Adventures by Disney - Wyoming and Yellowstone - Summer 2021
In the evening on July 21st, we checked in to the Wort Hotel in Jackson and said hello to our friend Doug. Doug was one of our guides for our Arizona and Utah Disney Adventure so it was nice to see a familiar face. We got cleaned up and unpacked and then went to the welcome dinner downstairs. For dinner we had steak, salad, and I was thrilled they had tomato caprese as an appetizer. Doug and Adri introduced themselves and then all the families took turns telling everyone where they were from and who they were traveling with. Connor introduced us on our Arizona and Utah trip, but neither kid was feeling it this time around. I volunteered to go first to get it over with and eventually everyone in the room said hello. For entertainment, we had a singing cowboy in the room and he sang a song with the help of the kids, including Connor and Paige. It was a silly ice breaker and we all got a lot of laughs.
In the morning on July 22nd, we met up with everyone and walked the short distance to the Snow King Mountain resort. The original itinerary included whitewater rafting, but due to a multitude of factors including COVID precautions they changed over to the Snow King recreation area. We were broken up in to two groups and one group ate lunch first while the other group did a hike through the woods. We hiked first, then ate some lunch, and then we were set loose to do all the activities. Lunch (burgers and chicken) was not great, although the huckleberry mini-ice cream sandwiches were wonderful. Sadly they put away the leftover ice cream sandwiches pretty quickly for some reason and we were left wanting more.
There were two slides down the mountain on yellow sleds, a coaster system on a track, a maze, mini golf, and a trampoline with bungies. We rode the yellow slides first down the mountain and then got in line for the coaster. It ended up fairly crowded and we had to wait 45 minutes for the coaster. The coaster was fun, but not worth the wait. Connor and I wanted to ride the yellow slides one more time, so we rode the chair lift up the mountain again and all went down a second time. We finished with the maze as a family. We’d considered the mini golf, but it was too hot and sunny. We also considered the trampoline, but only one of the two was open and the line was too long. We could have stayed longer, but decided to go back to the hotel a little early. Overall, the park was nice, but it was definitely not as fun as the whitewater rafting. Had we missed out on the whitewater rafting on our trip we would definitely have been pretty disappointed.
On July 23rd, we checked out of the Wort, loaded on to our buses, and drove a few miles out of town for a bike ride. There were extensive bike trails along the road and we biked 11 miles with the group. It was a good opportunity to chat with some of the other families and it was a nice, flat ride but still a workout. After biking we drove a little further down the road for a photo opportunity with an old and historic barn that was in the valley and framed in nicely by the Tetons. The little kids were excited about all the ground squirrels in the area and they all bonded a little as they chased all of the squirrels around.
After our photos with the barn and lunch we made the drive in to Yellowstone. We stopped at the iconic Yellowstone sign for pics and then went to the Old Faithful Lodge. Just after checking in, as we were making our way to our rooms, Old Faithful erupted for the first time while we were there. We unpacked our junk and we were given coupons for dinner at the restaurants on property. The rooms were fairly Spartan, and definitely not very fancy or up to date.
We put on our hiking shoes and wandered down the trails toward the Grand Geyser, which was the highest geyser that erupts consistently, since it was due to go off shortly. As we were passing Castle Geyser we saw a big eruption in the distance and we were a bit disappointed when we realized it was Grand Geyser going a little earlier than anticipated and we were missing it. Nevertheless, we set off towards it and it continued erupting until just after we arrived. Everyone there clapped, got up and started to leave. We decided to continue past it and just as we got directly in front of it, it started back up again and one of the people nearby said it was even bigger than before. We got an awesome front row seat for a few minutes of the big show and I’m glad we decided to stick around long enough to see the encore performance.
Once we were sure that Grand Geyser was done we continued down the trails through the park and decided to take a big loop that would take us by most of the geysers. Looking at the map it didn’t seem like it was that long, but was quite a bit further than we expected and the park started to clear out and we found ourselves walking back towards the hotel down a gravel pathway through the woods. We realized we were quite alone and we also realized we’d left the bear spray (which we’d rented from a kiosk at the Jackson Hole airport) back in the room. I shouted “Hey Bear” for a while and then Paige decided we should sing the Star Spangled Banner to let the bears know we were coming. The singing worked like a charm on the bears, but apparently a coyote liked it. Paige saw it first, just ahead of us on the path. It was about 100 yards away and was quite a bit bigger than I expected. I was actually having trouble deciding whether it was a wolf or coyote, but either way I didn’t want it coming any closer. We yelled at it to leave us alone and after a few seconds of thinking he decided to wander off in to the woods. We quickened our pace back to the hotel and were relieved when we got back to the paved paths around more people. We ended up walking 6 miles and were tired, especially since it had already been a ver active day. We used our meal tickets at one of the restaurants and they were only offering takeout so we ate outside while the mosquitos ate us. We ended up ordering way more food than we needed, but it was nice to try a few different things.
In the morning on the 24th I got up early and went for a hike on my own. I watched Old Faithful’s morning showing and then went up the hill to the Overlook spot and to see the Solitary Geyser. Andrea and the kids went to get hot cocoa and to use our breakfast coupons on some muffins and goodies. The tour group set out on the buses and we went to a couple of different spots to see some beautiful springs, stinky mud pots, and a number of the other features of Yellowstone. We drove through the park and saw some Bison and then we set out for a fairly long drive to the Brook’s Lake Lodge.
After checking in at Brook’s Lake Lodge, we unpacked and met everyone for dinner, then went outside to do capture the flag. It was one of the first times the kids all really interacted in a fun way and they all got in to it and it was pretty exciting. So exciting in fact that some of the adults decided to join in. I was a little hesitant, but Andrea was raring to go and I didn’t want to be the only Vernon left out so we all joined the competition. Connor had been dominating the first couple games with the kids so I decided to join the opposing team with Paige and Andrea. The grass was super slippery and there were lots of people in the game. We managed to get everyone on Connor’s team in the jail except for Connor and then we all hatched a plan to huddle around the flag and then all run different directions all at once. Paige managed to fake out Connor and while he was wrong footed I made a dash with the flag and barely made it over the line before he could get me. Even more people joined the game and I personally had a great time until I slipped and my watch strap broke. Andrea was super aggressive and ended up in jail at one point. I was proud of Paige for making a mad dash, getting past everyone to rescue her mom, and then making it all the way back unscathed. Capture the flag finally ended as we ran out of daylight and after everyone was exhausted. The lodge is at around 9000 ft above sea level, so we all get winded much easier.
The next morning, July 25th, our first activity of the day was horseback riding. Andrea’s horse was Eddie, Connor’s was Palmer, Paige rode Blue Dog, and I rode Spur. We went along with three other tour group members and rode down the hill, next to the lake, and then up in to the forest. The horses were fairly well behaved, but they definitely needed direction. They all wanted to stop and snack on the grasses and flowers and I finally relented and let Spur munch for a while before running to catch back up. Connor’s horse didn’t seem to like Andrea’s very much and eventually Connor and Palmer ended up near the back with me. Andrea’s horse was besties with Paige’s and didn’t seem to like some of the other horses. I never knew there could be so much horse personality drama. Connor’s horse, Palmer, was trailing close behind Andrea and Eddie, and Eddie reared up and kicked Palmer in the face. Connor made sure to keep more distance after that. Eddie also bucked and kicked another horse in the face during the ride, but luckily Andrea held on tightly and stayed on. Paige had a fairly uneventful ride and I’m proud of her for working well with her horse and being independent the entire ride. It sounded like some of the other kids needed a lot of help and had the guides lead their horses for them.
After lunch we got geared up and went fly fishing in the lake at the mouth of a stream. Keesler taught us the techniques for casting and then we proceeded to tangle up a bunch of fishing line between the four of us. It was really tricky to manage everything and hard to get the fly to land more than ten feet away. We all got decent at casting, but not at catching anything. Early on, I got one hard nibble but the fish released the line. I cast back over the same spot and actually saw the silver flash in the water as the fish hit the fly again, but again let go and I came up empty. We cast and cast and cast and eventually our time ran out. It was pleasant in the water with the waders. Although it was a bit hot and sunny, the water was cold and I found that you could wade out a bit deeper if you were hot and you could go to more shallow water if you got cold. It was a beautiful spot and we had a good time, even though we didn’t catch anything.
The kids both really came alive at the lodge and it was wonderful to see how happy they were. I’ll never forget how absolutely giddy Paige was at dinner and to see Connor in such a good mood. They got to know the other kids in the group and Paige enjoyed hanging out with Keean and eventually got to know Emma as well. Connor started hanging out with James, who was his age, and then with James’s sister and his neighbor friends as well. The kids would all get together at the main lodge and would play darts, a shuffleboard game, and Mancala. James liked to fish and Connor joined him at one point out in one of the ponds. Connor also stayed up late on movie night with the other teenagers and played some games with them while Doug and Adri set everything up. The teens seemed to have the most fun playing the shuffleboard game together, Connor and James went on one stretch undefeated for 5 or 6 games. There was a lot of excited yelling and you could tell they were all having an awesome time together.
On our last day with ABD, July 26th, I got up early for a hike. There were some peaks surrounding the lodge and while the lodge was at about 9000 feet of elevation, the peaks were a couple thousand feet above on either side. I wanted to go up the craggy higher side, but apparently the trails weren’t well marked and the lodge didn’t have anyone to guide the hike that route. The route we hiked was a five mile round trip and was fairly strenuous and steep at times. We saw a mule deer and a marmot on the trail and after a couple hours we made the summit. The lodge had great wifi, but no cell service. Surprisingly at the top of the mountain I got a couple bars of service so I did a FaceTime call with Andrea and took the opportunity to return a few text messages as well. We snapped a few pics and a silly video and then went back down.
While I was hiking, Andrea and Paige went out on a canoe together. Connor went horseback riding again with his New York friends and this time he rode Blue Dog.
In the afternoon we tried our hand at archery. Connor and Paige had done some archery recently at Camp Pinnacle, but Andrea and I hadn’t shot any arrows since we were kids. Keesler gave us a quick demonstration on the techniques involved and then we all tried the different bows available. Connor ended up liking one of the smaller bows and Andrea struggled to figure out whether she would rather shoot righty or lefty since she is unable to wink her left eye without closing the right. Paige had all kinds of trouble at first and got more and more frustrated until she finally ripped off her wrist guard and stormed off. She went back to the cabin and watched her iPad for awhile and finally cooled down enough and came back. Eventually she found a bow and technique that was working for her and we all managed to hit the targets pretty well and pop some balloons. I ended up liking one of the bows with the heaviest pull and managed to pop the balloons on the closest two targets and I shot a couple dozen arrows at the farthest target but never managed to pop that balloon, which was frustrating. Overall, we all enjoyed it and spent a lot of time shooting arrows until our arms were exhausted and too shaky to continue.
After archery, the kids played games with their new friends while Andrea and I cleaned up for dinner and did a little packing. After dinner, Doug and Adri got the group got together, we shared some of our favorite experiences from our vacations, and then we watched a video they put together with photos and videos.
In the morning we got packed up, dealt with some issues (more on that another time), and then we were shuttled to the airport. Our flight home didn’t leave until 3 mountain time, and with the time change and layover, we aren’t scheduled to arrive home until pretty late for Florida time. By the time we get home it’ll probably be past midnight, I’m writing this now on the airplane on Andrea’s laptop.
It’s funny how hard it is to remember everything we did in the past 10 days, even though it’s barely been a couple days since some of the activities. Every day was just so jam packed. We all loved the experience and I’m so thankful we were able to be together and travel this year. We were supposed to do this trip in 2020, but it got rescheduled due to COVID. We all needed to be vaccinated or have a negative test for this trip and with all the madness in the world, I was fairly certain that something would come up and we’d end up missing it or having to reschedule. Andrea did a wonderful job planning everything, setting up reservations, booking airfare, getting packed (she had to buy Connor a new wardrobe days before the trip since he’s been growing so much), and arranging transportation and activities. The kids were wonderful travel companions and we love being around them outside of our normal routine. They were great about socializing and making friends, were polite, respectful, and they made us proud. Crazy to think that Connor’s starting high school this Fall, we treasure these times with the kids and hopefully can continue to take them on adventures in the future.
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