Day 20- Jackson

The 5:50am wake up was particularly hard today. After school at Jack Mac’s we had a delicious brunch at Cafe Genevieve. Per Finley’s recommendation, we had grilled cheese/Mac n cheese with tomato soup. SO GOOD!

We hit up Orvis to buy Papa a fly rod. But of course we needed to test it out ourselves first. Daryl taught us how to assemble it and we drove to find some fishing spots.

Franco and I loved just exploring the river bed. We found another bone- a femoral head of who knows what animal.

We picked up the girls in town… loved Orsetto’s bear and were goofy with some sculptures.

Back to town to wash up and then Hole Bowl for dinner. Mushroom goat cheese pizza was the bomb.

These people are the very best!

Day 19 Jackson

We woke up with a chill because our heat didn’t work in the RV. We are not sure why. I was able to turn the generator on in the morning, get it going and warm up our rig in the morning. But it was as cold inside as it was outside (freezing) and thank Ryan for our awesome sleeping bags- we slept great and slept in until 8am!

Since it was still cold outside- the fire was turned on and we had breakfast. Daryl whipped up ham and egg burritos.

Franco so happy!

The sun came out and soon the temperature increased to the 70s. More fishing, exploring on the lake and beaver dam. Tony rolled in the dirt.

They perfected the drainage of the creek. Directing the water in three routes.

The girls painted more rocks.

Fisherman poking through the forest in this last photo.

The kids loved every minute of our camping adventure.

On our drive back to Jackson- we noticed the Tetons were obscured by the fire smoke. It felt worse than previous days.

We unpacked at the Virginian RV park and did five loads of laundry. The kids went back to the climbing park-

Football in the RV park.

Watched the Eagles beat the 49ers and went to sleep.

Day 18- Atherton Campground continued

Daryl loaded the boys and I into her pickup and we went in search of a river to fish.

As we walked down to the river- we can upon the remains of an animal.

When we made it down, we had t cross part of the river. The water was so cold, you actually experienced pain in your legs. Funniest feeling.

I was in heaven. Soaking up the sun while the boys and Daryl fished. Gus caught a trout and the boys practiced casting. Daryl with so much patience for them both.

While recovering a lure caught in the bank, Daryl found this stick, every inch of it carved by a beaver. So cool. Our official trip mascot.

We didn’t want to leave but knew the girls would be wondering where we were.

Came back to the girls painting their clay bowls and rocks. Cocktail hour on the beach.

Once the sun set the temp dropped precipitously. Daryl fires up her cooker and had tacos done in minutes.

They were soon devoured and we fired up the gas fire pit (wood burning not allowed because of risk of spreading fire.)

The kids started their own conversations while D and I tried to just listen in. They went around and wondered about what they would buy if they had three million dollars. Soon they realized they needed more so kicked it up to one hundred million dollars.

Then they began sharing riddles and jokes. Each one patiently listening to the other. Peightals such awesome kids. It was Finley who finely called it a night at 9:30pm and we all disappeared to bed.

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Day 18- Atherton Campgrounds Jackson Hole

Everyone was so happy to sleep in until 8:30am.

We met up with Daryl and the kids and drove to the campground. There is still some smoke obscuring the Tetons… but the Yellow of the aspen trees in full color.

BigE next to the MacPeightals.

This was our first time boondocking- ie not hooking up to anything, water or electric. Thank goodness for Daryl- she helped show me the ropes.

The kids immediately went to the lake and showed our guys how to find the good clay beneath the top layer of sand by the creek. They dried it out by rolling it in their hands, and shaped it in to bowls to dry in the sun.

The kids spent hours clearing the creek as it emptied into the lake.

The Peightals also showed our guys their fort in the brush- and bear skat- notice the berries.

Then Daryl appeared with sandwiches for everyone. I don’t know how she did it. One second she was there and the next she appeared with tons of food.

We hit the law again, this time for swimming. The water was so cold that the kids wore life vests so that they had protection from freezing up once in. Teddy was the first to climb to the top branch of the sunken tree- balancing and then leaping. Gus and Gray followed.

Finely and Ciela tried to see who could let in the frigid spring water longer. Then the girls went in the lake-

Daryl took Tony for a lap.

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Day 17- Jackson Wyoming

Rise and shine for school I. The library parking lot.

So proud of these guys. No complaints about waking up at 5:50am and trying to school from inside a minivan. When they library opens around 8:30am- the WiFi is so slow it becomes inoperable. Daryl saved us again by letting us school from her kitchen. Then home for lunch.

We met for football on the field in front of Daryl’s Parents home. Alex and Jessica’s kids- Lotte, Nell and Gunnar as well as Daryls kids- Teddy, Finley and Gus. Their friend Q also joined. Moms hung out while the kids played two hand touch (sort of tackle) football. So so so fun!

We explored town some more and went back to the RV for dinner.

The kids begged my to take them to climbing wall park not far from the RV site. They climbed until they couldn’t see anymore.

Back to the RV for movie night- we watched Bridget Jones’ Diary. We cracked up at the absurdity of her character.

Everyone so happy to sleep in Saturday morning.

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Day 16- Jackson fun

I love this town. Truly the first time in a long time that I can imagine myself living in another town. Jackson’s population 1/3 of Westfield but doesn’t feel small because of the tourists. I love the artsy feel. The creativity in the stores. The quality of the restaurants. The access to incredible hikes and bike trails. The Tetons and Yellowstone so close. And of course the MacGregors are here and just awesome.

We started the day in the library parking lot, in the dark. I pre-heated the car so they didn’t feel the cold. So proud of these crazies for not complaining at the 5:50am wake up.

At 8am we headed to Daryl’s house because her kids already off to school and didn’t feel like imposing as much. The kids were ecstatic to meet Tony- our new favorite breed of dog- Spinone Italiano.

They were happy to give him love while they worked.

Mica psyched to send Rye messages- she took this photo of our RV park and sent to him.

After finishing school at the Mac’s house, they loaned us mountain bikes to go on a ride. Ciela went shopping in town with Sofi because she couldn’t fit on a bike (and had been so excited to walk the town.)

Daryl went on a quick ride before and realized Mica had never been on a bike with hand breaks and gears. She taught her on the fly.

Then we went out towards the elk refuge.

We stopped by the Miller House for lunch and then kept going. Mica needed another pit stop at the top of the hill.

When we got back the kids were home from school. Gus was teaching them how to flip on the trampoline.

Then we went to town and hit a few stores. Made was moms favorite but the kids discovered the toy store at the basement of the Tee store.

We washed up in the RV and enjoyed dinner outside at Cafe Genevieve. It was beautiful outside and the kids loved the watermelon lemonades. Sofia and I preferred our cocktails. Burgers, mushrooms, bison chili, Brussels sprouts and the corn hash were favorites.

We left with full bellies and happy hearts. Love this town.

Day 15- Jackson Wyoming

We woke at 5:50am to freezing temperatures- 20degrees! After bundling up in winter coats, we made it into the minivan with teeth chattering. Daryl was so generous she let us study at her parents home- a beautiful spot close to our RV park and everything in Jackson Hole. Daryl also hooked us up with great spots in town. I picked up cowboy coffee and later bagels for breakfast.

By lunch time, it was 60degrees and sunny. Not a cloud in the sky. We finished afternoon class work in the RV and had lunch in the park.

Then we hit the road for a hike at Jenny Lake in the Tetons-

The nice thing was that we were able to catch shuttle boat to point across the lake. So we didn’t have to hike in and back. Got to see so much more.

The kids mandated the bear spray- they read too many signs and heard too many bear encounter stories.

Half mile up hill to Hidden Falls-

The 3.5 mile hike blew by. The kids could not stay on path…. Kept hiking up boulders along the way. Fantastic afternoon. Perfect 70 degree weather. The sun was shining and there were smiles the whole time.

We ended the hike with an obligatory photo at one of the four elk arches in Jackson.

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Day 14- Bozeman and drive day to Jackson Wyoming

Ciela took her math test in the comfort of the Element Hotel. After school we strolled Bozeman streets.

Everyone agreed we love this town.

Lunch at Nova and then drove 225 miles, 4.5 hour down 287 through Idaho to Jackson Hole. Beautiful blue sky drive… passing small towns and loads of farms along the way.

Mica happy to add the states to our travel map (Thank you Reeds!)

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Day 12- Yellowstone continued

We passed through Mammoth en route to Lamar Valley. Rangers were there protecting the tourists from getting too close to the elk.

Along the route we stopped to check out a petrified tree-

Driving alongside a pronghorn-

Then we got our heart strings pulled… driving along we came upon cars and animal paparazzi.

The kids got confident to go up to the photographers and ask “what are we looking at?”

The night before, a driver had hit a bison and killed it. The rangers came and moved the body far from the road. Apparently three bison stayed near the body, apparently guarding it all night. When we got there, the one was curled up on the ground around the body.

The photographers were there waiting for action to happen. They knew that other animals would soon come in to eat the dead bison.

We traveled on with sad hearts. Soon coming upon another bison traffic jam. Somehow we lucked out and always ended up being at the front of the line, getting best view of the animals.

Our next bathroom pit stop had the kids playing along the river. Every stop more breathtaking than the last.

The kids liked stopping at the Montana- Wyoming border- being in two states at once.

Another MUCH needed exploration and burning of energy. We stopped in Lamar Valley and let the kids run along the river, skipping stones and balancing while walking across fallen tree.

Ciela managed to fall in while trying to reach for a rock she wanted to gather. Now we had a wet kid, with soaking wet shoes, pants and shirt- in cold weather. We stripped her down and rung out the pants, allowing them to dry while tied to the rear view mirror as we drove.

Some of us LOVED the views.

On the way back to mammoth we stopped by to see the bison guarding the dead body. He know was standing over it, resting his head on the body.

It was hard not to be moved by the act and made us recognize that they clearly had a bond with each other.

Back in Mammoth, we got a surprise show of Mac Daddy (the alpha massive elk) chasing off Big Boy (the slightly smaller elk who was always trying to get in on the herd.)

Then Mac Daddy just stood in the road so we could get a close up view of his massiveness.

Then he let out a bugle to be clear Big Boy know it was his herd.

Dinner with elk females hanging nearby.

We realized that we had a long several hour drive back to West Yellowstone (and return the following morning) and we knew we wanted to visit Lamar valley at dawn… so we checked into a cabin at Mammoth. The only thing they had left was a tiny room with two queen beds, a full shower and no heat. We slept in our winter coats and laid horizontally three to a queen bed.

Everyone was ecstatic not to have to drive all those hours and loved the spontaneity of sleeping with no change of clothes. After procuring some tooth brushes, we walked around exploring Mammoth. The elk battle between the two boys- still going on.

We had fun parking the car to get a front seat view. Loved hearing the bugling battles.

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Day 12- Exploring Yellowstone

Renting the minivan was paramount for our travel through Yellowstone. There are so many windy roads and so many times we pulled off on the side of the toad to watch animal life- BigE would have never been able to maneuver it all.

We left our hotel at 6:00am and drove in the snow into the park, entering at West Entrance. Driving north on 89 and east on Norris Canyon road, our intention was to go directly to Lamar Valley but found the Grand Loop was closed going north and had to abort that mission. So instead we headed south to a Hayden Valley in search of the Grizzly that had taken down a massive elk the week before.

Sure enough, like all things in the park, we easily found him by the barrage of animal paparazzis along the road.

The video of the injured (broken leg) elk kill by the Grizzly was caught on camera by a grandma:

And photos all over Instagram of the Grizzly-

By the time we arrived, the original bear had eaten his share and abandoned the kill. Two other Grizzlies, one very dark, were eating and guarding what was left.

It was a beautiful spot along the Yellowstone river.

paparazzi were everywhere, trying to capture a battle between the bears or whatever animals came to get to the kill.

My SLR camera body broke somewhere in transit- likely getting tossed around in the cabinet in the RV. Major bummer for shooting wildlife in the distance. But we learned to use the binoculars with iPhone-

I have Mica and Franco to thank- for looking around them and not on their phones (which they don’t have) – and spotting this vertebrae on the path where we were standing and watching the Grizzly. There were people all around us and no one had seen it.

We think it is an elk vertebrae but the verdict is out.

Our first close encounter with Bison on the side of the road-

Even though we drove 8-12 hours each day while in Yellowstone (I didn’t keep track and hard to know because of all of the stops,) we never felt it because the views along the way were so spectacular. We kept stopping to take photos. In the morning it was COLD… but by midday the kids were content in light jackets.

Our breakfast spot along the Yellowstone River- The boys loved watching the tiny duck like birds that bobbed and stayed under water feeding and then popped up randomly in a nearby spot.

Our first buffalo traffic jam was epic. (We would soon encounter these multiple times throughout the day but didn’t know yet.)

We decided this was a good spot to have a snack and watch the bison in the pasture below.

From there we stopped by the Yellowstone Canyon and waterfalls. We were able to drive up to this view from above. Park and hike around the opposite side of the canyon.

Then we took a hike along this side of the canyon. A much needed burning of energy. We took an extra long hike in both directions.

From there we had to decide- since grand loop was closed, would we stop for the day or drive all around the park to get to Lamar valley… we voted on moving on.

It was a 110 miles and 2.5 hour drive (because the grand loop was closed and had to go all the way around.)

Pulling into Mammoth was a fantastic surprise- a giant elk with a massive elk was napping in the sun.

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