Wild West Road Trip {Days 27-29}

2/10/2020


After two and a half years of planning and saving, we finally took our big Wild West Road Trip in July! We drove 8,775 miles over 35 days, spent 203 hours in the van, stayed in 26 different hotels/cabins/Airbnbs, and visited 12 national parks, 1 national historic site, 4 national monuments, 2 tribal parks, and 16 states! It was a crazy awesome trip - of course there were a few rough patches here and there, but overall it was amazing to spend so much uninterrupted time with my favorite people and having such gorgeous views made it even better!

I'll eventually get through blogging the whole trip, because so many people have asked for details, but it's going to take a while to get through it all! By the way, some of these photos I'm posting were taken by my husband - he has a great eye and he took a TON of photos! 

If you want to see more of the story, start here for Day 1!

Select landscape prints are available here



Day 27

Day 27 was one of my most favorite days! We stayed in a cute little cabin at Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park. It had two bedrooms and was close to the office, laundry, lake, and restaurants. The beds were not the most comfortable and they were small - there were four doubles between the two rooms. The second night we convinced Jack and Jonah to sleep on the floor. They liked it, and Daniel and I each had our own bed, so we slept much better that night! The cabin had a porch with a picnic table, perfect for eating breakfast outside. The weather was perfect - warm enough, but not hot at all, and the sky had the perfect amount of clouds.


Since we stayed in the park, and at this point we had given up on trying to see everything on my list, this day was easy and relaxed. We didn't exactly sleep in, but we didn't get up before the sun, so that was nice. After breakfast we checked out Jackson Lake and then drove to Chapel of the Transfiguration and Mormon Row.







I took photos of several different churches on this trip, but I think this was my favorite! I wish we had been here on a Sunday so we could have attended a service.









Our next stop was Moulton Barn on Mormon Row. This barn is probably one of the most photographed barns in the country, and for good reason. How gorgeous is this?!?



There are several old houses and barns on Mormon Row. This area was settled by Mormons back in the late 1800's.






I was so excited to see this pink house - it was one of the few things I hadn't seen photos of online before the trip, so it was fun to be surprised!



I was really hoping to see a moose here, but sadly this was the only one we saw.


I insisted on a photo of the kids on the porch of the cabin, but they weren't super cooperative. I still love the photos though!


After lunch, we went canoeing on Jackson Lake. This was the first time Abbie, Jack, and Jonah had been in a canoe and they all loved it! It was super fun, but I just hope they're not disappointed with canoeing next time - it will be hard to top this! The marina was just a short walk from the cabin - I loved staying in the park and being so close to everything!






We drove to the top of Signal Mountain for these views.







That evening, we hiked partway around String Lake. It was an easy and pretty trail, and we saw deer!















Day 28

The next morning, we took one last look at Jackson Lake, then stopped at Oxbow Bend and Leek's Pizzeria before heading up to Yellowstone.





Check out that tree in the middle - it looks like it's going to fall right over!



I think this is Lewis Falls.




West Thumb Geyser Basin was just a maybe on my list, but I'm so glad we stopped! There's a boardwalk that leads out to geysers and hot springs right by Yellowstone Lake. There's at least one that's actually in the lake.



I've wanted to go to Yellowstone for years and I am so glad we finally made it! I loved all the different thermal features - they were so interesting and colorful and so much different than anything else I've seen!

 





I don't remember what this place was called either, but it was just right along the main road on the way to Old Faithful.



We got to Old Faithful at just the right time - by the time we found a seat (on the boardwalk, in front of the seats because they were all full) we only had to wait a few minutes for the eruption. It was impressive, but not as high as I was expecting. I think the height varies quite a bit, but we didn't have time to sit around and wait for another eruption.




We hiked up the Fairy Falls Trail to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. I kind of wish we would have taken time to also walk down along the boardwalks around the spring.



After a picnic with a gorgeous view we stopped at Gibbon Falls. This is another waterfall right off the road - it's a very short walk from the parking lot to the view.




We stayed at the Black Bear Inn in Gardiner, just outside the north entrance to the park. The location was fantastic, but the room wasn't great. The shower was the smallest ever, there were no extra towels and no office to get more, and the sheets were dark brown, which made it really hard to check for bedbugs - I was kind of paranoid about them but luckily we never saw any in any of the places we stayed.


Day 29

The next day we took a Paddle and Saddle trip through Yellowstone Raft Company. It was absolutely worth the money! It was one of the most memorable things we did and I would absolutely do it again!

For the saddle part, we had to drive about 20 minutes up in the mountains north of Gardiner.


I've been horseback riding a few times before but none of the kids except Abbie had been. I'm a little scared of horses, just because they're so big and I don't have a lot of experience, and also I'm on the heavy side and always feel like I've going to hurt them. Yes, I know they're big and strong, but I just can't get over the feeling. Anyway, I was nervous about it, but there were no problems and it was a great ride - definitely the best views I've seen on a ride!




I was terrified of the rafting part! I was secretly hoping that one of the kids would chicken out so I'd have an excuse to skip it, but no one did so I was forced to go. I am so glad that I did! The first rapids were a little scary, but after that it was just so much fun! Jonah was nervous too, so he sat near the back and didn't want to get out of the raft to swim, but the other kids took turns sitting on the very front of the raft and loved it!

These photos were taken by the raft company, not me! I took my GoPro, but forgot to charge it the night before so I only got 2 crappy photos and one short video before it died. Oops!




We had to wait a while for our turn for a photo in front of Roosevelt Arch. There were a lot of people with the same idea, plus we had to wait on cars driving through.



Our next stop was Mammoth Hot Springs. This was a very cool area!












 Next, we drove to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We had planned to hike one of the trails in the area, but as usual we were a little short on time. This time it was because we got a little turned around somehow and also stopped for ice cream at the Canyon Village General Store. That took longer than expected, but my Huckleberry Float was amazing!





I had read about bison traffic jams and was kind of hoping to see one, but this is the only one we saw on the road.


In all my research leading up to the trip, I somehow missed the fact that Yellowstone isn't flat! I was just excited to see the geysers and stuff, but the views on the drive through the park were a beautiful surprise!









We drove through part of Lamar Valley in the evening hoping to see bears, wolves, moose, or more bison. We saw a herd of bison, but no luck on the moose and wolves. There were some people pulled over with binoculars and when we asked them what they were looking at they said there was a bear, but it was so far away that even with binoculars it was just a little speck.







We walked out to get a little closer to the herd (but still farther away than the 25 yards the National Park Service suggests - a little girl had been thrown by a bison just a couple days before so I was even more nervous than usual!). I thought we were being safe and careful enough, but when we turned back toward the van there was a lone bison between us and the road. We stayed far away and it just went right out to the herd, but it was a little scary for a couple minutes! Joey was closest to the bison because he hadn't walked out as far as the rest of us.




That's it for Day 29! Up next is our adventures in South Dakota!

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