Monday, December 30, 2013

Mammoth Part II

After an exciting breakfast we headed out to check out the springs of Mammoth.  The kids got to ride in style on the still snow covered sidewalks and boardwalks:
 Matthew and Pas checked out Liberty Cap (which Matthew was nervous standing in front of incase it exploded):
 And Catherine and Mas at Palette Springs:
 The kids and sled did well on the handicap accessible boardwalks:
 But eventually it was time to tackle the steps.  The kids took it as a personal mission to remove all the snow from the lower rail:
 While we were gone, Matthew made up a song:


Which I'm thinking my dad can appreciate.  He took Uncle Matt and myself to lots of awesome places as kids and often we were most excited about staying in a hotel.  Apparently the legacy lives on.  Also, this is a good (and unfortunately too cute) point to make that my kids are in no way travel angels nor do they love everything we do.  Often their response to activities is not done in song.  In fact, as we got ready that morning we talked about going on an adventure, but as we walked Matthew pointed out often "this is not the best adventure ever."  One of the many ways we handle it (besides snacks of course) is talking a lot about how each of us gets to choose activities and sometimes the kids have to suck it up for activities Mommy and Daddy choose and then we go do something they choose.

After the geysers we headed back to the aforementioned hotel that Matthew "loves":
 And got ready for our snowcoach trip!  The vibration and noise knocked Catherine out as she attempted to catch up on some sleep:
 She soon woke up for our first wildlife sighting:

A quick stop at roaring mountain:
And thanks to the keen eyes of a biologist on board, we caught a glimpse at these Swans off in the distance:
 And we made our way to Norris Geyser basin in this snowcoach:
 Our crew headed down:

As the trails around Mammoth were fairly clear of snow, we anticipated clearer trails at Norris and didn't bring along our backpack or sled.  Matthew did awesome in the deep snow with his own pole:
Though I did have to "carry him like a puppy" for a bit.  The snow was thigh-high for him and not always tramped down, so I held him by his collar to aid him in getting up quickly when he fell or to keep him trucking along.  He covered right at a mile on his own two feet which was pretty impressive.  We came across lots of frosted trees:

 And beautiful landscapes:
 The sun started to peak out:
 Which created a wonderous landscape of snow, steam, clouds and blue sky:
 Steamboat geyser may not have fully erupted but it did lots of spurting for us:
 And left a lot of frosted trees in its path:
 Matthew even thought it was pretty cool . . . for a geyser at least :-)
 The group sped on without us so we headed back to the snowcoach so Matthew didn't have to be "carried like a puppy" and could move at his own 4-year old pace.  Mostly he just wanted to throw himself into the deep snow.  We compromised that for every 20 steps he could plop down in the snow:

 Eventually we started looking for animals in the frosty trees and came across this T-Rex (Matthew wouldn't stand under it because it was going to eat him so suggested I stand under it.  I told him no since he'd have to take his mittens off for the picture).
 And then we came across this Brachiosaurus.  He wasn't afraid of him because he's a "plant-vore"
 Of course the other big treat of being surrounded by virgin snow is the ongoing buffet:
 Matthew stuck with me and Daddy carried Catherine most of the time (our guide volunteered to carry her for a while).  She did really well, with the exception of the vault toilet trip at the end.  Not surprisingly, hot cocoa heals all wounds:
We got back with plenty of time before dinner to explore the Map Room and the great games you could borrow.  Matthew loved playing Go Fish.  
Of course then it was dinner time, which included yet another beautiful rendition of the Elk pooping from Matthew.  The second night we had very few sleep issues as the kiddos were delightfully exhausted!






Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Mammoth of a Good Time

We had some outsized fun right before Christmas.  First, we made some very large dough for our hopefully annual Potica tradition.  Potica is a sweet, nut bread with Slovenian origins.  My grandmother Jennie used to make them each year for the holidays.  I never got to watch her make it (and truthfully didn't like the stuff when I was little) so for my first few attempts I've used this recipe from the SNPJ society (http://www.snpj.org/slovenian-culture/potica-recipe).  It has enough detail for me to fill in some gaps with the written recipe I had, though Teta Sharon just sent me a more detailed recipe so we'll be trying the Pozun recipe next year!  Truthfully, the recipes are very similar, Grandma's is actually a bit easier, has raisins and cocount and might save me about 2.5 dishes which is always appreciated :-)  The kids helped knead (dog hair into) the dough:
 Matthew took a turn:
 And we enlisted Mas help in the rolling!
 I theoretically was supposed to be spending Thursday packing for our adventure, but it was fantastic coming home to lots of yummy bread.  One of our gifts from the Watsons was a very generous pre-Christmas trip to Yellowstone!  Though we go a lot, we've never stayed at the Mammoth lodge or enjoyed their restaurants.  It was a nice change of pace from our PB&J in the car and late night return of our normal day trip! We headed in through Mammoth and stopped at the Visitor's Center to change into our swimsuits and check out these Elk antlers:
 We headed to out with the kids in the trailer.  We had put the skis on, but turned out there were enough hot spots on the trail they didn't always make it efficient:
 When we got there we found an open pool and hopped (or gingerly stepped right in):
 The air temp was a balmy 15 degrees, with only some mild winds.
 Just enough to frost your arm hair on parts sticking out of the water:
Pas and his frosty hat:
 The kids opted to stay in the trailer which was probably helpful since the water ranges from near boiling to freezing cold with a very narrow margin of comfortable.  After 4 years we rarely get the bath water temperature just right for both of them, so we saved ourselves a lot of fussing I'd guess.  As expected, getting out was the hardest part!
 Catherine was unimpressed:
 James came back in his water shoes and shorts because he's a little crazy, errrr . . . .because he's a true Montana mountain man.  Yeah, that's it :-)
 In case you're curious about how cold the water was, here's a mostly frozen Undine Falls just a few miles upstream of where we were!
 An underexposed family shot blocking the falls :-)  The overlooks are often harder to navigate for a picture in 2 feet of snow and/or ice.
We took advantage of the somewhat clear roads to head out to the Lamar Valley for some wildlife watching, Buffalo Jams and photography.  Catherine even got to pick out a few spots to take pictures of the buffalo with her "camera" from Amma and Papa:
 There were Elk:
 Bison:
 And I finally saw my bull moose kinda close!

 Just after we saw him this little guy stole the show!  Small mammals are hard to spot from the car but in the snow this chubby badger stood out and we watched him tunnel through the snow up the hill.
While we got ready Matthew took some pictures for me:

 And a selfie:
 Dinner at Mammoth, with Elmo of course:
 And Matthew did his first artistic interpretation of the day.  Oddly, it was a bison we saw pooping in the park but he went on to draw a lot of elk poop.
 It was the first night the dining hall was open and there were a few glitches in the ordering system so Matthew took photos while we waited:
 And Catherine stole cuddles:
 Afterwards, we played some National Parks memory:
 Then it was time for stories:
 And "sleep", which unsurprisingly did not occur as the picture suggests.  At one point the kids ended up in bed with me, and then after I snuck back into bed with James we switched the kids around so I slept with Catherine and James slept with Matthew.  Catherine was getting over or coming down with a small cold so we thought that was the reason, but I think she was just excited about the hotel. The second night we got smart and put Catherine on the floor and she slept through the night:
 The next morning we were pleasantly surprised with bear pancakes in the morning to fuel us up for our day's adventures:


Our next adventure took us around the terraces and on a snow coach to Norris, but those will have to come along in another post.  I now have a backlog of photos (including to-be-downloaded amazing photos from Pas) to keep me posting for some time :-)

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...