No, I don't have dual nationality...but I do have two passports. In the background is my brand new US Passport which just arrived last week. I'm saving it for next summer's 20-day trip to Europe.
In the front is my other passport, the "Passport to Your National Parks." This passport is a highly recommended souvenir for all MTA participants. It's cheap and it never expires.
It comes with a map of all the units in the National Park system and lots of space to stamp your visit to any of those units. Each park has its own rubber stamp with date that boys use to mark their visit. It's a fun way to keep track of places they've visited.
This summer boys on the North Carolina trip can certainly stamp their passports at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We should also be able to pick up a stamp somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Boys on the Colorado trip can certainly gets theirs stamped at the visitor center along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
There should be other places along the way that will also have stamps. So guys, pick up one of these online or at Cowpens National Battlefield or other NPS locations.
Our next grand European adventure might be over a year away, but already the response has been tremendous. Complete details will be ready and posted on the MTA website in just a few weeks. On this 20-day trip boys will be using euros, pounds, Swiss francs, and Czech korunas. If your son might be interested, you should let us know by submitting the "no application, no deposit, no commitment, save-me-a-spot-maybe" form.
This photo is from our 2015 adventure when the boys were experiencing a multi-activity day in the Swiss Alps above Grindelwald. That's one of the places we'll be visiting in June 2018.
It was a gratifying moment when I was on the phone today making lodging arrangements for our North Carolina Mountains adventure for this coming June 18-24. I wanted to stay at the same motel where we stayed on our last visit in 2015. The manager instantly remembered my name, our group, and the kids' incredible behavior. He said he remembered how nice our boys were, how pleasant they were at breakfast, in the lobby, etc. Now that's what I love to hear!
There's still room on this trip for three or four more boys. Check it out.
Here's MTA camper Hunter Smith in 2008 (left) while with us on a Wyoming-Montana adventure and here he is on the right yesterday at the UNC-Georgia Tech game. Congratulations to Hunter for following his dreams and making the team. Hunter was with us on three MTA trips. (Hunter has not sponsored or approved this message.)
Tomorrow is it – the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. I couldn’t let this pass without saying my heartfelt thanks to those incredibly thoughtful and forward-thinking people for realizing the importance of protecting our country’s beautiful natural treasures.
MTA boys and leaders have been humbled to visit, hike in, and explore several of these amazing places. This past summer we were in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. In 2015 we were in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 2014 we were in Acadia National Park and in Shenandoah National Park. In 2017 we’ll be back in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in June and the Rocky Mountain National Park in July.
We love them all. Some of the others we’ve been to back in the early years of my travel program include Big Bend, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Sequoia, Zion, Badlands, Great Sand Dunes, Guadalupe Mountains, and Kings Canyon all come to mind. We’ve also visited national seashores, monuments, historic sites, national forests, and parkways. We should also mention the state parks, forests, and dozens of other public lands we’ve explored over the decades.
It has been quite some ride and we’re fortunate to have all of these protected areas for the future. It was indeed “America’s Best Idea.”
So, Happy Birthday National Park Service!
We've ended our travels and all boys and leaders are safely home. We're also already signing up boys for 2017. This was our first year without the boys packing electronics. I know it was difficult for the boys (and for some parents) and I'm sure their vote would be to return to the old days of bring what you wish (phones, tablets, you name it). But for the first time in years, boys were actually tuned into something else.
They looked at the scenery more, they talked with each other more, they played card games, they read, some would even sing. They definitely got to know each other and themselves better. They built more self confidence in that they had to entertain themselves on occasion rather than just turn on their electronics.
It was great to see that they still could do all of these things.
Leader Andy Lammers said, "Good call on no devices. You gave the kids a gift with that decision."
I agree and I think most parents would as well.
Here's a link Andy shared that parents might appreciate:
The day started early with our wake-up call at 6. Boys were on time with their luggage and we had rooms inspected and keys collected and check-out completed by 6:40. We were at the airport right when we planned to be (7 AM) and had a smooth processing of baggage and seat assignments. Boarded the plane on time, and then the slow down began.
Apparently there was an issue with the cargo nets and that caused us to have a 90 minute delay out of Jackson. We made it to Minneapolis-St. Paul late, of course, but they were holding the plane for us. That’s a major advantage of having a group. The Charlotte arrival wasn’t too late, but about 25% of the boys and leaders didn’t have their luggage. It will arrive tomorrow, delivered to our homes. All but a minor inconvenience.
But that’s the boring stuff.
We had an incredible trip. This group of 25 boys have had experiences that will leave them with memories that will last a lifetime. They’ve hiked in some of the most incredible country in the world. We went on a trail ride by horseback, rafted a river, observed natural features that couldn’t help but impress. They went to a rodeo, had tours at museums, visited historic sites, and ate a lot of food. Yes, a lot of junk food…but some healthy stuff too! They went swimming, experienced a chuck wagon dinner along with a cowboy music show, saw wildlife they haven’t seen before such as elk, black bear, moose, antelope, and more.
Some learned how to keep motel rooms neat, others not so much. Most kept up with hotel keys, but a few are still looking.
They did a lot of souvenir shopping. They bought a lot of knives. They made some new friends and learned a little more about some of their older friends. They also learned a bit about taking care of themselves without parents along. For most of the boys, this was their longest time away from home.
Oh, and they learned to live without electronics. It wasn't easy, but the boys found other ways to use all that time: playing cards, reading, talking, looking at scenery, being funny.
And boys learned a lot about themselves. They all gained in self-confidence.
They also practiced common courtesies such as taking their hats off for dinner, saying please and thank you. They earned some treats for compliments from strangers.
And of course, they had a good time. We all had a good time. A trip like this can only be appreciated by those experiencing it, but we hope these Facebook and blog postings have at least given you a taste of what the MTA life is like.
A huge thanks to Howard Yarborough, Andy Lammers, Don Silleman, and Andy Clack for their devoted help in making these trips work. And of course, thanks for your friendship. You guys made it all come together.
Hope we’ll see a bunch of these boys next year!
And now, enjoy the rest of your summers.
Click the link to see photos from the past summer:
It’s time to slow down a bit after being on the go for the past two weeks. We let the boys sleep in today. They’ve been up late most nights though we really haven’t gotten them up all that early. It will be different tomorrow as we head to the airport.
After our late wake-up and even later breakfast, we drove over to the National Elk Refuge Visitor Center to get passports stamped. And then, finally, the boys were given some time to explore Jackson (which means shopping) in small groups. The only other time they were given this was for a 30-minute period when we were in Cody. Boys got money for lunch and could choose their own “dining experience.”
After a couple of hours in downtown Jackson, we headed out for our afternoon activity which was our ever-popular bowling tournament. Bowling has just returned (last week) to Jackson after a fifteen-year absence so we were some of the first to use the lanes.
Nicholas Stanier was the overall bowling winner and takes home the big bucks. Other first place winners for winning in their lanes were Tres Bauknight, Cullen Jorgensen, Jackson Lammers, and Hayden Waters. They also came away with some extra dough. And second round lane winners were Bennett Slosman, Tom Moser, James Morton, and Sam Odom. They too took home some bucks! It was a fun afternoon.
We enjoyed our last seated dinner tonight at Sidewinders American Grill, which Mac and Weston saw featured last week on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Everyone gave it two-thumbs up. We had a light ice-cream treat to finish our meal and then returned to swim and pack up.
We hope to get boys to bed early tonight. This time tomorrow, they should be safely in their own beds. And they’re ready!
It has been a wonderful trip filled with experiences these boys and leaders are sure to remember for a lifetime.
Thanks for following our journey.
Click to see photos from today's activities:
Heading Home…with a stop in Jackson
We left Dubois this morning after a later than usual wake-up call. Actually, the wake-up call was the friendly MTA staff handing out “deluxe” and “regular” breakfasts in bed. There was a lot of excitement as the boys were delivered their breakfasts. They were laughing and smiling; so were the leaders. Deluxe meant it was more of a civil delivery whereas the regular breakfast was more of a “catch this” method of delivery. Boys earned the deluxe breakfast by entering the third contest of the season.
After room inspections (we do this after every stay) we packed the luggage and loaded the vans and headed back toward Jackson.
Our first stops were just a minute down the road. We had to experience the MTA tradition of taking photos of the boys (well, all but one) riding one of the famous Wyoming jackalopes. A jackalope, in case you haven’t heard of this, is a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope. The boys actually enjoyed this chance to pose! The next stop was next door as the kids posed for a group photo in front of the world’s largest bison skull. We were having a lucky day finding these famous roadside attractions.
We pulled out of Dubois and headed toward Jackson. We went adjacent to a forest fire that has been burning for several weeks. The boys were fascinated with all the activity including seeing two large helicopters dipping water out of the Wind River.
The drive to Jackson was absolutely stunning. Virtually all of it was wilderness with incredible views of the mountains. We stopped twice for photo ops – one of a view of the Grand Teton National Park and another of the Park with the Snake River in the foreground. We made one more stop at the Grand Teton National Park visitor center to get passports stamped before continuing into Jackson.
We checked into our hotel after lunch and the boys had swim and hot tub time before it was time to load up for our evening activity – a visit to the Bar J Ranch. The Bar J is a working cattle ranch that serves an authentic cattle drive kind of dinner. This place has been a favorite of MTA since our very first days and we enjoy coming here with each trip to Wyoming. The Bar J serves up beef and ribs and can rustle up a mangy chicken for those who want that. The place serves hundreds in an orderly fashion that would amaze you. The cowboys who are checking you off as you arrive, will also be seen serving food, and when the plates are cleared from the tables…they are the entertainment! Five of the cowboys are “singing cowboys” and they put on one fantastic show including cowboy music, cowboy poetry, and cowboy humor. They sing in three-part harmony, yodel, tell jokes, and more. You might not think a bunch of 12-15 year olds would like this, but they loved it!
And that’s the end of another amazing day.
Click to see photos from today's activities:
Lots of small adventures today that added up to a lot of fun. We started with a short drive from Riverton to Lander, WY for a visit to Sinks Canyon State Park. We had a really neat (and short) hike down to where Popo Agie River drops through a cave and disappears. And then, after taking a another short hike we could see where the river re-emerges in a pool filled with huge trout. The boys could purchase fish food for a quarter and managed to add a pound to each of the waiting trout. It was a really beautiful park and a nice find. We had lunch in Lander and then started our drive toward Dubois.
Along the way we stopped at a Native American cemetery that includes the gravesite of Sacajawea, the Native American who helped guide Lewis & Clark in their explorations of the West. The boys were fascinated by the gravesite and the memorial. Sacajawea’s grave was covered with all kids of small trinkets that people left as a tribute.
We returned to Lander for lunch and then continued the drive to Dubois for our night’s stay. Before checking into the hotel we visited the National Bighorn Sheep Center where we had a docent waiting to give us an introduction. After her intro and a video, the boys toured the museum and of course, visited the gift shop.
We checked into the Stagecoach Motor Inn and made arrangements for dinner. A crew of leaders scouted out restaurants that could handle us and we ended up with a nice place right across the street. We got their menu, took orders, and then boys got to swim or use the hot tub until time to go over for dinner.
There was free-choice time after dinner. Some boys went swimming and using the hot tub, others played basketball, a handful chilled in their rooms, and some loved making a dam in the Wind River right behind our motel.
It was a great day. Lots of boy fun. I can’t believe we’re down to our last handful of days.
Click to see photos from today's activities.
I never imagined that when I started taking kids on travel trips in 1978 that I would still be taking trips today! It has been a great ride and I'm looking forward to more.