Playing in Our National Parks

Hello again Family and Friends!  Great news – our middle daughter, Nikki, became engaged to Dan Pokora recently.  We are thrilled!  We love Dan and both Dan and his family are wonderful.  We look forward to their upcoming wedding.  

Dan Pokora and Nikki Peterson
It’s been almost a month since our last post.  We have been having great fun!  We hope all is well in your worlds!  We have to keep pinching ourselves to be sure that what we are doing and seeing is real.  We are so grateful to be on this journey.  So what have we been doing?

For the past few weeks, we have been tagging along on our good friends and longtime camping buddies, Susan and Mike Seaback’s vacation.  They had planned a trip to Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park (and variety of other areas in Canada), the Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park.  We joined them for all but their days in Canada.

We went first to West and East Glacier, then we separated (they went to Canada and we visited some other locations as we traveled toward Yellowstone), reconnected for Yellowstone, the Tetons and wrapped up this memorable vacation in West Yellowstone.  So, as you can imagine, we’ve been quite busy.  Susan, the ultimate vacation planner, had developed a flexible itinerary and off we went.

Of note:  If you haven’t been to these National Parks, we suggest that you put them on your bucket list, in particular, we fell in love with Yellowstone.

Below are some highlights of our travels:

In West Glacier, we had a quiet morning horseback ride in Apgar.  We were somewhat disappointed as we saw only a deer on the trip.  Still it was pleasant and relaxing.  That afternoon it rained so plans for hiking had to be thrown to the wind.  Mike took us on the Going to the Sun Road where we saw a Momma Moose and two nursing calves – one of the best photos we took of wildlife.  (Going to the Sun Road is as scary as the Road to Hana especially when the fog/clouds rolls in, which it did.)

On Going to the Sun Road
Momma Moose and twins – Going to the Sun Road
In East Glacier, we took a number of fun hikes with Susan and Mike (St. Mary Falls, Virginia Falls, and Swiftcurrent Lake). For the Swiftcurrent Lake trail, it was so cold that we purchased gloves and warmer socks at Many Glacier Lodge.

Mike and Susan headed to Canada and Kenny and I stayed in East Glacier for a few more days.  We hiked the Red Eagle Trail where three other hikers joined us when they found out there was a bear in the area. We had the bear bells and bear spray and they didn’t.  Pine Creek Trail brought us to a sparkling waterfall. Kenny and I also hiked the Otokomi Lake Trail.  Rated as strenuous due to the steepness of the trail, it wasn’t too bad.  Some last minute wildflowers were blooming and we had glorious views of the river as we headed toward the Lake.  But when thunder boomed and rain started, I headed down the mountain fast – my new fear, FFF (fear of flash floods), took over.  We weren’t in any danger but I wasn’t convinced.  Our last hike in the area was Beaver Pond Nature trail, which was also very steep, had picturesque views of Yellowtail Dam. There was a swinging bridge that you had to cross to get over a stream – newly constructed, it was quite pretty.

Hiking the Beaver Pond Nature Trail
Leaving East Glacier and beginning to meander toward Yellowstone, our first stop was Great Falls, MT.  We had a enjoyable bike ride on the trail that runs along the Missouri River – beautiful!  We started at the Louis and Clark Interpretive Center.  If ever in Great Falls, stop there.  It’s very informative and had exceptional displays, exhibits, and presentations.  We also popped into the C. M. Russell Museum.  What a find the museum was!  It was apparent that Charley was quite a character, had a great sense of humor and started sculpting and painting at an early age.  Great museum.  We loved it!

Our next stop was Big Timber/Greycliff.  There was a State Park very close to our site so we went to Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park seeking an easy trail or nature walk.  We dutifully paid the entrance fee to discover that the entire park was specifically established to protect prairie dogs.  There were hundreds of prairie dogs which are pretty funny to watch.  Alas, there were no trails anywhere just curious little heads peeking out of their homes and sounding the alarm of potential danger.  Mommas and their babies were playing and as we approached, the Momma would grab the babies and drop them into their burrow.  Very amusing!  Check it out on the web.

Before reconnecting with Mike and Susan, we spent the day at Little Bighorn Monument.  It was a destination I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing but it was historical, informative, and a very sobering monument.

Indian Monument to honor the Indians who also fell in this battle
Mike and Susan returned and our busy adventures continued! Hooray!
In Yellowstone, we visited Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, Mud Volcanos, West Thumb, Upper Geyser Basin (saw Old Faithful and the Beehive Geyser erupting at the same time – we also witnessed the Riverside Geyser erupt spewing water hundreds of feet in the air for 20 minutes), and we hiked several trails, Artist Point at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Taggart Lake, and Storm Point.  The Upper and Lower Falls in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone served up some perfect pictures. Prismatic Springs was extraordinary.  The beauty of this glorious spring cannot be captured by a camera.  It seemed to be alive.

In the Tetons, we took an early a.m. float ride down Snake River – so peaceful and fun!  We also visited Jackson Hole and took advantage of a boat tour of the Tetons on Jackson Lake.  On a fun note, we had to board Uma during our time there.  She stayed in a run with a bed and TV, had open play time with other boarders, and Yappy Hour every day at 3:00. A bit pricey but the only game in town.  We believe she watched the Democratic Convention. 

Susan and Mike Seaback on float ride with us
In our travels, we saw moose, elk, black and grizzly bears, eagles, wolves, deer and prong antelope.  We clicked hundreds of spectacular photos.  (Check out Debbie’s Facebook Page for more photos.)  

Of all of the wildlife we would have to say the most exciting were: 

Bison – at Mud Volcanos one came up behind us that we didn’t see until we turned around; another that walked by our car so close that if I opened the window I could have touched him/her and, another that greeted us as we started our hike to Storm Point and he/she decided to welcome us back to the meadows when we completed the hike.  We had to blaze our own trail for a bit to keep far away from that Bison.  That was a bit scary.
Elk –  We were surprised at how many Elk hung out in Mammoth Springs.  They were all over the place, taking over the town, and oblivious to the tourists taking their pictures.  It was rather odd.  It just seemed wrong that wildlife were comfortable in a crowded town lounging on the town square.

Bears and Wolves – Visit the Grizzly Bear and Wolves Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.  What a fantastic center!   A must to visit!

What was the best part of our journeys?  I guess we have to say making memories with our friends.  Thank you Susan and Mike for all of the fun we had with you.  Next stop is Oregon to visit Patty and Peter R.  

Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to our niece, Sabrina Slavis, on the first year anniversary of her passing (7/27/15):

To live on in the hearts of those we leave behind, is not to die.  Dear, wild, Sabrina, Rock the heavens.

6 thoughts on “Playing in Our National Parks”

  1. Such a fabulous trip and journey you are sharing with each other and with us thru photos and well stated words! TFS!!! I was hit by a car in Yellowstone parking lot nearly 60 years ago! So excited for Nikki and Dan! Enjoy my cousins. Much love and safe journeys!

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  2. Congratulations to Nikki and Dan. So glad to hear of your travels to Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Tetons….and that you liked them. Good to know that you had your bear bells!! Have greatly enjoyed your travel log. Regards, John and Elizabeth.

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  3. What a great time we had together in the parks with each day a new adventure! We’ll have wonderful memories of sharing beautiful hikes, gorgeous scenery, and fun meals from sitting in restaurants to sitting on logs! Wishing you both happy journeys ahead as you travel to Oregon and Washington!

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  4. Hey Ken and Deb, sounds like all your travels are better than you imagined. I have a great picture of KJP in a kids Little Big Horn military hat from a Alstom trip to Coalstrip Montana. Congrats to Nikki and Dan. Health to all. Bob L.

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  5. congratulations Nikki! We miss your posts Deb and Ken! What’s been happening?It’s like getting into a series, I’m having withdrawal!

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  6. Hi guys, just got caught up on your posts. Enjoyed reading them, sounds like a trip to remember! Congrats to Nikki & Dan and your growing family. I too was impressed with the bison & elk in Yellowstone. We were told they hang out at Mammoth Springs because they’re smart enough to know the wolves won’t be. Take care of each other. Gary D.

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