Yellowstone Vacation

For a couple of years now Liam has wanted to go to Yellowstone for a summer trip, but his sister did not. That is not to say that we did not have some great trips to Chicago and New York that I think both kids would say were fun, but this year with Ann out of the house and not joining us we went out West.

Thanks to all my business travel over the years I have a lot of “points” for airlines, rental cars and hotels. Honestly I didn’t know what these things did until a few years ago when someone at work opened my eyes to the possibilities. So for three years now we’ve been cashing these things out to help fund summer vacations. It’s pretty amazing what these loyalty programs provide especially since I’ve been basically ignoring them for a decade or two.

So, Liam and I cashed in some miles/points to head out West.

Thanks again to my airline status we were upgraded to first class on one leg there and one leg back, along with comfort+ on the other two legs. Plus TSA Pre Check status that seems to apply to my son—he’s feeling a bit like a king.

So we got to Bozeman, Montana and rented a Ford F-150, (again on points). The latter turned out to be a good choice for blending into the area and the first time I’ve driven a pickup. While the gearshift was a bit of a pain to use in mountain driving, (I learned to drive partly in Colorado with a manual transmission and something drilled into me was to use gears instead of riding the brakes), I felt like a mountain man driving this pickup. It was big and bulky, but I recently grew a beard and it just felt right…

Then was the drive to West Yellowstone. Simply beautiful. The radio cut out and there was no phone service, but that didn’t matter. There was a fire “incident” along the way filling the cabin at one point with the smell of a campfire, but we made it intact.

At the prompting of our AirBNB host, we stopped in Bozeman to pick up groceries. We picked up bread and turkey for lunches, butter and English Muffins for breakfast, (we skipped eggs to pick them up in town), some fruit and vegetables, band-aids, (as I had a couple of nasty blisters from new shoes I wore from helping tear down the set of a musical Liam was in the day before our trip), and jerky for snacks.

Plus some coffee both in liquid form for now and ground beans for later.

Sufficiently caffeinated we made it to our AirBNB destination a couple hours later and checked in. It was a pretty neat two-story cabin with about 7” ceilings that made us both seem tall and a spiral staircase.

Day 2 (Tuesday) we headed to Yellowstone, the entrance a mile away. Traffic was terrible, but we made it and managed to park at various geyser areas. Of course Old Faithful was on the list and path, and we made it there around lunchtime.

Saw that/done that. Back to the drive.

Yellowstone Lake was next before heading back.

Day 3 (Wednesday) was heading to the NW entrance. We had a 2PM rafting tour planned. But I wanted to stop at the Hot Springs on the way, so set out early.

Traffic was again terrible and the road turned into a panic-inducing small two-lane bit with a steep drop-off on the side. How these rented RVs and other vehicles riding their brakes did not fall off the edge I do not know. I guess technology has changed since I learned to drive in the mountains. My son seemed comfortable while I was trying to teach him something about mountain driving and how this stuff was really unnerving to me. He was just like, “mom would hate this” and seemed OK with me at the wheel.

Um, *I* hate this!

But we made it to the hot springs. Except as we parked the rain fell down. Now we both packed rain jackets, so put them on and headed down the trail. Except this was an amazing downpour. But we kept on laughing at those running up beside us.

Then it was back up to the truck where we ate lunch and then headed out.

It was white-water rafting time!

The storm had cleared when we got down and checked in. Swimsuits and all were donned and we headed out. While the rafting was not as hard as the ones in Colorado and (in a canoe in Tennessee), it was fun and we had chances to jump in the river a couple of times. Me and Liam and another guy did that when offered. The first time I jumped in I did not like the life preserver, but after drifting about it was a welcome addition.

After that we ate at a place on the river where Liam and I ordered a Bison and an Elk burger and split them. We both said that Elk was the best, but I have never seen that for sale around here.

Day 4 was to be ziplining and a visit to the “Bear and Wolf Experience”. While the latter went well, (Liam wanted to see a Grizzly and they were hard to find this time of year), the former ended up cancelled due to storms. So we went to Bozeman on the way back and stopped at an ice cream place (Sweet Peaks) for a milkshake. Then a BBQ place we had passed before and always seemed filled. It was really great.

Liam is on the hunt for the best chocolate milkshake and we have had a few in West Yellowstone. This one in Bozeman was on the top of the list except for the chocolate chips they put in it. (I had the Expresso shake, which was pretty good except for the chips.)

Day 5 we had a rescheduled ziplining trip. But Liam and I also wanted to hike. While we both wanted to get up a mountain, the one hike that seemed appropriate was closed. So we headed out to “Purple Mountain”.

Time was short and we had about 45 minutes to get up then the same time back down to reach ziplining.

According to my watch we hiked 3.96 miles over a 1.74 mile ascent and likewise descent. I was looking to get to a summit, but while it seemed just in reach we never reached it. On the way down we passed another group heading up and they asked if they were almost there. I laughed and said “sure”. (According to my watch they were less than a mile in.)

I am not too good at not reaching the end point. At this time I’m thinking that I need to go back here some day and get to the summit. But today we had time constraints…

So back to ziplining. The weather turned bad again and we were put on hold, but after about 30 minutes things were cleared to go. I was not looking forward to this as there was a bit of climbing up ladders in trees and for some reason in the last 10 years or so I have developed a fear of heights. This fear is new to me and I’m kind of annoyed by it. I didn’t have this before and not sure where it came from, but it’s there.

Mind over matter, right?

I made it up the first couple of rope ladders. The first was not fun and then we had to do another up to the first zipline. I’m not sure what makes the ladders and standing on some shaky platform weird and ziplining not, but the latter was no issue. In the second jump I just ran off the edge. But after that was another platform and rope ladder that I hated.

After we got down I told Liam that I was scared on the ladders and didn’t know why. I don’t know if he heard what I was saying or just ignored it based on my mask on the trip.

[12/23/2020 Update: I never finished this travelogue and now it is too late to remember all the details.]

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