Saturday, September 20, 2014

Yellowstone Trip

It was a huge treat to have my good friend Tyler visit our home a few weeks ago. It was an even bigger treat that Jason volunteered to watch the boys for the weekend so that Tyler and I could have a girls' weekend getaway. What a great husband! :)

Tyler and I started our journey on a Friday morning and drove through the little resort town of Red Lodge, MT. You can't drive through this cute little town without stopping at the candy store, so we made that our first stop.


We filled up a bag with some interesting toffee flavors and other candies (2 of each kind so we could taste-test them all together). The candy ended up being a great on-the-road snack.

The road through Red Lodge took us to the Beartooth Pass, a beautiful mountain highway leading to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. This road is only open for a few months of the year (with frequent storm closures during those months too), due to heavy snowfalls on the mountain. 

Thankfully, our weather had been beautiful leading up to Tyler's arrival, so the pass was open. We journeyed up the highway until this lookout point, probably about 2/3 of the way to the summit. There are always crazy-friendly chipmunks at this lookout point. They seem to like the snacks that tourists give them. :) We were shocked at how up close we could get to these little critters.

No zoom was needed at all for these pictures!

 One of the chipmunks even came right up to Tyler and put his front legs nearly on her jean pockets, trying to find some food. Talk about some brave chipmunks! :)

Here are some of the views of the Beartooths from this lookout.

The drive to Yellowstone from our home is supposed to take around 2 1/2 hours traveling this route. We stopped for so many gorgeous photo ops, however, that it took us close to 4 hours.

I'd say the views were worth it, though!

It's unbelievable how much snow these roads can get. These tall markers lining the roads are used to guide the snowplows as they clear the roads in the spring. This shows you how high the snow usually gets. Wow!

Jason and I have driven up this pass quite a few times with other guests and family members, and we have never seen the ground so snow-free. Here we are at the summit... no snow in sight!

One more stop as we were heading down the pass... Tyler said this mountain peak could've prompted the name "Beartooth."

Finally, sometime in the early afternoon, Tyler and I arrived at the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone. Hooray!

Our initial drive in the park was through Lamar Valley. What a beautiful section of the park! Our first animal sighting was a family of mountain goats WAY off in the distance, only visible through our binoculars.

Lamar Valley is typically a great location for spotting herds of bison. We weren't disappointed.

Closer to Tower Falls, we spotted some bighorn sheep.

Actually, what we really spotted first was the group of parked cars and the herds of people with their cameras out. This is usually the best way to spot wildlife in the park. :)

Smaller wildlife is fun to spot, too...

Our first non-animal sighting stop was here, at the Tower Falls.

We certainly have a majestic Creator, don't we?

We stopped for a little snack break here too. Huckleberry ice cream sandwiches-- yum, yum!

Our next stop was Canyon Village where we did some hiking. The 2 longer trails that we did weren't too bad in distance, though they were quite steep. Tyler was a perfect hiking partner. We got in some great exercise and saw some beautiful views of the Lower and Upper Falls.

Next, we continued our drive through Hayden Valley to see the Mud Volcano, Sulphur Caldron, and this next pictured spring, Dragon's Mouth (all of which smell absolutely wonderful... ha, ha!).

We saw some more up-close bison on the way...

...and then closed out the evening with a stop by Yellowstone Lake. 

After a late dinner, it was too dark to see much else, so we drove to our hotel in West Yellowstone. We got a good start the next morning and drove south this time towards Old Faithful. The early morning air was quite chilly. We even had frost on the car! The brisk temperatures made for great views of the steamy geyser basins.

At first, we bypassed all these smaller geysers so that we could get to Old Faithful. Here we are, waiting for the morning eruption.

This particular Old Faithful eruption didn't seem to be the largest or longest ever, but was nevertheless still impressive.

The rest of our Day 2 was filled with lots of geyser viewing. We walked along many boardwalk paths and smelled the wonderful sulfur. :)

Blue Star Spring
Sometimes the geysers or springs wouldn't have a name plate, and Tyler and I would come up with names of our own. Fun times. Give it a try yourself! :)

Red Paint Pots

Mountain Geyser

As we were close to leaving the park after lunchtime, we commented on how cool it would've been to see a large animal, like a bear, elk, or moose. And just like that, at the eleventh hour, we spotted this crowded parking lot.

The elk practically walked right in front of these people!

What a great way to end our wonderful girls' weekend in Yellowstone. It is such a beautiful park that so clearly showcases God's handiwork. I loved having another excuse to visit again. Thanks again, Tyler, for making the visit out to Montana!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Welcome, Auntie Tyler!

Hotel Schleicher has definitely been hopping during the past 2 months, but we have been loving it! Our most recent guest was "Auntie" Tyler, one of Amy's closest friends (one that Amy has known since kindergarten). We were SO happy to have Tyler visit us again. Her last visit to us was only a few months after the boys were born when we were definitely still in survival mode. We did absolutely no sight-seeing of MT and didn't really see much outside of the house at all. Tyler even had to cook some of her own meals!

This time around, Hotel Schleicher was a bit more experienced in the hosting-with-kids department. :) We even whisked Tyler away to Yellowstone for the weekend (pics on that journey still to come!). It was fun to watch Cody and Jaden warm up to Tyler throughout her visit. Already on the first afternoon of her stay, the boys requested a story from Auntie Tyler.

Another day, Jaden and Cody showed Tyler how to play Hullabaloo. 

Tyler caught on quickly. :)

Towards the end of Tyler's visit, we took Tyler to a local kids' event called the Rubber Duck Regatta. There were all kinds of carnival games, like this beanbag toss.

Thankfully, no one minded when the boys basically just dropped their beanbags into the holes.

Next, Jaden and Cody participated in this mini-Olympic games course. They both "threw" the frisbee onto the pool noodles,

chucked a football through the hanging hoops,

and attempted to whack the ball through the arches with a golf club.

At the end of the course, Jaden and Cody used markers and stickers to decorate a medal for themselves.

The main "attraction" of this event was the actual rubber duck race. We arrived too late to purchase our own competitive rubber ducks, but we were still able to watch a few of the racing finals.

We used up our remaining tickets on a few other games, like this Plinko-style one.

Jaden and Cody were quite pleased to show off all the prizes that they won-- like these animal finger puppets, a few race cars, and even a little action figure (that broke before we even pulled out of the parking lot...). Jaden is also proudly wearing his self-decorated medal in this picture. 

Overall, the event seemed to be worthwhile for our little guys, as they seemed to enjoy the games and prizes fairly well. Tyler was a great helper for us there, too, leading the boys around and snapping a few pictures.

The greatest part of the event (for the boys, at least) was its location. The Regatta was held at the same park where we often stop to feed the geese and ducks. So of course we had to do the same on this day.

The waterfront views at this park are quite nice, too.

Our little Cody has developed quite an arm when chucking food at the birds. He definitely puts his all into his throws. :)

Thanks, Tyler, for joining us on this little outing and for always knowing just what to do to help out!

After the Regatta, we continued on to our new Scheels store (a very large sporting goods store) that was having its grand opening that weekend. It was pretty amazing to see the mini-bowling alley, the shooting range, the golf simulator, and the full size Ferris wheel inside this store. We didn't get pictures of anything at the store other than these large aquarium pillars.

On the way out of the store, we actually saw a real scuba diver swimming around inside this tank. Impressive!

By the end of Tyler's visit, the boys were calling Tyler by name and freely giving her hugs and kisses. Each morning after they'd awake, they'd look towards the stairs and say, "Ty-lah, UP! Ty-lah, UP!" Tyler certainly is a fun playmate and a wonderful friend. We were all so thankful for her time with us!