This was the grand finale. Our longest stop. Our most anxiously awaited state visit.
We were so excited to get to Yellowstone National Park it’s not even funny. I think Chris was vibrating. We finally got there and pulled over for the required park entrance sign family picture and, because he too was excited, our dog took a big bathroom break right in front of the sign.
It scared many foreign tourist and made me laugh for way too long. Here’s the picture and just know that slightly off to the side, in the shadows, is a steaming pile of dog crap.
And if you’re think our trip couldn’t get any better than that, you’d be wrong.
We camped right outside of the West Yellowstone entrance at the West Yellowstone KOA (technically in Montana, but whatever). Because this is such a busy and popular tourist destination, they actually have two KOAs very close together (Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA is just down the road). Both are really convenient to the West Yellowstone entrance and pretty awesome. I’m not sure where the biggest KOA is, but their West Yellowstone location has to be one of the bigger ones. (From all the research I did, West Yellowstone is the best entrance to use with access to most of the touristy things you’ll want to see, but the other entrances are a lot less busy and have amazing things too.)
We spent three days exploring Yellowstone and when we left it felt like we hadn’t even seen ten percent of it. It’s just so massive. Before we went, I had a general idea based on the map and how it spans multiple states, but you just have no idea until you get there. It’s slightly unfathomable.
It’s so big that you spend a lot of time driving from one destination to the next. From the west entrance to Old Faithful took us about an hour and a half one way. Getting to the Grand Prismatic one morning took over two hours. Of course, we visited in July, the busiest time of year, but it’s just so big.
Maybe that makes me sound dumb, but guys, THE PARK IS BIG.
We’d stop and explore trails, lookouts, and pull offs every chance we got, but if we actually wanted to get anywhere and see something specific, we had to spend a lot of time on the road. The scenery is breathtaking and everywhere you turn is something new and overwhelming to look at, but it’s a lot of car time regardless.
The weather was perfect even in the middle of July. We slept with windows open at night and felt chilly and then by mid-afternoon it was comfortable and warm. Wyoming has the best weather, hands down.
After our second day in Yellowstone, I had a slight breakdown from exhaustion, heat, and possibly a hormone imbalance. I was just so tired of making food for everyone, then cleaning up the giant mess everyone made, and picking up the camper every five minutes because my family is messy, and after dinner I needed to bathe the girls, and then after bedtime, I needed to go do laundry. And then. And then. And then.
I was just so tired and the thought of doing all of that with no time to rest and then getting up and doing it all over again the next day pushed me over the edge. I mean, I’m always near the edge anyway, but this was all just too much.
As we were driving through the town of Yellowstone after an tiring day of hiking, I decided to not care about the budget (we were already over…), I needed someone else to make dinner that night. And because God has a sense of humor, the whole town of Yellowstone lost power as we parked and NO restaurants could make or serve food. There was literally NO WHERE to eat and I was being forced to make more food for my family.
But I refused.
I told them they could starve for all I cared. I was crying at this point and just so so tired. I think I mentioned that, I’m not sure. I was also over my kids complaining. Kids are just whiny by nature and they didn’t automatically turn that off when we got to a beautiful destination. Harper didn’t want to walk anywhere. Ellie just wanted to stay in the car and watch movies.
I’m sure they won’t remember much about our trip but I made sure they’d remember the epic mommy meltdown on the streets of Yellowstone. You know, so we could get our money’s worth for memory’s sake and all.
When we got home, I stomped into the camper, threw myself on the bed, opened my book and didn’t move from the bed for about three hours. You think I’m exaggerating but I’m not. I took a mental health day right in the middle of our vacation so I wouldn’t be on the local news later for killing my entire family with a smile on my face.
I’m sure that’s not what you were expecting when you started reading about our wonderful stop in Wyoming but that’s real life crap right there. Being with your kids non-stop is hard. Camping for seventeen days in areas that mostly have wildfire warnings so you can’t have fires and everything has to be prepared in your really small kitchen with no counter space wears on you. Also, I ran out of wine in Montana so maybe I just lost all hope of survival.
After three days in Yellowstone and a few deep breaths, it was time to move on. We visited the Grand Tetons National Park south of Yellowstone on our way to Jackson Hole where we spent the afternoon eating glorious Mexican food I did not have to prepare and enjoying civilization again. We were in the area right around the time the wildfires were ramping up and many of the routes we’d planned to take from Jackson Hole to our next (and final) destination of Nebraska were closed. So long story short, we accidentally visited Idaho and Utah because road trips are nothing if not about going with the flow and relaxing.
Next stop: Nebraska.