Yellowstone with Noah

25-30 June 2013

random trip report

Tue 25 June

Noah and I fly from Oakland to Salt Lake City. The air around SLC is choppy. On the final approach, a gust of tailwind blows the plane too far and we have to climb, circle around, and descend again. Noah almost needs the motion-sickness bag.

We meet Ron, who is arriving from Hartford, at the Advantage car-rental counter. With considerable effort I decline various extra-cost upgrades, and we end up in a nice Mazda 6. We head up I-15 toward West Yellowstone.

We need to get some groceries. The GPS nav device steers us toward a store which unfortunately is about 10 miles off the highway. We get a scenic tour of old-town Ogden, and nearly stop at a "gourmet donut" store.

At the grocery store, Ron's credit card somehow messes up the cash register so badly that it can't be rebooted. They have to take our groceries to an adjacent register, unbag, rescan, and rebag. This process somehow reduces the cost from $80 to $50, so it's OK.

On the drive, Noah asks repeatedly "How long until we get there?", "which state are we in?" and "are we going to see snow?". Ron effectively combats this by responding to each question with "Noah, where's your brain?".

We make good time and arrive at the cabin around 8:30. Noah is initially shy, but in about 5 minutes he's engaged in a series of wrestling matches with Cai. Cai outweighs Noah roughly 80 pound to 40, but Noah has a range of tactics including kicking.

Gay (theater prof from Wesleyan) is also at the cabin, so Noah, Cai and I sleep in the upstairs bunks.

Wed 26 June

We all drive into Yellowstone. We take the Fire Hole Creek road, and stop near some 15' high rocks, which Noah, Cai and I climb. We go down to the river and get our feet wet. I skip a few rocks.

We continue to Old Faithful Lodge, stopping at a couple of geothermal features along the way. We eat lunch at the lodge. There have been reports of a highly contagious norovirus, so we're careful about touching things.

We do the 3-mile loop hike to Mystic Falls. Cai gets some bad mosquito bites. Noah gets tired at the end and I carry him last 250 yards.

Back home, Ron cooks flank steak and roasts corn on the grill. Bobbi makes a corn/pepper salad.

Noah shows Cai the "Usborne Book of Know-How", and they embark on a series of spy-related projects, including

  • message encoding
  • secret compartments in shoes for message storage
  • dusting for fingerprints (various powders are tried; none works very well)
  • the construction of "spy books" with peep-holes, rear-view mirrors, and secret compartments.
Lots more wrestling.

Cai lobbies unsuccessfully for more marshmallow toasting.

Thu 27 June

Ron and I get up before 6 AM and hike out the Targhee Creek Trail, with the goal of doing a 15-mile loop that includes climbing Targhee Peak. I'm feeling a little sick and weak, and also I get a bad blister on my left heel, because of new REI hiking shoes.

After 8 miles and 3,000' vertical, we encounter increasing patches of snow that obscure the trail, and we have about 600' vertical to reach the ridge that leads to the peak. It's not clear where the trail will go after that. So we wisely decide to turn around, and return to the cabin at 2:30 PM.

While we're on the hike, Bobbi takes the kids to town. They go to a rock store and each kid gets a bag of polished colorful stones and arrowheads.

At 4 PM, Noah and I decide to drive to Sawtell Peak, which has some snow near its summit. The road from highway 20 to the peak is gravel and takes about 30 min. I put on the CD of Maurizio Pollini playing Prokofiev's 7th Sonata, and the finale gloriously concludes just as we reach the summit.

The patch of snow just below the summit is very steep, and I'm worried about Noah slipping and falling to his death. We climb down to the lower edge of the snow but it's still too steep to walk on.

We spot a couple of fat marmots scurrying around. One of them stops and does some high-pitched squeaking. Noah is very interested in the rocks on the ground, and collects a few pieces of quartz.

The giant radar dome has been fenced off so we can't climb it.

We drive back down the road a little and find a level patch of snow. Noah spends 15 minutes walking around the snow, slipping and falling, and throwing snowballs at me.

Bobbi cooks spaghetti carbonara (Cai's favorite) for dinner. Ron makes a fire in the fireplace, and Cai and Noah toast marshmallows.

Gay has left, so I move to the downstairs bedroom.

Fri 28 June

After a bacon-intensive breakfast, we go to Mack's Inn on the Henry Fork of the Snake River. Rom, Bobbi and Cai rent single kayaks, and Noah and I rent a canoe. A van takes us 7 miles upstream, and we paddle back down, taking about 2 hours. Noah is very concerned with being in the lead and finishing first. He paddles hard the entire time.

We pass a mother duck and 8 ducklings; very cute.

About halfway we decide to put in on the shore. When the nose of the canoe touches the shore, it mysteriously tips over. Noah and I, and our backpack, fall into water, which is about 4' deep. Noah grabs the side of the canoe. With considerable effort, Ron and I empty the water from the canoe and right it. We spend about 10 minutes resting and drying off.

After finishing, we cross the river and go to a place that is both a pizza parlor and ice cream parlor (but not a tea parlor). We get a large pepperoni pizza, mozzarella sticks, and huge lemonades. I bet three straw wrappers with Noah and Cai that we can't finish it all, but we do.

We move to ice cream half of the establishment. Noah and I get dishes of Churro ice cream, which is not quite as good as an actual Churro.

We then drive to a cabin that was single-handedly built in the 1920s by a man who was 4'11" tall. It's built next to a spring which is the source of the Henry Fork river. I get intense deja vu, since I was here in 2001.

A female moose is foraging in the river. She thrashes around, spooked by all the people.

Nearby is a bridge with a fish-food vending machine. Normally immense trout swim around the bridge, waiting to get fed. Today, for some reason, there are no fish, but the river itself, with underwater plants illuminated by shimmering refracted sunlight, is spectacular.

That evening we go to a rodeo just up the road from Lazy Acres. The actual riding and competition are a bit sparse. The barrel racers are lethargic, the calf-ropers fail to rope, and the bull riders are all thrown immediately. The announcer delivers schlocky religio-patriotism and a nonstop stream of ads for local businesses, and the rodeo clown delivers jokes that are bad, but not bad enough to be good.

Noah and I share a hot dog. Noah also gets a hot chocolate but immediately spills it all over his lap.

The rodeo features a "calf scramble", where kids chase a calf with a ribbon tied to its tail. With a little persuasion, Noah participates. The rodeo clown has them do some stretching and push-ups first. The winner gets dinner at a local BBQ restaurant, the non-winners get gold $1 coins; Noah tries to win, but prefers the coin.

Because the upstairs bedroom is hot, Cai sleeps in Ron/Bobbi's room. The upstairs bedroom is extremely dark. Noah wakes in the middle of the night, on the floor, disoriented. He calls for Daddy. Ron hears him and puts him back to bed.

Sat 29 June

After breakfast we do origami for a couple of hours. I show Ron and Bobbi the "magic hands" video on YouTube.

Eventually we get mobilized and drive into Yellowstone, to the Fire Hole swim area. Noah wears his wet suit and does some wading and splashing.

As thunder clouds move in, we drive to Yellowstone Falls and Artist's Point, passing some bison along the road. We stop for food at the lodge grocery store. On the drive back we play several games of Vermicelli. Bobbi unintentionally uses same food (some edible fern) as 10 years ago, when Lynne was here. We also play the word association game.

Cai and Noah roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire.

Sun 30 June

Cai and Bobbi sleep in. Ron, Noah and I drive into town and visit a museum/zoo that houses a number of grizzly bears, gray wolves, and bald eagles that have been rescued and for various reasons cannot be returned to the wild. We stop at Go Go Espresso for lattes and hot chocolate.

We stop at the cabin to say goodbye. Noah is very sad to leave, and in particular to leave Cai. On the drive back to Salt Lake City, he says "I miss Cai" about a thousand times, both spoken and as replacement lyrics for various show tunes. Noah and I play several games of Vermicelli. Noah is very amused by the joke "Deer Crossing: Love, Noah".

At the Salt Lake City airport, Noah and I hang out in a food court and watch an Orioles/Yankees game. A Yamaha MIDI grand plays jazz arrangements - a nice touch. Our flight is delayed a half hour.

An area of the floor is mopped and marked with "Piso Mojado" pylons. However, a somewhat rotund employee hurries through, slips, and falls directly on his rear. Later, as we're leaving, Noah imitates this incident, to the extreme amusement of the woman working the chinese-food counter.

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