Monday, April 29, 2013

Westward Expansion - Days 12 - 14

Our last night here in Yellowstone (not Yosemite, as I can't seem to get out of my head...but one day!), and I figured it was time to get caught up on posting.  So, if you are at all interested, this will be a little longer post filled with photos.

We arrived after a longer drive than expected, as we had to enter through the North Entrance of the park.  The East Entrance had not yet opened, so we had to add over 2 hours to our drive.  That was just fine, though we were tired of being in the van, because we got to see some beautiful scenery.  We were not really sure what to expect overall, because quite honestly, we live in one of the most beautiful areas in the country and it is hard to beat the Colorado mountains.  I don't say that to sound crass, but it is a lot different visiting someplace like Yellowstone when you live in Colorado, than when you live in...oh...say, downtown Los Angeles! Haha!  What mysteries Yellowstone have to share with us, what wonders would we see? We knew we would find some magical places, and we couldn't wait to discover them!

We have not been disappointed, who would be?

We had barely hit the outskirts when we pulled off the road because we saw this, and laughed:

Welcome to Montana...and watch for that wildlife!! HAHA!  Love the elk right next to the sign.

As we were taking photos, Joshua pointed something out to us.  It was a young deer caught up in a rodeo pen right behind us.  Somehow it had gotten caught inside and couldn't find its way out, as all the gates were closed.  It was running back and forth, obviously scared and uncertain.  We approached from the side of the gated area, and I unlatched two of the gates it needed to go through to get out, then stepped far away. The boys then all came up behind it to force it to run toward the opening.  It worked, and our first few minutes in Yellowstone felt like had at least done something nice as a "thank you" for hosting us :-)

Here they come to save the day!!!

It was just around the next curve when we found the large arch welcoming us:

Josh is below, contemplating how hard this was to build.

Then, less than a mile in, we found ourselves surrounded by wildlife!!

So, we have elk in Colorado, but we don't have them lying down right beside a public building in Montrose!!

We also would most definitely not see an entire herd of buffalo hanging out downtown.

We were dumbfounded at first, then, conversation turned to something like this:
"Look all around, there is SO MUCH POOP!! And it is BIG POOP!  How'd ya like to clean THAT up from your front yard?"  A very legitimate question.

Then, right across the street from the buffalo was this sight:

So about five minutes into the park, and already we were pretty blown away!

We came across a waterfall and everyone wanted to get out and see it...

Matthew taking pictures from on top, while Olesya took the safer route and took her photos from the side.

We saw lots of buffalo on the road, something we hadn't expected in the numbers we encountered:

We saw one buffalo charge a car as it unwisely passed by too quickly, and I squealed a little when one got a little too close as we passed.

This was much better, seeing them safely in their true habitat and not along the road.  We really enjoyed getting a sense of their immense size since we had read so much about them this year.  They are BIG, BIG animals, and far faster than one would ever expect!!

Yesterday we had the most lovely day ever, a much needed experience filled with awe and wonder.  Our first stop was Old Faithful, who didn't let us down.  We had just missed an eruption when we arrived, so we hung out and explored the area while waiting for the next eruption an hour later:

They have a new visitor's center only 2 years old, and it was neat to see the exhibits.

Snuck a picture of somewhat camera shy Olesya.

We wandered around outside for awhile as we waited for The Big Explosion:

Kenny has surprised us and himself during the trip as he discovered he loves reading maps, and is quite good at it!  So he has taken on the role of Tour Guide and getting us where we need to be.

The boys run to see something spewing something! HAHA!

For those who have never been here before, did you know how bad it smells?  Think of rotten eggs, and you'll be pretty darned close.

Our Dear Dominick...who is the hardest working guy I know...has had a very relaxing trip that was well deserved after a winter of very long days.  Though he has handled most of the driving for the trip, which I have greatly appreciated, he has played, he has laid around, he has hung out in the pool, and spent more down time than he has in a very long time.

Waiting before the crowd inside arrived.  We ended up with about 70 people or so around us.

Thar She Blows!!!

Quick!! Turn for a picture!!, turn back and take your own :-)

Then it was off to another area of the park.

Isn't this cool?

This looked like mirrors layered, it was beautiful but the photo doesn't capture it well.

Our windblown girls!  The weather has been extremes, from super cold and very windy, to sunshine and mild warmth, all changing by the hour.

Matthew and Kenny goofing around with Joshie.  Those boys love their little brother so much!

Two Joe Cools...

Trying to take a photo while waiting for steam to blow away.

The whole gang sans mom!

We were so lucky to have such wonderful weather after the morning drizzle and snow...and snow today.  Interestingly, though we all enjoyed Old Faithful, it was the other sights we decided we liked much more.  Check out some of the other areas we saw:

Above the kids are looking at something bubbling as much as any soup pot I've ever had on the stove, but it never looked like this...ick!:

Off in the distance we saw another small geyser, so we went to get a closer look.

It was small, but somehow prettier.

Driving we spotted what looked to be a waterfall off to the side, so we pulled over to go check it out:

The girls at first just watched their Billy Goat brothers, then decided to go down a little lower.

Though not large, this was a very pretty area with a nice waterfall.

Angela hiked down.

The boys are actually fairly high above the river here.

They couldn't resist, so up they went!

We are having a wonderful, well paced exploration of the American West.  In many ways, the past 4 years have been a dream come true for me with our family.  I know it sounds silly, but I grew up never having been fortunate enough to have gone anywhere with my family.  My parents were hard working folks, hanging on as best they could and providing for all our needs, and several of our concrete wants, like a new clarinet when I started high school, or all the sports my brother ever wanted to play in, but we never had the opportunity to travel.  One thing I had always hoped for with my own family someday is that we would be able to, at the very least, take a trip every 3 or 4 years.  I never could have imagined being able to do some of the things we have done with the kids, especially considering my honeymoon was my first ever real vacation!  

Our decision to homeschool, and to home educate through a public alternative program, has not only opened up the world to us academically, but in so many other ways.  It has dramatically lessened a lot of foundational knowledge we needed to try and cram into our kids adopted at older ages. I see on a daily basis the differences in base knowledge between Josh and Matt, and Kenny, Angela and Olesya.  There is just no easy way to build that basic information base when so many years and exposure to materials is lost.  But these trips we have taken are jump starting their education.  Taking the girls, for example, three years ago at ages 11 and 12 they had never heard of or seen a photo of a buffalo, an elk, an antelope, a deer.  They didn't have a clue about geysers, earthquakes, volcanoes, or other basic concepts about the earth.  Of course, they knew not a single thing about American history, our Founding Fathers, our government or freedoms or what makes us different from some countries.  Today, they have seen Washington, DC and they can name many early historical figures as well as explain their importance in American History.  They know they live on planet earth, they understand tectonic plates and continental drift.  They can tell you how America grew to the size it grew to, what major events happened to allow that growth, and they can explain the lifestyle of the pioneers.  Why? How?  Because they have seen covered wagons and cabins, they have seen buffalo and elk, and understand how they fed the Corps of Discovery largely on buffalo meat. They have seen real bear traps, pelts, Thomas Jefferson's home and library, and have stood on the steps of our nation's capital where they know so many who took a risk to create America once stood.

They've seen it, it's real, they can remember it, and they can tie it to the next level of learning. Without these trips, we would be so, so much further behind.

And yet, as much as they know and have learned, there is still SO much more.  Today Angela asked "So there is a Best Western Hotel, does that mean that back east there is a Best Eastern Hotel?"  Hahaha!  So cute.  We've seen first hand and  talked how the forest reseeded itself after a wildfire, about the valley floor here and what a caldera is, and discussed how Old Faithful will eventually die out.  

More important is the time spent together.  Standing overlooking a waterfall and speaking in hushed tones about how perfect nature seems to be, or having Olesya look sideways at me with a grin as she wins her third time in a row at a game of "Scum".  Listening to Kenny explain to us how many miles are left to our destination and steer us in the right direction as he shares what is coming up on our right hand side gives him something to be good at with his family.  Matthew jumping at every chance to climb, practice card tricks, and show off his shuffling prowess as a way for his introverted self to engage with his family.

But perhaps the very, very best moment of the entire trip happened yesterday for me.  We were traveling slowly gazing out the window to see if we could somehow spot a bear while singing "Life is a Highway", and talking about being stared at and pointed at while waiting for Old Faithful by this Asian woman sitting two feet from us who then nudged her partner and pointed directly at us and started speaking in a language we didn't understand.  Angela started laughing as we recalled it, and said that was about the worst we've ever experienced.  The conversation drifted to how everyone around us thinks we are total goofballs all the time.  Joshua piped up from the back seat and said, "I don't really care what other people think.  Our family has the best times together even if we just go to Walmart, and we don't fight.  Maybe they are looking at us because people aren't happy anymore.  I'm just glad I am not them.  I may have had a hard first year when I was born, but my other 9 years have been AMAZING."

A child literally left for dead, a child who at first rejected touch...rejected love...and since having a family he describes his life as "amazing".

That's what adoption does for a child.  What a humbling thing to be part of, along with all who have helped our family in so many countless ways.

So I guess I'd have to echo Joshie and say that our trip has been "Amazing".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes! Travel is the best way to live our history. I will never forget the trips my family took as a kid. I still have the glorious smell of Sequoia in my brain cells.

. When I was 10 we took a Greyhound bus from T.O. to the East coast. We stopped alot and saw everything :-) what an experience for $79 cross country! No AC through Phoenix which was 103 at 3:00 am! The characters we met! All the history. I loved Plimoth Plantation, Concord and Lexington...i soaked up the history. When I got back a neighbor told me that history was not important! I felt sorry for her.

So glad you all are sharing such great times together!

Teresa F.