided to pick the toddler table to sit at. Seems like they are big dogs thinking they are little dogs to me.

We were refreshed and so happy to have gone on that little walk.

We decided to go again and get out of the heat. This time, I wanted to get to the upper falls that apparently a person could get in under.

We were pleasantly rewarded with the little journey. I was actually a little bit less distance and intensity of a hike, but the views were spectacular. We dipped our toes and actually jumped into the water and swam behind one of the falls. Although it was hot, it took much longer to ‘get used’ to the water temperature than in the waters we’d experienced before.

After we finished the hike, we were hot again and bought the kids ice cream. At the stand, there were these two books together and I couldn’t help but giggle, “Yuck, Joe Chips” is all I could see.

Yellowstone Part 1

Another gorgeous drive took us even further North near Henry’s Lake, a spot about 15 miles outside of the West entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Tanks were filled and we were thoroughly scrubbed and showered and ready to go off grid and boondock again. Eric navigated us to some BLM land and we landed a jackpot site. The spot was definitely the most beautiful we’d stayed at to date. We couldn’t see or hear any neighbors and we had plenty of space to explore, scrounge up firewood and hang our hammocks. The temperature was a lightly breezy 70 degrees, partly shaded and very few mosquitoes. Ethan decided to chop a fallen aspen tree into small bits with the hatchet for wood to whittle and Joe quickly made his way into Eric’s hammock, claiming it as his spot.

Jillian, Gabe, me and for one round, eve Ethan, played gin rummy around the little outdoor table and relished in the beauty of our new location. Gabe was the big winner this time.

In addition to the hammock Joe decided was his, we have a two-person hammock, so the rest of us get to use that one.

After the kids all tucked in their bunks, Eric and I gazed at the stars, softly talking about how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of life. It really is incredible how many stars there are when a person is able to escape from most light pollution.

The next day we decided to be tourons. We drove through Yellowstone, enjoying the beautiful scenery, Eric happily sticking his head out the window like a dog.

We chose to see the geyser, Old Faithful, erupt. The kids are learning one of the values I want to instill. I always say, “let’s leave a place better than we found it” when it comes to trash. Without even being prompted or asked, sweet Jillian picked up a piece of trash and thew it away. The bear-proof box stumped her for a bit, but she got it. I was so proud. We stood around wagering when the next eruption would come. None of us had cell service there, so we were just guessing based off of hunch. Eric was won the wager. Most of us thought it was an amazing sight, Ethan said it was “meh”. Stinker.

On the way out, a Yellowstone employee was taking down the flag and Eric’s good American side had to go help. It was sweet and the employee appreciated it.

The drive through the park back to our campsite we saw a huge herd of buffalo grazing by the river. It was absolutely idyllic.

The next day, after I did a bit of work, we went on a hike. It was Jillian’s first hike and all of the kids ROCKED it. The trail started at some of the colorful thermal pools and led back into the heavily-mosquito-ed woods. It had said it was easy/moderate, but there were definitely a few parts that were intimidating for beginners. I was so proud of how well everyone did. When we got to the falls, we were happily rewarded. I felt like I was in a movie. Ethan, Joe and I went to the base of the falls where a hot spring met the falls and created hot tub pools. We soaked our feet for a few minutes and looked around at the splendor around us. I felt like I was in a fantasy movie scene. We went back to Eric, Gabe and Jill and ate our packed lunches.

Gabe was thrilled about the whole wheat bread on his sandwich so he left it on the ground. Squirrels quickly grabbed it and started chowing down. Joe was able to grab the bag back, but those little thieves got a nice little snack of pb&j!

On our way back to the parking lot, a pair of squirrels chased each other RIGHT next to my ear and I of course squeaked so everyone got to make fun of me the rest of the hike. I also found a sloth in a tree stump, do you see it?

Everyone was nice and tired from the hike and Gabe even took an uncomfortable looking little kid style nap in the car.

The next day Joe and Eric went fishing. The fishing licenses, along with almost everything in the Yellowstone are much more expensive. We were determined to fish our two paid for days. Although we did not catch any of the infamous HUGE trout, we did get to see a pretty spectacular sunset.