Caverns, Crowds, Craters and Taters

We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past month. On our way to Yellowstone we spent a couple of nights at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana. We showed up without a reservation but were able to find a site which allowed us to explore the nearby caverns. Our group tour began with a hike up the hill to the entrance of the cave. Once inside, we did a lot more walking, including 600 stairs and a naturally made travertine slide smoothed out over time. People who visited this cave in the 1920’s had to access the entrance by horseback, use a rope ladder to enter the cave, and another rope to exit all while carrying a lantern and their own food, so we had it pretty easy! Lewis and Clark did not discover these caverns, but did explore in the area, and I guess naming the caverns after them garners a little more attention than a generic name would.

The caverns
Another view of neat growths

After the caverns we spent a week at Yellowstone National Park, the country’s first national park, which was established in 1872. The park was more crowded than we expected but we tried to see as much as we could. Geysers and mud pots were a couple of our favorite things to see. We didn’t spot any bears but did view plenty of bison and elk. We camped in an area outside of the park, and lucked out to be next to a family with three boys! All of the kids quickly made friends, and they had a great time playing Legos and running around during our campground down time. Benjamin and I enjoyed talking to their parents, too, and we shared a fire and s’mores on our last night. Hayes and Mabry miss interacting with other kids on a regular basis and they had a great time being social.

Pondering life
The terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs
Old Faithful!
The ground , looking  painted
The mud pots

From Yellowstone, it was a quick drive to Grand Teton National Park. These parks are about 30 miles apart, but such different landscapes! The Tetons were beautiful, and a little less crowded than Yellowstone. One day, we hiked around a lake and got very close to a couple of deer. The temperatures dropped into the 30’s at night, and we woke up around 4 one morning realizing that we needed to switch from one propane tank to another to keep the furnace going. When Benjamin went outside, he called me to come out, because the stars were blanketing the sky. They were the most vibrant stars we have ever seen. It was definitely worth getting out of a warm bed to see them! We also ventured into Jackson one evening to visit a brewery and ended up staying for dinner. The brewery had a small putt putt area and bean bag toss so Hayes and Mabry were entertained. I made the mistake of ordering a beer that had  a lot of coffee in it. It had recently won a competition and the description was enticing, but it wasn’t until my first sip that I realized a coffee beer was not the best choice at night. Needless to say, I was up very late. Thankfully our campground had great internet reception (not always the case), so I was able to entertain myself on the phone while everyone else snoozed.

A view of the Tetons
A much photographed barn on Mormon Row
A view from our hike

From the Tetons, we ventured back into Idaho to Craters of the Moon. It was so cool! We were able to camp in the park, but without any hookups. The backside of our campsite was a hill of lava rocks and Mabry and Hayes were entertained by climbing and playing among the rocks. Craters of the Moon contains three lava fields and really unusual volcanic formations. We drove the road around the park, climbed to the top of a cinder cone (spatter cone? I can’t remember), and hiked to and through a lava cave. The kids also became Lunar Rangers (as opposed to Junior Rangers). It was a neat place to spend a couple of days.

Climbing near our campsite
The landscape
Unusual creations
Another view

After Craters of the Moon, we headed south into Utah. On the way, we had a fun lunch stop at the Idaho Potato Museum! It was neat to learn about potato farming through the years, see a big collection of potato heads, and see the worlds largest Pringle. The museum has a cafe so we ordered French fries and brought them to the Airstream to accompany our typical travel day lunch of sandwiches. After that stop, we were ready to get back on the road. Where was our destination? You’ll have to wait until the next post to find out 🙂

The largest Pringle!