As always you can download all the photos here.
We started our vacation with a short flight from LAX to Salt Lake City, were we rented an almost brand new SUV (Chevy Trail Blazer) with only 2000 miles, to start our voyage in 6 states and over 2000 miles.
In this first day of our trip we didn't do anything special except for driving, but we did stop next to a lake that we don't remember it's name and rested and played a bit. This place didn't have any access to the water and it was VERY hot so we didn't stay too long and we continued our drive north.
We spent the night at Idaho Falls, in a nice and modern hotel, with a great indoor pool.
In the morning we found out were the name of Idaho Falls came from. In the middle of town there's a very long waterfall on the Snake River, which is partly man made.
Driving north we stopped at a place called Yellowstone Bear World. It's a small zoo that you drive through with your car and it has many of the areas animals like wolves, elks, but the main attraction are the black and grizzly bears. They also breed bears there and they had some baby bears playing around - they are so cute. There's also a petting zoo where you can play with deer, hogs and more.
After Bear World we had to drive for a few more hours. We passed through the town of West Yellowstone on the edge of the Yellowstone Park, and we kept on going until we got to our destination at the 320 Guest Ranch, where we were we stayed for 6 nights. We got a log cabin with 2 bedrooms, a living room with a fireplace and a small kitchen with a dining area. When we walked into the cabin, we were surprised by it size - we didn't expect it to be so big. The cabin was located just few steps from the gushing waters of the Gallatin River. The Ranch has many attractions among them horseback riding and fly-fishing, and every night there's a campfire in the center of the ranch.
Most of the things we did on Saturday had to do with horses. Danit and Eran took a 2 hours horseback trail ride in the mountains behind (east) of the ranch. We don't have pictures from the ride since we didn't think to take a camera with us, so you'll have to take our word for it that we had great time. In the forest we saw many signs that bears are living there, but our guide, Chris, said that they stay away from people, so we were not too worried. Adi also rode a horse - she had a tote ride all around the ranch.
At night we drove back to West Yellowstone to see a rodeo. They had many competitions like bull riding, bareback riding, barrel racing and roping. The best part was when they called all the kids in the audience to come and chase a calf and try to grab a ribbon of it's tail.
On Sunday we learned how to fly fish at the pond in the ranch. What is there to learn about fishing you ask? We learned how to fly-fish which is the best way to fish on rivers, and is very popular in that area. The key in fly-fishing is to lay the fishing line as softly as possible on the water, to trick the fish to think that the hook is a real fly. It takes a lot of practice, and at the end of the 1 hour lesson Sylvi showed a lot of promise. At the time when the grownups were practicing their fly-fishing, the little ones practiced too, with traditional fishing rods.
In the afternoon we did a short hike up to the Ousel Falls near Big Sky.
In the morning we drove up to Hebgen Lake which is somewhere between the ranch and West Yellowstone. We tried to fish with the kids' rods with not much success.
In the afternoon it was Sylvi's turn to go on a horseback trail ride with Danit. This time they rode into the mountain to the west of the Ranch. They saw a lot of Elks and got a very nice view of the ranch.
So this day we finally visited the place that was the reason for our trip to this area, Yellowstone National Park. There's a lot to see in the park, and you need to drive a lot to get there (it's one of the biggest parks in the country), so we decided to cover the park in two days. On our first day we visited the southern part of the park.
Yellowstone's mostly famous because of its geysers and other geothermal activities. So the first demonstration we got was after we started going south from Madison Junction. We stopped at the Lower Geyser Basin and the first thing that left it's impression on us was the smell! It was stinking, and the girls described it as the smell of rotten eggs (which they never had the pleasure to smell). But after you get used to the smell (kinda), you start enjoying the view.
Then we got to the most famous geyser in the world: Old Faithful. It erupts on average every 90 minutes, so we had to wait for over an hour with hundreds of people. Because no one knows exactly when it will happen, every time there was a little steam coming out, all the crowd was going ooh, and ahah. When the eruptions finally happened it was is nice, but a little bit of letdown - we were expecting something more impressive, maybe higher, louder or longer?
Then we kept on driving, and we got to see Yellowstone lake, but we didn't spend too much time there since it was cold. Next to the lake we saw our first Buffalo (American Bison), and we got really excited, so we stopped to take some pictures. Later in the trip, we saw so many of them that we even stopped mentioning it. Please take a close look at the left picture with Eran, Sylvi and Adi; Danit took it - she's getting really good!
And then we ..... kept on driving all the way to canyon village. The Canyon was carved by the Yellowstone river, and it is very deep. The highlight of it is the several water falls. It was a very impressive sight, with all the water, the green rocks and the trees.
After the falls we headed back to the Ranch, which was about an extra 80 miles drive.
On our second day at the park we set our sights to the Boiling River trail, where steaming thermal water is mixed into the Gardiner river, and we planned to go swimming there. Unfortunately, when we got there the trail was closed because of the high level of the water, so we were very disappointed, but it gives us something to look for the next time we'll be there. So then we drove back to Mammoth to see the hot (and stinky again) springs and beautiful shapes they create.
After Mammoth we kept on going on the northern loop, and we saw a lot of beautiful views - this is the higher part of the park - but we didn't stop for any attraction since we had to get back for dinner at the Ranch.
Wednesday was our last day at the Ranch, and lucky for us, they had their weekly BBQ night on the Gallatin River. We got to the BBQ on a hay ride drawn by two of their huge horses. There was good food, music and amazing view of the river and the sunset. There was also a campfire there, and for dessert you could make yourself S'mores (a cracker sandwich with chocolate and toasted marshmallows - check this link). As you can see Adi and Danit ate only the parts that they liked - Adi the chocolate and Danit the marshmallows.
After 6 great days and nights at the 320 Guest Ranch we had to say goodbye and we started the driving part of our vacation. We had planned to drive all the way to Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, more than 400 miles away. On the way we drove though plains in Montana and we passed through the beautiful Rockies in Montana and Idaho.
Coeur d'Alene is a high scale resort town that sits on a beautiful lake. It has many good restaurants and hotels. Although we spent only one night there we really liked it and we've added it to the short list of our next vacation destinations.
Before getting on the road again we wanted to do something fun, and Lake Coeur d'Alene was impossible to resist. We found a place that rents speedboats, and since that was a high scale resort town, the boats they rented were very very nice. We got a beautiful new boat (Cobalt 200) which costs more than a BMW and looks much nicer. It was extremely easy to drive it, and even Danit and Adi took the helm few times. Unfortunately, the girls (i.e. the little ones, not the big one) didn't like us to go too fast, so we had to be very easy on the gas. What they didn't like the most was the wind, but when we were going slow, everyone had a blast. We stopped twice for a swim, and the water was crystal clear and cold.
So after having so much fun (and lunch) we were all ready to continue with the drive. At this point we had to make a decision; stay on I-90 all the way to Seattle or take a much longer drive around Washington State and see as much as we could. Of course we chose the longer option. The drive was uneventful. After leaving the green area of Coeur D'Alene we drove for hours through the dry eastern Washington where we mostly saw fields of wheat. On the last leg of the drive we followed the huge Columbia river, which is not a river anymore, but a series of man made lakes dammed by hydroelectric plants.
As the sun set, after driving around 300 miles, we stopped in a nice motel (Shilo Inn) on the banks of the Columbia river, overlooking the Dalles Dam.
On Saturday we continued driving along the Columbia river, and we stopped at the Bonneville fish hatchery where they grow millions of salmon, trout and other fish to make up for all the ones that lost their natural breeding areas when all those dams were built.
The highlight of Saturday was to visit the infamous Mount Saint Helens that erupted in May 1980. We heard about the eruption before, but it did not prepare us to what we saw. Miles from the mountain almost nothing is growing. Spirit lake, which can be seen behind Danit, is covered with logs of trees that were uprooted by the force of the explosion. And from the closest point that is possible to get with the car to the crater, you can see smoke rise from the spot where constant flow of lava rebuild the mountain top.
The name of this closest point is Windy Ridge, and it truly deserve it's name. From the parking lot there's a winding staircase that goes up to an even better viewpoint. Sylvi and the girls climbed all the way to the top while Eran stayed down in the safety of the flat lands.
After the park we drove a bit north and we stayed at the Crest Trail Lodge in Packwood, a very nice and well maintained family owned motel in a small town stretched along road 30.
Sunday was the last day we spent on the road, and most of it we spent in Mount Rainier National Park. Our first stop was at the Grove of the Patriarchs where we walked an easy trail under some trees that are over a 1000 years old, and along the river with the clearest water we've ever seen, the Ohanapecosh River.
Next we stopped at the Reflection Lakes, where we played in some deep snow (in July!), and admired the view of Mount Rainier. In windless days Mount Rainier reflects in the lakes which gave them their name, but the weather wasn't as cooperative for us. Then we continued to the heart of the park, Paradise, where many of the trails to the mountain's glaciers start. Unfortunately we couldn't find a parking spot because of construction and the Holiday weekend, so we continued our drive out of the park.
Feeling completely satisfied with all the nature we saw in our trip, we wanted to give the girls (and ourselves) a more relaxing final day of our vacation, so we decided to drive all the way to the Seattle area. We wanted to spoil ourselves, so we looked at the AAA book for a 4 star hotel, and ended up in the Bellevue Club Hotel, which later we found out was ranked #1 in all of the Northwest.
Most of the our last day we enjoyed at the hotel's pool, and restaurants, with a short hop to the local mall. It was great to be out of the car after the 2000 miles we drove with it.
And as with most air travel lately, our flight back to Los Angeles was canceled, so we spent most of the 4th of July with a crowd, not watching fireworks but waiting to our flight, and SHOPPING!