The last day of our family vacation. We slept in at my parents house and left for St. Louis around 9:30am. We were in for a casual drive home after the numerous miles we had put on during this trip. Hannah was coming back with us to hang out for two weeks. We stopped in Columbia, MO at a McDonald’s to give the kids a chance to stretch their legs on a play area. At 2:50pm, we officially pulled into our driveway ending our family vacation. We drove 3,805.5 miles during the trip. Enough for one year!!!
This morning, the St. Louis van got underway before 7am! Hannah, Bob, and the Stl Haakes knew that they had a long trip ahead of them if they were going to make it from Douglas, Wyoming to Kansas City in one day. meanwhile, the KC vehicles didn’t leave the parking lot till after 10:30am…
White van stopped for lunch at a KFC/Taco Bell. Everyone got Taco Bell. Danelle didn’t think the nachos & cheese woudl be enough for Sonora, so she got a KFC kids meal to go. This was good because within 30 minutes of leaving, Sonora sounded the All Hungry alarm again!
They always say that the lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but I don’t know that I can believe that after this trip. For the second time on the trip, hogan asked Danelle to take the wheel! Okay, maybe this is not a complete shock, considering that we had about 14 hours of driving planned for the day, but it is always fun to tease Hogan!
Danelle’s stint as driver ended in Nebraska City at dinner. We found a Valentino’s Italian Restaurant featuring a pizza buffet. Bob is a big fan of this chain! The buffet had salad, pizza, pasta, tacos, and lots of dessert.
After dinner, Hogan had a driving tour of the Missouri River flooding in Nebraska City and we walked around a bit before heading out.
Happy Birthday Hogan and Matt! On our last day, we finally managed to get on the road by 9am. This was also the first day that the St. Louis’ van needed to pay to get into the park!
As we drove towards Old Faithful, we saw either a wolf or coyote cross the road. We’ll have to check the photos to be sure. We continued South to the South Entrance, on into Grand Teton National Park. The amount of snow n those areas was amazing, considering that it is June.
We stopped at a viewing area with trails, but the trails were closed due to bear activity. We could see herds of elk, which apparently attract the bears which is why they closed the trails.
A short distance away was a bridge and dam. We went to a parking lot just downstream to have lunch. They had large logs as wheel stops. Tom and Hogan did their own little dance competition, jumping from log to log. We also watched a man and his son catch a fish. The kids were very excited to see it.
As we continued south through Wyoming, we saw a lot of antelope scattered throughout the landscape We even got to see a whirlwind of tumbleweeds as they crossed the highway — if we didn’t know better, we may have thought it was a prop from a movie set.
As we neared Independence Rock on highway 220, we saw several other potentially interesting places to stop: Devil’s gate, Martin’s Cove, and several others nearby. The rest area for Independence Rock wan nice. We all walked out to the rock. hogan and Corvin were among the frist to go up, followed soon after by Danelle and Sonora. The 4 of us were joined at the top by Bob, Henry, Tom, and Herman. After looking at carved names and dates for a while, Hogan and Tom took Sonora down. Hogan came back with Matt. We continued climbing, going the length of the rock, seeing signatures of many eras. We climbed like mountain goats, eventually finding a way down that everyone could manage. Somewhere along the way, Herman managed to split a seam on his jeans. Poor guy — they were his favorite jeans.
Meanwhile, Dan, Pat, Kathy, Lauren, Hannah, and Matt had set off to walk around the rock. Part way around, Tom and Sonora were traded for Matt. We all met up again at the other end of the rock. We were able to get a great family photo of Tom, Kathy, lauren, and Matt. Hogan managed to carry Lauren about 10 feet up the rock!
On the rock, we saw antelope, a lizard, jackrabbits, and bulls. On the trail, they also saw antelope, bulls, but also fire ants and possibly coyote tracks.
Ohh, before we got to Independence Rock, the most unexpected thing happened. Hogan asked Danelle to take the wheel! This was the first time anyone else would be driving the white van. So Danelle drove the 20 miles from the gas station to Independence Rock as well as the next leg to dinner and the final leg to the hotel.
For dinner, we went to a Mexican restaurant. They were able to seat all 14 of us fairly quickly at one long table. The place was very nicely decorated. They had good salsa and a very yummy bean dip for their chips. Matt went through 3 containers of the bean dip. Corvin and Danelle had two for themselves. Everyone seemed to like the food. After dinner, the server came out with two big sombreros and two platters of a dessert. They then sung a birthday song for the birthday boys and we all shared the tasty desert.
After dinner, Tom and Henry tried to win teddy bears with “the claw”. Thy actually got some! A sonic silver for Matt, a blue puppy for Sonora, a diamondbacks bear for Corvin, and a MU tiger for Dan. What a haul!
We finally got to the hotel and prepared for bed. Since this was our last night together, the kids stayed up and played a bit with Matt and the adults said goodbye and traded photos. For the St. Louis van, there would be a long drive ahead!
For our last full day in Yellowstone, we started off with a big breakfast of pancakes and french toast. We made our way into the park with partly cloudy skies. the next thing we know, we are driving through hail and sleet. About 5 minutes later and it is snowing — 5 more minutes and we have sun. Sheesh! once it 2was sunny, we found a nice little pull off with lots of great rocks to climb — perfect for the kids (age 40 and under). it might have been at Golden Gate, but we aren’t sure since it wasn’t marked with signs. We found some caves and crevasses, so Bob kept making bear grunts to scare us.
We got to the Mammoth Hot Springs and drove the Upper Terrace. Bob got out and walked a short segment, meeting up with us as we returned from driving the lop. Then we drove to the Lower terrace. Danelle and bob walked around taking photos while one car full of the group went on to find restrooms.
When everyone was back in the cars, we went on to the Petrified Tree. There is only one and it is fenced in because there used to be three, but the other two where chipped away and broken up by vandals. So sad!
A little way down the road, a wildlife viewing group of vehicles had clustered. There was a black bear cub up in a tree. The ranger said that the mom was probably at the bottom scaring it so that it will go off on its own. She was out of sight behind the ridge. Sounds like the reverse of empty nesting…
We stopped to make lunch in the parking lot of Tower Falls. Henry and Herman got something at the shop. While the rest of us had sandwiches. Then many of us took the long (in altitude) hike down to the Fowler Falls. The part that you used to walk on to see the Falls from the bottom was closed due to a rock slide across the trail. The view at the bottom looked a bit like the River Des Peres because it was lined (naturally) by white banks that were steep and had no vegetation — at least, in one fairly short segment.
Unlike two days earlier, the Dunraven Pass was open, so we took this snowy route to the Canyon Falls. Everyone took the steep path down to the overlook at the Lower Falls. What an amazing view. Hopefully the photos can do it justice! Once we were all at the bottom, we got a group shot with the canyon behind us.
On the way up, the younger family members were in more of a hurry to go up, so near the top, Hogan, Danelle, Henry, Hannah, Matt, Corvin, and Sonora took a detour onto the North Rim Trail that leads towards the Upper Falls. After several minutes, we turned around and returned to the cars, only a few minutes after everyone else had returned.
in the last leg of our drive back to West Yellowstone, Hogan wanted to take a detour on Riverside Drive. We had no idea how long it would take, so hogan estimated 45 minutes. We set out along the Madison River and saw several animals, including birds, bison, and deer or ell. About 5 minutes later, we were back on the main road 🙂
We were all back to the condo by 7. We made burgers, fries, tacos, hot dogs, and pizza for dinner — basically everything that was left that needed to be cooked. After dinner, we celebrated two birthdays — it made more sense to have it today rather than tomorrow while we are on the road.
So they opened presents and we had cake, ice cream, and peanut butter shakes. This was after singing happy birthday of course.
The last task of the evening was to start packing. Tom and Danelle were the last ones to bed because they were trying to get things ready for the morning.
Today was an early day. We needed to get to the Whitewater place by 10 am and it was about an hour and a half drive to the north. Hogan, Danelle, and a a few others were awake before 7am. By 8am, the 9 of us going on the trip were loading into the car. We thought we needed our own shoes, for the rafting trip, so we had to stop for Bob to get a pair.
We made it to the rafting place with plenty of time to spare. On the way, we had been slowed by a group of bison, two of them in the road, two fighting on the shoulder, and several others standing aside. They were not too much in the way, so we were not slowed much. Then we came upon the river we would float and saw that it was rather small. It got progressively wider, faster, and more difficult-looking. The last mile or so looked a bight frightening…
When we got there (about 20 mins early), we paid. Then we proceeded to get our wet suits, booties, fleece jacket, and a waterproof other shell jacket. We quickly dressed and geared up with PFD (personal flotation devices or life jackets), helmets, and then waited for other rafters to get ready. There were about 30 rafters and 6 guides. When everyone was ready, we all loaded into a school bus with one raft on top and five rafts stacked behind it on a trailer.
There was about a ten mile upstream ride to the put in. We unloaded and got our paddles and listened to safety instructions. Our family was split into 5 Haakes and 4 Bryants. Herman and Henry were in the front of our raft. Hannah was behind Herman and Hogan was behind Henry. Danelle was behind Hannah and our guide, Jeremy, was in the very back. She was a fun guide and very talkative. Everyone had a blast on the trip. We were all cold and soaked at the end. During the trip, we endured about a 5 minute rain storm.
After we were done, we rode the bus again the last mile to the Montana Whitewater Rafting place. We changed into our clothes and looked at the photos they took of us. Tom, Kathy, Bob, and Matt bought their photos. Then we went into Big Sky, Montana to get some lunch. We found a place called Choppers. Its a bar and grill with a motorcycle theme. Oddly enough, it was Danelle who picked it, thought the boys didn’t object to a car and sports themed place. The onion rings were yummy. Henry and Herman each got “The Hog” which was two 1/2 pound burgers stacked on one bun. Herman finished his with much encouragement, but regretted it later for being so full.
Meanwhile, Dan and Pat spent the day with Corvin, Sonora, and Lauren. They visited the park about a block from the house and went to McDonald’s for lunch. There was shopping. Corvin got an ice cream bar and Sonora got a mini Magna doodle board. The kids said they had a fun day!
For the rest of the evening, we mostly just relaxed. Many naps were taken while others watched cartoons. Dan and Pat made a pasta dinner. After the STL Haakes went to bed, several others stayed up to watch a lovely film called “Bikini Chain Gang”. We were sad that we missed such a classy film.