Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Ride Through Yellowstone

Can I just say that I love my family? And I’m not just talking about my immediate family...I’m talking extended. I have been really blessed...spoiled even...and then doubly blessed with my in-laws.

The point I am trying to make is during President’s Day weekend, I was lucky enough to accompany my Aunt Erin and her family on their snowmobiling trip in Yellowstone. We all drove up together in their van (me, Erin, Fa’a, Darnel, Dylan, and Aryana). The reason for me “crashing” their family trip is they needed a third driver over the age of 16. None of her kids are 16 yet so when she asked me to join them, I was more than happy to accommodate! Erin is usually the designated driver (not minding the drive, music, and conversation), so she drove and Fa’a gave up his front seat to allow me to sit up front with Erin. I felt bad at first, but then realized that he doesn’t mind at all. He was happy to sleep in the back and to give the “listening ear” role to someone else...Erin is well known for her non-stop talking. But I really enjoyed myself the entire 5-6 hour drive to and from West Yellowstone. I got to know my cousins a little bit better, and really had a good time talking, singing, and chowing down on yummy snacks. Not only that, but the drive was beautiful.

Lunch stop in Pocatello

We stayed at the Yellowstone Lodge (I believe). There is something quaint about West Yellowstone, especially in the winter. There is something about the snow being head high and people driving around on the streets on their snowmobiles. One thing that surprised me though was how empty it was. The place seemed like a ghost town! Apparently, the government has limited the number of snowmobile tours allowed through the park to help preserve and not excite the wildlife. Sad for local shops and businesses, but nice for the personal feeling with nature (that I will mention more later). 

View from our hotel room
Being tourists:

Erin and me

Fa'a and me

Aryana and me

Me, Darnel, Dylan, and Aryana

 Apelu Family

Dinner at Wild West Pizza (or something like that)

And after dinner and shopping, we enjoyed swimming at the hotel pool and then watched One For The Money.

Our snowmobile tour left early in the morning, and was pretty much a full eight hour day of riding. Our little caravan was about 10 or 12 snowmobiles long and we were led by a guide. I drove our machine and Aryana rode on the back. We rode from the tour facility into the Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t know at all what to expect. I knew I was excited, but I knew nothing of the beauty I was about to experience. Saying it was amazing and gorgeous doesn’t even begin to explain what we saw! We were so lucky to be riding on a clear day. It had been stormy a couple of days prior, so we really hit the jackpot. We were able to see the crisp, sparkling snow. As the snow blew from the tree boughs, it lightly glittered around us. The deep blue waters were running swift and let off steam that rose into the air. There were several tours that went through that day, but due to good timing on their part and spacing us out, it literally felt like we were the only ones riding through the park. As far as I was concerned, we were the only ones there.

Warming up the machines

The touring company provided the body suits, boots, gloves, face guards, and helmets. Thanks to the outwear and heated handlebars and seats, I stayed nice and warm the whole day.

Our first animal spotting was a bald eagle that was perched in a tree just beside the designated path we were taking. The bird looked truly magnificent in the rays of the morning sun. A few minutes later, another bald eagle was spotted on the other side of the road (apparently his mate). How cool is that? Two wild bald eagles seen within the first 20 minutes of entering the park. I was impressed and knew I was in for a special day. Next we saw some elk and some swans. My favorite were the bison. We saw lots and lots of bison throughout the day. They are just so big and strong, but have gentleness in their eyes. I love them! Later on, as we were exploring some of the hot geysers along the way, we were visited by a coyote. That was pretty cool. It was far enough away that I didn’t feel threatened. There had been an elk kill the previous day, so we were told that we might see some wolves around the carcass. To Aryana’s dismay, we did not end up seeing any wolves (just coyotes)...but secretly I was glad. Another of nature’s wonders that we saw were several waterfalls. They were so pretty with the crystal ice that surrounded them and the white foam that billowed at the base. You see, I’m trying to be descriptive to illustrate what I saw...but I am not quite doing it justice. At least I tried.

Bald eagle


Aryana and me


Enjoying hot chocolate at our first pit stop

Walking through the geyser path

One of our coyote friends:

Waiting for Old Faithful after our lunch break:

A few roadside bison:

Now, these two bison got spooked as we drove up behind them, and the back one started running. Then he started angling in towards the caravan and I just about thought he was going to cut us off right in from of me and Aryana! It may not seem like much, but when you are right there, right next to the huge beast...your heart is pounding and it is up in your throat! I was amazed and totally freaked at the same time! What a rush!

There were these huge black ravens everywhere around town!

A day of snowmobiling can be exhausting!

And just when we thought we had seen all there was to see...we were surprised when out of the trees came a group of elk that crossed the road and calmly walked beside us. So cool!

What a sight! And what a grand backdrop!

Here we are at the end of the tour...with our tour guide in red

After a long and exciting day through Yellowstone, we were beat and ready for dinner and bed. The rest of the evening we were basking in the exhausting high that was our unforgettable ride through the park and making plans for next year's trip. We couldn't believe we would be packing up and driving home the next day.
On the way home, we stopped at my grandparent's old cabin in Island Park:

So many fun and lasting memories there!

We also got a terrific view of the Tetons!

What a fabulous trip!

As sad as it was to leave, I was also anxious to get home. It was my first weekend (or night for that matter) away from Charlie! I pumped morning and night while away...so I was anxious about that...but also I was anxious about leaving Charlie with Jason for two nights! Luckily I was able to enjoy the trip and didn't worry about them too much...and when everything was said and done, there was nothing to worry about. All went well and Jason and Charlie had a great time. They spent the weekend recording and converting the old Gruber family videos and spent Sunday evening with my family.

Somebody forgot to bring the Bumbo

It's good to be home and with my boys!

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