Friday, August 25, 2017

The Epic Family Road Trip

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This summer, my family spent 17 days driving our trusty Subaru Outback east toward the Western National Parks and then south to California. It was an epic adventure. It was the stuff of memories. It was the first of many future road trips. Buckle up! This is a long and photo heavy post that has taken me way to long to get up.

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We first headed to Spokane where we had dinner with my Uncles, Aunt and Grandma. From there we got up at the crack of dawn and drove to Glacier National Park. The drive took longer than anticipated so we arrived in the park shortly after Noon. As I made PB&J sandwiches in the trunk of the car in the scorching heat, I laughed and told the girls, "We were making memories here!" They stared at me with questioningly looks while my husband laughed. As a kid, my family took many road trips and I have vivid memories of eating cheerios out of yellow melamine bowls while sitting on the hatch door of our Honda civic. There was also the episode with the birds and Cheetos at a rest stop somewhere in Arizona that always brings my family to belly filled laughter.

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We hurried over to the shuttle stop for the Sun to Mountain road after making a pit stop of our own to find a long and very slow line. We waited for an hour before catching a bus to Avalanche Creek where we discovered, we needed to wait for a different shuttle to Logan Pass. We were meltingly hot at this point and beginning to feel quite cranky. I was rethinking my decision to add Glacier onto this trip. We waited another half hour for the shuttle and then finally were on our way up the road.

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The Sun to Mountain road is intense and beautiful. Everywhere you look is gorgeous and breathtaking. We picked up some passengers along the way who had encountered a bear on their 2 mile hike. The bear encounter turned it into an 8 mile journey. They were hot and out of water and a little bit grumpy. Maggie soon turned their frowns into smiles as she quizzed them on their hike and their bear sighting. She had a great many questions and it was fun to watch her interact with strangers.

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At the top of the road, we disembarked at Logan's Visitor Center. The entire family was wearing sandals which we quickly discovered were a poor choice when we headed out on one of the short hiking trails. The paths were still covered with snow and it was so cold trudging across the frosty ground. After heading to the visitor center to warm ourselves up, we headed back to the shuttle stop. We made a surprising discovery and found a mountain goat just hanging out by the stop. They are such fun creatures to watch. The ride down was much quicker than the ride up though we did end up waiting at the Avalanche Creek stop for quite awhile.

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Once we finally made it back to our car, we headed to West Glacier for dinner. As Maggie was being her worst self, the family next to us gave us high-5s and said, "OH man! Have we been there!" It was nice to hear some encouraging words. We headed back to the park to check out the campground areas for my story and enjoy some cold ice cream on a hot day. I had booked a room in Columbia Falls, MT which was a short drive from the park. The hotel was extra swanky and I was really surprised. I was also disappointed that I hadn't allowed more time for us to enjoy the hotel. The girls and I did get a swim in and we all made sure to load up at the breakfast buffet before heading to Yellowstone.

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We decided to head toward Yellowstone through Missoula. I was already starting to miss good coffee and hoped to get my fix there. It ended up being a long, slow drive due to multiple construction sites but we were rewarded with awesome coffee and a fun playground for the kids. After getting our wiggles out, we headed to Butte for lunch. Whenever we drive through Butte, I feel it is necessary to stop at Pork Chop John's and get a pork chop, no matter the time of day. Luckily we hit Butte, right at lunchtime and our bellies were well-rewarded.

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We arrived in Yellowstone and I nearly cried.  Yellowstone is my most favorite place on earth and I knew the girls wouldn't love it the same way I do but I wanted them to be impressed. Luckily they were and they had such a good time. We spent 2 1/2 days in the park and it was just right. 

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We saw the geysers, we did some hikes, we saw lots of animals, I got up early and saw Yellowstone Falls in the silence of the morning. It was an amazing visit to Yellowstone and when patience wore thin, we powered through for a good time. 

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We next headed to The Grand Tetons which are always breath-taking. I'm always amazed at just how beautiful the tetons are. I always forget their majestic stance.

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We hit up a boat cruise on Jackson Lake before heading to Jackson Lodge where we discovered a pool. The kids were so excited. Hotel carts and pools were their favorite things about the trip. I was excited about the pool because it was so hot which was making me very cranky. 

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On our second day we found a lake that was only 6 feet deep at the center. It was freezing but the kids swam in it until their lips turned blue and we made them get out. Swimming was such a joy on this trip. Molly is a great swimmer and Maggie uses her floaties like a champ. It meant I no longer had to watch them with an eagle eye which is stressful. I may have said to Scott quite a few times on this trip that I was so glad to be out of the baby/toddler stage. These independent kids are quite awesome! 

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We headed into Jackson Hole for lunch before returning to Jackson Lodge for the night. The sunsets were gorgeous and we tried to catch every single one. 

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From The Grand Tetons, we headed to California. Scott needed to be in San Jose for work and we decided to road trip along. By this point, we were all thrilled to stay in one place for more than two nights. Five nights felt like a dream! 

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While Scott worked, the girls and I hit up Happy Hollow Farms, The Monterey Aquarium along with some days just hanging out at the hotel pool. Our hotel was aces. It served an amazing breakfast along with a full dinner most nights. 

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I was able to have dinner with a friend from high school. That sounds trite. She is an amazing friend who I've had the honor to know since junior high. She moved to the Bay area in our 20s and it is a treat to see her whenever I get the chance. It was also a treat to have a few hours away from my children at that point in the trip. 

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We took two days to get home from San Jose with an overnight stop in Grant's Pass. We were so done with the trip at that point but still had a fun drive back. Grant's Pass was surprisingly HOT. We ended up having ice cream for dinner which was really the only thing suitable for dinner. 

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It was a wonderfully epic road trip and the kids did way better than expected. They told us they loved it but wanted to go on an airplane for our next vacation. 

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I wrote three articles on our trip for Seattle Refined - one for each park. It was an honor to get to explore these parks, spend time with my family and then write about them.

A Guide to Exploring Glacier National Park

A Guide to Exploring Yellowstone National Park

A Guide to Exploring The Grand Tetons

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