Family Yellowstone Trip August 23-25, 2019

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swmalone

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***Warning there may be triggers related to traveling with family***

Last year my wife mentioned to her Mom that it might be fun to plan a trip to visit Yellowstone. Earlier this year my Mother-In-Law mentioned that she had reserved a timeshare in West Yellowstone but it seemed that the trip was for another part of the family. Then about two months before the trip all of the sudden we were invited. I found out it was because they wanted me to plan the activities in the park. I asked everyone going if they had anything they wanted to see or do and got the typical “no we will do whatever you plan”. So with that I planned some things that I hoped would appeal to a majority of the people.

About a week before the trip my Mother-In-Law contacted us letting us know that she had accidentally booked the two timeshare rooms on different days. We were able to find an overpriced motel room with only a slight mold problem and a musty smell that only lingered for an hour or so before you got used to it. We actually didn’t mind the motel room that much since it had comfy beds and we were only in it for a total of about 13 hours for the entire trip. There was definitely some disparity between that room and the 3 bedroom suite at the timeshare. My wife and I would have preferred to try to camp somewhere, but since were playing tour guides we needed to stay close to everyone.

August 23, 2019

After getting together for lunch after arriving in West Yellowstone on the 23rd we headed into the park. We had a total of 6 adults ranging from mid 30’s to mid 60’s and 3 kids ranging from 7-12. We headed in the direction of Old Faithful and pulled off in the parking area for the Fairy Falls and Grand Prismatic Overlook trail. We started on the trail as the walking wounded. I just got the thumbs up to increase my activity level after breaking my back in May, my brother-in-law was wearing a sling due to a broken collar bone and surgery he had a few weeks ago, and my father-in-law had had some mysterious surgery two days prior to the trip. Even with all of that we progressed fairly well up towards the overlook.

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I have only been to Yellowstone in October and each time the steam coming off the spring made seeing it very difficult, this was also the first time at the overlook so seeing the colors was an impressive sight.

After taking some pictures at the overlook we continued on towards fairy falls. It seems that the majority of people turn back at the overlook making the rest of the hike quite a bit more enjoyable. We rounded the corner and the falls came into view. With the size of the falls it just appears to be a very tall, delicate waterfall. We took some pictures and sat and enjoyed the area for a while. These fat, overfed chipmunks kept coming right up to us and trying to dig through packs. We had to convince the kids not to listen to their grandpa who kept telling them to hold food for the chipmunks. He seems to think it is highly amusing to tell them to do things that will get them into trouble.

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We started our hike back and noticed we had one of the kids lagging and wanting to sit down a lot. We eventually got it out of him that his stomach hurt and he had to go to the bathroom. Once he opened up about it he apparently wanted everyone on the trail to know as we kept moving him forward and he would slow and scream at the top of his lungs “I have to poop, it is coming out!” We got back to the cars and quickly headed towards Old Faithful. We arrived with just enough time to catch the next eruption of Old Faithful but ended up missing it due to an extended bathroom break. We decided to wait around for the next eruption and while doing so walked around checking out the visitor center and other things in the area.


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The eruption of Old Faithful was a big hit with everyone and seemed to push the energy level up a bit. We got back on the road and headed towards the West Thumb. We took some pictures and walked around the West Thumb Thermal Basin looking at some of the sites.

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At this point the kids were getting antsy because it was getting late and they were worried they weren’t going to get back to the timeshare in time to swim before the pool closed. It was starting to get dark so we headed back to West Yellowstone. We ended up getting back around 10:30 pm and I was getting the evil eye from the kids since they missed out on swimming. We ate a very late dinner and then headed to our musty hotel room and headed to bed.

August 24, 2019

We woke up at 5 am which wasn’t a popular choice for most people. We entered the park a bit after 6 am and headed up towards Tower. We hadn’t seen any bison, or other larger animals for that matter, the previous day. As we drove towards Tower we spotted several elk and once we turned off at Tower towards the NE entrance we spotted our first bison. We stopped to take a few pictures and discussed how much farther he had to go. We headed out again and as soon as we turned to cross the Yellowstone River we had a bit of delay from a bison crossing the bridge walking straight down the center line, it was pretty entertaining.

As we drove towards the Specimen Ridge Trail trailhead we spotted bison all along the side of the road and right off the parking area. A lot of the bison were making a snorting sound and stamping at the ground. I am amazed that there are not more accidents involving bison and people considering how close some people seem to think they can get to them.

We left two vehicle at the Specimen Ridge Trail trailhead and all climbed into a truck with the kids all in the bed. We immediately got stuck in a bison jam and my sister-in-law was freaking out about how close the bison were with the kids in the bed of the truck.

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We eventually made it back to the Yellowstone River picnic area and started on our hike. We hiked up to a nice overlook of the river and took the opportunity to snap some pictures.

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Then we started off on the rest of our hike towards the intersection with the Specimen Ridge Trail. I stayed towards the front and Kim stayed towards the back with her parents. Along the way he had great views of the river. We then heard a strange sound and rounded a corner to see a couple of cranes making a lot of noise. I didn’t realized that they were that loud.

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A little farther along the trail we spotted an antelope standing and running along the hill.

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Kim caught up to me and she looked kind of grumpy so I asked what was going on. It appears that her dad had been back there bitching about driving all this way to hike through sagebrush and he can walk through sagebrush at home and her mom and sister-in-law were complaining that they were told it was an easy trail. This got me a bit worked up because I had them look at everything I had planned and everyone said “yep looks good to us”.

We eventually reached the intersection with the Specimen Ridge Trail and I told everyone that if they thought that section of trail we had already done was anything less than a leisurely stroll they should take the opportunity to head back to the Specimen Ridge Trail parking area.

Kim and I headed up to the ridge and were followed by Kim’s brother and a couple of the kids. The climb was nowhere near as bad as it looked from the bottom. We hit the ridge and I told everyone I really just wanted to hike a mile or two and then we would turn back.

As we progressed along the ridge some dark clouds started to come in and it cooled it off a bit. Then we started hearing the grunting and groaning of bison in the distance. As we walked we started to spot some of the bison up above us. They were still quite a ways off but with the sounds they were making and the stamping we were sure to keep an eye on them. I crossed a small rise and found the trail blocked by a lot of bison. This was a bit over a mile in and we decided with the dark clouds and all of the bison around that we would take the opportunity to turn around.

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I was in the lead as we headed back to the trail intersection. I was at the intersection talking to a couple of other hiker waiting for the rest of my group to make it back to the intersection. All of the sudden one of the hikers went “Whoahhh!!!!” and pointed up to the trail I had just descended. I looked back and could see a large group of bison running down the trail that we had just been on a few minutes earlier. I yelled to the others to turn around and look. That kind of freaked out a few of them.

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We turned off heading toward the Specimen Ridge Trail parking area and were careful to keep and eye out behind and above use for the bison that were moving down the hill. As we got farther down we could see Kim’s dad waving his arms at us. They had moved a couple of the vehicles because rangers were out restricting traffic due to all of the bison on the road. We eventually were able to get back to our vehicle and we all headed to the Yellowstone River picnic area.

After having lunch I made the decision not to head towards Lamar Valley after talking to the rangers about all of the bison related delays. I asked what everyone wanted to do and got a “whatever” from the adults and “head back to the room and swim” from the kids. I chose to head toward Mammoth and the North entrance.

The elk that just hang around Mammoth were a bit hit with everyone, as was the animal display in the visitor center. Unfortunately trying to get anyone interested in the more historical exhibits was a bit more difficult.

We headed up towards the thermal features and everyone was willing to explore at least a few but it seemed that most everyone with the exception of Kim and I were about done with the walking. They did really enjoy the parts that they did see and Kim and I walked around to the other sites while the others sat on benches and waited for us.

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We then said off to see the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, MT. The kids and to be honest a couple of the adults didn’t seem to want to drive farther into the park. The offer of ice cream seemed to do the trick.

I used the arch as an opportunity to give a little bit of a history lesson and we also reviewed the scavenger hunt since the arch was the last thing on the list. Each of the kids received a Yellowstone patch for completing the scavenger hunt and Kim’s brother liked the idea and was thinking of getting them patches when they visit places.

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We stopped and had ice cream prior to heading back towards West Yellowstone. Along the way we stopped at Artist Paint Pot because one of the kids was obsessed with seeing mud pots. Unfortunately we seemed to have worn him out. He just refused to go, but after we got back and showed him the pictures he was just mad, but still refused to walk to go see them.

With that we headed back to West Yellowstone, picked up some beers and headed to the timeshare for dinner. The kids were very happy because they made it back just in time to swim for a bit.

After dinner back to the motel and bed.

August 25, 2019

We woke up and got everything packed to head home. We all met at the Three Bears Diner for breakfast. The food was pretty good, but we had some of the best service I have had at a long time in a restaurant.

After breakfast we all went our separate ways to head home. Kim’s brother and his family headed back through Arco. They stopped at EBR-1, which is a decommissioned nuclear reactor that was the first to power a city in the world. It is a pretty cool place to check out. They then spent a bit of time at Craters of the Moon.

Kim’s parents just drove straight home.

Kim and I decided to drive back through the park and go out the South Entrance and drive through Grand Teton National Park. We didn’t hike at all, but stopped at a few pull-outs and visitor centers. It was a nice drive through parts of Wyoming and Idaho that we have never been through.

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Overall we had a really good trip, sometimes we just have to remember that what we enjoy doing is quite different than what others enjoy. I said I’m done planning trips, but I know I was crack and end up doing it again.
 

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Outdoor_Fool

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"***Warning there may be triggers related to traveling with family*** "

OMG, great opening to the TR.

I "led" my brother-in-law's family around Y'stone a couple years ago. Apparently, we did too much driving. How the hell else are you going to see Yellowstone?
 

swmalone

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"***Warning there may be triggers related to traveling with family*** "

OMG, great opening to the TR.

I "led" my brother-in-law's family around Y'stone a couple years ago. Apparently, we did too much driving. How the hell else are you going to see Yellowstone?
I received that complaint as well. My wife told me she is pretty sure the rest of them would have been fine probably going to Old Faithful and then spending the rest of the time in West Yellowstone and hanging out at the timeshare. When I put together the trip I provided maps with mileage related to driving and hiking and they were all good with it.
 

swmalone

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I was there just before you. Came on the 10th and left on the 18th. Way too short, I had such a good time again.
And I was pleasantly surprised it wasn't so busy. I was prepared for the worst
I was pretty envious of the 8 days you spent there. We only had a couple of days and I was just trying to get as much in as possible.
 

McKee80

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I was just trying to get as much in as possible.
That sentence is what gets me into trouble. Years ago, I took my boys out west. Sacramento/ Tahoe/ Yosemite/ Sequioa /Bakersfield / Oceanside. Lots of driving. I still hear about it (and the good parts, too).
 

swmalone

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That sentence is what gets me into trouble. Years ago, I took my boys out west. Sacramento/ Tahoe/ Yosemite/ Sequioa /Bakersfield / Oceanside. Lots of driving. I still hear about it (and the good parts, too).
That has been a problem a few times. I always want to show as many highlights as possible because I know there is a good chance they won't be back, but I also want to do something new to us. I always forget that the highlights I want to show them took us 2 or 3 trips to see on our own.
 

Jackson

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Your descriptions of the family interactions are familiar to me. I usually just don't offer to plan anything unless people are very specific about what they want or it's going to be a backpacking trip.

That said, it's great you still got to go out and see some good stuff. And going back to a comfortable bed and nice room (other than the motel you mentioned) can be wonderful on trips as well.
 

Titans

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@swmalone - if there is a next family trip, how about making the biggest complainers of this trip in charge of planning the next trip? I think you did great and you describe pretty typical family dynamics. Many kids want to swim on vacation, any location with a pool will make them happy. When the kids are happy, the parents are happy.

Have you and Kim considered a trip to Yellowstone with just the two of you? Thanks for sharing, lots of cool Bison photos.
 

swmalone

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@swmalone - if there is a next family trip, how about making the biggest complainers of this trip in charge of planning the next trip? I think you did great and you describe pretty typical family dynamics. Many kids want to swim on vacation, any location with a pool will make them happy. When the kids are happy, the parents are happy.

Have you and Kim considered a trip to Yellowstone with just the two of you? Thanks for sharing, lots of cool Bison photos.
Kim and I have been thinking of doing a trip there with just the two of us. In fact we might do a weekend trip this fall if schedules work out.

As far as letting the complainers plan the trip I would be all for that but have pretty much been informed that if that happens nothing will get planned with the possible exception of hotels or timeshares. I know this is typical family dynamics and I actually enjoy the planning part. I just get frustrated about apparent lack of appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into the planning. Just a bit of venting is all.

And for the bison that is the most I have ever seen and having that many all around definitely made that area a highlight of the trip.
 

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wsp_scott

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he would slow and scream at the top of his lungs “I have to poop, it is coming out!”
Best line ever in a trip report :)

Good job dealing with the family, a trip like that would mean that I avoided my family for a couple of years at least. Glad for you that you got to do some of what you wanted.
 

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