We drove a beautiful winding road south toward Livingston, Montana where we would stay for a week (hooray!) This was one of our longest stretches and we were excited to get somewhere and stay there for awhile.
Being on the road... loading up and unpacking is hard, especially with little ones. We were all thrilled when we pulled up to a gorgeous Montana home tucked in a valley surrounded by gorgeous mountains, knowing we would have comfortable beds to sleep in for seven days.
Our first day we spent enjoying the home, after a few days without service I had to get some work done…but my view was spectacular… mountains, fields and the Yellowstone River moving rather quickly outside my window all set up for a picture perfect work setting. We all relaxed and thought of some plans for the week.
Evan jumped right into the role of a rancher and hopped on the tractor to help our friends with work around the ranch. Halen, our little outdoor girl, ran after daddy and wanted to join him on all things on the ranch. They even went into town to get their fishing license so they could fish in the Yellowstone River out back, Halen was definitely living her best life.
The next day we ventured into Yellowstone National Park and were quickly blown away by how gorgeous it was. Glacier had the striking jagged mountains, but Yellowstone had the soft, voluptuous mountains that I think I prefer. I am a tree girl, they instantly settle my busy soul.
We grabbed some Junior Ranger books from Mammoth Hot Springs…which looked like Disney World, we were a bit disheartened to see the vast amounts of people everywhere. Lines upon lines, traffic galore. It seemed too much of a tourist trap to us and we were yearning to escape the crowds and drive far away from all the hoopla. As we were maneuvering our way out of the Mall of America-like parking lot, we watched several massive elk strutting their stuff all over the area. Even two bucks were enjoying the shade the buildings provided. Babies stayed close to their mamas, and they peacefully munched on grass. It was easy to see that they were the kings, not us. Rangers were out making sure everyone stayed at least 25 yards from the elk. Although these guys looked peaceful, two people had already been rushed to the hospital that summer for not following the rules.
Finally we escaped the traffic jam and set out to explore. Our first stop was out at The Grand Canyon in Yellowstone, the canyon was incredible... colors of every kind rocks thrust up and down all along the riverbed and a giant waterfall on one side. After gazing and picture taking we drove into Lamar Valley, known for all its wildlife. It didn’t take long til we spotted some bison… gentle giants roaming along the vast valley.
Then suddenly they were everywhere, I wondered if this was just a glimpse of what the plain were like before the American Settlers took over. These gorgeous beasts were everywhere, eventually we came to ones that started crossing the road and we got up close and personal. This is Evan’s spirit animal and his cup was filled being surrounded by these massive, muscular boulder-like animals. We also spotted some pronghorns and then as we circled back and were about to head out and we spotted a bear.
Yes a bear. I was elated, this was what I wanted to see! It was a black bear, scavenging for his dinner meal, turning over rocks and searching for something to fill his tummy. We pulled over and watched for a long while, all blown away by his wild nature. Seeing animals in their own habitat is nothing like the zoo, it was amazing. Then suddenly he started walking our direction and sure enough he walked directly in front of our car and off to the other side of the road. You could tell his senses were on alert, he uncomfortably hurried across the street to search for food. We were amazed, luckily, I caught it all on video. Impressed and hungry ourselves, we headed back toward an awesome grill settled just on the outside of the park next to the Yellowstone River. I ordered the trout and Evan ordered the elk meatloaf… we are all about eating locally and embracing the food offered in each area we visit.
The next day we decided to have another easy-going day, it was recommended we check out the Chico Hotel and Hot Springs, not far away. After a lazy morning, we gathered up our swimsuits and drove down the road, the Chico Hotel was stuck in the Old West, beautiful and old-fashioned. We went to the hot springs pool, which looked a lot like Deep Eddy, but it was hot. Open air and sunshine poured into this 120-year-old establishment. We swam, then took a break to have a picnic lunch on the soft grass and then back in the water. After a grocery store run, nap time and dinner we headed back for more late-night swimming before bed time. We met a group of teachers from Billings and Halen quickly made herself the leader of the pack and instructed them what to do, she bonded with one teacher (who was a kindergarten teacher) and the teacher commented she think she found her spirit animal, we laughed as our 4-year-old thoroughly enjoyed being the teacher of the teachers. We thanked the ladies for allowing our daughter to partake in their evening and headed home for bed.
It was time for another day in Yellowstone, this time our goal was all the geysers, seeing Prysmatic Lake and Old Faithful. We stopped at Wildflour Café and Bakery for some local breakfast. The drive was gorgeous, sharp turns, steep canyons, waterfalls, fuming fissures and towering mountains all around as we weaved our way through the park. We stopped at several spots along the way to marvel at the mud pots, mini geysers and then came the crème de la crème… Prysmatic Spring…. This incredible natural phenomenon has all the colors of a prism. It started from a brownish orange and quickly moves into a deep blue and then bright turquoise… it is gorgeous and definitely worth seeing. Evan, our science expert, felt this was the true gem of Yellowstone National Park.
After enjoying the beauty, we made our way to good Old Faithful, we just missed the clockwork action and had to wait another 90 minutes for the next eruption. We checked out the lodge, had some ice cream, and had some down time before the big show. Dad saved us seats, yes, it is almost like a stadium around the old gey. Just like clockwork 90 minutes after the earlier eruption, she started making gurgles and spewing steam, then suddenly up she went 175 feet. Pretty spectacular that there is so much heat, pressure, steam and water stored up beneath the surface to emit such a powerful display. Even more impressive is how calculated and predictable the geyser is. It only lasts a few minutes, and just as quickly as it began the geyser goes back to being a gurgling mass surrounded by bleachers for the next crowd. We ate dinner in the lodge and drove the two hours through the park back to our cabin in the valley.
The following day was another relaxing day, pretending for a moment we were ranchers… Evan tending to the outside needs and me tending to the inside needs. We made elk steaks for lunch and bison steak for dinner...
delicious. We took a nature walk to gather wildflowers and enjoy the grounds, watching the sun make its way along the horizon until suddenly it was setting over the mountains. Exhausted from our busy trip and trying to gear up for a long drive home, we settled in for the night.