I've been slacking on blogging, I know. This post is a long time coming, and a lot has taken place between these pictures being taken and them being posted (including six months, another college semester, and countless inquiries from the siblings as to when the pictures from our camping trip are going to be blogged.) But, well, blogging isn't exactly at the top of my list of priorities when I'm in school, especially when it's personal pictures. And even once I have all of the pictures uploaded and ready, I have a hard time bringing myself to sit down and put words to them.
But, since I started blogging my summer in Wyoming, it only makes sense for me to finish it. And since August was my favorite month of the summer, if I were to completely skip on any post, it shouldn't be this one. (Although May, June, and July were pretty enjoyable as well.)
August started with the family making the trip out to camp in Grand Teton National Park. It's been years since we camped as a family, since we've always had young kids, but now that everyone's older we've been saying that we need to start going annually. This seemed like a pretty good start.
Camping in Grand Teton National Park is a bit of a pain when you have a large group, in that, you can't make reservations ahead of time. So when the family arrived Thursday evening, they claimed the first available side-by-side camp sites so as to ensure that we'd at least have somewhere to sleep that night. But then, waking up Friday morning, we all agreed that we didn't really want to spend a week on the hill by the bathrooms, in the middle of the loop where we were visible to all the other campers. So when we realized that the two sites at the end of our loop were now open, and were more tucked into the woods, we decided it was a doable move. Total bonus that we didn't have to take down any tents, and everything was able to squeeze through the trees into our new little setup. And we all got a kick out of the looks the other campers were throwing our way as we hauled our air mattresses and tents down the loop.
We'd never really done family camping before, but I have to say, I was impressed with how well it all worked out. We had four tents, a hammock circle (seriously, we found a circle of 6 evenly spaced tress to hang hammocks on!), four picnic tables, a clothesline, a cornhole setup, a slackline, two firepits, and our trailer that served as the pantry, all tucked in among the trees on our two sites. We really lucked out with the vacancy that morning.
My camera came back from repairs halfway through Friday, and my phone camera is out of commission, so all of the pictures from the move and setup are from everyone else's phones. The majority of the remaining pictures are from my camera, although I tend to leave it sitting out in hopes that other people will pick it up and snap some shots. I love seeing what other people capture, but then I can never remember which photos are mine and which aren't. Any phone photos are from one of the siblings, stolen from Google Photos (which is the best thing to use for sharing pictures from a trip or event where multiple people are taking photos! Seriously, so handy.)
The rest of the day Friday was spent hanging out and exploring the campground, including a walk down to Jackson Lake at sunset.
Turns out, we really didn't have enough food and water. A few of us turned around and headed back before we reached the lake, and a few of the others who did make it all the way, did so with the help of water from hikers heading back down with more than enough. It was very evident by our lack of preparation, that we do not do this often.
The above picture is from Hans's phone, and is looking back down the canyon. Below, on the left is before we split up, and on the right, the five that made it to the lake.
We only had one can of bear spray on the hike, and when we split up, it stayed with those who were continuing. So naturally this was the only time all summer that I saw a bear on a hike. I was more than slightly relieved to see that it was a black bear and not a grizzly, and I'm still disappointed that it looked away and meandered off as I snapped the photo, as it had been looking directly at me the second prior.
By the time we made it back down to String Lake, our feet were killing, we were famished, and we desperately needed water. Lunch and a cold mountain lake has never been more inviting.
Sunday was spent hanging out at the campsites and at the lake. Dean and Connie have inflatable paddleboards that they let us borrow for the week, and they were a huge hit, although Jay may have given the adults a few moments of panic when he'd paddle too far out with no life jacket. But he'd calmly assure everyone, "chill out, I got this."
On Monday we all piled in the van and headed up to Yellowstone. This was my third time in the park, and we were smart enough this time to skip some of the big tourist spots and instead ask a guide what they'd recommend. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, that I hadn't seen the first two trips in, is the coolest.
We made a photobook of the camping trip for Christmas, and had Cami (the third grader) write out what we did each day of the week. In her description of Yellowstone she made sure to note that "Old Faithful was kind of a dud," which is hilarious, but also an opinion I tend to agree with. It's too commercialized and too talked up, that when you see it, it just doesn't live up to the hype. I can totally see how it would be crazy to have stumbled upon back in the day, but I'll probably be skipping it on any Yellowstone trips I take from here on out.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Pictures don't do it justice, as they don't with many things. In the picture below on the right. See those people standing off to the side at the top of the waterfall? That's where the above picture was taken. While we were standing there in awe of the amount of water rushing over, one of the park rangers mentioned that a few days prior, a dead buffalo had washed down the river and over the falls. You don't really comprehend how high up you are, he said, until you see how long it takes a buffalo to hit the water at the bottom.
On the way out of the park we hit a buffalo jam. A giant herd was scattered around the road, and every time one walked across, cars had to stop. And most cars were stopping to take pictures anyway, so it took quite awhile to make it through. As we were slowly rolling along we had the van doors open, so that everyone inside could get better pictures. Jay, the first grader, was standing in front of the open doors with my camera snapping pictures. As we were rolling up, we noticed two buffalo, side by side, right on the edge of the road, facing us. A few of the kids (and possibly mom) were a bit panicky, yelling at Jay to shut the door before we got there. But he said no, and stayed put. Well, RIGHT as we were in front of the two buffalo, they snorted and stepped forward, and chaos inside the van ensued, with screams and Cami diving toward the back seat. But the van doors stayed open, Jay got the picture, nobody was harmed, and we all laughed for quite awhile, wishing someone had gotten it on video.
The remainder of the week was fairly uneventful. We packed up and moved to Connie and Dean's for the last few nights, and everyone made a trip or two into town to souvenir shop. Thursday morning, when the family packed up and headed out, came far too soon.
Cami and Jay really enjoyed Shep and Aztec.
During the time we spent camping, I played around with the video on my camera. Not something I do often, but something that I've always wanted to start. I don't know much about making videos, so this is very beginner, and not the greatest quality, but it's so fun to have.
The rest of the summer went by quickly. We did a few more hikes, I read a few more books, and we got a front row seat to the Great American Eclipse.
I realized as we were heading to the river one day, that for all of the times we had driven past the Sleeping Indian, I hadn't taken a single photo of it. This was snapped out the car window.
We drove quite a ways down the Gros Ventre river until Andy found a suitable spot to fish. His suitable spot was also the perfect spot for me to sit in a chair with me feet in the stream, face to the sun, and get lost in a book without another soul around, so I wasn't complaining.
I really enjoyed driving down that road. It felt so western, with the red dirt road kicking up dust, red rock on one side, the river on the other, horse pastures and ranches scattered along...
When I had fist talked to Connie about spending the summer with them, she had let me know that Jackson was directly in the path of the eclipse in August, and the town was expected to be crazy. And all summer leading up to it, it was the talk of the town. All of the shops were selling merchandise, the gas stations were selling eclipse glasses, restaurants were planning specials. The grocery stores in the week leading up were comical, with empty shelves from all the townsfolk stocking up so that they could avoid all of the expected tourist traffic on the weekend.
And I'll be honest, I totally rolled my eyes at all the hype. I've never been into solar stuff, and all of the blood moons and lunar eclipses and whatnot that get talked up, well, as far as I'm concerned, they've never quite lived up to the hype. So I was not expecting much at all, and was mostly just happy to have a Monday off of work.
But as the morning passed and the time to totality (the moment the moon crosses directly in front of the sun) drew closer, I was more and more intrigued. You could feel the air getting colder, and condensation forming on the grass. And each time I went inside to grab a sweater or some shoes, the light was drastically different outside from when I had gone in. The birds and crickets started to go quiet, in a way that was somewhat eerie. And as we sat outside watching the moon creep bit by bit in front of the sun in anticipation, the rest of the neighborhood was doing the same thing.
And then the moment of totality suddenly hit, and you no longer needed the tinted glasses. The world was dark, the stars were out, there was colors on every edge of the earth in what appeared to be a 360 degree sunrise or sunset. And the sun. The sun was a black circle, with a beautiful shining golden ring around it. I might sound dumb admitting this, but staring up at the sun in that moment? It was really a moving experience, and I know I wasn't the only one in the yard who found them self with a tear in their eye. I read an article after that day, about how great our God is to create these science phenomenons, because yeah, you could maybe chalk an eclipse up to science along with everything else, but the chances that it all happens through mere chance or coincidence? That the sun just so happens to be 400 times the diameter of the moon, and 400 times further from the Earth, allowing them to appear the exact same size when viewed from where we humans stand? If you ask me, that's definitely the work of God.
Our relatives from Arizona made the trip up to Jackson for the weekend to catch the eclipse. Bray Falls is a crazy talented astrophotographer. And his equipment totally put my camera with it's homemade Kleenex box/eclipse glasses filter to shame. But my camera did what it needed to, and I got to experience the bucket list moment that I had never even thought to include on my bucket list.
And to anyone who is even remotely interested, the next total solar eclipse over the United States is set to take place in April of 2024 and parts of Illinois and Ohio are in the path of totality. I would highly recommend taking the trip to see it.
The following weekend, Andy and I packed up our stuff, loaded up the cars, and started the long trip home. But before heading east, we decided to take a detour north to Glacier National Park. We'd heard so many people rave about it, and once we had an annual park pass and were so close, we figured we may as well. We only spent half a day in the part, doing a short hike and the Going-to-the Sun drive before heading on. The drive through the park was beautiful, but it was hard to enjoy it as much as I felt I should have, having just spent a summer surrounded by the mountains in Jackson Hole and now anxious to get home. It was worth the extra hours on the road to make the trip up, and I'm glad we made the stop, but I'll have to go back at some point to experience it fully.
And that's that. A photo recap of one of my favorite summers. I completely stepped out of my comfort zone in my decision to move away for the summer, and I'll admit, it was rough being so far away from home and friends and family at times. But it was one of the best decisions, and I'm so thankful for the experience. For the memories, the adventures, the conversations, the coworkers, but mostly, for Logan and Dean and Connie who were so good to Andy and I, and who completely welcomed us into their home and into their lives for those four months.