Last summer, in honor of Rachel’s transition into her
teenage years and squeezing it in before she turned 14, Tad took her on a
father-daughter trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. From the time they stepped foot off the
plane, Tad longed for the rest of us to see…experience…live…all the things they
were seeing and experiencing and living. Yes, they took a million  934 pictures; yes, they
called us frequently to paint verbally the masterpiece their daily steps were
brushing…but it’s just not the same as being there.


I was perfectly happy to stay home with the boys (we made a
few memories of our own
); to say I.DO.NOT.LIKE.TO.FLY is an understatement of
monumental proportion, hehe, Tetonic proportion. When Tad began talking out loud about taking
the WHOLE family back this summer, I listened politely and nodded my head. I gotta tell ya, the “carpe diem” girl in me
has a hard time with the “terrified-of-flying-and-all-things-height-related” girl. They go together about as well as oil and
vinegar—sure you can mix them and the end result is delicious, but left to their
own devices, they just don’t have anything to do with each other.


Well, Tad persisted, and I relented, and before I had time
to think about it, plane tickets were purchased, reservations were made and our
fate was sealed. The good thing is I’ve
lived to tell about it, I didn’t have cardiac arrest 32,000 feet in the air…and
I’m pretty sure no one has ever died by hyperventilation (turns out the
requisite airline-supplied barf bags are good for more than vomit)…and, even though I got a prescription for some happy pills just for the flight, I didn’t even take one (unless you consider that pounder of M&Ms…).


(Doesn’t Rachel look "happy" to you?  It’s 7:00 a.m. for goodness sakes!)


Since it helps me re-live the fun, I thought I’d summarize
our trip with a Western Top Ten list.  Kiawah is coming when I need a shot of "beach", I temporarily lost the pictures while my laptop
was getting a tune up and I’ve just been otherwise sidetracked.

These are in no particular order, other than what first
comes to mind.

10. The
plane, the plane!


This is Captain Thomas with our kids–he looked like Hollywood’s version of a pilot (thank GOD he was no Frank Abagnale!)  You’ve just GOT to love a pilot, though, who sniffs out first-time flyers and accepted my bribe offers to have his picture taken with them.  My boys’ first flight couldn’t have been smoother, literally
and figuratively. Little turbulence, on
time, no lost luggage, totally uneventful, the way all flights should be. And it was the first time I’ve ever used a
plane bathroom…not once, but twice. Note
to self—watch those liquids prior to take off, there’s only one place for them
to go.


9.  Wide open spaces

Once we landed in Salt Lake City, we clocked over 1,000 rental car miles
before returning our van. Our route took
us first to Jackson Hole, WY,
through the Grand Tetons, meandering the trails of Yellowstone,
which in and of itself covers three states. We headed back to Salt Lake City by way of
first Montana, then Idaho. The never-ending breath-taking scenery held me captive—it is SO
different from the Carolina/Georgia mountains to which I’m accustomed. Closer to home, trees line the roadways and
interstates, hemming you into a kind of forested claustrophobia. Out West, I learned the definition of Big Valley.
Most interstates seemed perfectly centered between vast mountain ranges, miles
away on either side, but near enough to offer spectacular views. My delight in the topography took me by
surprise. I like surprises, especially
when they’re thrown in for free.






8.  Chipmunks and Bison and Elk, Oh, My!

If the planets had been in perfect alignment, this section
would’ve been titled “Mooses and Eagles and Bears, Oh, My”. To my chagrin, however, we didn’t see any of
those (not alive, anyway). The cool
thing is, it didn’t matter. If you visit
Teton or
Yellowstone National Parks, it’s
not IF you’re going to see wildlife, it’s WHEN.  Regrettably, we didn’t seem to have battery-charged cameras handy when we DID see all manner of beasts…or for the most part, pictures were too far away to include here.

Although I was on a relentless bear hunt (Rachel said, “Mom, you’re going
to die by a wild animal attack, between chasing alligators and baiting
bears…”), we were treated to a few spectacular sights. A herd of buffalo crossed the road directly in front of us (I guess to get to the other side), swimming across a stream in
the process.  A bit later, we got up close and personal with one.  This video is a bit blurry because of the deluge that had begun, and you can hear my husband "protecting his woman" towards the end of the video (lol)…I think that was me at the beginning saying "hey"…trying to get him to mug for the camera.

Two velvet-antlered bull elks grazed right in front of us,
indifferent to our presence. And for
some reason, although we have them back home, the chipmunks were in rare
form—Stephen counted at least 10, almost close enough to catch (but then what would he do with them?). We saw osprey nesting
with their young in The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, geese and other water
fowl, wolves, deer and pronghorns…although I don’t really know the difference between those last two.

And this guy?  Tad was outside of earshot, but the kids and I were marveling at him being the largest crow we had ever seen (I’m cracking up in advance of admitting this to you, but…)…a school age boy overheard us and politely said, "Ma’am…I think it’s a raven."  Bratty know-it-all, game-show-winning fifth grader, I bet 😉 he really was a nice kid.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I think I’ll stop this post for now…it’s getting long and let’s just say I’ve had some technical difficulties today…little derails me like techie problems that are BEYOND MY CONTROL!!!  >:(  At least I’m moving beyond my most-commented-to posts EVAH (here and here) and I will be forever grateful to Min and Steve for keeping things going in my stead.  I’m sure they’re just gunning for more prizes…they must’ve liked the homemade buttermints ;).


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