2017 YNP, GTNP, GNP, & TRNP Road Trip: Part II

Recently we went on a 10-ish day, super amazing road trip through Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, & North Dakota (and technically South Dakota on the very last day). We visited Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, & Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Hope you enjoy the recap!

In case you missed it, you can find Part I here.

Day 3: Yellowstone National Park

We spent most of Day 3 in YNP, taking the driving tour and trying to see some of the more famous features. This was the day that we were able to see Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic, & the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We basically spent the entire day trying to get around the south loop, which is bigger than it seems! I’ll just let a couple of pictures speak for themselves!

Old Faithful, YNP

This was also the day of the Solar Eclipse! We had originally intended to head down to GTNP since there was going to be a 100% eclipse over most of the park. However, after talking with some of the Rangers, we decided that it would be far too crowded and that 98% was good enough for us. 🙂 We ended up watching the eclipse at Inspiration Point. And that’s when I figured out where Yellowstone got it’s name.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Look at all that yellow rock!

Day 4: Grand Teton National Park

LC exploring

For this day we wanted to maximize our time in the park so we got up and rolling early. Once we were in the park we stopped for breakfast near Jackson Lake. We don’t often make use of the picnic areas near different features but it was a great place to stop, cook a little breakfast (the benefit of carrying your food/kitchen in your car at all times due to bears) and let LC stretch his legs a bit.

Chocolate chip pancakes!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in the park and as with all of our other adventures, I wish we could have stayed longer. It was a much quieter park than Yellowstone, it doesn’t have as much tourist-y allure, but definitely don’t pass it up if you’re anywhere near. The pictures don’t even begin to do it justice.

After a long day in the park, we headed back to camp to settle in before our last day in Yellowstone.

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How to Go Camping with a Toddler (and Actually Have Fun!)

Before we had LC, we ran into a lot of people who would tell us to have fun while we could, because after you have kids you won’t be able to keep up with any of your old hobbies. They would tell us, travel while you can, cycle while you can, go out to restaurants while you can,…because once you have kids, the fun STOPS.

Well I am here to tell you that could not be farther from the truth! Since we have had our son we have been on several long road trips (the most recent one was over 10 days long!), taken an overnight train to Denver, ridden our bikes across Iowa (with help from grandparents), participated in my first Triathlon, and done lots of other fun things as a family.

That being said, one of the things that I was nervous about initially was taking our little guy camping. I rekindled my love for camping and the outdoors during a 2014 road trip and was scared we’d have to put that kind of adventure on hold now that we are three. As it turns out, TONS of people camp with kids and in general, the kids love it! Through lots of trial and error, we have found some sure fire ways for the entire family to enjoy the trip

1.Bring toys, lots of ‘em.

One terrible mistake I made during our first weekend camping trip when LC was solidly into the toddler age was not providing enough entertainment. Just because I like to sit around the campfire and read for hours at a time does not mean that my super energetic 2 year old will do the same. Even his favorite movies on the iPad got boring to him after a while. And word to the wise, even sticks and dirt will only entertain them for so long.

Be sure to bring some new and exciting things such as a new coloring book or a new model car to play with. Bubbles are also usually a big hit. I look for things that are inexpensive (that way I’m not spending a fortune on new stuff) and that we generally don’t do a lot of at home.

2. Creature Comforts

We have lots of little creature comforts for camping. Whether it be a favorite chair, awesome sleep mat, or making sure your favorite snacks are in the food box. Make sure your little one has these too! Learning how to keep him comfortable has definitely increased everyone’s enjoyment on our trips! LC has his own camp chair, cot, and sleeping bag. The cot, in particular has been a godsend. Make sure that for every comfort item you bring for yourself, your toddler has something similar.

3. Good Sleep

If you all have a terrible night’s sleep because you have a toddler who was up half the night beside himself screaming and crying because he’s uncomfortable and in an unfamiliar environment, no one will have fun the next day (I do, unfortunately, speak from experience on this one). Spending $22 on a cot for him was literally one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. He always has his own spot, that he’s now used to sleeping in no matter where we pitch our tent. It’s even gotten to the point that he will put himself to sleep on his cot just like he does in his bed at home!

4. Plan Activities Accordingly

Remember that your toddler is not going to be able to hike/walk for very long. They will get tired easily and if you don’t remember what a disaster that will create, refer to #3. We make sure to either keep the walking short or be sure to bring along our “pack pack” as LC has dubbed it. This was a something of an investment but if you wait for a great sale (that’s when I purchased ours) or look for one used it’s not as tough a pill to swallow.

5. Plan Some Down Time

Speaking of activities, it’s also important to plan some down time, especially if you’re on a longer trip. Before LC, we packed our days full of activities and hikes and Go Go Go! It is a difficult transition, because we still want to see and do all the things, but we all have a much better time if we have an afternoon or morning here and there to just relax! Even just spending a morning in camp lazily making breakfast and coffee rather than rushing off to start that hike at 7am makes a huge difference!

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2017 YNP, GTNP, GNP, & TRNP Road Trip: Part I

This was a road trip several years in the making. I don’t remember exactly when the idea came to us, but I do know that we’ve been talking about it for at least 3 years since our last major road trip. Maybe even before then. I have no idea what drew my husband to Yellowstone, but he was desperate to go. As the trip got closer, we did more research and found out that Grand Teton National Park was super close by and Glacier National Park was only 6.5 hours away (and if we did it right, we could swing by Theodore Roosevelt National Park on the way home). 😉 So from that small Yellowstone dream came another road trip of a lifetime.

Day 1

Omaha, NE to Rawlins, WY

Ideally we would have left really early in the morning but because I had to work we weren’t able to leave until almost 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m going to be totally honest, I was absolutely dreading the drive on Interstate 80 across western Nebraska. We’ve made this drive at least twice before and have also seen it by train. And let me tell you, there is not that much in western Nebraska to keep this drive exciting (at least not along the interstate). However, if we wanted to get to the other side, we needed to suck it up and just start driving. So drive we did, for about 10 hours.

This first leg was thankfully pretty uneventful. We had one near disaster with a very full diaper that we caught just in the nick of time, and had a couple moments where we thought we had left a couple important things behind, but alas, we found them!

We finally got to the Econolodge in Rawlins, Wyoming which was pretty mediocre even by mediocre standards. The front desk was less than friendly, the room was shabby, and breakfast the next morning was…well, it was free is what it was. But can you really complain for $73 for three people to sleep, shower, and eat free breakfast? No, we can’t. 🙂

Sunset in Western Nebraska
Sunset in Western Nebraska

Day 2

Rawlins, WY to Grant Village Campground, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Good Morning Wyoming!

I was so excited for this day of driving because we “only” had 6 (and a half) hours ahead of us and we would finally get to a National Park! We were actually going to see two National Parks because we planned to actually drive through Grand Teton National Park on our way into Yellowstone NP. (Don’t worry, we didn’t just pass Grand Teton NP by without care, we planned to go back a couple days later for a better look!) However, I forgot to take one small thing into consideration…we stop a lot when driving through scenic areas. It’s something I need to remember to build into our timeline for our next road trip. But how can you not stop!?!?

The Grand Tetons!

We tried to press on as much as possible but just couldn’t help ourselves at a few particularly scenic spots. Fortunately we already had a campsite reserved in Yellowstone so we weren’t in a huge hurry to get there. We just really wanted to be set up before dark and in time to have some dinner. 😉

We were overjoyed to pass this sign on the way in, we had finally arrived!!! After a few more stops along the way, we made our way to the campsite and set up camp for the evening. I was perfectly happy to set up camp after a long day knowing that we were going to be in the same campsite for 3 nights. Especially on a road trip, it is rare and lovely to be in one place for so long! 🙂

Our tent!

We did do a little more sightseeing before turning in as well. We visited the Grand Prismatic and a few other amazing features at the Midway Geyser Basin. I fell asleep hoping to wake again quickly because I could not wait to do more adventuring the next day!

Black Pool, YNP
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