Updated: Jan 9, 2022
It was March of 2021 and vaccines were on the horizon. We, like everyone, were dying to get back out in the world again, in a meaningful way. Getting the first shot felt liberating. We were ready to start planning our next big trip and we did not hold back. I think we hit about 3 bucket list items, if not more. While we expected to continue traveling after that we unfortunately have not gotten to the point with this crazy virus where we feel as comfortable. Which makes us that much more grateful for this trip. I am sure an expert blogger would be giving you great tips on traveling with kids and the top 10 places to see at each location, but let's be real ain't nobody got time for that. Instead here is the fun we had on our last big trip as a full-time family (now that both of our girls are in school/pre-school). We would highly recommend any or all of these travel adventures.
Montana - Glacier National Park
What an absolute stunning location. If you have not been, it is a must on the to do list. We spent our time hiking and driving the Going to the Sun Road (the part that was open at least). Apparently that far north at the end of May is still too cold to open all roads. Which was fine with us. We only had a few days and the 16 miles of road that was open, packed in more beautiful overlooks than you could imagine. This park is huge, you could probably spend a month here and not see everything. It even goes into Canada. This fact added another bucket list item. Now we have to go back and hike from the US into Canada. How cool would that be! We very much enjoyed our hikes but while there were warning signs of it being Grizzly Country, we noticed it was more of a mosquito country. For how cold it was, it made no sense too us. One of the most memorable natural beauties was the rocks in and around the lakes. They appeared greyish when they were dry but once they got wet there were so many shades of red, blue and green. So beautiful! We stayed in Columbia Falls and also checked out a small town called Whitefish, which was very cool to walk around. Oh did I mention this was also the girls first flight. That was definitely a highlight for them as well.
Montana/Wyoming - Yellowstone National Park
After a 1 night stay in Helena and a quick stop in two ghost towns, we were in West Yellowstone. The second national park of the trip. While I would absolutely recommend at least visiting once in your life, be warned it is the Disney World of national parks. Lots of people and lines either hiking or in your car. Granted it is normally because of a wild animal spotting but still a lot of traffic. Only a few minutes into the park we were stopped in traffic and ended up pulling off when we heard a baby bison had just been born, so again sometimes the traffic makes sense. We of course had to stop and see Old Faithful. We had one small human with a full bladder and the visitor center was closed so we were very happy to not have our own version of old faithful at that stop. Whew! There was a lot of driving due to the size of Yellowstone. We were still able to get in quite a few hikes and see 2 waterfalls. We decided to drive across and down through the east side of the park to get to our next destination. If we ever go back, we would rather stay on the east side. It was way less crowded and far more peaceful. Definitely a better atmosphere to take in all of the natural beauty around you. It looks to be a much longer drive to get in the park from a town on the east side, which is why it is not as crowded. If you have the time and prefer less people on your hikes it may be worth the inconvenience of lodging. I don't think any visitor could miss seeing bison because they are literally everywhere but we were also fortunate enough to see a coyote (captured beautifully below by Brant), elk, and a baby fawn. At this point we had not seen a moose which was high on all of our wish lists.
Wyoming - Grand Teton National Park
Yep, a third and final national park in one trip. I told you we didn't hold back. What a drive from Yellowstone to Grand Teton which basically connect to each other. One gorgeous view after another. We (humans) do not deserve this planet as it is absolutely amazing! But I digress. The mountains are so grand and humbling. Any worries you have just disappear when you see how big the world really is. Once we settled in Jackson we started to explore the park. We took an unexpected hike around Lake Jenny due to the fairy having an hour plus wait. We had originally planned to skip the fairy all together and rent canoes or a boat, however, we did not take into account the water temperature. They were not renting boats as a safety precaution. If you were to fall in, the water was too cold for them to rescue you in time before hypothermia sets in. Seems like a valid concern. So hiking it was. Luckily the girls are well versed in hiking and go with the flow. We did have the carrier for Ashlynn but both girls did so good. Austen hiked for the entire 4.7 miles (if not more, it felt like more), not always on even terrain. And Ashlynn hiked at least 1.5 on her own. Making our way to the other side of the lake and a hidden waterfall. Once we got to the other side of the lake, Austen was so tired she didn't want to go the .2 miles to see the waterfall. Brant carried her the final way because it was too good not to see. Plus you can't miss the reward at the end of a long hike. It was worth it! We absolutely took the fairy back after that and probably would have waited 5 hours if needed rather than hike back around. The next day we needed something chill but didn't want to waste any of our time our last day on vacation. A float trip down Snake River was the ticket. Such a great time seeing bald eagles (and babies heads popping out of the nest), lots of birds and finally not 1 but 2 moose! We were so excited, who knew a moose could be so stealthy and hide so well. We spent our final night enjoying our view of the Tetons from the condo balcony we rented at Snow King Mountain Resort. This was a great place to stay with condo and hotel options. We needed a washer dryer after 1.5 weeks traveling. It is not walking distance to downtown but the views were worth it.
The final adventure driving through the eastern border of Idaho on our way back to Montana for our flight home. That is right 3 states and 3 national parks, we may have been over excited about traveling again. We, and by we I mean Brant, drove a lot but what a great way to see these wonderful states. After 1,700 miles you see a lot of new places and can take in the natural beauty you don't always see staying in one town or city.
Now we are settling into our next chapter. The girls have shown no interest in homeschooling and have made great friends at school. While we have settled into a more "normal" life of school schedules, swimming lessons and musical theater we still intend on living life on our terms and traveling as much as the girls schedule will allow. Brant and I are still fortunate to be working part time, flexible jobs. Giving us plenty of time to do things as a family and be there to get the girls to all of their activities. Check out all of our new images in our photography store