September 18, 2015

We spent a week exploring Yellowstone National Park between September 6th and September 11th.  It was extra special because we got to be there with my Mom and Dad!  My mom and dad have a motorhome that they camp in so they had the spot right next to us at the West Yellowstone KOA.  It was a great week.  We loved being with them and also loved seeing Yellowstone.  I had not been there since I was about 12 and Lance doesn’t remember being there at all so it all seemed new to us.

On Monday we went to see Old Faithful and took a walk on the boardwalk around the other smaller geysers and hot springs there.  Rose and I just did the smaller walk with them and then I went to feed her.  Lance and my mom took the other five on the larger loop so they got to see a lot more!    We also saw LOTS of buffalo roaming around the park that day and a couple of elk.

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Here we are by the sign for Old Faithful….unfortunately we didn’t get a picture while outside during the actual eruption!!  Can you believe it??!?

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Some of the cool geysers and pools that we saw on the walk near Old Faithful.

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A herd of buffalo

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Two elk that were just hanging out by the river as we drove by!

On Tuesday we went for a hike to see some mud pots and paint pots.  It was pretty amazing to see the earth just bubbling up like that.  The water was so beautifully clear too!  After the hike we had a nice picnic in the woods.  The kids had fun exploring there.

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Just about to start the hike.  I had to include this picture because of Ben….doesn’t he look adorable with his hat on backwards and his little “pack pack” he insisted on wearing?  You never know when you might need your trains, matchbox cars and plastic animals!!!

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Lance, Ben, my dad and Joe

I’m so glad that my kids have two great grandpas.  Ben sure does adore his “Bapa” and wants to be with him and help him any chance he gets!  We love to be around him too…my dad is such a fun guy, we are always laughing when he’s around!!

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Abby, my mom and Elise chatting together while they walk

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The mud is bubbling!!  So cool!!

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My mom and Elise

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My dad and Sam….you have to be sneaky to get a picture of Sam, he hates to have his picture taken!!

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Rose, the happy camper!!

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I call this one “Short Boy, Tall Trees”

On Wednesday we decided to relax at the campground for the first half of the day.  The kids went swimming and Ben and Rose had good naps (which were very needed!).  Lance, my dad and the boys all went out for a nice breakfast and to run a couple of errands and then my mom and I went shopping in West Yellowstone during the afternoon naptime.  We found some fun t-shirts and a couple little souvenirs.  That evening we went to Yellowstone and had the best hike of the week.  We went on a trail that switch-backed down the mountain to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and also the lower falls.  The view was unreal…it looked like a painting.  The canyon walls are a creamy light yellow and the blue water of the river below with the white rapids every so often is gorgeous enough, but put that against an amazing sunset…it’s almost too much!  That God would take the time and care to make a place so beautiful is a wonder to me!

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The hike down to the falls…switchbacks all the way

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My mom, me and Rose

My mom is so special to me.  She loves me unconditionally and has always been there for me.  Now, as an adult, I count her as one of my best friends, not just my mom.

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Joe, Abby, Sam and Elise looking down at the waterfall

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I promise…I didn’t do any editing to this picture.  Isn’t it beautiful???

After the hike we went out for dinner in the park and then started the drive home. By this time it was almost 10:00 so it was dark.  There are not a lot of lit areas in Yellowstone so we pulled into a turn-off in a meadow and just stood outside looking at the stars.  The ten of us were the only people around and it was quiet and cool outside.  I have never seen so many stars before!  We saw constellations, the Milky Way and even a few shooting stars.  Then, when we started driving again, a coyote crossed right in front of the car which was pretty cool to see.   It was such a special day.

Thursday we went back to the park to explore.  First we had a picnic by the river.  We found a wooly caterpillar and Sam and Elise were having fun playing with him.  They named him Buffy after all of the buffalo we had been seeing in the park.  After the picnic and a heartfelt good bye to Buffy we set out for our next stop.  We hiked the short trail/boardwalk to see the Grand Prismatic Spring.  It was impossible to capture how beautiful it was with the camera.  There were so many different colors in the water!  After that we drove to get ice cream by Yellowstone Lake and then went to Hayden’s Valley to look for animals with my dad’s new spotting scope.  Sam really enjoyed that!  We saw a herd of elk moving around the valley, a couple of bald eagles and a mother buffalo with her calf.  Sam also saw a family of wolves which was very exciting to him.  Around that time we noticed a large plume of smoke off in the distance.  We found out that there was a small forest fire a few miles away that had been started by lightning a couple of days before.  The park rangers were letting it burn, but watching it to make sure it didn’t get out of control.

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Sam exploring by the river before we had our picnic lunch

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Elise introducing Rosemary to Buffy.  

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Somehow this happened….Joe might have had something to do with it!!  Good thing Rose didn’t seem to mind.

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My mom and dad walking with Ben. 

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The Grand Prismatic Spring

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See???  You never know when you’ll feel the need to play with a train!!

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Ice cream at the general store next to Yellowstone Lake

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Friday morning we packed up to leave.  We just had a couple last things to do in Yellowstone.  First, we needed to take a picture by the Yellowstone sign….check!  Second, Sam and Elise needed to turn in their booklets to receive their Junior Ranger badges.  They were so excited!  In order for Sam to get his badge he had to answer a bunch of questions from a park ranger.  He did great and impressed the ranger with what he had learned that week.

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Good Bye Yellowstone…we had a great week of discovery, but there was so much more to see!  Hopefully we will get to go back in the next few years.

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Sam and the park ranger

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Elise and Sam….the newest Junior Park Rangers!

It was a very good week.  We had great weather…it was quite cool at night, but very pleasant during the day, the park was not too busy since it was not the peak season and we were able to have some great times with my mom and dad.  It was very hard to say good bye to them, not knowing how long it will be until we get to see them again.  They took off for Michigan and we headed north towards Glacier National Park.  On the way, we stopped in Helena, Montana to see the state capital.  It was a pretty evening to stop and stretch our legs.

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Joe was teaching Ben how to roll down the hill

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This sweet little lady is almost 9 months old….can hardly believe it!

We have been to 14 state capitals now.  If you want to check out the pictures from those stops just go to the State Capitals tab at the top right of the blog’s home page.

Two Weeks In The Dakotas

I wrote this post about a week ago, but because of the lack of time and available internet it is finally being published.  Here’s what we did in the Dakotas!

September 6, 2015

We just finished two weeks traveling around North and South Dakota. We first stopped in Pierre, South Dakota to see the capital. We stayed the night there and then after lunch and a picture by the capital building we took off again.

That afternoon (August 25th) we drove to De Smet. The only thing on the itinerary for De Smet was The Ingalls Homestead, which is where Laura Ingalls lived as a child with her family for 5 years. It was quite a bit of extra driving all the way to the east side of the state and the boys were apprehensive….but we all really loved it! You could explore a sod house and shanty house from way back and also a small house that was built to be just what they think the Ingalls house was like according to some paperwork that Charles Ingalls filed. Kids are encouraged to play with everything and experience everything just like they are living on the prairie. I thought it was so cool that they have all of these old antiques like dishes, sewing machine, an organ, children’s school primers and more and the kids could just touch and play to their heart’s content. Abby and Elise had a great time playing house in the little shanty. Abby also tried out the old sewing machine in the Ingalls’ house and they all played the organ. My favorite was watching them all so excited to wash clothes on a washboard and then put them through the ringer and hang them to dry outside the little house. They loved it and said they would want that to be their chore if we did wash that way….yeah, right!! Maybe they’ve never noticed how much laundry 8 people get dirty, but they would be doing wash ALL THE TIME!! There was a barn with chickens, kittens and a calf and also a water pump that they had fun using to fill a bucket to water the garden with. Elise and Ben also got to drive a little pony cart which they loved and Abby, Sam and Elise got to go for horse rides. We took a covered wagon ride through the field to a one room school house that was built in the late 1800s. The kids had fun sitting in the very old desks, using slates and looking through the primers that kids used back then. Abby, Sam and Elise each got to have a turn at the reins as we rode the wagon back to the barn.  Then, Abby and Elise made corn cob doll families and all of the kids made their own rope to bring home.  We were there for about 5 hours and we easily could have stayed more, but they were closing. Our girls could have spent many more hours playing house!

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Ingalls’ Homestead…you could stay the night if you wanted to rent a covered wagon to sleep in.  In the background is the horse-drawn covered wagon on the way from the schoolhouse to the barn.

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Lance and Rosemary in the sod house

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Doing wash….scrubbing, putting it through the ringer and hanging it to dry.  (can I just say…I’m super glad someone invented washers and dryers???)

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Ben playing with the dishes and cookstove in the Ingalls’ house

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Ben driving the pony cart

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Abby and Elise loved the aprons and bonnets they got to wear in the schoolhouse!

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Sam driving the team back to the barn

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Lance, Joe and Sam practicing their lasso skills

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We decided to drive, drive, drive late into the night after that to get closer to Bismarck, North Dakota. We stopped and saw the capital the next afternoon (August 26th) and then got back in the car for the long haul to Rapid City. On the ride east through the state we had come across field after field of sunflowers. I love sunflowers and, of course, we had to stop and take some pics of the kids in them. On the ride back to the western part of South Dakota we happened upon the best sunflower field yet and so we stopped once again. The rest of my family were very good sports as we all emptied out of the car to take more pictures.

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Me and this cute guy in the first sunflower field we stopped at

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The kids in front of the second one…so many more sunflowers blooming here!!

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The Black Hills in South Dakota was an area that we were really looking forward to with all of the amazing things to see and we were not disappointed! We found a great campground to stay at that was just outside of the city of Custer. On Thursday, we went to see Crazy Horse mountain in the morning. It was neat to see, but we wouldn’t spend the money to see it again. You can’t really get up close to it and you can get a great picture of it from the highway. After that we went to see Mount Rushmore and had a picnic lunch there. Being there makes you feel patriotic and thankful that our country has had so many great men who helped it take shape. Men who based their leadership on what God’s word says, not on what furthers their political carreer. At least that’s my take on it.

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Crazy Horse

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Mount Rushmore

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After Mt. Rushmore we drove through Custer State Park. That’s a beautiful place! We were hoping to come across a herd of buffalo, but only saw a few that day. We did get to see the wild burros though. We fed them apples that we had bought that morning specifically for that purpose. That was a lot of fun. Ben would throw down an apple slice and sternly command them to “EAT, EAT!” They obeyed, much to his delight.

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Elise hanging out with a couple of burros

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“EAT, EAT!!”

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Even wild burros need hugs sometimes

On Friday Lance and the four older kids went to see Rushmore Cave. They took a tour there and saw some cool things. I stayed home with Ben and Rose so they could get some good afternoon naps. We have found that if Ben goes more than two days without a nap he quickly starts turning into a little purple minion!!!

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The city of Custer is in the Black Hills which makes for lots of curves and steep ups and downs through the mountains. We saw many mountain sheep, antelope, white tail deer and mule deer while we were driving around the area. We especially had fun driving at dusk when it was “supper time” for the animals. We would see so many deer then and also saw buffalo and a coyote.

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On Saturday, the 29th, we took a drive to the Badlands. You come up to them sort of ‘all at once’ and it almost seems like you are on another planet! What an amazing landscape! It was about 100 degrees that day so we didn’t hike as much as we had intended, but we did have fun driving through and getting out and exploring a couple of times.                  

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The Badlands

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Joe (he’s getting really good at this pose!!)

On the way back to the campground we stopped at Bear Country.  My Grandpa Haveman had recommended it to us a few times so we decided to stop there.   It’s a drive through animal park where you see many different animals including buffalo, elk, mountain sheep, wolves and, of course, bears.  The second part is where you see smaller animals and also the baby animals.  We saw badgers, baby deer, a beaver, baby arctic foxes and the bear cubs.  We had a lot of fun there.  Near the end Ben found out that the water mister is great fun, so he left the place soaking wet!

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The cute bear cubs

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Joe, you crack me up!!

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Even Rose got a bear hug

On Sunday Lance left early in the morning to drive back to Kansas City. He needed to finish up a job that he had been working on there. The kids and I stayed at Beaver Lake Campground for that week while he was gone and still managed to have lots of fun even though we missed him! We enjoyed the pool and water slide at the campground some of the time, but also ventured out to explore. I had let the kids each vote for one activity that they would love to do that week. On Monday (August 31st) we went to Old MacDonald’s Farm which is like a big petting zoo. Since school has started here we enjoyed having the place almost all to ourselves. We fed chickens, rode ponies, held baby chicks, watched a pig race and more. It was lots of fun and we all had a good day. This had been Abby and Elise’s activity pick and they were very happy with their choice.

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Elise, Sam and Ben rode the little barrel train around the farm.

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Ben trying to get the chickens to eat gravel he had just picked up….sort of like the wild burros all over again!

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Abby bottle feeding a lamb

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Rose looks pretty impressed that Elise gets to hold the little chick

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On Tuesday (September 1st) we went to Keystone to tour the Thunderhead Gold Mine and go gold panning. That was a fun experience. This was Sam’s pick for an activity. He has been hoping to strike it rich with gold panning since we got to Colorado! Well, we didn’t find enough to pay for the tour….but we did find a few small gold flakes and it was a fun thing to do. Sam is still holding out hope that we will come upon a stream where he will find gold nuggets while panning.  After leaving Keystone we drove through Custer State Park again and this time we got to see LOTS of buffalo! They were all around the car and crossing right in front of us. It was so cool!

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During the mine tour

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Panning for gold

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It was pretty neat to be surrounded by the buffalo.  We felt safe in the big suburban, but the couple on a motorcycle next to us were a little more nervous!

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Joe’s activity pick was hiking so we did that Wednesday evening (September 2nd). We took a drive on Needle’s Highway which was spectacular! We stopped and had a picnic for supper along the way so that was the first place they went hiking. All four kids just disappear up into the rocks and trees and then I see them later at the top of giant rocks or on a cliff above me.  They sure love exploring! After driving through some very small tunnels and up the crazy winding roads we got to the Needle’s Eye. The sun was just setting and it was a beautiful time to be up there. The kids hiked around until it was almost dark and then we headed back down to the campground.

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Picnic Time

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Me and our little Rosemary

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That’s Joe up there….yes, that same pose!!

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The view you see while driving along Needles Highway

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This is the Needles Eye tunnel that we had just driven through.  Joe and Sam hiked around the side and are in that opening right above the tunnel

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Friday morning Lance got back home and we were so glad to see him!! We left the campground that afternoon and drove into Wyoming. It started storming and was getting late so we decided to stop for the night at Devil’s Tower. We camped in the national park campground right there. When we got up in the morning it was pretty neat to look out the window and see high red cliffs in front of us and the Devil’s Tower behind us.

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Now we are heading down to Yellowstone to spend the week there. We will see if I packed enough clothes for everyone for cold weather as this week looks to be pretty chilly, especially at night.