Rock on Living’s Travel Guide: Friendship, Maine – Planning a Personal Retreat

 

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March 2019

{Affiliate links are included}

“Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner piece.” – N. Rowe

Why Maine?

The stars.

The sunrises.

The sunsets.

The coast.

The clean air.

The quiet.

The Woods.

No billboards, noise.

Pristine Stillness.

To set the tone for a trip to Maine and planning a Self-Care Retreat, I will begin by reposting a link to a  think-piece piece I wrote during this time entitled, “Slack Tide.”

https://rockonliving.com/2019/03/07/slack-tide

Like Yellowstone, Maine is one of the United State’s hidden gems. Acadia National Park, located in Maine provides maybe the most stunning sunrises in all of the United States (but you have to be up early to catch!) A few summers ago, our family had one of our favorite camping experiences in Acadia.

If you like open skies, fresh clean air, extremes in weather, lobster, art, woods, hiking, skiing, hunting, relaxing or communing with Mother Nature, Maine is the place for you!

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” -unknown

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Driving from Portland to Friendship I saw NO supersize stores of any kind – none, zero, zilch! There must be a grocery store chain called “Shaws” because I saw several of them. For the most part, there are a lot of mom and pop type stores along the routes I traveled to my cottage. I also saw several pottery and art stores that were mostly closed this time of year.

The highways were well-maintained and when snow began to fall, they were on it! The back roads to the cottage were “good” but a little rough (I imagine due to the extreme weather/winters they experience.)

 

When choosing my rental vehicle for this drive, I rented a heavier vehicle with four-wheel drive- just in case of heavy snow and boy am glad I did! The photo below was snapped upon my arrival in the Trader Joe’s parking lot! That’s some serious snow for this North Carolinian!

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Maine is the home to many writers, potters, painters and other artists. There is something about the space, cleanliness and pace of life up there that just inspires one to sit in their creativity.  The quiet and landscapes are the perfect backdrop for inspiration and thinking. Our American society can be audibly and visually noisy. Technology is a double-edged sword with the inability to disconnect sometimes always at your neck. Maine is respite care for the soul.

“Maine is a joy in the summer. But the soul of Maine is more apparent in the winter.” – P. Theroux

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Why Maine in the winter?

It is a risky proposition planning a trip anywhere that can receive blizzard-type weather. When planning this trip add flexibility in your travels coming and going because it can dramatically change based on let’s say, oh, maybe, a blizzard! (And, can I just say if you get lucky enough to be stranded in Maine in a blizzard, I am WAY jealous, ok?)

The Airport: I came and went through the Portland International Jetway and it is seriously the cutest, smallest international airport, ever. Security was sweet. Who says that? “security was sweet…” You say that in Maine! It is super easy to navigate, and man can they handle snow. On my return flight I watched an arsenal of snowblowers, power snowblowers, de-icers and snowplows work like a well-orchestrated ballet keep the runways open.

Why alone?

Once again, I refer you to the post “Slack-Tide” where I describe a week in solitude.

https://rockonliving.com/2019/03/07/slack-tide

 

When planning your personal retreat:

Be clear on the purpose of your time away.

Set your intentions and then let your planning flow from there.

I knew I wanted time to read (a lot), write (a lot), and rest. I knew I wanted to take time to create a masterplan for my schedule/routine/life when I returned home. I wanted to do this in solitude, in silence, and in a remote beautiful winter nature setting.

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Think about what YOU need, what makes you refuel and get clear on that and allow your itinerary, location and plans stay true to those.

When I shared with some my plans to travel to Maine for a week alone, they asked “Why Maine? Can’t you just go a couple hours to the beach?” No, I can’t. For me, I wanted silence. The kind of silence you cannot achieve with the backdrop of the ocean waves, cars, planes, people walking on the beach, commercial scrawl. I wanted pristine silence, no people, no consumerism, silence. I was clear on my desires and this is one of the reasons Maine appealed to me.Screenshot_20190305-140102_Gallery

 

My dad said when he saw my post about my time in Maine he was worried I wasn’t ok. I find that funny. Why is time away alone confusing? I have three teen daughters, homeschool my children, live with my extended family and for now am the primary taxi to my kiddos. Like many, my output is great. A week away was exactly what I needed. However, that may not be your jam. The key is to ask yourself, what would fill you up? What does your soul need?

 

 

 

 

 

“You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day…unless you’re busy, then you should sit for an hour.” -zen saying

The Food

On this trip, food was not a priority. I did not even order a pizza for delivery! (Honestly, I am not sure if you even could!) I would suggest stopping at a grocery store (there is a Trader Joe’s right off the freeway less than 5 minutes from airport) or google a larger grocery chain closer to your destination. I purchased all the food for the week (bought way too much! Not used to shopping and cooking for one!)

 

Preparing and eating food on a retreat by your self is awesome! You eat and cook when YOU feel like it. Here are some of the food items I purchased for my meals for a week in Maine.

Note: I’m lacto-ovo-vegetarian (fancy spancy for I eat eggs and dairy but nothing with a face.)

Wine:

Two Buck Chuck red wine

Snacks:

Dark Chocolate Almonds and raisins

Tortilla chips

Cheesy popcorn – love that stuff.

Dr. Pepper (don’t judge)

Breakfast:

oatmeal, chopped bananas/strawberries & brown sugar

Granola & Soy Milk

Eggs, orange sprinkle cheese, tortillas, vegetarian sausage patties for breakfast burritos

Lunch:

PB & J

Spring Mix Salad

“Euro” lunch – sliced cucumbers, fancy cheese (I love Gouda), apple slices, hummus, crackers

Tomato Soup

Quesadillas

Dinner:

Spaghetti and Vegie Meatballs

Steamed Broccoli

Cheese Raviolis

Pizza

The Costs

Flight – AA $225

Uber – $25

Airport food – $15

Car Rental/Gas – Dollar $175 Most car rental agencies will fill your gas tank when you return car at same price offered at pump! If so, take advantage of not having to add another stop to your travels.  When booking through an online booking service for rental cars, pay close attention to the ‘a.m.’ and ‘p.m.’ choice! We accidently chose 10p.m. for our rental pick-up time.  When we called to correct it to 10 a.m. (simple mistake, right?) we were told that this 12-hour mistake (a click of the mouse mistake) would cost us an additional $150! WHAT? When the entire rental for the week was $175. Watch your clicks carefully!

When selecting a vehicle to rent in Maine in winter think bigger, heavier and possibly four-wheel drive. Maine does an extremely top-notch job maintaining their roads but going for the cheapest or smallest car may not be the safest choice in this setting.

New cozy writing clothes (sweats, sweatshirts, socks, scarf) $100

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For those of you who follow me on IG, you know I LOVE a heart in Nature! Hard to tell from photo, but this heart is a huge piece of stranded ice in the lobster pound at low tide, has to be 6 feet across!

Food/Toiletries  for week – $125

Fresh flowers for cottage – $10

Candles for cottage – $15

Cottage: $0 very gracious family members

Gifts for very gracious family members $150

 

The Packing

I wanted easy, light. One carry-on.

Things I forgot:

The under the seat suitcase will not fit under the window seat on smaller planes. If you are bringing only a carry-on, when selecting your seat, choose aisle or middle seat or pray there is room in overhead bins. Luckily, I had a cool row-mate who switched underneath storage with me.

Sunglasses! I forgot how bright snow is.

Earbuds.

Binoculars or small telescope (the stars in Maine? Ka-chow! It is so dark you can see the Milky Way with you naked eye!)

Hiking boots. I forgot how badly I would want to walk in the woods in Maine. I could have worn them on the plane easily.

Other Rockonliving Tips learned on this Trip:

Traveling in the winter (March) in this area of the United States was a little tricky! The night before I left, I received a text my flight was already cancelled due to a winter storm warning and luckily, I was rebooked several hours later, on a new flight.

Many homeowners and summer rentals are not busy in the winter and you may be able to find some good deals/prices on renting a cottage this time of year.

Portland has a small airport that is easy to navigate.

Driving to Friendship, Maine took about 2 hours in the winter (normally about an hour and half drive.)

There is a plethora of stores right outside the airport you can purchase groceries and items you may need for your time away. I stopped at Trader Joe’s 10 minutes from the airport. Due to the winter storm warning I wanted to get all my groceries for the week as close to airport and highway-maintained roads. In the summer I love shopping at the local mom and pop general stores, but this didn’t feel wise in winter.

Talk to the locals. Maine folks are down-to-earth and easy to talk to and can give you a lot of insider, helpful information for your time visiting.

Try not to get too attached your itinerary as things (weather, illness, wildfires, war, etc.) can and will happen.

Be aware your flights, travel plans, ability to drive to your location, stores being open or closed may be impacted by extreme weather. For example, my drive to the airport from the cottage took almost double the time due to a snowstorm. Growing up in the North, I was confident to drive in the weather, but it was slow go. I left with extra cushion of time. My flight was delayed for a couple hours and then we were held on tarmac for almost two hours before take-off. Extreme turbulence did not allow for any drink/snack service so next time I will remember to pack a few snacks and a bottle of water just in case.

I packed uber light and did NOT pack the following: Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion. I indulged in these items to be used for the week and then either tossed them or left for future house guest.

While I KNOW packing books take up a lot of room and can be heavy, I LOVE to hold a book and not a tablet. For that reason, I did bring a few books with me but wish I could have brought more. I think in the future, I will order books on Amazon and have sent to arrive when I get to my location. And, then unless I LOVE the book, leave for next guest.

Along that line, after you have considered where you are going and how much you wish to pack, consider sending things ahead or renting items you may need due to season.

Pack a portable charger. Always a good idea.

Logistics of your home life need to be in order weeks prior to leaving. This week away required the coordination of many, mostly my rockstar husband. Take the time before you leave to make sure carpools, appointments, schedules, deadlines, bills are all handled so your time away can leave logistics at home.

Screenshot your boarding pass. Much easier to locate and use when going through security and boarding airplane.

Unpacking from your Trip: (I recommend this for ALL trips large & small. The bigger the experience, the more unpacking that may be necessary) This unpacking is not just your suitcase, but your experience as well.

I came home on a late flight on a Sunday. Before I left, I declared Monday a “Teacher Workday” (we homeschool). This allowed me time to sleep in, unpack (literally), do laundry, check back in with my family, get up to speed on our life – calendar/bills/grocery shop, etc. and finish prepping our homeschool for the remainder of the week.

Unpacking, for me, allows one time to bring  the parts of your experience you wish to incorporate more into your daily life.

Unpacking the experience will also give you time to talk with your family! By sharing my experience and listening about how their week went we were able to do a reboot or – touch-in with one another! A proper unpack will also allow one to get to bed at a proper time (there was an hour shift ahead on my return) and reenter life more peacefully.

Your exit plans and reentry plans are just as essential to your planning as the trip itself!

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Maine is beautiful, ya’ll. For real. I have traveled to many locations and there is no place in the United States like it.  We have traveled in Maine as a family in the summer and enjoyed time in Acadia National Park (amazing!) and at the cottage I am currently staying in, but this is the first time I have been up here in winter, alone. In one word, heaven.

I tend to recharge alone, in silence and love nature so this location is perfect.

This special edition of a Rockonliving Travel guide is for the person desiring some intentional time away to recharge, relax and practice a little Self-Care. I have shared my thoughts and created this guide with the intention of hopefully inspiring you to do a little planning and schedule some time to live your best life!

My trip may not be your thing, that’s not the point. What is universal, or at the core of this guide, is that time away or time doing things that fill up cup, are life-giving and allow for you to hear your heart are as essential as an adult as breathing. That is what I hope you take-away.

If you plan a personal retreat, I would love and totally want to hear from you or see some of your snaps!

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” A. Lamott

One tradition our family has is the “jump shot” photo! We always snap a picture of our family jumping on our adventures and when home, I print the image and place in frame for us to remember – memories are the best souvenirs.
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Jump and Snap! 

Share with us your family jump shot!

All of us here at Rock on Living LOVE a good JUMP shot on location!

Insider’s tip: Video your jump! Don’t try to “catch” the jump. Once recorded, you can then use your pause and scroll option to find the perfect picture and screenshot that image to post!

Share your adventure with us and use the hashtag #slacktide #rockonlivingjumpshot and/or tag us @rockonliving and let us see you jump!

Happy Planning Friends!

Cheers to living your best life.

Rock on LIVING,

Vickie

Things I thought Rocked (Think Oprah’s favorite things) – items or things I discovered, used on this trip that delighted me enough to buy, purchase, put on my Amazon wish list for home or to perhaps return to in the future. If you want to pick up any of these items, you can simply click on the underlined link and it will take you like magic to the item! Ever heard of an Amazon Affiliate? I have joined the program. Basically, if you want to purchase something I have posted with a link, if you click on the link it will take you to item. If you purchase the item, I get a small percentage of the sale with no extra cost to you! Our hope is to grow Rockonliving to spread the word of living your best life and thought we would try it out!

When I travel I love to bring things that delight me home – sometimes it is a ‘thing’ like a cappuccino machine (France), and sometimes is nontangible things like a commitment to not drinking coffee on the run or in a to-go cup (Italy). Here are my Maine Top Three picks!

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“>Trader Joe’s Lavender Spa Lotion – picked this up for the week and was so sad to leave it at cottage! Will be scoping out our Trader Joe’s in Raleigh asap but is available on Amazon. Just click the link!

 

20190312_123834 “>The Over 45 Mirror! How did I not know this existed? Every human being over the age of 45 needs one! I’m not going to lie, it was S.C.A.R.Y. to see my face this close, but what was even scarier is what I didn’t know was there! SO helpful. It magnifies, lights up, folds, doesn’t fog, plugs in (no batteries!) moves and tilts. I ordered one in Maine to be delivered while I am gone. My husband doesn’t know it yet, but he will thank me.

 

20190307_081625We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich. I brought a number of like self-help/growth kind of books – see list below and didn’t have room for a fiction book. I found this little book of awesomeness on the cottage book shelf.  The author and her family lived in the woods of Maine (close to where I was staying) in the 1940’s. Her writings are stories from her time there and I was moved many times by her application of wisdom from then to now. She makes observations about how the world was getting to connected and challenges to communication. She shared parenting advice more than applicable today and if you write, you will enjoy her musings on being an author. She has a charming humor with a Northern wit. I loved it. I bought several copies to send to some people I think will love her style of writing and the content as well.

Other Books Read on Retreat:

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Open Heart by Elie Wiesel (2011). This was Mr. Wiesel’s final book before his passing (July 2016) where he shares his intimate feelings on ideas of life, relationship and ultimately mortality. A holocaust survivor, Wiesel writings are a testimony to resilience, finding meaning in despair and living one’s best life.
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Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. (2018). I have read other writings by this author and this one fell a little flat to me. I tried to apply most of this book to running our homeschool and it just wasn’t clicking with me. I am sure it is awesome for people in the professional arena and I was able to take a few things I could apply to my life straight away. Once again, I think because of the audience was not meant for me.

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A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle (2005).  This is a book I feel must be slowly digested and although I didn’t finish it, I made a good dent in the material. I have never highlighted, notated in a book more. So much wisdom, perspective. I will read this one again. Eckhart presents our current state of affairs so well with reasons behind what we are seeing and what he sees as the balance or correction for it too. Guess who holds the key to turning everything around? Each one of us individually and collectively. Life changing book.

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Secular Homeschooler Magazine. Picked It up after a friend published an article in it and loved it. A beautifully illustrated magazine with varied articles for all ages and stages of homeschooling.

 

 

 

 

Slack Tide

 

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The “Lobster Pound” – the cottage sets right on the edge of the former lobster pound. For those of you who follow me on IG, you know how I delight at finding Hearts in Nature! Look at the ice floating in the center of the pound upon my arrival to Maine.

I am in Maine for what I will call “slack-tide.”

Time away. In silence.

I traveled just about as far up the Northern Coast of the United States one can travel to ‘get away.’ I am staying at a family cottage that sits on the Atlantic Coast in Delano Cove in pristine solitude.

Time like this doesn’t just happen. Self-Care usually doesn’t. This time was the fruit of generous family, much discussion, coordination and planning on the home front. Our life is deliciously full and time away had impact on all involved.

It was becoming abundantly clear to me that this mama needed to step up and practice a little of that “Self-Care” we understand to be essential to our mental, physical and spiritual well-being.  We spend much of our time and resource making sure our families are receiving and doing the things they need and that make them whole – I knew it was time to invest the same for myself.20190305_082044

In previous posts, I have shared that mothers, motherless daughters in particular, could benefit from performing more self-care acts for themselves in ways they wished someone would else would think to do without asking.

Self-Care is personal and Self-Care is universal. Only you know what your soul needs. It’s like the ground plug on an electric cord – you can plug and run items off it all day long, but if there is a power surge, a frayed wire, without a good ground your cord is going to fry.

I could sense my brain was overwhelmed and over-taxed. Been there?

I had so much I wanted to write, read and felt little time to devote to these desires, uninterrupted. I love silence and am one of those people that could easily go a week and not talk to another person. Nature is my church. I knew I wanted to go someplace secluded and commune with Mother Nature in quiet…shhhh.

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Friendship, Maine in the winter is that place. Where I am staying faces the water and overlooks a former lobster pound. There are no cars, traffic, sirens, street lights, sounds, planes or other people. I have been in here in the summer, and while it is lovely there is a hum of lobster boats from sunrise to sunset. In the winter, the lobster traps have been removed from the water and I have not seen one boat since arriving. It’s like going on a stage when the audience has left.

The cottage faces the water and you only see water, islands, evergreens, birds, ducks, ice, an ever-changing sky and sparkles. It is winter and it is cold. The highs all week are in the lower 20’s. There is ice piling up along the coast and you can hear the clicks and pops of the ice as they are pushed up top of one another as the tide ebbs and flows.

In Maine, the sky and scenery change every few minutes – sometimes in seconds. The dramatic rise and fall of the tide can be seen like clockwork every six hours in a rise or fall between 8-10 feet of water in and out of the lobster pound each day.

In Maine, one can feel and see the invisible forces that tie us to the universe. You appreciate the push and pull of the moon and sun’s influence over the tides and I swear you can actually not only see but feel as we spin away from the Sun at night and return to her in the morning. Constant reminder of cycles and seasons.

There is this powerful moment during the tidal cycles when water stops ebbing or flowing for what appears to the naked eye just a few minutes, I believe that is called slack water or slack tide. It looks like a period of pause before the tide starts to shift. While there is no visible movement, I am sure there is a lot happening in that moment of pause, rest.

Being witness to that moment is like getting front row seats to the greatest show on earth and the ultimate metaphor for Self-Care. Caring for yourself at that moment where activity (ebbs and flows of life) cease and you can be still, even for a moment to just be. Not do, just be. If the ocean rests every six hours, so can we. Right?

I believe nature is dying (literally) to reflect and teach us how to live better lives in synchronicity, balance.  Everything in nature is a lesson for us if we can take the time to touch her, be out in her and pay attention to the lesson’s role-modeled for us day after day, season after season. She is the ultimate mirror of how we are living.

If you want time away, you must make it happen. It is all too easy for life to ebb and flow with no slack water for you. With the risk of sounding cliché, Self-Care doesn’t mean just putting on your oxygen mask first, then children and people around you as you are crashing…. that’s survival at its finest.

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This Self-Care is proactive, honoring yourself and doesn’t have to be a big trip away for a week (although I would highly recommend if you can swing it!) it could mean waking up an hour earlier than your home or work to dedicate to doing the things that fill your heart and soul up for you, only you.  Not oxygen mask this plane is crashing self-care but life-giving, heart-touching focused prioritized time to fuel you to show up in your life the best you can be.  To live your best life.

Coming to Maine solo didn’t start off so peacefully. At 3:30am when I was waiting for my Uber to arrive, I had a mini-panic attack and almost lost my stuff on my husband in our kitchen. I was overwhelmed at the thought of getting in an Uber by myself, navigating the airport, layovers, car rental, trying to get groceries and driving 2 hours in Maine when they were currently under a Winter Storm Warning – alone. Wah.

But a beautiful thing happened. I thought of my 15-year-old daughter getting on an airplane to fly to ENGLAND by herself. Surely, if she could do that, I could handle this! And, then I heard this in my heart, “I choose the experience.”  We choose the experience, ya’ll! It could be all that I described above OR it could be a fun adventure where I trusted myself and rather than be afraid I could and would choose excitement, adventure, growth! Count my blessings at the opportunity and carpe diem!

To sit in this big over-sized chair typing on my computer in silence watching the sunset over the evergreens required me to say yes to a challenge and my soul couldn’t be thanking me more. 20190305_082020

If you had one hour, one day, one weekend, one week or one month…what would a retreat of your heart and mind include? Dream it, visualize it, manifest it. THAT is some oxygen for your soul!

Rockonliving friends,

Vickie

 

 

Road Trip USA – Day Fourteen “Land of Enchantment”

en-chant-ment noun – the state of being under a spell, magic.

One of my favorite words is enchantment – the magic...

In life, I try to sprinkle pixie dust to the mundane to helps us remember that at every moment we have the opportunity to make the ordinary extraordinary! So it is no surprise that I had lived in a state with a tag line boasting “the land of enchantment” for many years!

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Has it really been over a year since I started the journaling of our Road Trip USA? What in the world?!  Seriously? Time is moving at warp-speed.  So without further ado, I offer our final day, the closure to our Road Trip, our visit to New Mexico!

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We concluded our Southwest trip with a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We snuggled with our former neighbors, visited friends and favorite places. We consumed as much green chili and breakfast burritos from the Frontier Restaurant as humanly possible! This was an awesome way to wind down from our trip, reminisce and connect. Home.

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I loved our life in New Mexico. I clearly remember the day we arrived in Albuquerque for the first time. The manner we arrived echoed the feel of our new “home” – simple and expansive.

Before moving to New Mexico in 1997, Quinn and I had owned a home in Virginia Beach. Once we decided to take a leap of faith and move out west, we downsized and sold it all! Now that I am reflecting, it seems a pattern or habit of ours…hmmm.

We packed up everything we owned in our two cars, cats riding gunshot and drove for a week across country. What a simple time.  To basically carry everything you own in two cars.

I will never forget our approach to Albuquerque. The song “Great Pets” by Jane’s Addiction came on the radio and all of a sudden the flat, open endless terrain became interrupted by the enormity of the east side of the Sandia Mountains. For a girl that was raised in Ohio, this mountain looked enormous!

With excitement and anticipation we began our drive through the more lush, rural side of the Sandia Mountain to the urban west side of the mountain – Albuquerque. The enormity, expanse and simplicity of the town is incredible. After our almost 11 years of life in this town I am convinced one either falls under the enchantment spell of the west or doesn’t. It is isn’t a place for everyone, and honestly, the natives and inhabitants of the town like it that way.

“When you turn around, you’ll see something I bet you’ve never seen before. If it takes your breath away, then you’ll fit in nicely. If you don’t feel anything, then maybe you don’t belong here.”  Veronica Randolph Batterson

We were moving so Quinn could attend The International Institute of Chinese Medicine (IICM) to study Chinese medicine.  I had interviewed and accepted a position at the best hospital in the world, (I’m a little biased, but I am pretty sure it is!) Presbyterian Healthcare Services in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit. I made some of my closest friendships at that hospital. Many of my friendships in the unit began in our early twenties and we shared an intimate lens into our ‘growing up.’ We partnered each other as we entered adulthood with one another- growing our families, marriages, divorces, careers, celebrations, buying homes and holding each other close through some of our friends and families untimely deaths. Special people. Special bonds.

We were living in a sketchy part of town, in our rented apartment and life was good.

Neighbors 

After a few years, and being the victim of several crimes in our apartment complex, we decided to rent a home in a better area of town.  We rented a sandy-brown flat roofed stucco home that would hold some our most special memories –  Quinn’s completion of studies, my completion of a Master’s degree in Science and Nursing and the arrival of our first two daughters. It was also the home where we met Sherry and Tom, or as our family calls them, “Sherrytom.”  Sherrytom – a perfect compound word.

 

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Sunday Dinner with Sherrytom.

 

After a few weeks in our new home, Quinn was out back playing horse-shoes by himself. Tom came up to our fence (think Mr. Wilson) and said, “howdy neighbor.” Quinn invited him over, the two drank some beer and played shoes and this began a friendship that we believe was inevitable.  From that day forward, we spent every Sunday together having “Sunday dinner.” Tom even built little wooden steps between our two homes called the “neighbor’s steps” so we could visit each other more easily. They became our best friends. When we moved, they gifted us a pendulum clock with a plaque engraved “neighbors by chance; friends by destiny.”  

Good Buddies

Sean and Liz are our Good Buddies.  We met Sean and Liz through Quinn’s school of Chinese medicine. Sean and Liz are the type of friends that you can enjoy a bottle of wine and then sing and act out the entire score to the musical Rent. (yes, this did happen!)

Inside jokes, intimate memories and shared life.  Good Buddies. Circling back through Albuquerque, visiting and spending time with Neighbors, Good Buddies and all our friends was the perfect ending, like a cherry on top of a big old sundae on our road trip adventure.

 

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Breakfast at Frontier with Good Buddies.

 

 

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Lunch at Garduno’s with some of the CCU gang! (best margaritas, ever.)

 

This trip was a trip of a lifetime. I know for sure our family is at its best when we are doing life – having adventure – and we are committed to continuing to make changes and adaptions in our everyday life to allow for more!

If you have never visited any of the National Parks in the USA – GO! Experience them! They are treasures, truly, and a gift for you and I.

I conclude with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt…

“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Road Trip USA – Day Four “Yellowstone Grand Canyons & Lake, Hayden Valley”

20160823_165635Tuesday, August 23 2016

Grey Shirt Boy…the backstory.  We checked in to our cabin last night.  After we had settled in, Quinn & Kira went out front to eat apples and peanut butter.  While they were chilling, the family staying in the cabin next to us checked in.  As soon as the door opened to their minivan a young boy, maybe age 7 got out of the car wearing a grey shirt.  Straight away, Quinn growled and said to Kira, “Grey shirt boy.  I hate him.”

And then the absolutely absurdity of his statement got the entire family laughing about how much we didn’t trust, didn’t like, hated the ‘grey shirt boy.’  Of course, by now, you know we are totally not like that and were totally kidding, but ‘grey shirt boy’ has become a running inside joke in our family.  For two days, anytime there was a ‘grey shirt boy’ sighting much banter ensued. Grey shirt boy and Bennie the Bison are examples of those precious inside jokes and experiences that weave the tapestry of memories for family or friends over the years.

Side note:  Grey shirt boy was the cutest little guy and the girls enjoyed playing with him very much.  I still don’t like him 😉

The altitude change is no joke! Yellowstone park sits on a plateau that is around 8000 feet above sea level (some of the surrounding mountains are as high as 11,000 feet).  Raleigh, NC (where we are from) is about 300 feet above sea level, so this was a big adjustment!

 On a side note, this reminds me of a cool feature my girls discovered on Snap Chat.  There is an altitude recorder and it will report, real time, your altitude and was fun to watch as we drove through some of the steep mountains and land features.

So, back to the story – In the morning, while we were all getting ready for the day, Kira passed out!  She was in the bathroom drying her hair and I was at the sink.  She looked at me and said, “mom, I feel weird…I feel hot…” and then, BAM, she went out.  She collapsed down and crumpled backward into our cooler.  It happened so fast and you would think from my years of critical care nursing instinct would have kicked in, but instead I grabbed the blow dryer trying to shut it off and must have yelled her name 3 times until I was able to register what happened.  She came to very quickly and said, “what happened?”  In addition to passing out, she had several nose bleeds too.  After that, Kira (and everyone) committed to drinking a ton of water and never had any further issues.

It is so difficult to say what was my favorite part of our vacation, because there are so many, but driving through Hayden Valley must be in my top 3.   Hayden Valley is a huge valley in Yellowstone that is in between Yellowstone Falls/Canyons and Yellowstone Lake.  We drove through the Valley on our way to the Lake, but went back three times over the two days because of the beauty and animals!  We saw so many herds of bison and parked our car and walked and just where in absolute awe of the views and experiences.  I found myself crying on more than one occasion at the enormity and beauty of it all.

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winding rivers & tons of animals in Hayden Valley

After spending some time in the Valley, we continued our drive to Yellowstone Lake.  This drive turned out to be our first up close and personal experience with wildlife!   I was driving our minivan and all of sudden in front of me, in the distance, I noticed a dark band stretching across the road.  At first, I thought perhaps it was a road block of some sort but quickly observed it was moving…moving because it was a huge herd of bison!  We read in our manuals and guides to not stop and just keep driving slowly if this should occur, but they literally blocked the entire road and cars were backing up behind us so fast we were stuck.  We were the first car in the line and they bison were coming straight at us.  I would like to say I handled it calmly and embraced it with the spirit of learning and Laura Ingalls, but not so much.  I kind of freaked out for a few minutes.  Images of the cautionary movies we watched at the visitor’s center of bison ramming cars and people kept flashing through my mind…

My girls turned immediately into 3 high pitched super excited ‘girls’ and were squealing (and crying) so loudly I thought for sure they were going to freak out the bison!  Luckily, we realized very quickly they had no interest in eating us for lunch and just walked right past us and we got to witness the most amazing animals up close.  It was one of those memories and moments I know we will never forget.

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After the bison finished, we were going to stop to hike a trail, but there were signs up indicating that bison were on the trail and we agreed we would pass – bison in our car was one thing, but on the trail where nothing would separate us…not this girl.

Yellowstone Lake is a huge beautiful spring lake that although will mostly freeze in winter will maintain unfrozen areas were water depth is shallow and heat from springs keep area warm.  This area of the caldera has filled with water and has a VERY active base.  There are areas in the bottom of the lake that are very active –  bulging and shifting and fault lines as well.  You will occasionally see the bubbling in the water of activity in various locations under the lake.  It is a trip! 

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Along the rim of the lake there are also numerous geysers and bubbling mudpots to explore.  The mudpots were so cool!  The mudpots, like the geysers are a result of being on an active supervolcano and bubble not because of the heat, but secondary to the gases escaping from the mixture under the Earth.  Some of the mudpots smell like rotten eggs (due to the sulfur) and the flies were something new to enjoy!  These geothermal features were among our favorites.

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Ok, so if the valley, the bison and lake were not enough, this just was like the icing on the cake!  As we were driving back we noticed a lot of cars parked on the side of the road and those infamous orange cones!  We pulled over and asked the park ranger what was going on and he informed us that a grizzly bear was in the middle of the river and he was eating a bison!  What?!   It was awesome.  It turned out the bison had died upstream several days before and as it was floating down the river 3 different grizzly bears had been fattening up on it over a total of 3 days!  We got so close and were able to witness first-hand the awesomeness and strength of a grizzly bear.  We were so glad we brought binoculars with us!  Some of the best pictures and video we got were taken through the binoculars!

We went to different areas of Yellowstone Canyon and were just so in love with the views and features.  We took so many pictures it hard to limit to just a few!

At the end of the day as the sun was setting, we thought…can you even imagine what the stars must be like at night in Hayden Valley?  There is NO light and it is enormous!  We heated up some hot cocoa in our electric tea kettle and set out for some star gazing.

Our family loved our minivan rental!  It had one of those back up cameras that we had just a little bit too much fun with!!

 

 

Do you remember the scene in the Pee Wee Herman movie when he is like outside in a jungle and its pitch dark and he is hearing sounds and seeing some eyes blink and then all of the sudden when the lights come on and he is totally surrounded by tigers, elephants, monkeys and hundreds of other animals??  Well…I couldn’t help but remember all the wildlife we saw in the Valley earlier in the day and was terrified we were going to be mauled to death if we got out of the car.  After noticing many cars parked along the side of the road, and about 15 minutes of calming my nerves, we enjoyed the most amazing view of the nighttime sky, ever. 

We could see the Milky Way, planets, constellations, satellites and shooting stars!  My oldest daughter saw her first shooting star that evening.  Quinn and Kira went up on the roof and watched the stars.  I would highly recommend this!  I would also highly recommend bringing blankets and/or sleeping bags from your hotel/cabins to lay on the roof and to cover you because it is freezing at night, literally.  We would have stayed much longer if we had not got so cold. 

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We returned to our cabin for our second and last night in the cabin — while we were excited about our next adventures we were all very sad that our days in Yellowstone were winding down.  We all agree we wish to come back and our middle daughter has indicated she would like to come back here as a graduation gift when she completes high school.  We went to sleep and hoped for good sleep as we had a long drive to Devils Tower in the morning.  It is a 7 hour drive we want to leave early enough to drive into sunrise –

 

Road Trip USA – Day Three “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”

Day THREE:  “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” 

Monday, August 22nd 2016

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Everyone had a great sleep and woke up ready to roll for Day 3!  Our food system is being refined and tweaked and we almost have a solid rhythm.   We are finding by keeping all the breakfast food in one cooler it minimizes searching for food items and helps us be more efficient.  We typically eat a huge breakfast, stop somewhere for a roadside picnic lunch and then have a smaller dinner in our room at night. 

For breakfast we have been enjoying oatmeal (my favorite) with toppings like crushed walnuts, blueberries, raisins and brown sugar.  We also have hard boiled eggs, bagels, muffins, yogurt and bananas. We use our electric tea kettle to make French press coffee (yes, Quinn brought our French Press – we love coffee!) and warm water for oatmeal and hot cocoa.

Mammoth Hot Springs (Wyoming), is a very short drive from the Inn – you cannot miss it.  Parking was easy and there are boardwalks for your safety and exploration.  This hike does contain some impressive stairs – great exercise. 

 

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Mammoth Hot Springs

 

Mammoth Hot Springs is, well, a mammoth geothermal feature of hot springs on a hill of travertine!  Once again, I am not a geologist, but my best understanding of the Springs are they formed over thousands of years. They are the result of hot water from the spring cooling (I think the water temp at the spring was around 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit and deposits calcium carbonate (the springs are mostly white) as the water cools.  The manner in which the water comes up the vents from the spring through a layer of limestone (which I believe provides the calcium carbonate) provides this beautiful slow creation of these Springs.  Due to the heat of the water (the Springs are technically on the outside of the Yellowstone caldera) there are also some beautiful orange, brownish formations from the algae that propagates the formation.  In Yellowstone, you can tell a lot about the temperature of a feature by the colors in the formation.  Due to shifting land and earthquakes some areas of the Springs have ‘shut off’ and other areas continue to grow at an impressive rate.  There are some beautiful boardwalk hikes to look out areas for amazing views and photos of the Springs.

 We spent a couple hours at Mammoth Springs and then enjoyed another beautiful drive to the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park where we visited The Roosevelt Arch (Montana). You see many warning signs in Yellowstone…some that confused us…like below… 

 

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Falling Rock or Broken Tortilla Chips ahead? We were not sure…

 

The Arch, built in 1903 (after the government had approved the legislation to create Yellowstone in 1872) and was the historic landmark left for the people of the United States as a ‘gift’ and ‘reminder’ of the sacredness of the National Parks.  At the top of the arch it is inscribed, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”  You can park your car along the side of the road (parking is available), walk through the arch and snap your historic photo!

We ate lunch next to the arch and watched some type of antelope – deer animals (not sure what they were) play in a football field near the arch.  After lunch, we packed up the car and headed to our next destination, The Canyon Lodge Cabins for a two night stay.  On our drive we were so excited to see our first bison!  There really are no words to capture how you feel as you drive through these beautiful lands and see a herd of bison grazing, running, and playing in the valleys – no words…

Due to the number of places to see in this area of the park, we decided to stay in this location for two days (the longest we will stay in one place this trip).  We stayed in the cutest cabin at the Canyon Lodge.  The Canyon Lodge also has a mini shopping/visitor center attached where you can learn more about the area and shop.  My thirteen year old fell in love with bison on this trip which sent us on a scavenger hunt to find the perfect “Benny the Bison” stuffed animal.  No kidding, we literally went to three different locations (over several days) until we finally found this special souvenir…all three girls bought the same bison and they really came to serve as a symbol of this trip for our entire family.  We even have a Benny the Bison song and dance!

 Our cabin would not be ready for a few hours so we set out to begin enjoying what is called “The Yellowstone Grand Canyon.”  There are several entry points along the canyon, all with amazingly stunning views of rock formation and waterfalls!  We spent a lot of time here just taking in the beauty and having fun with photography. 

An interesting observation we made on our trip was the number of visitors from other countries.  (Our trip coincided with the European holiday, too).  It was very cool to hear the smorgasbord of languages all around us.  It gave us an appreciation of how fortunate we are we LIVE here!  When you see families plan their holidays and vacations to experience Yellowstone from other countries, it reinforces the magic the parks behold.

 We watched the sun begin to set into the canyon and then drove back to check in to our cabins.  The stars….the stars…the stars…my word.  It is one of those places so dark you look up and see the Milky Way and so many constellations, planets, stars and satellites.  I will share our star gazing experience tomorrow…for those of you who know me, you will understand how my fear of being eaten by a wild bison or bear in the middle of the park had to be overcome so we could enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.

 

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Our Cabin.

 

We checked into our adorable cabin, met ‘grey shirt boy’ (more on him tomorrow), ate some dinner and went to sleep.  Once again, no T.V and no internet allows for wonderful mental rest too…

Road Trip USA – Day Two “How did I not know this?”

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DAY TWO:  How did I not know this?

 

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Kamiko wrote out our itinerary each day in her notebook.

 

Sunday August 21st, 2016

Our vacation out West completely coincided with the National Parks 100th Anniversary.  It was a very exciting time to be in the parks because there were many special events scheduled to commemorate this special occasion.  After learning about how the National Parks were created, I truly believe it is probably one of the best forward thinking decisions our government ever made. 

I have been to Europe and stood in awe of the Roman and Greek history – marveled at the beauty, stories and legacy of our civilizations.  And, now, I am in Yellowstone and bathing in the same feeling touring and exploring the history of North America.  It is incredible!  We are talking history that is millions, sometimes, billions of years old!  Geothermal features, rocks, land, water, ice ages, volcano eruptions…here, right before my eyes.  I am in love.

Walking, witnessing and simmering in the longevity and awesomeness of our planet – first hand.  Marveling at life, nature – our history.  I knew on our first day, I was never going to want to leave.

One of the programs created to honor the 100th anniversary (thank you Theodore Roosevelt!) was The 4th Grade Park Pass –  Every Kid in a Park Pass!  Kamiko, being in the 4th grade was our ticket to the parks!  Any family with a 4th grader can register on line FOR FREE for a pass to ALL (almost all) of the National Parks in the United States of America.  

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It is simple. Go to www.https://everykidinapark.gov  and complete the quick application.  I did it with Kamiko. You will print up a paper voucher and when you visit the National Park, they will change out your paper copy for a very cool laminated card! Registration was easy and all we had to do was show our pass when we entered any of the National Parks and the park ranger would verify our 4th grader was in attendance. 

 Kamiko thought this was pretty cool because everywhere we went the Park Rangers personally welcomed her to the park.  The perks to this pass need to be checked per park, but for our trip the pass covered our entire vehicle (2 adults and 3 children) park entrances for every park – FOR FREE.  It was awesome.  The program was such a success last year, that they have decided to continue the program and you can still register now until September of 2017.

 We could not say enough about our experiences in the National Parks.  We fell in love with the parks.  The Park Rangers are the BEST and so willing and helpful to provide exciting and meaningful experiences for guests of the parks.  If I had anything ‘negative’ to write, it would be our stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.  The actual facility was awesome and in a fantastic location.  However, this was the only place where the customer service was less than enthusiastic. 

We came in late at night and were not greeted in a very welcoming manner.  The individual working at the check-in indicated where we could go to retrieve a cart to bring our suitcases and items in for the night.

The next morning, we wanted to check out of our room before going to do the geysers and Quinn went in to the same closet to retrieve the cart and were almost militantly stopped by the front desk to question him (literally, question him) about what he was doing and where did he get the cart?  “Didn’t he see the sign that said “employees only?”  After explaining that he had been told last night to go in the closet to retrieve the cart (and thought that was what he was supposed to do) he was informed that that cart was only for the bellman and he would have to put it back. 

Ironically, the bellman was nowhere to be found and my husband ended up helping several elderly men who thought HE was the bellman lift their heavy suitcases into their cars!  So, I swear, I am not a high maintenance hotel girl, but this was the ONLY place in our entire 2 week trip I was disappointed by the lack of assistance the staff provided. 

 The main visitor center for the geysers is a quick walk from the hotel.  As soon as you walk through the front doors you are greeted by a floor to ceiling glass view of Old Faithful!  Although not the biggest geyser in the park, it is impressive and erupts with almost 90 minute regularity.  They have the area so well designed that despite the huge number of visitors, there was excellent seating and viewing for all! 

The park is huge and there are many amazing thermal features to watch!  We spent about four hours walking the boardwalk.  Luckily, while we were there one of the larger geysers named “Beehive” erupted.  This geyser erupts only every 10-12 hours.  While Old Faithful erupts every ninety minutes, some of the geysers erupt like every 25 years! 

Which brings me to the biggest AH HA moment I had on this vacation…Yellowstone is an ACTIVE SUPERvolcano.  How did I not know this?  There is a visitor’s center that has interactive museums and movies to help explain the phenomenon you witness. There is cool video you can watch prior to the eruption and then another after. 

I am not a geologist, but this was my take away – Yellowstone is a HUGE active super volcano.  And, by supervolcano I mean that if it were to erupt (and it will) the ash cloud would cover and reach most of North America!  The last time this volcano erupted (roughly 650,000 years ago) the cone collapsed and created an enormous caldera that filled with water and they have even been able to isolate the ‘hot spot’ of this volcano.  

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Normally, magma flows deep under the Earth’s crust, but due to the collapsed volcano, Yellowstone is unique in that the magma flow is much closer to the Earth’s surface – magma flows only like 4-5 miles under the Earth’s crust!  Thus, it heats the rock which in turns heats the water and creates the amazing steam/pressure in the geysers we witness and the unbelievable mudpots and geothermal pools we will visit later in our trip.  To realize you are walking on an active volcano??  BLEW MY MIND.

To walk the entire geyser park took us about 4 hours and it was very hot!  This location requires guests to walk on a boardwalk for safety.  You will need sunscreen and water and some good walking shoes.  For fun, Kayah, our teenager, brought her ballet pointe shoes and we enjoyed taking pictures of her in them over the course of our two week trip.  I think this was something she really enjoyed and I would encourage anyone with kids to see how your children can find ways to personalize their experience and document it – be it through photography, journaling, blogging, video recording, etc.  Some of my favorite photos of our vacation are the artistic ones we took in the different locations.

 

Next stop? Grand Prismatic Springs!  OH MY GOSH.  So beautiful.  The parking was a little crazy, but well worth the hassle.  The springs are absolutely beautiful (and smelly).  There are these features called “bacterial mats” where the heat from the springs, mixed with the shallow run-off and atmosphere create this unique bacterial almost petri dishes – fascinating.  And, Momma Mia! – The lighting was so wonderful for photography. CAUTION:  Do NOT wear a hat!  There were hundreds of hats in the Springs (it gets very gusty up there).

The Grand Prismatic Springs took us about an hour.  After our experience at the geysers and the Grand Prismatic Springs, we needed to get rolling because we had about a two-hour drive to our next location – Mammoth Hot Springs.  We stopped and had a picnic lunch near a beautiful spot by the river!  Our meals were so good! 

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By the time we would eat each day, everyone would be so hungry and it was so nice to just take our time, be outside, enjoy beautiful locations and eat delicious food.  We would pull out our tubs, coolers and throw a tarp down to eat! 

On our way to Old Mammoth we enjoyed a beautiful ride through a lush valley.  The thing about your trip to Yellowstone (and the West) is the drive IS the vacation!  You will see the most amazing things along the way and have the best experiences.  Here are some of my personal favorite photos of us in the Valley.

 

Mammoth Springs is a quaint little town with a lot of history.  As we were driving into the town we noticed straight away the orange cones – which ALWAYS signify the park rangers are near and SOMETHING cool is going on – promise!  The cones were along the sidewalk near our hostel we would be staying and we quickly discovered there were a large number of elk eating grass in front.  We could not believe it.  We checked in our hostel (which I will discuss shortly, we LOVED it) grabbed a couple glasses of wine and hot chocolate for the girls and sat on the hostel patio and just watched the elk make their way through town. 

Quinn did such an awesome job of booking us lodgings at all different kinds of places.  In Old Mammoth we stayed at the Mammoth Inn.  It was a hostel, which meant we shared a bathroom with a floor of guests.  It was the COOLEST place.  It contained a lot of history and they had many old photos of the hotel and location as it looked a hundred years ago. 

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Due to the fact they were getting ready for the National Parks Centennial Celebration there was a lot of excitement and preparation. Our rooms were simple but comfortable.  We had a sink in our room and fans for air conditioning.  It gets so cool at night, heat was not an issue for us.  It was a little dim in the room, there were only two lights and very few outlets, but had such a historic older feel we loved it.  The service was OUTSTANDING in this hotel.  Everyone was so informative and helpful. 

 

Kind of a cool story – before we went to Yellowstone, we read a book called “Death in Yellowstone – Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park” by Lee H. Whittlesey.  It was a great book that basically tells the stories of how people foolishly die in Yellowstone.  99.9 percent of the time it is because of poor judgement by people to not abide the rules posted in the park! 

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Book that shares the many foolish ways tourist die each year in the park.

 

As we were in the lobby talking to the bellman, a young girl walked up and joined the conversation.  She was so cool and obviously had enormous passion and knowledge of the area….it turned out her name was Jessa and she was the DAUGHTER of the author of the book, Death in Yellowstone!  We were a little star-struck and she was so kind to indulge us with a photo!

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Jessa!

 

Mammoth Inn is also the National Park Service headquarters so there is A LOT of activity going on in this location!  This is one of the only hotels/motels/hostels that the front desk is open 24 hours!  There was no T.V and no internet, but your park rangers are like your own personal ‘walking talking google.’  You could approach them so easily and they were happy to share their knowledge.

They had cool maps at the desk that the Rangers updated everyday with information on fire activity in the park.  While we were there, there were four active fires underway, and only one that was becoming a fire of ‘concern.’  We learned much about how fire is a vital role in the vibrant ecosystem of Yellowstone.  The forests depend on the fire to help it grow!  For example, there is a tree in Yellowstone (I cannot remember the name) that has pinecones.  The only way these pinecones can open and release their seeds to grow new trees is by extreme heat (from fires).  When you drive around Yellowstone you can clearly see where fires have ravaged an area.  The longer you stayed you could also begin to determine how long ago the fire occurred by the number or lack of ‘baby trees’ that were growing in under the burned areas.

 

Depending on the winds and weather, some days we were very aware of the fires.  Some days you could smell the smoke and the sky would have an orange tint and other days not at all.  While we were there, the park did end up closing one of the entrances to the park due to concerns over safety.

 After a delicious dinner in our hotel, we iced up our coolers, everyone showered and we called it a night.  This hostel had such sweet quaint touches, like the white robes left for us on the hooks in the room.  We would highly recommend this location to anyone that doesn’t mind sharing bathroom facilities and being ‘unconnected’ from the world.  We loved it.   THEN & NOW – the black and white photo was a vintage photo taken over a 100 years ago on our hostel patio – the one on the right was mine today….cool, right?

The next day we planned to explore Mammoth Springs, See Roosevelt Arch and then to Yellowstone Grand Canyon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip USA! Day One – The adventure begins. Packing, Planning & Travel.

 

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Our Two Week Road Trip USA Story:

Here is the Cliff Notes Version of our Trip:

My husband was a rock star planner for this experience.  He planned awesome places to stay, fun excursions and thought through all the important details like sleeping arrangements, shipping, rental cars and food!  All the planning allowed for some flexibility when needed and so much fun!  We didn’t have to ‘worry’ about daily activities of living as they were all handled prior to arrival.

Locations visited:  Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Grand Tetons, Salt Lake City, Moab, Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns & Albuquerque.

 Down and dirty:  My family of five (Quinn & I and our girls ages 9, 11 and 13.) frequent flyer miles to fly our family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where we rented multiple vehicles (will explain later) to tour Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

Total Cost of Trip:  I will calculate grand total and the end of our 14 day adventure, but share costs as we go…

Packing:

Each person packed a carry on and a back pack.  We had to pack creatively because our temperatures would vary from 36 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Layers was the way to go! We packed enough for about 7 days with intentions of doing laundry half way through our trip.

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Prior to our arrival in Wyoming, Quinn ordered and shipped a cot, tea kettle and sleeping bag to their local UPS store for pick up to help us with warming water for coffee, oatmeal and while in Yellowstone, hot chocolate!  Being a family of 5 means someone needed a cot & sleeping bag to sleep on through this trip.

UPS in Jackson Hole (970 W. Broadway Suite E, Jackson WY 83001 307-733-9250) would hold your items for $5 for a ‘small package’ and $10 for a large package.  For reference, our package was considered ‘small.’

DAY ONE:

Saturday, August 20th 2016

Due to our early flight time, we had the kids go to bed in what they were going to wear on the airplane…yoga pants, t-shirts and then throw on a hoodie sweatshirt in the morning (the hoody they would use in Yellowstone) and their bulky hiking shoes.

We were dropped off at the airport for a 7:58am (ouch!) flight from Raleigh to Dallas.  Checking in and going through security took about an hour and went pretty seamless.  Good news!  Our kids were all prescreened and were not required to take their shoes off!

 

When we got off our plane in Dallas we could tell right away by the enormous lines at customer service and people everywhere that “Houston, we had a problem!”  It was muggy, but Dallas to me, is always muggy.  We looked up at the departure/arrival flights and quickly discovered over 75% of the flights and been CANCELLED for the last two days because of record rainfall, 10 inches, in two days!  By the grace of the universe above, our flight was ‘ON TIME’ and based on the looks on the tired, hangry people in the airport, we were so grateful.  We were starving by the time we landed (1pmish) and with quick layover, we picked up some sandwiches and boarded.

Our flight to Jackson Hole was AMAZINGLY awesome.  We were on a newer plane and there was more space and each of us had our own T.V. to watch from a plethora of movies!  Our family thought this was so fun!  Two of us did not have headphones and when I asked the stewardess to purchase two sets ($5/set) he very kindly walked passed me and just dropped them in my lap and kept walking…

The landing in to Jackson Hole was out of this world!  Beautiful landscape and got us so excited for our trip.  You land in a very small airport in the middle of nowhere next to the Grand Tetons! We took a shuttle to the rental car facility Alamo (1225 State Highway 22, Jackson Hole) and picked up our minivan #1.

 

Our first stop was the UPS store to pick up our shipped items (cot, sleeping bag and tea kettle).  Everything was there and we unpacked it all in the parking lot and in the rear of their store they have a recycling dumpster we tossed the trash.

While Quinn was picking up our items, there was the cutest used book store next to the UPS store that the girls and I explored.  Unfortunately, we had very little space available for souvenirs so no books were purchased (much to my eldest dismay – they had some beautiful books!)

After that stop, everyone was starving and tired from being up early and travel and we found the cutest outdoor tavern called “Cuttthroat Tavern” (1140 West Highway 22 Jackson, WY 83001) and sat outside on a balcony and ate the most delicious Gardenburgers and French fries, ever!  Quinn and I drank a beer and the girls had Shirley Temples.  We Cheered the beginning of our adventure!

Quinn and I both were on the same page with eating out and meals on this trip.  A cheap meal for us is a minimum of about $40 and on average, & $75.  A two week trip??  3 meals a day??  Snacks??  That would kill our budget!  We would much rather save our money on food and spend it on experiences!

We spent time googling road trip/camping meal planning prior to arriving and had a menu created and shopping list for when we arrived.  We did agree, to a few treat meals on the trip and this was one!  I think because we agreed to a few special meals “out” when they occurred there were a treat!  Also, I must say, our breakfasts and our picnics were some of my favorite memories of our trip!  We ate well, slow and enjoyed it so much. I will share our shopping list in a moment.

After filling up everyone’s tummies, we went food and supply shopping!  We did our research prior to arrival and knew there was a Kmart (510 US-89, Jackson, WY 83002), Albertsons Grocery Store (105 Buffalo Way, Jackson, WY 83001) and a Whole Food or Wild Oats type of Natural Food Store called Jackson Whole Grocery (1155 South Highway 89)within a few miles of each other.  Being vegetarian, this was awesome as we could stock up on vegetarian lunch meat & some deli types of food.

We bought 2 coolers & 3 stackable tubs to organize our food.  We filled one cooler with breakfast food and drinks (so we would only have to carry one cooler in the hotel at night) and the other contained our lunch/dinner items.  We used gallon size ziplock bags to make two ‘ice packs’ per cooler.  We double bagged the ziplocks in case of a rip/tear/leak and at night when we checked in to a hotel we would refill the ice bags and then again in the morning, before we left.  My middle daughter became our “ice girl” and handled this task for the family!

Our total food cost including supplies, such as, coolers, tubs, plastic wear, toiletries, etc (not included eating out) was $851.73.   That was 42 meals and snacks for a family of five for 14 days.

We designated one cooler the ‘breakfast cooler’ and the other cooler held other perishable items.  We had 3 stackable tubs and we organized them as follows: 1. snacks 2. lunch items 3. paper products.

The shopping took several hours and by the time we left to make it to Yellowstone it was near sunset.  We had a pretty hefty drive ahead but it was wonderful because we drove with the sun setting and it was stunning!

We arrived late (around 10pm) at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge ( and my word the stars!!!  It was COLD.  When we left Raleigh, NC there were heat warnings and Yellowstone at night is in the 30s!  The website describes this lodge as ‘rustic’ and we had to laugh…the only ‘rustic’ part about this lodge was there was no T.V.!  The lobby and rooms are wooden/cabinish and so adorable.  They have the cutest little teddy bear soaps in the rooms and we loved how respectful they were of the environment in everything they do.  Recycling, Reusing, Reduction is the theme everywhere.

Everyone showered & snuggled in for the night. Sweet dreams.