Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trucking through the Country--Yellowstone Vacation

We just returned from spending two and a half weeks in the mountains; two days camping at Jacob Lake and Bryce Canyon, five days in Provo with extended family, five days living in a motorhome through Yellowstone National Park, and six days at the cabin. Here's the detailed recap:

DAY #1

We left Wednesday afternoon with our minivan packed to the max (no one had ANY leg room except for the driver, which didn't happen to be me) and drove to Jacob Lake, close to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We got there after sundown and set up our tent in the dark in record-breaking time. As soon as the tent was up and kids were inside, it started raining and lasted most of the night.

DAY #2

The next morning we packed up at sun-up and drove an hour south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We spent a few hours there hiking and admiring the view. Pretty amazing!

After our visit, we got back in our cramped van and drove north a few hours to Bryce Canyon. On our way, we stopped for lunch at the famous Three Bears Restaurant in Kanab. Taylor, Mason, and John all ordered the Chicago-style hotdog with all the works. And we got more ice cream than we needed. Taylor, who has been eating like a teenager since he was three, was in absolute heaven.

When we got to Bryce Canyon, it started raining again. John was determined to see ALL the sites, so we drove around the whole park and stopped at each lookout. The higher we got in elevation, the colder it got. And the rain kept coming down. Bryce Canyon has some amazing "hoodoos", or rock pinnacles created from years and years of decay and water runoff. The rain stopped just in time for John and the three oldest to enjoy a night of star gazing at the Visitor's Center.

DAY #3

I love everything about camping except for one thing: Sleep. Or should I say, the lack thereof? After two night of feeling rocks under me, Andersen crying through the night, Emma Claire needing constant drinks, Abby needing to go to the bathroom (what bathroom?), wishing we had a few extra blankets, and always wondering what kind of animal is making 'that' noise, I woke up feeling a little groggy. John did too, but commented, "It's all for the kids, right?" Oh yea, right. All for the kids.

We packed up our things and spent the rest of the day hiking through Bryce Canyon. Oops, we forgot our hiking backpack for Andersen, which meant John and I both had someone in our arms on those trails. Bryce Canyon is beautiful and different from anything I have ever seen before. We enjoyed our time there.

After we saw all we wanted to see, (in other words, when Emma Claire was DONE hiking and needed a nap), we got back in the cramped van and drove a few more hours to Orem and rented a 31-foot motorhome for the next leg of our trip. We spent that evening visiting with James and Shawnne and their new baby Jackson, then we spent the night with cousins in Lindon.

DAY #4

Happy 4th of July! We watched the parade in Provo, then had lunch at Grandma Bennion's house, then loaded into our "house on wheels", as the kids called it. It was nice to have a little more space than what the cramped van offered us.

The motorhome had two comfy seats in the front, a couch (not so comfy) and a sofa chair, a table with padded bench seats, microwave, oven, stove, fridge, sink, bathroom, shower, and queen bed in the back. It also had a sleeping area above the front of the cab. Very comfortable for everyone. There was no squabbling over who was in who's space, who was touching who, who didn't have any room for their legs, who needed to go to the bathroom and who else didn't want to stop, who stinks, who was hungry but couldn't get a snack in the cramped van. . .The queen bed in the back provided a nice place for wrestling matches when the kids had too much energy, and John and I would just keep on driving. There were plenty of windows for all pairs of eyes, and even a TV/DVD player for movies when the kids got really board (which only happened once).

With John leading (along with John Denver), we sang a lot and ate a lot of red vines while driving. The evening of the 4th, we camped on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho Falls and watched the "greatest firework show west of the Mississippi". And it was! Abby was amazed. With the river and the Idaho Falls Temple in view, it was quite spectacular.

Emma Claire also loved watching the fireworks. :)

DAY #5

Welcome, welcome Sabbath Morning. And thank goodness the campsite had showers. We were especially grateful after figuring out that the hot water in the motorhome didn't work, and the motorhome shower had a few leaks in it, which made the water spray toward the door around our knees. Not so good.

It felt a little funny driving our "house" to church. After attending our meetings, we had a picnic lunch on the lawn then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the temple, spending time in the visitor's center, having gospel discussions, and seeing the Falls. We returned to our campsite in time to have dinner, visit with some camping neighbors, and play a few games together. It was a peaceful day well spent.

Standing in front of the Falls. The noise from the water was so loud, we had to yell at each other in order to hear.

Enjoying dinner Sunday evening at our campground.

DAY #6,7,8

Yellowstone, Here We Come! We woke up Monday morning, unhooked the motorhome, and started our drive into the west enterance of Yellowstone. For the next three days, we enjoyed learning at the museums, having campfires, visiting hotsprings and geyers, singing more John Denver, and seeing lots of wildlife. We saw a ton of buffalo, some up really close, lots of deer and elk, different kinds of birds, and a grizzly bear. John was bummed that we didn't see a moose.

Being in the motorhome made things pretty convenient. One morning, John wanted to leave early in hopes to see some wildlife. So he unhooked the water and started driving while the kids were still sleeping. I made breakfast, the kids woke up and got dressed, brushed their teeth, used the bathroom, all while John was driving. We didn't waste any time in the car. Nice.

Viewing mud pots

Emma Claire wanted to pet the elk. None of them had antlers yet, as they had just shed the old ones and were starting to grow new ones. Their antlers grow at a rate of 2 inches each day.


On the road again . . . Just can't wait to get on the road again. . . .

John took the three oldest on a hike at the highest peak in the park. There was still lots of snow on the ground up there. I hung out at the motorhome and made lunch while the younger two took naps. Mason and Abby made a point to pick every kind of wild flower they saw. They returned with a beautiful arrangement.

Grizzly bear. We saw one way up on a hill, pretty far away. An older couple let us watch him through their telescope. After a while, the bear started coming down the hill. John tried to get a little closer to get a few shots. As I yelled at him to get up a little closer, another man yelled at him that "it would be in your best interest to come down from the mountain, Sir." The man probably thought I was crazy. We all had a good laugh about it. After a while, John did come down and we watched the bear walk down the mountain, then cross the street and continue going down the mountain. A few cars had to stop as he crossed right in front of them. Pretty awesome!

Andersen at the wheel. This was his favorite seat in the motorhome.

Buffalo--lots of them, everywhere! On one of our hikes, Mason found a big wad of buffalo hair/fur that had been rubbed off (they grow it for the winter then shed it in the summer). He brought it home as a cool souvenir.

Driving and cooking at the same time was a little tricky. Any little curve would make things slide around (yes, we learned through experience). A few times, Taylor took over for me at holding things down. Here, he's boiling pasta for dinner.


This is a shot of the upper falls down Yellowstone River. Standing there, it looked surreal,
like a backdrop or a painting. I have never seen anything so beautiful.

This is Lake Yellowstone. It covers over 128 square miles and stays warm all year long because of all the hot springs surrounding it.

DAY #9

We left Yellowstone National Park and drove through a lot of beautiful country to Jackson, Wyoming. We visited the elk refuge and museum, then spent a few hours eating lunch at a park and going down the Alpine Slide. We rode up a mountain on a ski lift, then rode little go-carts down on a slide. Very fun!

Here comes Mase

From Jackson Hole, we drove a few more hours and camped at Bear Lake that evening. We were the only ones in a RV campsite and enjoyed feeding carrots to some horses in the next field, swinging, and playing catch on a big lawn.

DAY #10, 11, 12

After getting up and ready Thursday morning, we drove straight to Lindon where we dropped off the motor home (which meant back into the cramped minivan). We spent that evening and the next few days attending a Bennion reunion. We attended the Oquirrh Mountain temple open house, camped at Heber Family Camp and had a lot of time to visit with cousins, aunts and uncles, play games, canoe at the lake, obstacle course, eat, and visit some more. I had an accident with a big swing which put me into a state of shock for a few hours (details upon request), but other than that, we had a super time.

One side note that's worth journaling: At the camp, our family slept in a little cabin with lots of bunk beds. We shared it with my parents, Sam and Spencer (brothers), and my brother Clayton, his wife and two children. I laid in bed for a few hours, trying to go to sleep. Every turn in a sleeping bag, heavy breathing, sleep talking, snoring, etc. . . made SO much noise, it was unbearable. I'm pretty sure that most of the snoring noises came from my dad. A few others that contributed to the snoring symphony were Mom (occasionally), Spencer, Taylor, and maybe Clate. Sometime in the middle of the night, Andersen started waking up and fussing, so I took him outside so he wouldn't wake anyone else up. John followed me and put him back to sleep. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep a wink in that cabin, so I grabbed my sleeping bag and headed for the van. After moving a few car seats, I slept like a baby for the remainder of the night on the back seat of the van. The funny thing was, the next morning after comparing notes on everyones sleep in the cabin, my dad was the first to deny making any noise and blamed it all on mom. We all had a good laugh.

From left to right, here's our youngest, Andersen, playing in the sandbox with his two cousins, Tyler and Mack.

Emma Claire, getting hooked up to do the BIG swing. We were impressed
she had the courage to attempt it.

Grandpa's biggest fan is Andersen. When grandpa's around, he often prefers him over me or John.

My Aunt Marcia has a little girl Emma Claire's age named Laura. These two hit it off well and enjoyed playing together.

We enjoyed doing a challenge course. Here, Taylor and Mason are trying to cross wires with only each other to hold on to. It's much harder than it looks.

Aunt Marcia also has two boys the same ages as my two. From left to right; Matthew, Taylor, Mason, and Tyler.

Abby and Andersen at the temple open house.

DAY #13-18

After packing up, we left Lindon and drove a few hours to Monticello where we attended church meetings and had lunch. Then we continued driving to the cabin in the White Mountains.

We spent the next six days with most of my siblings and parents there. With the help of a few older uncles, Taylor and Mason designed and built some impressive forts in the forest, we relaxed together, exercised, hiked, went on trail rides, played games, ate great food, and visited a lot.

We spent the next six days with most of my siblings and parents there. With the help of a few older uncles, Taylor and Mason designed and built some impressive forts in the forest, we relaxed together, exercised, hiked, went on trail rides, played games, ate great food, and visited a lot.

Here's Abby, Leah, Emma Claire, Elli, and Ashley--all ready for their horse rides in the arena.

Gotta love the boots. True cowgirls.
Andersen, warming up for the real deal.

We were impressed that Emma Claire wasn't scared to ride. She couldn't get enough and was the last to get off her horse.

Emma Claire, Leah, Abby and Elli--hanging out at the stables.

Mason, Taylor, Tanner and Uncle Spencer got to go on a trail ride with some of the adults.

Home Again.

After being away from home for almost three weeks, we were all glad to get home and sleep in our own beds. (But not so glad to be back in triple-digit weather.) We had fun times together and created good memories and a few new traditions. One of my favorite parts of our vacation was that for most of our time away, it was just US. No friends to play with except for siblings, no distractions to pull us away, no work meetings, phones ringing, or jobs to do. Just a lot of playing, singing, eating, story telling, hiking, animal watching, and more playing. We just had each other. And that's how I like it.


  1. YEAH!!!! I'm so glad you're blogging. Thanks for the great report and photos.

  2. What a great trip! That's a true vacation. It looks like you made the most of it and we're happy you're home safe and sound.

  3. Yay!!! I knew you would become a blogger...what great posts. I LOVE the pictures. You got some great ones. We were so happy to see you up here. That sounds like you had the trip of a life-time with the kids! We miss you.-A

  4. Wow! Sounds like Emma Claire is turning into quite the brave girl...she's really growing up! I love your family and learn so much from you guys...thanks for starting a blog so I can keep learning from you! (Stuff like how to take your family on an awesome vacation!) Glad your back safe and I do want full details on the swing story this weekend in SD. Love you!

  5. Welcome to the wide world of blog!! Looks like a fabulous trip. What a great way to document it.