Vacations are a lot of work...and a lot of fun! Monday the 17th was incredibly busy! We spent the morning returning some items to the Lakeshore Learning Store, picking up Mia's new Ukuele, AND picking up the kid's new computers. I was impressed with the "Computers for Kids" operation. They thought of the small details as well...like making sure all the kids had the same towers, monitors, etc so fights would not break out! I literally laughed when the secretary mentioned that. Once at home we set everything up asap. It was all quite exciting. I moved around the computers desks because it seemed like a better idea to have Phillip at his own station. Everett and Evelyn are together where Everett can help her with the small needs. Amelia is stationed down in the office with Justin. Personal space will not be a buzz word much this year. Learn to share. Tuesday and Wednesday I focused on laundry, grocery shopping, and packing for our trip.
We wanted to attend a Tech Trep pool party at Lava Hot Springs before heading up to Island Park, that meant the van needed to be packed and ready to go Wednesday night. That feat was quite impossible because we couldn't pack the van until the cooler was ready. We tried hard to leave early but did not get out of the house until 9 am. Still a decent departure time for a large family. Justin plotted a route on google maps to pass by Craters of the Moon National Park. Sometimes Google steers you wrong. There was some delay on a faster route so the maps steered us on a strange round-about over dirt roads and through a military installation! We still made it back to civilization and the freeway. Phillip had a bout of nausea within the first 30 minutes of our trip. Justin quickly stopped before Phillip yakked in the van. He was quite green about the gills until we stopped traveling. Can't travel without barf in this family. He might have had a reaction to his new medication and traveling at the same time.
The drive from Nampa to Craters of the Moon went through desolate landscapes. We made it to the park around lunchtime. All the kids complained about eating meat or PB/J sandwiches. Josie wouldn't eat because I forgot the nutella. Go ahead and starve you pampered humans. We stopped at a picnic table for our miserable lunch. Everett got stuck climbing a large rock. The girls and Phillip climbed all over a fun tree with low branches. Amelia took herself and Octavius for a walk to admire the black volcanic landscape. We found a lost iPhone that looked like a 13 year old owned it, took it back to the ranger station just as an SUV was entering the park...guess what? It was the lost iPhone folks returning to look with a sobbing 13 year old. That felt good, we just passed the device through the ranger's outpost to the owners. Thankfully the weather was quite mild, with the stiff breeze we could bear the arid landscape. We stopped off to walk around Devil's Orchard. The kids learned about how the landscape developed, witches broom, and the strange vegetation. Amelia needed space, she walked alone 1/2 mile ahead of us! Felt like we were "at the mall" kind of a situation, too cool for our school. The best part was Inferno Cone. The hike up was quite steep up cinder rocks to a killer overview of the area. It was very windy up on top! Very. Windy. Most of the view was obscured by a thick layer of smoke from wild-fires raging in California and Idaho and Colorado....and all around. The rocks were breath-taking. The volcano heat created lovely pumice stones with mica rainbow colors. My hair was standing straight up from the wind. We were all quite parched from the wind and heat. We stopped for drinks at a gas station in Arco City. The mountain was plastered with numbers, turns out each graduating class since 1920 has painted their numbers on the hill! Jana was delayed as well, so we took our time grabbing a couple extra items at Walmart in Rexburg before heading up to the cabin. We took care of dinner the first night. Justin rallied the kids to help him start a fire to roast hot dogs and make s'mores. The cabin is really fun. Some interesting features are: totem pole, really steep stairs, bathrooms only on main level, freaky taxidermy in the dining room, separate game house with extra beds. Josie was terrified of the taxidermy in the cabin, she never relented her fear of the "freaky animals." To reach the bathrooms one HAD to pass through the dining room. One bathroom had a moose toilet paper holder...with demon eyes (according to Josie). Justin and I had dinner all ready to eat when the Suapaia's arrived. Yay! Let the cousin fest begin. I set up the hammocks for everyone to enjoy. After Jana and Rudy chose their sleeping arrangements the rest of us found spots to sack out. I slept in the game cabin with the little girls and Phillip. Phillip was scared that first night of bears, bears coming in to eat him while sleeping. I'm happy to report we made it through the night alive and well.
Friday morning Rudy had a chance to sleep in until he got up. We ate some breakfast then went on a walk around the area. Hannah and my girls collected wild flowers to make a giant bouquet for Jana. Phillip found a "weather rock" set up along the road. After lunch we packed up some snacks and drinks for a fun afternoon floating the river. Jana rented a boat and 4 inner tubes for our group. The drive to the drop-off point was not very far away from Mack's Inn, made the river ride seem short. The estimate of 3-4 hours was quite accurate. Rachel was not a fan of the boat, the inner tubes, her life jacket, etc. She was not a fan. Snacks and juice helped tame the beast for a little while. The first hour was so fun! We discovered the inner tubes went in circles because we only got one paddle instead of double paddles. Making progress meant lots and lots of rowing. The river banks were breathtakingly beautiful. Amelia spotted a moose. We saw lots of fish and river plants. Most of the kids made the plunge at the river swing area. Josie won an award for traveling the furthest. Rudy lost his flip flops in the river plants. Hannah fell off the boat once. Amelia had the right idea towards the end, hitching a ride with a can of soda in her other hand. Towards the middle we asked how much longer we had, a guy said we were barely halfway. We scoffed....until we realized that indeed we were still only half way! Coast guard come save us! Our boat navigation was terrible. Too many paddles helping us row. We hobbled back to the Inn around 5 pm. We survived the pioneer level river trip of 2020. Rudy prepared delicious pepper smoked shredded beef for dinner. Jana whipped out 4 different salads for side dishes. Everett challenged Rudy to an epic ping pong ball battle, no one won. We all ate then collapsed on the couches for a night of TV...and a handful of homemade oreos (thanks Jana, I'll never forgive you).
Saturday morning we lazed about enjoying the cabin and all the comforts of relaxing in "nature." We explored Johhny Sack's cabin. The actual cabin was closed but Rangers were present to tell stories about the man and the cabin. Rachel found a nice dirt pile to nuzzle into. On the walk back a group of older folks spotted two Moose (meese?) ranging about in eye distance. The size of those animals was quite disarming. We drove a bit further to see Mesa Falls. The kids needed a snack before walking the circuit. The hangry adults needed a snack too. Everett met his best Angry Squirrel friend chittering at us from his tree. A few adrenaline junkies were jumping over the railings to scale down the cliffs with kayaks on their shoulders. All to catch a high kayaking down the rapids. Maybe they should've tried the falls first! I thought they had a better chance of chucking the kayaks off the viewing platform then scrambling down the cliffs to the river. The little ones were worried about the guys having an accident. Masks were required outside at Mesa Falls. Several folks of the elderly variety were quite vocal about our lack of manners and masks. Justin wanted to joke about our recent trip to China. Phillip finally made friends with baby Rachel. She allowed him to carry her about. He had her laughing with his wide range of strange noises. I think Uncle Rudy thought Phillip was short a few marbles! Phillip always had a strange look on his face and t-rex arms...it's just 10-11 year old boys that are quite strange. The falls were magnificent. The falls were fronted with the side of a hill so all the mist created a mini-biome with ferns, brilliant mosses, and green shrubs. Josie had to use the restroom so my visit was cut a little short. We further tortured the kids with an extended hike through the back woods towards the lower falls. Josie's new shoes tore her tender skin so she went half the hike barefoot. Thank goodness the trail was smoothed dirt. Amelia turned photographer to capture some of the gorgeous berries and flowers. We turned back for our cars once the whining reached capitulation. That was a fun death march. I introduced Jana's family to walking tacos. Salad in a bag! Washing up all the kids took the rest of our evening along with watching "Leap!"
Sunday we had a lovely breakfast of amish breakfast casserole. The guys conducted a sacrament meeting for us. We listened to a conference talk, sang songs, and watched a video of the week's lesson. We packed up the cooler with picnic food and snacks. All the smoke in the air lent a hazy spell over Yellowstone. In our van we listened to several fun podcasts about the park, one was about Truman Everts who got lost for 37 days in the park back in the 1800s. Our first stop was a picnic along the shores of Madison River. Everett took a spell to sit and listen to the beauty around him, I spotted him quietly admiring the river. This picnic went better since I brought chips along with sandwiches. Next we saw Lower Geyser Basin. All the kids were impressed with the sulfurous fumes. Next stop was the Grand Prismatic Pool. Amelia ditched us to race around the plank walkway all by her lonesome. It felt like being ditched at the mall because we were not cool enough. Josie saw a visor floating on a hot bacterial mat, she exclaimed, " Oh no! That man got died by the hot water, only his hat, boo-hoo!" To prove it was 2020 we also spotted a lonely face mask littering one of the pools. Everett spent his time trying to catch Amelia. She evaded capture by hiding behind a tree until he left to find the group. Our last stop was Old Faithful, Phillip renamed it "Old Unreliable" since it only erupted every few hours. It's not reliable to a kid when the eruptions are not constant. Justin and Rudy dropped us off since the parking lot was full. Phillip hopped onto a branch another group was sitting on, the branch wiggled a bit. One guy flipped out yelling at Phillip to keep his distance and keep 6 feet away. Another group claimed the other side of the branch, same guy flipped out when they got too close. Such is the world today. I'd like to think his wife was sick and wanted to tour the park while she could. Still a little courtesy goes a long way. The geyser erupted just a few minutes after we were settled. The guys missed the show. Jana and her family left for the cabin to get dinner finished. My clan walked around the Old Faithful loop. I've never done that hike before! It was a really cool loop with lots of pools, geysers, hot pots, and springs. My shoes were not made to walk a great distance in, the backs of my heels were a bleeding mess before we got back to the van. Justin took a pass around Firehole, he spotted a geyser erupting, he felt quite vindicated after missing Old Faithful's eruption. I was quite impressed with the growth in the park over the years! The last time I visited the burned trees were quite prominent, this time all we could see was green. A wild fire raged to the south of Old Faithful while we were visiting, it added to the hazy smoke in the air.
Monday Jana was up and ready to leave when we were just waking up. We got to squeeze them before they headed home. Everett attached himself to Rudy: "how can I get my muscles as big as yours so I can beat my brother?" Soon Everett was soliciting an exercise from Rudy. He's faithfully worked on his plan everyday since returning from vacation. Rudy has a new man-crush! Everett gave Rudy 50 hugs that morning. Such a good time with family. We loved baby Rachel. She has awesome dance moves, is a normal 20 month old tantrums and all! Hannah and the girls had a lovely time. We busted out the walkie talkies so the kids could play in the woods around the cabin. Amelia organized the kids into groups and played a fun game with them. I was able to take a mental break from the stress of getting homeschool up and started. Two miles outside of Island Park Josie barfed up her morning breakfast. Gross. Everett followed suit...outside the van this time. I opened the car top carrier to clean up the mess with a swim towel. I forgot to close the car top carrier before we took off. The wind carried away Josie's puddle jumper and the bag of pool towels. The water shoes and fans survived. Justin took a detour to Parker, ID just north of Rexburg to visit the Crapo graves and home. It was sad to see Grandma Crapo's lovely garden taken over with weeds and bugs. Amelia and I took a couple Hen-n-chicks to keep growing in Nampa, took a piece of memory with us. My good friend Michelle met us for lunch at T-Rex burgers in Rexburg. Everett spilled a container of fry sauce on my birks/feet. I spotted a hose to clean off my foot. I smelled terrible for a few hours. So fun to visit with Michelle Rognon, we were in Sidney for a few years together. Sister Leavitt offered an open invitation for anyone to join her at Steadman Ranch for a day of fun at the water slides. We passed near the slides on our drive home, stopped for a few hours of water fun. The slides were quite epic! One slide was 500' the other slide was 700'! Tubes were provided for hours of racing up and down the hill and slides. The Ostlers were there so we got to play with friends, bonus! We tried every configuration we could imagine to race down the slide. The kids loved every minute. Josie loved the collection of play houses scattered around the property. I think a family reunion there next year is a possibility. After dinner we did not get back home until after 10 pm! Home, sweet home.