Family Vacation Day 6 – 6/7/2011

Once again, Corvin woke about an hour before the rest of us, except Bob. Corvin had slept through the buffalo last night. The tow of them were playing a game of Sorry when Danelle woke up. They had been through a whole deck when Danelle joined in. It was a fun game — very close — but Corvin won! We enjoyed another slow morning, but got into the park earlier than yesterday.

We didn’t get very far before the first grouping of cars told us that there was wildlife to view. We asked a bystander and learned that it was a bald eagle. since we can see those in Missouri, we moved on… We made it to Canyon Village for a bit of shopping. Then on to the Canyon Falls. We visited the upper falls viewpoint. The views were impressive and we weren’t so high up that Pat was afraid.

Next we went on toward the Fishing Bridge, but stopped along the way to see a grizzly bear with her two cubs. This was in the Hayden Valley just north of the Mud Volcano. Soon after, near the Fishing Bridge in Pelican Valley, we saw another mother grizzly and cub eating something. They were fairly close to the road for a nice view.

We stopped at Mary Bay and Steamboat Point for great views of the iced-over Yellowstone lake and had a late lunch. The kids tossed some goldfish crackers into the parking lot. The ravens loved to eat them! We chatted with Becky on BAK about how hot it was there. She was unfortunately having car troubles and we were worried about her. On the way back west, we stopped to check out another grizzly sighting. The kids (Corvin and Sonora) were tired of trying to see bears, so they threw snowballs at the van instead. They had a blast! And they were fun to watch Smile

Next, we stopped at the Mud Volcano. These were awesome! There were several cool thermals here, including the Dragon’s Mouth — Danelle’s favorite so far. About 25 years ago, the ground heated up to over 200 degrees F, killing the tree roots and soon after, the rest of the trees. Some are still standing, but most have fallen. Dan, Tom, and Danelle were listening to a ranger guided tour that we caught up with. He had a lot of great information about the area including the creation story of one of the tribes which involved Dragon’s Mouth.

We headed back to the house and actually made it back by 7:30pm. Danelle started the chicken and rice dinner while most of the family went out shopping. Hogan helped cook, the kids played and watched TV. There was plenty of shopping time, since dinner was going to take an hour. So an hour later, dinner was on the table and they all walked in the door… Everyone liked it and there were no leftovers!

Over dinner, we were talking about the rafting trip and decided to double check the date — it was the next day, not what we thought it was. So we decided to make an early night of it.


Family Vacation Day 5 – 6/6/2011

Corvin was the first one up in the morning again. Danelle got up around 8:00 am to see Corvin laying next to Grandpa Monster on the sofa. Danelle was just about ready to take Corvin to the grocery store to try and get a start, but then everyone else started stirring. After waiting a couple of hours for everyone to wake up, shower, eat, and contribute to the grocery list. The boys went outside to play ice ball. This consisted of using a shovel to throw pieces of ice up on the roof and then swinging at them as they slid back down and off the roof.

Danelle went for a walk at about 11 am to see something outside of the house. When she was almost back, Hogan and Kathy picked her up and they went to the grocery store. Less than an hour later, we had groceries for 4 days of 14 people.  Others had gone to Radio Shack for a couple more radios and a bit of local shopping. After we were all back and the groceries put away, we packed the coolers and headed out for our first daylight look at Yellowstone National Park!

Within a few minutes of entering the park, we saw and excessively photographed our first bison. On our way to the geysers, we saw a couple more herds. The first official stop was at the Fountain Paint Pot. After several jokes about people tooting, we braved the sulfur-laded gases and walked around to see the many types of geysers. They were Amazing! Additional excessive photographs were taken!

Our next major stop was Old Faithful. We kept being broken up into different groups and losing each other. Corvin and Grandpa watched a movie; Hogan, Danelle, and Sonora walked together on a short trail; Grandma, Bob, Tom, and others went on a longer walk; and a few went shopping or visiting other buildings. The visitors center was nice with the educational displays. We watched Old Faithful blow about 4:50pm. Bob and Pat say that it was less impressive height than previous visits. It is possible that they are right, but it could be that it looked smaller because the sky was cloudy and the steam may have blended with it.

After we all met up again, we went to a picnic area and had a 6 pm lunch… Yikes!! We made sandwiches and had chips and veggies. While a few were finishing up, Hogan was picking up and throwing large branches (or entire trees) like javelins. Tom found some logs that were lodged in V shaped trees, making perfect see saws. Hogan, Bob, Tom, Danelle, Corvin, Matt, and Sonora played games and launched rocks, snow balls, and Corvin. Yes, we launched Corvin… Tom and Danelle held his hands while Hogan pushed down on the other end.

Next we headed back north to go to the Mammoth Hot Springs. On the way, we stopped at Gibbon Falls. The falls were beautiful, but Pat was terrified of the heights. She wouldn’t let go of the rail the whole time. With as steep as it was, it was understandable. We got to the Mammoth Hot Springs as the sun was setting. It was a bit cold and misty, so we walked the lower terraces which was a short trail. During their last visit, the trail was longer and the springs were mostly dry and white. This time, there were colorful bacterial mats and recent activity had caused them to shut down a large part of the trail.

Our final stop for the day was the North Entrance to the park. This is where there is a much-photographed entry gate built in 1879. Almost everyone got out for random photos and rock climbing. At around 10 pm, we began the 54 mile journey back to our house in West Yellowstone.

Most of us slept for a good portion of the drive, except for the drivers, of course. Somewhere along the last 10 mile stretch of road, a lovely herd of bison decided to meander along the road. The car in front of us had been the first stopped by the herd and they had their flashers on (which made sense when we first came upon them). After about 20 minutes of crawling along behind the flashing lights, we asked them to turn them off. It turns out that they thought the lights were annoying too, so everyone was happy when they were off. The herd was traveling slowly to the western gate. So eastbound cars just had to wait a couple of minutes till the herd went around them. We were fortunate enough to wait and wait and wait. After about 30 minutes , Hogan rolled down the window and gave a “Snorkie” growl. That got them moving a bit faster, so he gave a couple more. Then Tom gave a couple of deep dog barks ant really got them moving! A car came through from the other side and Tom barked again. Then the car started flashing!. It was a park ranger. The ranger pulled a U turn and led us around the herd on the right shoulder. The car ahead of us almost got stuck, but we all made it pretty quickly. A bed never felt soo good!



Family Vacation Day 4 – 6/5/2011

At the Super8, Danelle and Sonora shared a bed, Hogan and Corvin shared a bed, and Bob took the floor. In the morning, Bob was up early. Danelle woke with Sonora’s feet in her back, only a few inches from falling out of bed. Hogan and Corvin were face to face, allowing for some great blackmail photos…

We all took turns at the enormous continental breakfast (OK, so it was super tiny). We packed up and hit the road to Devil’s Tower. on the way, we saw a couple of prairie dog towns.

At Devil’s Tower, Hogan, Danelle, Corvin, Sonora, Hannah, Bob, Tom, Matt, and Herman climbed up the boulders as far as you can go without registering. We arranged ourselves at the top and yelled “cheese” for Kathy to take pictures of us. I think we could be heard through much of the park. Lauren was worried about us the whole time we were up the boulders. Danelle and Sonroa went up together; Hogan was with Hannah; Corvin and Matt were with Herman. On the way down, Corvin was in the lead with Danelle. He was too impatient to wait. Corvin and Sonora were like the goats climbing up the boulders.

After the climb, we all walked around the tower, though in different groups and at different speeds. Corvin had our old camera for about half of the walk around. He takes such awesome pictures!

After the tower, we were on our way again. When Hogan saw one of the famous Wyoming wide-open straightaways, he let the others get a bit ahead and set a personal best speed in the van… 105mph according to the GPS. he was so proud that the next time we had a cell signal, he called Hiatt to share the news.

We stopped for lunch at a Subway right around 1:00pm. they had just gotten their power back on. it has been out since noon. i think half of the town was in line ahead of us. Speaking of lines, at our next stop, the gas station only had one unisex bathroom stall. That slowed us down a bit!

And while we’re talking about slowing down, Tom needed to take his foot off the gas a bit, particularly when the Highway Patrol officer pulled him over. The officer was kind enough to just warn him. The lead foot may have been inspired by a GPS detour that ended up taking us north when we wanted go west. The Haake (KC) GPS told them to turn, so they did. After a couple of miles, Tom and Bob realized almost simultaneously that we needed to turn around. We tried to get Herman’s attention (honking and flashing headlights), but to no avail. About 2 miles later after a second burst of 100 plus mph speed, we finally passed them and got them to pull over.

Our dinner stop was at Cody, very near the East gate to Yellowstone. Due to risk of avalanche, the gate was only open from 8 pm to 10 am, so getting there at 8:30 pm was sort of the plan. We stopped for dinner at an Italian place.

The final leg of our journey for the day was interesting. it was completely dark by the time we got into Yellowstone. It was almost immediately apparent why they had limited travel to after sunset. The snow along the road as up to 15 feet tall. We can only imagine the depth further up the slope. In a few spots, rocks had fallen into the road. Several deer were alongside the road before we entered the park. In the midst of the park, the lake was not frozen, so it reflected the crescent moon beautifully. It was very very dark out. The conditions were perfect for stargazing, except that we were not supposed to leave the cars. Then we past the area with rising stream. For a while before this, we had smelled sulfur. Hogan said, “Whew, that smells!” Immediately, Tom said over the radio, “It wasn’t me…”. Gotta love that timing!!!


Family Vacation Day 3 – 6/4/2011

This morning, we did our first load of travel laundry. The lodge is very nice; too bad its stuck in the midst of a bunch of farm fields with a busy-ish highway on each side. It makes it a bit difficult to appreciate the scenery and bird calls when another pickup truck comes by every 20 seconds. I could see Uncle Gene’s home being converted to something like this — more for family gatherings than a hunting lodge, but perhaps the hunting there is better than I realize.

I guess Dan did not sleep well. He was missing a part from his sleep machine. Hopefully we can rig something up for him. When they went to get gas this morning Hogan ended up talking to the lady behind the register and they had a line on a potential part, but it turns out that they could not get it. Did I mention the huge amount of mosquitoes that are here? The van looked like it was washed in bug parts and blood. Very gross, but we’ll deal!

Corvin and Danelle went for a walk in the early morning. They saw a goldfinch, dog kennels, the neighbor’s horses, the place where they do skeet shooting, and thistles. Corvin was especially concerned with the thistles!

The family had a late start this morning. We got to the Missouri River overlook in time to look over and eat lunch. This was 1 hour into the 8 hours of planned driving. So we decided to skip Custer State Park and Crazy Horse.

Part of our journey across the (never-ending) state of South Dakota, we came upon a 15 mile stretch of highway that was being re-paved… Hogan really wanted to do donuts in the red clay road base. As it was, he ended up spraying some rocks and sliding.

We stopped for dinner just outside of Mount Rushmore. They didn’t have much for vegan options — there wasn’t even a red sauce for pasts, so Pat had her pasta plain. Of course everybody was worried, so they convinced her to get a salad with no dressing. While waiting for the food to show up, the whole table was involved in a game of “Eye Spy”.

At dinner, Sonora and Henry started calling each other Janet and Big Daddy. We’re not sure how or why this started but its really cute!

We finally got to Mount Rushmore at about 8:30pm local time. We walked the trail and (as usual) took lots of pictures. It was fun to see the sunset on the amazing sculpture. We heard a man in the auditorium tell us about the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Sonora was surprisingly interested. Soon after, they turned on the floodlights. The natural light was much better, but it was nice to see it both ways!


Family Vacation Day 2 – 6/3/2011

I got up at 5:00 am when my alarm went off and got right to getting ready for the day. Next I woke up dad around 5:30am. From there, the rest of the troops started waking up. I’m a bit of a task master when it comes to traveling and wanted to get a good solid start. Family members that wern’t going on the trip were taking bets about what time we would actually leave. As a family, we’re usually late. I’m proud to say that we were on the road at 6:49 am.

On the way out of town, Sonora was quick to learn about semi trucks. At 7:36 am, she got her first of many trucks to honk when she showed them the doubble pull sign.

Danelle’s Notes:

It seems they are expecting flooding near Nebraska City. The Wendy’s and the neighboring motel had sand bags and berms of dirt around them. (Iowa Hwy 29 Exit 10)

In Sioux City, we stopped at a tire place to have the KC Haake’s van checked. It has been a very bumpy ride in the morning. While the van was being checked, we ate at Godfather’s Pizza. Pat, Kathy, and Lauren were @ Taco Johns next door. Then we hung around by the missouri River. The river was way up! We watched as sand was piled at the YMCA across the river. According to one local, the dam upstream is releasing 85,000 CFS, but they will be increasing it to 150,000 CFS soon to try to take some of the pressure off the dam. They are expecting it to rise about 6 feet and to be up for at least a month!

The kids of all ages played at the playground. Dan, Herman, and Tom went to the casion and by the time 4:00pm hit, we were getting back on our way. It seems that the van was missing a bump stop. That made the ride more rough when big bumps were hit. It semed a bit overloaded and we transfered some weight to the STL Haake van. It seemed to help!

At lunch, Henry didn’t feel well, so he didn’t eat much if anything. it seemed that the bumpiness of the ride had taken a toll on his stomach. At about 5:00pm, we were glad that he didn’t eat much, because he asked us to pull ovetr so that he could puke. After a couple of minutes, we were back on our way, with a warning from Henry that we would probably need to stop again soon…

We stopped for a rest room break in Buffalo Ridge at the Cowboy Coffee Shop and Country Store. While we were there, Hogan got a South Dakota magnet to add to his colletction at work. We also got a postcard to send to the Hebisens, but more for Jenny and Jesse than the kids. There were lots of fireworks in the store, but somehow we got out without buying any. Hannah bought a spoon for her friend Kaylee. Dan got lots of beef jerkey.

Our visit to the Corn Palace was uneventful, except that we ended up buying several trinkets and things, including a lovely, shining orange-stoned ring for Sonora. Hogan bought a set of 3 highway bingo cards. He must have been tired of Danelle’s fforts to create her own bing games.

After the Corn Palace, we took a detour to Wal-Mart to get food for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast — not that many of us were very hungry for dinner, even though it was 8:30pm.

We had yet to leave I-90 to get to the lodge when we had anouther detour — this time Matthew was sick. They handed him a plastic grocery bag to throw up in. Unfortunately, there was a hole in the bag. Luckily, this was not in our van! Poor Dan and Pat. It took about 30 minutes to clean up everything at the rest stop. It is 9:50pm, the sun has almost set completly, and we are still about 30 miles from the lodge.

The hunting lodge was amazing and huge. The perfect place to spend time with 15 of your best friends between sessions hunting. We had a crazy late “home cooked” dinner and then went to bed.

Welcome to the Loong Treck of 2011!