Archive for July, 2013

Summer Road Trip

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

We drove 4,343 miles, stayed overnight in seven different locations, camped a total of 15 nights and hiked 65 miles in 22 days. And we survived! It was the most time we had ever spent together as a family, and we are most definitely better for it. Gabby really lived up to her name on the trip. She was very talkative and social. Her most commonly spoken phrases include “Mommy/Daddy, I have to tell you something” and “I had a dream that,” and then she’d make something up. When she starts her sentences with “I had a dream,” I sometimes think of Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech.

One thing I didn’t anticipate on the trip was Gabby making friends wherever she went. She’d run off to other campsites and hang out with kid and adult campers, which meant that Brian or I had to get off our butts and go over and meet them. She met one camper named Sean in Glacier and asked “Do you have a girlfriend?” He said “no.” And then Gabby said “Do you have a boyfriend?” Sean relayed this to us later that night after Gabby was asleep, and we got a good laugh. There¬† is no telling what she’ll say to complete strangers! I walked by another campsite in Yellowstone where Gabby had gone to visit after dinner around 9:00 p.m., and the grandfather said “We’ll see you tomorrow, Gabby” in the nicest way possible. I was glad to see that she got the hint and didn’t overstay her welcome.

Our first hike of the trip was a 4-mile loop to Taggert Lake in Grant Teton National Park. I thought Gabby could get in the lake without getting her underwear wet. Wrong! She fell down right when it was time to get out. It wasn’t a big deal, though, since I carried her the entire way back to the car.

The kids got along surprisingly well on the trip.

This was the first of maybe 20-30 miles that I carried Gabby on my back during our hikes. I was thankful to be in decent shape. Sometimes she’d complain about being on my back, and I’d tell her she should be THANKING me. I felt like a pack mule.

She always wanted to get down when there were flowers to be picked. Or if we were walking downhill.

This creek was near our campsite in Gros Ventre outside of the park. Brian took up fishing on the trip. I know he enjoys fishing, but I think he also did it to get a little peace and quiet from his family.¬† This was a time when we joined him. He didn’t catch any fish. Coincidence?

We had the Taj Mahal of tents. The REI Kingdom 8 was very comfy, and I loved being able to stand in the tent.

The next day we hiked Inspiration Point near Jenny Lake. The trail was VERY popular.

The kids never got tired of having their picture taken. In fact, on our next trip, I’m going to let them each have one of my old cameras so they can take pictures themselves.

Cathy Shill from The Hole Hiking Experience took us to Munger Mountain on a hike. Gabby picked lots of flowers, one of her favorite things to do on hikes, which is discouraged in national parks. Luckily, Munger Mountain isn’t a national park.

Cathy brought her butterfly net, and we caught several butterflies and identified them.

Gabby hitched a ride on Brian’s shoulders.

It was a beautiful hike, and we were all entertained. Money well spent!

At the end of the hike, Gabby cut her face with a walking stick she had just found minutes before. She still has a red line on her face, which I’m hoping will fade. After lunch at Betty Rock in Jackson, we headed to String Lake for a swim. At the campsite that night, we counted Gabby’s boo boos. She had 12, most on her legs. It got worse before it got better. She was always falling, but it never slowed her down. We should have nicknamed her Booboolicious after her favorite story character Pinkalicious.

We started off the Fourth of July with a hike up the M overlooking the University of Montana in Missoula.

Gabby did a decent bit of the hike by herself.

After a few hours at Splash Montana, a water park run by the City of Missoula, we went back to Dunrovin Ranch so the kids could do their first pony rides. Gabby was given Clyde to ride.

First she groomed him, and then she learned how to use reins. The person teaching them was named Maggie.

Maggie didn’t usually do the pony lessons so we were surprised when she told the kids they do some cantering. They were giggling and having the best time. On their second run across the field, Gabby fell off her horse. She was a champ and got right back on. It was probably a good experience to put a little fear in her!

After they were done riding, they got to feed the horses. Then we hit two local breweries, went back to the ranch to pack up our stuff and then went to the Southgate Mall around 9:30 p.m. to watch fireworks. It didn’t get dark in Missoula until after 10:00 p.m. We met a family from Colorado who had kids several years older than Coleman. It was a trip watching Gabby and Coleman interact with the kids.

The next morning we drove to Glacier National Park and got one of the last campsites at Apgar. Both Brian and my hearts were racing when we entered the campground because we knew it filled up fast everyday AND it was a holiday weekend. We got very lucky! Gabby often played in the area behind our tent. This is where she picked up the tick we found on her head a few days after we camped there. It’s also where we saw our first bear. I’m glad she wasn’t playing back there when the bear showed up!

Hiking the Avalanche Creek trail to the lake.

And here is the lake. No wonder it was such a crowded hike.

Brian fished while the kids played in the rocks. Gabby loves to get dirty.

The next day we did a remote hike to Trout Lake on a trail with tons of bear poop. It was one time I was very glad to keep Gabby on my back, even though we gained 2,000 feet of elevation over 2 miles. I let her walk on the way down.

The view coming down overlooked Lake McDonald.

I drove the Going to the Sun road the next day while Brian tried not to look down. The road is cut right into a mountain with sheer drop offs right on the other side. It is beautifully scenic but very dangerous. Most of the time, there aren’t even guard rails. Here is Gabby at the visitor center before we set off on our 6 mile hike to Hidden Lake and back.

I actually liked carrying Gabby around on my back. She made up lots of stories for me, which were always entertaining. We wouldn’t have been able to do the hikes we did if I hadn’t carried her.

We saw many mountain goats on this hike.

Gabby got her socks wet right off the bat by jumping into a puddle, so she got to ride on my back barefoot for a while.

Most hikers stop when they get to the overlook of Hidden Lake. We hiked all the way down.

Gabby played in the rocks while Brian fished. We found out a week later that they had closed the trail to the lake because a grizzly bear had camped out and was feeding on fish. We feel fortunate that we were allowed to hike down to the lake AND didn’t run into a grizzly. Gabby’s pose screams “Come eat me grizzly bear!”

On the hike we made friends with Alex and Jenn. Alex was originally from Vegas, and they now live in Seattle. Alex actually carried Gabby some of the way back from the lake and helped her through the snow. As I said earlier, Gabby likes meeting new people!

It was a lot more fun hiking in snow coming down the hill then going up!

Snow angels anyone? At the gym, this exercise is called a superman.

Stampede was going on while we were in Calgary, and since we hadn’t planned ahead and gotten rodeo tickets, we decided to participate by going to the carnival and blowing money on carnival games.

I’m not sure where Gabby got this pose. Maybe Fancy Nancy?

Unfortunately, Gabby wasn’t on her best behavior while we stayed with our college buddy Matt Davis and his wife Carmen. On our second night there, we had cupcakes for dessert. Since we ate dinner pretty late, I only allowed Gabby to have half of a cupcake. She became hysterical. Since I felt somewhat responsible, I got her ready for bed, and it took forever. I remember everyone in the house giving me sympathetic looks. Once I had her in bed and calmed down, I asked if there was anything she or Coleman needed (like water), and she said “Another cupcake.” I said “That’s a good one Gabby.” The next day, she kept asking for the other half of her cupcake. She was very persistent. She finally got it. She usually forgets things pretty quickly, but I guess things are different when cupcakes are involved.

We hiked to Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. Couples who play together, stay together!

Our second break a half mile later.

When we finally made it to Moraine Lake, it was windy and cold.

I love Gabby’s expression in this picture. This is the lake where Coleman’s hat blew off, and Brian had to jump in to get it. If our roles were reversed, and I had been there with Coleman while Brian was down the trail with Gabby, I don’t think I would have felt the need to jump in to get Coleman’s hat, no matter how hard he cried. Note the ice IN THE LAKE.

After our hike, we visited Lake Louise.

Note the glacier in the background. We didn’t have time to hike around the lake, but next time we will hike to the tea house.

We hiked Johnston Canyon the next day and saw lots of waterfalls. Brian was very nervous about Gabby’s safety and insisted she hold hands for most of the hike. Look at that face! She wouldn’t do anything crazy, would she?!

Later on Brian went on a bike ride, and Carmen and I took the kids on a boat ride on Lake Minnewanka. I couldn’t even listen to the tour guide because I was trying to get Gabby to behave. When the ride was over, she hopped off the boat and ran down the dock without waiting. I didn’t want to make a scene, but I was scared she’d trip and fall in. Carmen later told me that the tour guide had said that if you fall in the water, you’d be dead in 4 minutes. The lake was that cold. When I finally caught up to her, I pretty much dragged her all of the way to the car. When Brian joined us back at the campsite, I let him deal with her, and she was just as sassy and defiant towards him. We forced her to go to bed early, and she was like a new person the next morning. I guess I hadn’t realized she had really just been tired - a walking zombie. And what zombie does what they are told?

The next day we drove to the Columbia Ice Fields, the farthest point north of our trip - latitude 51 degrees (Anchorage is 60 degrees). I like this picture Brian took of our minivan in front of the glacier. That minivan was a great road trip car.

It was great getting to spend time with Matt and Carmen. I hope Gabby didn’t scare them too much since they’ll be having a girl in a few months!

Conquering the bear!

That night we had dinner in Banff and then had to take a picture in front of this store. Gabby isn’t afraid to be rude!

We left Canada on July 14 and headed to a KOA campground in East Glacier. Then we went on a small hike in Sunrift Gorge. This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

We walked by Saint Mary Lake on the way to a waterfall. Some hikers spotted a bear in the forest, but we didn’t see it.

We had to take a picture at the Glacier sign before embarking on our most ambitious hike - 10 miles round trip to Iceberg Lake.

This picture was taken around mile 8. Note the big waterfall in the background. We were in the home stretch, and that’s when Gabby decided trail running might be fun.

We let the kids take off their shirts when they got overheated.

Nothing beats huckleberry soft serve after a 10-mile hike.

We left for Yellowstone the next day and set up camp at Grant Campground. We saw lots of bison during our stay in Yellowstone.

We hiked through a meadow to Clear Lake and then Ribbon Lake. Up until this point, I thought all glacial lakes were cool, and then I remembered that these weren’t glacial lakes. The kids hated the smell of sulfur from the nearby fumaroles and the lakes just weren’t scenic. It didn’t help that we got lost on the trail and the return trail didn’t list our parking spot as a destination so we were nervous about taking it. We ended up walking 7 miles when we had intended to walk 5. And the mosquitoes and horse flies were really annoying.

After the hike, we stopped at Grant Visitor Center, and Gabby sat down for a lecture that had already begun on bear safety. She raised her hand several times during the lecture to share what she knew about bears. There was no stopping her from talking, so I didn’t even try. I just went inside to talk to a park ranger to avoid getting embarrassed about it. After we got what we needed from the visitor center, we realized that there was a beach on the other side. We let the kids play in the lake for an hour since they had been such good sports about the 7 miles we had hiked earlier.

Our final hike of the trip was up Mount Washburn.

We had great views of Yellowstone in all directions.

I got lots of accolades from fellow hikers for carrying Gabby 3 miles up the mountain.

We spent at least 30 minutes at the top checking out the views and having lunch.

We took a break on some rocks toward the end of the hike. She looks so angelic and well behaved!

Gabby didn’t pick any flowers on this hike because she had learned that you can’t become a junior ranger if you pick flowers. She didn’t earn her badge though because some of the activities were too old for her. She didn’t have the attention span to finish them. When Coleman got his badge, she decided to call him Mr. Junior Ranger. It was pretty darn cute.

The next day we got up at 6:00 a.m. and were on the road before 7:00 a.m. We made it back to Vegas around 6:00 p.m. and gained an hour on the way. And we made it back before the flash floods hit. It was a great trip!