Today as we walked the Upper Basin area around Old Faithful at Yellowstone we passed so many older couples who were alone and I thought how much easier and safer things looked on their end. I was recounting tales from a book I foolishly read earlier in the year called "Death in Yellowstone" for my tiny innocent children and making sure they were aware of the many, many ways they could expire if they didn't follow my every instruction.
Here's Jacob. He has his hands in his pockets because I have just gone over the possibility that pushing or fighting on the boardwalk over the geothermal area could result in a fall and consequently, death. He put his hands in his pockets so it would be "harder to shove people or do fighting".
But I'm glad we did this now with young children. I think they're learning a lot - but I think more so that this is sinking into them and infusing them with a sense of the varied beauty of the world. Apart from a bit of drama from the toddler and the preteen, they've been happy and well behaved. Mostly. And pretty centered, too - they seem like themselves and they're getting along as well as I could expect.
Which is not really that well. One thing that is especially challenging with such a lot of children is that there are exponentially more relationships to manage. If I could draw you a diagram of this, there'd be a million little arrows connecting each child to his four siblings and to Stephen and I. It's part of the benefit, as well, as they are learning excellent relational skills and will be highly desirable college roommates one day.
Because I am often googling reviews of campgrounds, I'll tell you a bit about Headwaters. This will be super boring to those of you not camping, so feel free to jump ahead. We chose a campground between the Tetons and Yellowstone so we could explore both, and also because we are last minute types and didn't book anything in Yellowstone. Headwaters/Flagg Ranch had nice amenities (gas, general store) but not so nice bathrooms, decently spaced sites (not terribly level) and more mosquitos than I've seen since my visit to the Everglades. So many mosquitos that I would not recommend stopping here - they swarmed any time we were outside and were seeping into the trailer in the most horrible way. It could be that June is just mosquito season and this is an unavoidable problem here in the area, but it was bad enough that we chose to move on a day early. We wish we had stayed at Madison or Fishing Bridge. Headwaters was not terribly convenient nor especially scenic. We'd recommend it only if you are like us (hello, fun, fly by the seat of your pants friend!) and didn't plan ahead and want to visit Yellowstone. It was good enough, and Yellowstone is worth the coating of caladryll I am sporting on my already pink legs. These were beastly, grizzly mosquitos and they laughed villainously at my natural bug spray. I sprayed my babies with DEET, friends, and you'd have done the same, all of you.
Today we are headed to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and will stay at a very kitschy KOA (Kampground w a K) that has a pool, wifi (oh we have missed you this last week, wifi, old buddy), and dinosaur themed mini golf. Yup. And cable, which the kids are excited about because we don't have it at home even, and it is the most delightful treat ever, and we are terrible parents because they NEVER get to watch Disney channel and ALL of their friends have cable and it is NOT FAIR.
I have missed having wifi or cell service more than I'd like to admit. I had to use an actual paper map and it was hard. So hard. I could not Google "dinosaur KOA pool" and I don't even know what it looks like. I couldn't Google which parts of the Yellowstone geyser path were sites of recent deaths. I just had to WING EVERYTHING. I looked in guide books. It was not nostalgic and cool. It was inadequate and I could not gather all the information like I always do. So the tacky KOA will be nice for the next few nights. And I can blog once more, which I know you have desperately missed. What have you been doing without me, while you stand in bathroom lines or wait at the DMV?? My apologies.
A quick catch up, because I don't hardly remember where we have been and certainly I'm not going to go back and blog it all. We spent a week in a house in Jackson, WY on the National Elk Refuge. My family met us there and we spent the week playing cards and drinking wine and coffee, like we do. Jackson Hole was especially charming, and there's a dreamy little bakery/coffee shop there, Persephone, that has outstanding food, Intelligencia coffee (this is the good stuff) and perfect staff - nice but slightly snooty in a way that assures you that the coffee will be top notch. And great fresh bread. And a vintage typewriter where you could leave a note on a pin board. Because, of course they do. If you're in Jackson Hole, go there.
Other highlights - a quaint little bookshop in a diagon-alley type spot, across from an excellent little paper store called MADE, where I bought a bunch of letter pressed cards that I'll probably misplace and never send. They brought me a KonMari joy, and that's good.
Other fun things - Snow King Mountain was a really fun day. We rode an alpine slide and a roller coaster and did a gorgeous, scenic, well done ropes course. I cheered from the ground because a baby on a ropes course is frowned upon. We did slip Henry in - the age limit was seven, but Henry somehow managed to weasel into a harness and up the course. Fearless little fella. While on the course, he kept shaming us by yelling things like, "I am SO GOOD at this, and I am only FIVE. YEARS. OLD." Also, "I'm the fastest on this and you're supposed to be SEVEN but I'm FIVE." And also, "I am not even SIX yet, and I'm supposed to be SEVEN to do this." Jacob had a minor melt down and one of the guides used Sherpa techniques to help him conquer his anxiety. It totally worked. I'm thinking of writing a "parenting Sherpa style" book. It was really effective and fascinating and Jacob completed all three levels of the course with no further trouble. I loved seeing his confidence and pride.
The family also went whitewater rafting (not me - again, baby) and horseback riding (nope) and rode an ATV all around the Elk Refuge. I did take Jane in the ATV, which was a bad idea but worked out just fine. I did not enjoy that ride. Funny how this works, but though I didn't enjoy it, I'm glad to have done it. Our family played a lot of hilarious back yard football (we are a load of somewhat shapeless bookworms), played campfire guitar, stayed up all night to finish a puzzle and play games, and went to a super terrific and ridiculous Chuck Wagon Dinner Show where we sang "She'll be Coming Around the Mountain" and such things.
String Lake in the Tetons was for me the highlight of this whole long trip. I think nothing is more beautiful and awe inspiring than green flowering mountains that spill into lakes. We hiked and swam and froze, and soaked in restoration. We skipped nearby Jenny Lake because it seemed crowded to the point where it would have been stressful and not relaxing. The Tetons have been peaceful and soothing, and I think I could stay forever and I've never thought of myself as a mountain girl.
Moving on is exciting, too. I've always wanted to visit Utah. I'm not excited about Dinosaur National Monument, because dinosaurs are boring and in fifth grade we studied them to the point of nausea, but Utah looks really striking and I can't wait to see. I imagine our family size will be less than impressive there and maybe I can say "you sure have your hands full" to people. I also plan to impress my children with my residual knowledge of fossils (thanks, Mrs. Niemeyer) and my mineral mastery.