Monday, June 30, 2014

A Very Bozeman Kind of Week, Evading Rain and Earthquake Lakes

After a somewhat lazy Sunday with rain, games and good friends, our next week was another fun filled adventure.  We kicked off the week with a picnic complete with balloon animals, tattoos and sno-cones!

 Next up was a hike with friends.  We hit up Sourdough/Bozeman Creek which was an old road so the trail is nice and wide and the ascent is pretty gradual.  With 9 kids, 1 dog and 3 moms all together it was quite the adventure!  We ended up going out and back about a mile each way, but we spent about 3 hours with lots of "boogey" breaks, throwing rocks and finding bugs.  (The kids conspired the entire time to find places to hid off trail and then jump out at us and say "boogey boogey boogey."  It kept them way too entertained!  With all the running back and forth, the kids may have even hiked closer to 3 miles!
 One of the older girls offered to take our pic at the end!
 Due to some crazy scheduling, we were up for a hike the next day as well!  We hit up Drinking Horse Mountain.  There's a short loop I normally do with "new" hikers but Catherine was game to hike with the big boys so we did the entire hike!
Catherine is certainly slow and steady while Matthew raced ahead with his buddy and then took breaks.  However, Catherine did the entire thing by herself, even after I was tempted to give in and give her a piggy back ride.  The trail is a little over 2 miles round trip but it's about a 700 foot change in elevation.  Here we are goofing around at the back of the pack:
 The kiddos had a good time in the stick hut at the top:
 And of course we stopped to feed the trout on the way down!
 Friday we spent the day getting new tires, getting the oil changed and getting prepped for our big 4th of July trip.  Part of this prep was going to be taking a quick overnight trip camping.  With the kiddos in tow, driving around looking for a site late at night is no fun and in this area sites fill quickly so we prefer to reserve when we can.  Surprisingly, the only place with reservations available was Yellowstone!  My dislike of summer tourists pales in comparison to my dislike of driving around to find a campsite, so we booked 2 nights in Yellowstone!  We also ended up bringing the dogs with us, which is something we normally wouldn't do since they really can't do much in National Parks.  However, our plan really was to just hang around the campsite where dogs are allowed so it almost worked.

We ended up with intermittent rain as we packed Friday and by the time we hit the entrance to Yellowstone it was POURING and mud and rocks were cascading down the cliffs near Mammoth.  The rain let up to a light sprinkle while we set up camp and it proceeded to rain the rest of the evening.  Two kiddos ready for bed:

 And two semi-wet dogs!
 June was not into sleeping on the floor at all and ended up snuggled on Catherine for the night:

 The next morning it was lightly sprinkling as we started on breakfast but it ended up pouring down by the time we ate, so it was time to put our fancy minivan to good use.
 Since we had the dogs and we were on the East side of the park, we thought we'd head out toward Cody and explore in the National Forest.  There also seemed to be some blue sky that direction which would have been an enjoyable change of scenery.  The other benefit of heading to the National Forest was we could pick wildflowers for our flower press, a project the kids have been wanting to work on for weeks.  They did a great job finding flowers and now the waiting and drying begins!
 The sun didn't last for long and once we finished a picnic the rain had started again and canceled out our hike.  Since we weren't going to outsmart the rain we decided to head back to the campsite and wait it out in the camper.  We definitely saw plenty of these guys:
 At some point Catherine fell asleep so we headed out for more wildlife watching and a stop at Mud Volcano.  Catherine preferred sleep:
 And Dragon's Mouth:
 The sun came out for a bit (though the wind then picked up a ton) so we got out for some hiking in Hayden Valley:
 It was still really cold unfortunately:
 And it started raining so back in the car until we got to the lake and one of the few dog friendly trails.  Sky was thrilled (though unsurprisingly our trip was cut short by more rain and hail):
 Back at the campsite we took advantage of a break in the clouds to start dinner.  Matthew found a great log to be made into a gun/hammer and he and Catherine made up a series of obstacle courses around the site:
 As we cleaned up from dinner the sprinkles started again and it was a little too early to put the kiddos in the camper for bed so we hopped down to West Thumb to check out more geysers and outrun the rain.  Catherine is a very enthusiastic geyser guide!
 The next day we nice break in the weather and decided to hit Norris Geyser Basin.  We had done parts of it in the winter so it was neat to see it in summer again!
 Steamboat geyser:

 Catherine was our leader most of the time, running ahead with her arms flapping shouting "there's a geyser there's a geyser":

On our way out we stopped in for a picnic along the river and were treated to two bald eagles, one who ended up doing some fairly successful fishing, at least we think!

 On one of our rainier stops earlier, we had found a cool, simple "Naturalist kit" that included a great, laminated color field guide for kids.  Anyway, we didn't pick it up thinking we'd put it on a Christmas list or gift list but by the time we left we realized how useful it would be to have for the summer.  Of course the next stop didn't have them but we were told there was a shop in West Yellowstone.  This did not prove to be true but we discovered they have a shop in the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center instead.  I had heard good things about the newly reopened center and we'd never been there so we took a short side trip.  There were lots of interpretive stops to explore, including this lodge that got swallowed by the lake.
 And when you're near the water's edge, rock throwing is a must!
 Some "rock climbing" for Catherine:
 Earthquake lake itself:
 The slide that created said lake:
The interpretation on this little side adventure was a bit repetitive but still well done.  The stops were each cool and the whole thing is a fascinating look at a major geologic event.  It is also a GORGEOUS area to explore for a day trip.  Unfortunately, we didn't ever end up with our naturalist kit but I'm so glad we checked out the area.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Birthday Week!

Upon returning from Wyoming it was time to prepare for birthdays!  First up was mine and I celebrated with a hilarious game night with good friends, then a day of relaxing, dinner and cake with family.  I promised my friends I wouldn't share pics of the game night, but the kiddos were up for letting me take some pictures while they tested out the games!  We did a combo of games from Minute-to-Win-It and they were an all ages hit!  Not surprisingly, Matthew still asks every few days to play "face cookie" :-)

Catherine still sings me happy birthday every few days :-) We took the rest of the weekend to finish up moving our firepit.  With James and the kiddos built it for me a few years ago we put it in the far corner of the yard.  Unfortunately, that meant every time we wanted to have a fire we had to drag out a table, chairs and run back and forth across the yard every time we roasted.  Right off the deck however, we had a rotting wood platform where the hot tub once was, a giant hole where June was digging and a mess of hydroponic rocks, weeds and sand.  Over the course of a few weekends we converted that area to a place for the firepit.  I'd say we're pretty happy with the results:
 Catherine was pretty intense about the stick she found while Matthew (in the background) was peeking over the fence to spy on the neighbor girls! We'll have to stop that sometime soon I'm guessing!
Once my birthday had come and gone it was time for to start prepping for Catherine's.  I was on the fence about having a "friends" birthday this year, but when I asked her who to invite she could only name the friend we had just seen, and then listed all of Matthew's suggestions!  We figured 4 is a good age to have a "friends" birthday party which made everything a bit easier.  She woke up and found her new dollhouse.  She was in awe!
 There was lots of playing with the dolls each day:
 We opened a few packages at breakfast, including a happy birthday hairbow:
 By late afternoon Catherine had finally decided on a Batman cake!  Of course she had to wear one of her many new crowns for the occasion.

 Catherine was blessed with many wonderful gifts from friends and family!  More pictures with those will come soon!
 The next weekend was the Yellowstone Half Marathon.  I had been training for this race but due to some pregnancy side effects was unable to complete it :(  However, I wanted to be there to cheer on the rest of my team and discovered that if I volunteered for the race I could essentially transfer my registration for the next year for free!  I went down on Friday with friends and then James and the kiddos met up with us for a mini-Yellowstone adventure.  After the race we headed to the park with some good friends and their kiddos.  As it started to sleet we made our way out for lunch and then the kiddos had a ton of fun in this undeveloped lot with their happy meal toys.  We named this the "canyon of trees" and it probably would have kept the kiddos busy for hours.
  Next up was a picnic with one of my best friends from elementary school and her friends and family!  They were camping along the Madison and while we couldn't get a campsite there, it probably worked out okay as it was wintery weather and cold toddlers in the morning aren't a ton of fun!  We stayed and had a campfire dinner with them as well as checking out the bison and their babies!  I left my good camera in a friend's car but phone photos are just as beautiful in Yellowstone.
The kiddos tried on the sheep hat courtesy straight from Wales! 

 The weather cooled quickly and we pulled out the full winter gear for a walk to the river:
 And some more warming up by the fire with the kiddos favorite campfire treat!

 We came back late Saturday and for Father's Day took James out for breakfast.  Then the kiddos got an "indoor" Yellowstone experience while James got some time to rest.  Matthew was a firefighter most of the time!
 The sun eventually reappeared for all of 2 hours, just in time for us to do one of our favorite hikes.  The kids dressed to impress:
 Later they got to enjoy their father's day gift for James, homemade popsicles using our new dinosaur molds!  A dear friend of mine and certifiable supernanny also spent the week in town with us.  Though she was at a conference during the day, the kiddos had a blast with her in the evenings.
 And during the day we had an oddly busy week, interrupted by a mild tummy bug.  Once everyone was better James and I headed to the midwife to take a peek at #3 who is doing well, stubborn and very active.  This was not a surprise to me as I'm already getting a good share of kicks but it's always fun to see.  Afterwards we had planned to meet up with some friends to hike the "M".  I definitely didn't make it to the top by myself with both kids (and refuse to carry Catherine at this point) but they made it a good ways and it was a gorgeous day for a hike.  It's nice for the trail to be so green right now!
 We made it to the second "bench" and have come up with a conditioning program to get Catherine up there on her own steam by the end of summer, at least in Matthew's mind :-)  Next trip we'll get to the rocks, then to the next bench and finally to the top.  It'll work out perfectly in Matthew's world!
 We stopped at a small patch of rocks and the kiddos would have played her forever if I had let them.  Matthew has a very keen interest in rock climbing right now!

 Last up this weekend was a circus birthday of good friends!  There were games, sno-cones and a bounce house.  The kiddos were in heaven!
 The kiddos even willing did the photo booth!

 And of course, my kids never day no to tattoos!

The nice weather only lasted as long as the birthday party and we are back to some rainy, grey skies.  This gave us the perfect opportunity to tackle some indoor projects like finally bunking the beds: 
I won't lie, the naptime version of this was ROUGH and they definitely kept each other awake.   Hopefully once we exhaust the kiddos with the help of some more good friends this afternoon the evening will go much better.  

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...