After a 2 mile hike through the desert we make it to the Corona Arch in Moab, Utah.
Lacks Northwest Adventure
We parked our car at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone located in the Northern area of Yellowstone National Park. Since dogs are not allowed on the pathways in Yellowstone, we had to leave Max, our 85lb Australia Shepherd/Blue Healer mix, behind to wait in the car.
Massive Waterfall splits the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Everyone was in great spirits; not even the three full Asian tour busses cluttering up the entire viewing area was going to bother us. We walked a ways to the viewing area and immediately became in awe of just how amazing it was! A huge waterfall with a tint of emerald coloring, a fast flowing river that splits through a canyon, and a drop off deep enough to fit the Sears tower in (we read that in our facts book). Jaw dropping to say the least. After a couple minutes of shoves and bumps by foreigners, we get someone to take a bad, off centered family photo of us including multiple photo bombs.
Nothing could ruin this moment… that is until my middle son tugs on the shirt sleeve of his mother and with panic in his face says, “I have to poop and I can’t hold it”. If you have kids then you can relate to this moment when your stomach sinks by the weight and realization of where you are in proximity to where you need to be. Worst time and place possible to drop this news, son. We were sardined in this viewing area and the closest restroom was back up the 1/4 mile path towards the parking lot and of course it will have a long line of people waiting to use it. My son is doing “the dance” and is on the verge of tears, my 2 year old ran off into a wooded area to play on some logs that had fallen, and my oldest son is standing around without a care in the world. With quick thinking my wife nabs our middle son and takes off sprinting towards the parking lot while yelling over her shoulder at me. “Where’s the restrooms?” There was obvious anxiety in her tone and I yell something comforting back like, “I don’t know, up there somewhere?” While pointing in a general southern direction. I grab our 2 year old, taking note that my oldest is now also with his mom and I begin walking up the path back towards the parking lot reflecting on the scenic beauty I had just experienced. Yep, I just loved being so in tune with nature and all her gifts at that moment, ahhh.
Elk in Yellowstone were just as plentiful as Bison. Don’t get too close though. You might step in front of a tourist who is already there. Common sense goes out the window when wildlife are present.
Now, when you’re in the mountains or wilderness, there are known rules you follow and one of them is to keep the noise level down out of respect for the majesty that surrounds you- like turning your phone off at the movie theater. So as I’m walking back up the path you can imagine my frustration at hearing how irresponsible someone was by honking their car horn! Completely disturbing the vibe, man! I mean come on, have some respect for serenity. My toddler and I continue and as we get closer to the parking area. Then, with horror, I realize that the disrespectful culprit is me! Miffed and utterly confused I walk up to the car in which my wife had apparently reached in and unlocked the car door triggering the alarm. I see her, the two older boys, and our dog in the very back of our car.
Thanks for the photobomb lady.
I open the door and I’m quickly smacked in the face by a most horrific smell. Any mother can relate to times of despair. “Desperate times call for desperate measures” they say. You do what you have to in those situations, right?! So, there in the back is my beautiful bride of whom I often day dream about walking down the isle envisioning our future together, had snatched our dogs water bowl, tossed the water to who knows where in the vehicle, and is holding it under my son’s buns so he can do his business. “What is happening?” goes through my brain, and my wife yells up to the front (as if answering my thoughts) that there was no bathroom “up there” (remember my excellent pointing skills earlier) and it was either go in the parking lot or go in the car. As if that wasn’t bad enough the car horn was blazing all the while acting as a beacon for the Asian tour bus folks to look in at the calamity, perhaps grabbing the cameras from their fanny packs or from it’s dangle around their neck and capturing something to represent their trip to America. You’re welcome.
Quickly turning off the alarm and starting the car, I rolled the windows down and we made our exit to find the first dumpster to toss the horrible reminder of what just happened out.
The point of the story is: stock up on dog poop bags for those just in case moments and more importantly find the funny in every situation. Life is happening (good, bad, or otherwise) and perspective makes all the difference. That story brings so much laughter when we tell it. Make memories and have adventures as a family to create those stories you’ll always remember. Don’t allow the fear of the unknown or life and all it’s circumstances talk you out of it. It doesn’t have to be 2 weeks on the road like we did, but the key is to just start.
That being said, here’s how we made our 2 week Lack Northwest Adventure happen; what we did to plan and some travel tips we learned along the way.
Create memories and provide a proper adventure for our 3 boys. Make a goal of creating experiences that will bring up stories your family can tell at dinners for years to come. Note: if everything runs perfectly and there are no hiccups, then your stories won’t be as good , ha!
Tulsa to Denver to Moab, Utah to Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park to Jackson Hole Wyoming to Ft. Collins, Colorado back to Tulsa
In planning our route we had pre-chosen a landing point in each city and knew how long we’d be there, but had no real timeframe or plans during the day. For this type of trip, we thought having each moment planned seemed like setting ourselves up for failure and missing the whole point. If we wanted to stop along the way and take pictures, we did! If we saw a store that we really wanted to check out, we browsed! We had our dog with us and young kids so frequent stops were par for the course.
2001 GMC Yukon with nearly 250k miles on her! Has lots of room, pulls our pop up trailer, and gets horrible gas millage. Keep in mind we went up and down many hills. The front 02 censor went out in Ft. Collins, CO which was towards the last part of our trip. I ended up on my back in the Auto Parts parking lot changing them while my boys rolled in the grass and then went with their mom to find a red box. Other than that, we had no real problems.
Where we slept:
A 1997 pop up camper named “The Survivor” by our 9 year old. It features water soaked wood, duct tape, poor patch jobs on the screens, and pinhole leaks when it rains, and a constant production of dirt on the floor that my wife obsessively sweeps out. This was generously donated to us from my parents and even though it is not something you’d see in the latest RV magazine, it was an upgrade from a tent (which all 6 of us-remember the dog- have also experienced) and we’re super grateful for it! The locations we stayed at were absolutely beautiful and if we had been in a tent, we would have made it just the same! There were tent campers everywhere we stayed.
We left with a bunch of food, but would stop off and pick up produce type groceries along the way and keep it in a cooler. Meals were pretty simple. We were also fortunate to have a propane stove in which we could cook. Some of our sites had electric hook ups so our Keurig machine was so nice to have. Hot coffee and tea was beautiful on those cold mornings. Nothing better than mountain air and coffee with my family.
What to expect in the days leading up to the departure.
We tried to not get hung up on the details of the trip. They have a tendency of postponing it and over complicating what we’re doing which just adds too much frustration. Anything that has to be done feels urgent like it needs to be done before you leave… just one more e-mail, laundry load, returned phone call, toilet flush check, did we pack toothbrushes and underwear?! Seems like everything tries to keep you from going on the planned trip. I encourage you to not give into these demands- just go. Believe it or not the world continues to spin without you.
As a photographer I’d been to most of the locations before, but without my family, so the dynamic was quite different. This particular route offered many diverse outdoor experiences. The desert, the mountains, the woods, wildlife, and all chalk full of adventure.
Pine Cone Wars
Rules: Gather up as many pinecones as you can find. Once your pile is huge have your kids find sticks to make swords out of. The pinecones are grenades and you chuck them at your kids. If you hit them in the leg then they loose the function of that leg, if you hit them in the arm then they loose the function of the arm and so fourth. If you hit them in the head then they’re out. It goes on like this until there’s only one standing. The stick’s function is to bat the pinecones away. If they do then generous points are awarded.
We skipped rocks for 2 or 3 hours! The games don’t have to be complex. You just have to be a part of them. Pick a target and try to hit it. Have a contest to see who can have the most skips. So easy, but so fun. Playing fetch with your dog is something else to do while rocks are happily skipping across the water. Our dog loves the water (so we found out this trip) and when we threw a stick in he’d always run and get it. The kids can take turning playing fetch as well.
We brought a few games from home that were small and easy to pack. We played Uno, Dutch Blitz, and traditional playing cards (which the 2 year old can even be a part of because he likes to sort them by color).
Everyone had a job when we set up camp. No matter how long it takes, giving kids their own tasks helps them to feel important plus can genuinely be helpful to Mom and Dad! Often kids are capable of more than we realize. Be patient.
Filling in the gaps.
Here was a big ah ha moment for me. I’m sitting in the parking lot of a convenient store posting a couple photos we had shot onto Instagram. As per my wife’s suggestion, I searched hashtags containing Moab Utah (where we were that day). I was blown away at the many ‘off the beaten path’ type locations that were coming up. I typed a quick couple questions to some strangers whose pictures had been pulled up and we had some new, awesome locations to visit. Search hashtags of the locations you’re going. Ask questions on people’s photos. I had a great quick response.
In our eagerness to get on the road we forgot some items… like one of our kid’s shoes- ha! No problem. REI and Walmart to the rescue.
Can’t get away for such a long haul? Here’s what inspired us. It’s a list of 50 things every kid should do before they’re 12 years old. Start ticking those off.