Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bozeman Love

Montana's a big state and it's super easy to get caught up in the awesomeness of many different parts.  In 2 hours we can be exploring the "top of the world", watching geysers, tucked deep into the wilderness, for exploring the relics of the boom and bust of copper and gold.  Crazy.  It's also amazing in the summer with warm days, cool nights and mostly bluebird skies.  Though we've spent some time exploring along the northern edge and lots of time in Wyoming, it was time to hang out and explore a little closer to home.  It was a nice reminder of why we love where we live so much when we could start out the day with a lazy breakfast and pot of coffee and finish up with an adventure.

Recently both kids have taken an obsessive slant toward the "M" in town, competing for who can spot it first.  We've been meaning to hike it for a while with the kids, and have been talking up how exciting it'd be for Matthew to hike it all by himself and touch it.   Yes, this is for mostly selfish reasons as he is now 35+ pounds of gangly 4 year old that we don't want to have to haul up the hill.  We also encouraged Catherine to do a bit of it herself:
 The kids found lots of hiking sticks and Matthew enjoyed using his to draw "snakes" in the dirt for me to step on:
 We also had some gummy snakes from Uncle Ed and Georgina to enjoy at the top as a motivating factor.  As if that wasn't enough snake talk for one day, as Matthew and I went to touch the M and take the picture below, we scared a snake off his nice warm, white rock!
 A distorted (check out Matthew's mohawk!) view from the top!
 Matthew even shared his binoculars!
 We actually ran into a friend at the top (and later discovered we had missed two other families we knew that same morning!)  We forgot to ask our friend to take a picture, so a family selfie had to do:
 And with tongues because Matthew thinks that's the coolest thing ever.  Catherine's a little slow to join in:
 Trail back down:
 We took both kid backpacks but as Matthew did awesome by himself, Catherine got to ride in the big backpack for the first time!
 Matthew pointing to where he hiked!  850 feet in elevation and about 2.5 miles.  We were pretty proud of him, but mostly relieved that he could do it all himself.  Catherine clocked a little over a mile on her own which was also awesome.  Along with "Ride on Thomas" from our trip to Virginia, "Hike a M" is her next favorite response when you ask her about her favorite thing we have done.
 Bozeman's art center also has a great summer "lunch on the lawn" series that features lots of kids activities, bands and vendors on Wednesdays.  We managed to finally make it to two of these before the series ended.  Catherine painted a playhouse:

 And the kids fell in love with the balloon artist.  Well, at least for the 4.2 seconds before the balloons started to spontaneously combust:

 We also decided it was time to take the big tractor to some sand to see what it could do:
And after our success with the M, we pulled out the Day Hikes of Bozeman book to see what else we could conquer without carrying anyone.  We've done most of the hikes in the <2 .5="" 6="" a="" are="" arrived="" asleep="" before="" but="" course.="" discover="" fairy="" far="" fell="" few="" for="" gems="" hile="" is="" kids="" lake.="" last="" like="" meant="" mile-wise="" mile="" miles="" minivan="" nbsp="" not="" of="" p="" pretty="" range="" right="" road="" rough="" some="" still="" that="" the="" there="" to="" trailhead="" we="" were="" which="">
 We let them sleep a little and then woke them up.  Matthew was a bear, didn't want to hike, wanted to be carried etc. for the first 15 steps, and then we couldn't hike fast enough for him:
So he took on the very important role of coaching Catherine as to whether or not she should go under a log:
 Or over it:
 The lake which was super sparkly:
 The goobers enjoying the lake:
We took a trail around the lake perimeter.  Catherine walked most of the way but fell down a lot because of the exposed roots throughout.  However, she was a real trooper and just kept truckin', asking for a hand to hold when it got "slippy".  Otherwise, she is one determined kid!
 While we didn't see a moose (which I'm always looking for) we did see this guy.  I'm a little stumped because I couldn't come up with the name for it when we saw it but thought it was just a brain freeze.  Looking at my macroinvertebrate chart, it still doesn't really make sense so I'm open to ideas!!!
 And a tadpole which was pretty exciting:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Boards, Boats, Bear Songs and Brits Part II

When last I shared our little adventure we were just leaving Glacier after indulging in huckleberry milkshakes.  Bozeman to Glacier is not exactly a short drive, and while there are some gorgeous ways to do it, it is still a lot of time in the car and not exactly as gorgeous as the drives IN Glacier.   Which reminds me, I forgot to share this video which I should preface with two things 1) We had just passed a ranger who was very actively making noise to "scare" bears which piqued Matthew's interest and 2) Matthew puts anything and everything in song form (just ask Papa who had to listen to Matthew's song about our worm compost) and 3) his first version of this song was even, umm, better, but I didn't have the camera out :(
So, on the way home we extended our vacation with a bit of dawdling.  First up, we stopped at Swan Lake (which was where we had camped on our first trip) for a swim.   I remembered they had some reasonably priced paddle boats and thought Matthew might find it fun.  We rented a boat and took turns hauling the kids around:
 Catherine patiently waiting for her turn:
 So there were cup holders in the boat (God Bless America!) and Matthew was super jazzed about taking his juice out on the boat one turn.

 It was a gorgeous day, though Swan Lake has nothing on Flathead lake in terms of overall beauty and clarity.  After a million potty breaks, we made our way down to Butte, where we stopped for a very late dinner.  Friends had recommended Silver-Bow Pizza which is a mediocre pizza restaurant with a game room and carousel, which definitely brought back memories of about half the birthday parties I attended in upper middle school.  It was the perfect stop for the kids to run around after a long day in the car.  Matthew was a bit nervous but rode the horse by himself like a champ.  It helps immensely that this carousel goes at about 1/3 of the speed of the previous one!
Catherine was also relaxed enough to even give a wave!
 The kids played some games:
 And then more kids played games:
With all our dawdling we didn't get back until Midnight (and the kids definitely didn't fall asleep in the car!)   Once we got back, sadly James had to head to work but Matthew and Catherine still had some time to show Uncle Ed and Georgina around.  He really wanted to take them to the library, which we followed up with a picnic at the fish pond:
 Catherine has figured out how to actually throw the food in the water and is super jazzed about it!
 The next day we decided to head up to the local reservoir and test out paddleboarding.  I've wanted to try for a while but our schedule just hasn't allowed it.  Uncle Ed was the first to have success standing up:
 He and Georgina on a long paddle:
By the end of the day, we had all ended up standing up on the paddleboard, with minimal falls.  I wasn't as confident about my standing skills though, so most of the time I ended up kneeling or sitting with Matthew who eventually worked up the courage to stand:

And once we hit that point he was all over the paddleboard, crawling in front and behind:

Matthew was pretty jazzed to head out on the paddleboard while Uncle Ed stood:
 For a while I didn't think we'd get Catherine on the boat.  She was pretty content to hang out on the shore:

 But once I told her she could sit in my lap she was pretty excited:
 And showing off her new butterfly shirt from Uncle Ed and Georgina!
It is always fun to have them here but sadly the next day they headed out. Meanwhile, after a lazy breakfast Saturday I got it in my head we should go camp out for a night and catch the meteor shower.  We loaded up the kids and dogs and headed to a great local state park with wide open skies, a great bike path and some geocaching we thought we'd try.  Unfortunately I forgot there was a big music festival in the area and we were turned away :(  Because I'm stubborn we headed up to Hyalite to find a spot (this is generally impossible on Saturdays because of its popularity but again, I'm stubborn :)  Sure enough we found an undeveloped site for some boondocking, but when I went to take the trailer off, we couldn't get the camper off the van.  Womp. Womp.  Long story short I jacked up the trailer tongue and it spent the week with a welder.  It's back, and better than ever but that meant no camping for the weekend.  It turned out okay though since the whole week was cloudy and I wouldn't have seen the Perseids anyway.  Though I was disappointed, I think the dogs were the most depressed about the cancelled trip. By the time we figured out that we couldn't camp for the night it was 8 o'clock so we stopped in to try out the new Qdoba.  The kiddos were being extra cute:

Though a root beer still didn't squelch their questions about when we get to go camping again.  Luckily for the kids and dogs we have a few more trips planned very soon and we tackled some fun local day trips in lieu of an overnight.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bears, Boats, Boards and Brits!

A few weeks ago we headed out over to Missoula, MT for a camping trip with some friends.  When we planned the trip we were both discussing the relative merits of campgrounds in South Dakota and Jellystone came up.  When we discovered there was one in Missoula, fate said we should go!  Plus, Jellystone had plenty of kid "stuff" so we adults could hang out.  On the way we met up at the carousel in Missoula.  Matthew didn't love it any more than last time we did it (and really, the thing is fast!).  Here are the kids before it started:
 And during the ride:
However, because his buddy was on a horse ahead of him, Matthew was quite disappointed that we couldn't go back so he could ride a horse.  We headed to our campground which was appropriately festooned with Yogi the bear and Boo Boo.  Luckily, we had let the kids watch Yogi Bear earlier in the week so they could get pumped about it all.  Unluckily, we watched the live action Yogi movie, for which a 13% on the tomatometer seemed awfully generous.  Either way, the kids enjoyed the pool, playground, and "championship" mini-golf:

And were appropriately pumped to see Yogi Bear:
 We took a wagon ride with Yogi around the campground (which was full of retirees with big money rigs, odd considering the "theme") and then enjoyed the ice cream social:
Of course we had huckleberry!
 However, with all these amenities, the kids spent the most time climbing the hill behind our site, even in their PJs:

The whole thing was exhausting as Catherine discovered:
The next day our friends made an awesome camp breakfast for us, and then we had some visitors!
Uncle Ed and Georgina met us in Missoula so they could check out Glacier since we were already, halfway there.   We started day one of our drive by stopping at an overlook and rock climbing:
And then stopped for a picnic lunch and dip in Flathead Lake!  

 Matthew picked out a rainbow of stones for his growing rock collection:
 After that it was time for a quick pit stop for fresh Flathead cherries and then we were off to our campsite.  When we found out Uncle Ed was coming for a visit we were too late for reservations in the park, so we camped in the National Forest just outside.   Though I thought the 8 miles of washboard road into the site might create a mutiny (with the van loaded down with a roofrack, 6 passengers and the trailer there wasn't a lot of spring left in the suspension), we all survived!  Matthew was quick to find a stick:
 And then in the midst of some potty training chaos while rock collecting, we came across this snake on our way back to the site:
After we settled in for a campfire dinner (and s'mores of course!) we played a round of "I Spy Snap":
 And the kiddos got stories by headlamp:
The next day we got up early to take Ed and Georgina exploring on Going-to-the-Sun Road.  The mist over Lake MacDonald was pretty spectacular:
 And there was an obligatory scenic potty break:
We forgot the potty last trip, so this was our first big trip with it.  Though it often made our campsite feel a little bit like a gathering of the Rainbow People, it helped Catherine make some pretty good progress.  Plus who doesn't want a bathroom with a view!  Speaking of views:

 We showed Uncle Ed and Georgina the tunnels:
 Catherine studied up on bear safety for us:
 And then it was time to check out another waterfall and amazing view!
 Us from above:
 Uncle Ed from below:
This visit the flowers in bloom were fireweed instead of forget-me-nots!

Catherine was none to eager to pose for a picture with Daddy:
 Nor would she look at the camera with mommy:
 But both kids were ready to cheese it up on their own:

We headed over the pass and this guy ran across the road on the other side:
Unfortunately once he crossed the road he was buried deep in the brush, but it was pretty cool nonetheless:
We then stopped for a little hike.  First up was St. Mary's Falls:
 With some rock climbing:

 Matthew was pretty psyched to do some creek crossing on his own:

 Though Matthew is getting to be quite the hiker, when we hit a mile, we figured we'd better turn around and skip the second waterfall to reduce the odds of having to carry him back.  Ed and Georgina continued on though:
We hopped back in the car for a few more roadside stops:
 And eventually it was nap time for the kiddos.  They fell asleep outside Many Glacier so I stayed with the kiddos in the car while Ed, James and Georgina took in the sights from Many Glacier Hotel:
 Then we headed back through a pounding rainstorm with a stop at Logan Pass.
 This guy was quite the entertainer:

 When we got back to camp we had dinner while Matthew made a new little friend.  We had invited her and her family over for a campfire but unfortunately the rain picked up again.  Matthew was pretty bummed, but we also had two exhausted kids.  Catherine cracks me up because she rarely sleeps "in" her sleeping bag.  This is her sleeping backward in her bag:
 The next morning, all that evening rain the night before left a chill in the air:
 And some mist above the river:
 Catherine probably needed another hour or two of sleep but eventually we got her pigtails done and overalls snapped so we could leave.
 On our way out of the park we stopped for Huckleberry Milkshakes!  Mas and Pas had recommended them and since James and I missed them last time we knew we had to stop.  They were, in fact, delicious!
And at this point this will have to be Part I.  We've covered Brits and Bears but Boards and Boats will have to be Part II :-)

Five on Friday

1.  Look at these winter white legs out enjoying the sunshine at the dino park.  Spring has FINALLY sprung! These boys went from winter di...