Tales of Yellowstone with Kids

9 Mar

Yellowstone is an amazing part of the America West.  Being the first National Park in America, it is by far one of those destinations that we all dream about visiting.  How could you not?  The amazing rolling hills, wild animals roaming the range, and the infamous Old Faithful.  I too, had the same exact idea.  I really wanted to experience Yellowstone in every way possible.  I hoped to someday take in the sights, the smells, and the sounds of rivers and birds.  I desired to enjoy the cool evenings, while observing the amazing star lit sky.  A couple of years back, I did some research and off the family set to discover the American West icon of Yellowstone National Park.

Real camping, as in tents, is not really my thing.  I love the idea of camping and the great outdoors, but for some reason I just can’t bring myself to sleeping in a tent.  The thought of cramming 6 people in an area the size of a bathroom, surrounded by a thin shield of fabric, seems a little primitive to me.  RV rentals for our family are the way to go.  It is just like a small hotel on wheels.  You can experience the outdoors when the weather cooperates and sleep in a heated and bear proof shelter.  So there it is, I planned and we set out for another crazy adventure.  4 kids, 2 grown ups and a  dog, loaded up and ready to experience a piece of America’s finest .  Bikes, scooters, fire wood, toys, and enough food for a small army.  Oh, I can’t forget 2 wardrobes for each person because of the unstable weather predictions and all the stuff for a mobile birthday party as well.  We were loaded and ready for some fun.

The journey began with a quick stop at Bear World in Rexberg, Idaho.  This ended up being the highlight of the trip.  Bear World was amazing!  We drove through their reserve enjoying the animals wandering freely and coming right up to the windows.  There was a petting zoo, rides for the little ones, and our birthday princess even was lucky enough to help feed a baby bear.  The kids could have spent half a day there.  Looking back, we should have spent more time enjoying this little gem, but I was running on a schedule.

As we pulled into our campground, we set up camp and watched the dooming dark clouds slowly cover the sky.  From the corner of our eyes, we couldn’t help but notice the biggest motorhome we’ve ever seen pull into the camp site next to us.  Amazing!  This must have been a coach for a celebrity.  Was I ever wrong!  It housed an older couple and 6 standard poodle show dogs. This was a complete circus act in my opinion, but who am I to judge?  The owners of this pack of dogs fenced in a large area and  somehow took a liking to my 4 kids (I guess if you own this many dogs you must be patient).  The kids were entertained and happy all evening and they surely had their animal fix for the day!

We slept great all night in our heated RV and didn’t even awake to the bear destroying a cooler on the other side of the campground (another reason why I’m not fond of tents).  Early the next morning, we awoke to a wintery white dusting of snow, but beautiful blue skies.  Not much snow on this late summer morning, but enough to know that the air was COLD!  Off we set to explore, learn, and take in the beauty of Yellowstone National Park.  The next 40 miles were long and slow.  Slow and long.  We followed behind car after car after car.  In between asking “are we there yet?” 4000 times, we kept busy scoping the countryside looking for anything that moves.  Then around a bend it all came to a dead stop.  Cars and people were on the side of the road, so of course we followed.  We assumed it was something amazing.  Through the shivering, whining, tears, and about 30 more minutes we finally spotted a very cute and small, yet unimpressive bird.  The European and Asian tourists were snapping photos and all of the retired folks had out their binoculars and bird books.  My kids were less than excited.  I realized at that moment, we should have told them that Bear World was Yellowstone.  After a couple more of these stops and a quick walk through a few natural hot springs, we finally arrived at Old Faithful.  It was packed, so we found a seat and waited.  We waited and waited and faithfully it happened and in 2 minutes it was over.  No fireworks, no music, no F-16’s.  The grown-ups appreciated this amazing natural sensation, but our Disneyland generation of kids were far from thrilled.  We made a quick stop at the gift shop, stocked up on souvenirs and away we went. The dark clouds were on the horizon again.  We realized that we had 4 squirmy kids needing to burn some real energy.  We went back to camp to enjoy the indoor pool and playground at the West Yellowstone KOA.  We ended the night with some more poodle puppy love, s’mores, another dusting of snow and luckily no encounters with any bears.

The last day we decided to skip the National Park and enjoy the small and quaint town of West Yellowstone.   We enjoyed ice cream & comfort food, saw a few real cowboys, and had a blast taking pictures with some life sized stuffed animals.

Bear World was the highlight of this adventure and the huge indoor swimming pool was close behind.  I was able to experience the the beauty of Yellowstone and Old Faithful, while crossing it off my bucket list.  The kids remember their fond memories of this trip, which I’m sure were different than mine (6 poodles groomed to look like a cross between a lion and camel didn’t do it for me).  Traveling with kids is all about a little give and take, a ton of patience, but still an amazing trip for all!

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