I am not really sure whether to be sorry about letting it go so long between postings, as I am probably the only person who pays any attention to this blog. I do have friends that check in once in a while (thanks, by the way!), but they have their own lives to lead and blogs to write.
But, I am sorry because I enjoy writing these posts, even if it’s just for my sake. So, without further ado, let me just jump right in and mention four things:
1) Yellowstone 2007
As listed on my bio on this site, one of my favorite places to vacation is Yellowstone National Park. My family has a long-standing love affair with Disneyland (although we have recently started seeing Walt Disney World on the side), and as a fully devoted fan of The Mouse, I always struggle with whether my favorite getaway destination is in Southern California or Northwestern Wyoming. I know it isn’t really important to determine which one is my favorite, and some people would suggest I have multiple favorites. But I am a list-maker and I wonder about these things.
For the record, I once formally named Yellowstone as “my favorite place to vacation in the world.” However, if I am being completely honest, my real favorite of the two is probably the one I will be visiting next. Yellowstone is significantly closer and much less expensive, so my wife Amy and I have the opportunity to visit more often. That causes us to anticipate our trips to Disneyland a little more, I think. This is the essence of my dilemma when it comes to picking a favorite. To further complicate matters, there are lots of world destinations I would like to visit (or visit again) if we had unlimited funds. Places that have “Favorite Vacation Spot” potential, like Hawaii, Sweden, Great Britain, Mexico, Australia, and so forth. I really should make a list. Maybe that’s a future project for this blog.
Anyway, we got away on this long-planned and long-anticipated trip at about 6:15 AM. We left from Layton, UT with a traveling crew of Amy, my in-laws, and me. Our route on Friday took us through Evanston, WY where we stopped for breakfast in the nicest McDonald’s I have ever seen. Honestly, there were fireplaces, cabin/western themed motifs, plasma televisions playing CNN mounted over the urinals… it was high class. We took it as a good omen.
Our route took us through Star Valley and Jackson Hole (where we resisted the temptation to stop at Jackson, WY), then up through Grand Teton National Park. In Grand Teton we took a whole bunch of pictures, ate a picnic lunch in the parking lot of the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, and then moved on.
We crossed over into Yellowstone from the South Entrance, took a moment to stretch our legs and get some photos of picturesque Moose Falls, and then proceeded to the West Thumb Junction. There we stopped to check out a sow grizzly bear with two cubs, which had come out for an afternoon feeding.
[Note: We are responsible animal watchers who give even the most placid-appearing animals plenty of space. I am pleased to say the gathering crowd was respectful, as well.]
We continued along the road, pausing to watch a herd of bison as they started their late afternoon feeding. We watched new calves trot along as the herd moved from one patch to another. We took a picture of the biggest bison bull I have ever seen (and in Yellowstone there are quite a few big ones).
After that we made for our final destination of the day, which was West Yellowstone, MT. Our favorite place to stay in West Yellowstone is the One Horse Motel, which we like so much that I’m having a difficult time deciding what to write about it. Our usual plug for the One Horse Motel is that “it’s not fancy, but it’s very clean, the rooms are inexpensive, and the people are great.”
[Another Note: That is the story in a nutshell, and probably adequate for a blog that nobody reads. But I still feel like I should say more about how clean it is, or how nice the hosts are. Nick and Becky own and operate the place, and it’s just perfect for an extended weekend in Yellowstone. Becky is awesome – very friendly and helpful, and she even remembers who we are when we call for reservations. It’s probably not for the Caviar-and-Toast-Triangles crowd, but anyone else will love it.]
So, to recap the first day, we saw:
- The nicest McDonalds in Evanston, WY, and possibly the world
- Star Valley in the lush green springtime
- The most dramatic mountain range in the lower 48
- bison, pronghorn antelope, and elk
- grizzly bears
In other words, the vacation was off to a good start.
It is a genuine temptation to continue writing a day-by-day log of the trip, but that wouldn’t do it justice and would be extremely boring. The long and short of it is we spent the next two days in the park, saw some amazing things, spent it in great company, and oohed and aahed around every corner. We saw more grizzly bears, a black bear, some bighorn sheep, mountain goats, many more bison and elk, a moose, a great horned owl with owlets, badgers, coyotes (including a coyote with her nine pups), pelicans, osprey, and a bald eagle. We walked through the Upper Geyser Basin during a thunderstorm. We saw the Roosevelt Arch, which did not impress my in-laws, but holds significance for me. We saw Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Tower Falls, Undine Falls, Wraith Falls, Gibbon Falls, and Union Falls, just to name the significant ones. We saw the broad, beautiful Yellowstone Lake from Mary Bay as storm clouds painted the water gray and blue. We watched bison calves racing around a meadow like wind-up toys as the dusk turned to night. It was a trip to remember.
It seemed as though we had just started our grand tour of Yellowstone and it was time to leave. The drive home was filled with pleasant and enjoyable conversation, but it was the downward slope of a great vacation and we all knew it. We drove through Idaho Falls on the way home, made a few stops and saw a few interesting things, but generally hurried along.
Our reason for hurrying? We were eager to see the newest member of the family…
2) Welcome, Sarah
While we were vacationing in my favorite place on earth (pending ratification on the official list), Amy’s sister Julianne was adding to her mother’s extensive collection of grandchildren. We knew the due date was sometime around our vacation, and actually were hoping she would be born during the trip, so we could visit on our way home. On the morning of our second day in the park we had the official word. The new baby was here.
I don’t remember these things very well (I should, but I don’t), so I’m not sure what the official numbers were. However, when Sarah came she was somewhere around 8 pounds, in the neighborhood of 20 inches, and as cute as a calf bison. A description, incidentally, I hope her mother doesn’t read and take the wrong way. It’s certainly meant to be a compliment. We drove from West Yellowstone, MT to Logan, UT, and were even in time to see them at the hospital.
This next bit may be a bit confusing, so please bear with me. My sister-in-law lived in Hawaii for four years, and adopted it as her second home (similar to my own thing with Sweden, only mine was just a regular old LDS mission, and I think most missionaries keep a warm place in their hearts for their two-year locales). While there she was given an honorary Hawaiian name by her friends, which she obviously cherishes. When her first daughter Meghan was born, she christened the baby with a Hawaiian middle name, primarily because it was the name of a good friend she made while there. Because Sarah is their last and the only other girl, she gets a Hawaiian middle name as well; which means all the girls in their family have these meaningful, exotic names. It has become something mother and daughters can share.
The name itself is kind of a mouthful – Liemakamaeokalani – and probably something for which she will despise her mom and dad during her teenage years. However, Amy and I both think it’s a cool, special bond between girls in their family. That also bodes well for me, because I would like to give my theoretical kids Swedish middle names, like Hjalmar, Agnetha, or Esbjörn-Åke. They may look a little strange to American eyes, but they’re tolerable in Swedish.
3) Happy Birthday, Jake
My brother, Jake, celebrated his birthday this week. Happy Birthday to an extraordinary artist and friend! What better place to share my best wishes than a blog that nobody reads?
4) Happy Birthday, Darren
The same best wishes to a friend who is as close as a brother. Confucius once said: “A family is not just people who share the same blood. It is people who share the same heart.” Actually, Confucius didn’t say that, I just made it up. But I don’t think anybody is checking this stuff. Happy Birthday, all the same!
Well, that’s about it for this catching-up exercise! Now if I can just keep ahead of the curve I won’t have to do it again. I will not count on that happening, but it’s worth a try, anyway.