Don't have time to read all the blogs from our great trip. Take a three-minute "View master" look back at our 12-day adventure to Wyoming & Montana. You should let the video load for a minute or so before hitting "play."
Visiting Firehole Falls in Yellowstone National Park
We’re all home, well kind of. One leader stayed out in the Tetons for another ten days, one leader is in Massachusetts for a family event, one boy went fly fishing on the Snake River in Idaho for a few days, and a few more are staying with grandparents or friends for another day or two. But most of us are home – albeit about ninety minutes late. Our flight was early leaving Jackson Hole Airport and arrived in Dallas-Ft. Worth a tad bit early. But our flight from there to Greenville-Spartanburg had a couple of delays for mechanical reasons. But we’re not going to let an hour and a half change the successes of our 12-day adventure. It’s all an adventure right?
It was a great trip. We did a lot and the boys and leaders learned a lot about living and working together in a big group. We had 20 boys and four leaders on this trip – the largest group I’ve ever taken. It was a group that got along amazingly well. We had three sets of brothers, also another first. And our group was complimented at least eight times and possibly as many as ten depending on who was counting. This has never happened. We usually average three or four compliments in a good year and zero in a bad year. Don’t get me wrong. We got zero compliments last year and I attributed that to our large group of seventeen boys and those guys last year were a great group of kids. But this year’s group proved the theory wrong that big groups couldn’t get compliments. Twenty boys this year and a mess of compliments and I am very proud. I’m sure I still owe them some treats! They didn’t ask for IOUs, but I’m sure those boys who come on a future trip will remember exactly how many treats they’re due.
The gang at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming
To recap, we spent four nights in Jackson, Wyoming; four nights in Gardiner, Montana; two nights in Cody, Wyoming; and one night in Dubois, Wyoming. We hiked in the Grand Teton National Park and in Yellowstone National Park. We explored lots of geothermal features in Yellowstone and saw tons of wildlife including four bears, hundreds of bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and more. We witnessed Old Faithful and eruptions of other smaller geysers. We rafted on the Yellowstone River, took a horseback trail ride in Cody, and attended a rodeo. We had a docent-guided program about Buffalo Bill at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and another docent program at the National Bighorn Sheep Center. We chowed down on a western chuck wagon dinner at the Bar J Ranch and were entertained by the resident singing (and joking) cowboy wranglers. We drove into Idaho to have a world-famous milkshake at the Victor Emporium and we explored all the small towns and cities where we were staying. We saw incredible views of mountains and rivers and valleys. We went swimming in our motel pools, folded our laundry at a Laundromat, found three geocaches, played miniature golf, and picked up enough souvenirs to help several local economies. We saw a cowboy shootout (re-enactment) and walked the dusty street of a recreated Western town. And we ate a lot – a whole lot.
Boys were able to see friends they hadn’t seen in a year and many boys made new friends. I personally feel that everyone experienced some personal growth during our adventure.
I want to thank my three adult leaders for all their help and friendship – Ray Thompson, Howard Yarborough, and Jeff Peisner were incredibly capable and willing to step in and do whatever was necessary to see that the trip ran smoothly and safely and that everyone was having a great time. I also want to thank my student counselors – Mark Gilbert, Stephen Baker, Jack Lozyniak, and Hunter Smith for again showing me how misunderstood older teens can be. These boys were absolutely wonderful. I would take them anywhere and actually, three of them already planning their next adventure with me for the summer of 2013.
Joining a friend in downtown Jackson Hole, Wyoming
And thanks also to my upcoming student counselors – Jack Eatherly, Ben Bryan, and Jon Bryan. They were also very helpful and stepped up to the plate many times to lend a hand.
Of course, thanks to the younger boys who made the trip so much fun – Jack Riley, Becker Andry, Avery Wall, Thomas May, Brooks Sullivan, Will Rasco, Robert Harlan, Wills Clarke, Jackson Woodard, Aidan Lamb, David Gilbert, Connor Hovendon, and Ras Andry. I don’t know where they get their non-stop energy, but it’s contagious. It keeps me young.
Each year boys usually ask how much longer I plan to run these trips and I tell them as long as “I’m” having a good time. And so, did I have a good time? You bet! I can’t wait to next year.
Thanks boys, thanks leaders, thanks parents.
And that’s a wrap. MindStretch Travel Adventures Wyoming & Montana 2012 is now history
Click to see some photos from our 2012 adventures.
Will enjoying a milkshake at the Victor Emporium in Victor, Idaho.
Today was our last full day of the trip and we took advantage of it to sleep in a little. After breakfast we headed into the town of Jackson for our first day to explore the shops. We've passed through Jackson several times but haven't stopped in downtown until this morning. We let groups roam the shops for 2 1/2 hours which included finding their own place to eat lunch. They enjoy this chance to eat without the other 15 or so kids on occasion.
After our excursion in town, we took most of the kids to Idaho for a milkshake at the Victor Emporium. We mostly did this just to say we had been to Idaho...but those milkshakes were very tasty too. Victor is the first town you come to in Idaho as you leave Jackson and is about 24 miles from our motel.
Swimming or chilling in the rooms was the late afternoon activity as well as organizing and packing for the trip home. We had dinner next door at the Virginian Restaurant and then ended with another one of my "what's next" meetings before letting boys visit in other rooms before settling in for an early wake-up call.
We'll be leaving the motel tomorrow at 6:15 for our trip home. Our plane leaves at 8:10.
While we have a travel day tomorrow, basically -- the real trip activities ended tonight. Boys are ready to get home to their own beds as I know the leaders are. But it has been a wonderful trip to some incredible places and we're all fortunate to be able to take such an adventure.
Thanks to those 20 boys and their parents for making this possible and thanks to my incredible leaders Ray Thompson, Howard Yarborough, and Jeff Peisner for their patience and leadership and friendship. You guys make this trip so much fun for me.
I'll have one more blog post to wrap-up our experience at a later date.
Thanks for following our adventures.
Our day started this morning with boys getting to sleep in a bit and then they were treated to breakfast in bed by our four able-bodied waiters – AKA Mark, Ray, Howard, and Jeff. It wasn’t much of a breakfast but the boys enjoyed the special treat.
After we packed up we checked out the Welty General Store in Dubois. This store, in existence in Dubois since the 1890s, sells lots of cowboy clothes and other Western supplies – like knives. And yes, some boys bought some. They had to have adult permission and we gave it. The knives are supposed to stay in the boxes and packed in the luggage and not removed until they get home. Once those knives get home I guess parents can decide what to do with them.
After the general store we drove one minute and saw our first glimpse of a giant jackalope and were lucky enough to get a photograph of each boy riding it. You’ll see those photos in today’s posting. In fact, you’ll see photos from four years ago of the three boys who are repeating this trip – a “then” and “now” photo. It was a hoot. Mark Gilbert, Stephen Baker, and Hunter Smith were all on this trip in 2008 and rode the jackalope back then when they were 11 years old and were “more than happy” to ride it this morning at age 15.
The final stop in Dubois was at the National Bighorn Sheep Center. The docent presented an excellent overview of bighorn sheep and then we saw a short video about these great animals. Dubois is home to the largest herd of wintering bighorns in the lower 48 states. Boys got to spend some time exploring the museum after the video.
After leaving Dubois we started the relatively short trek back to Jackson for our last couple of days. We drove along the Togwotee Trail motor route which is an incredibly beautiful drive through the mountains with views all around for the entire route. The highest point on the drive was Togwotee Pass at almost 10,000 feet in elevation. As we started our descent we could see the Tetons in the distance and it wasn’t long after that we re-entered the Grand Teton National Park. By this time just about everyone needed to use the bathroom and one wasn’t to be found – so keeping in the cowboy tradition we found a bunch of trees. Nope, no photos of this activity!
We gave the boys a couple of hours of down time after checking into the hotel. They could hang out in their rooms and/or go swimming and hot tubbing.
And finally we ended the day with a visit to the Bar J Ranch in Wilson, WY (just ten minutes away) for our chuckwagon dinner and cowboy musical revue. The boys were pretty impressed with the yodeling.
It was a great day! I’m already starting to miss the boys and the excitement and adventure of this trip.
Click to see photos from our trip.
Check out this ten-second video of the Bar J Wranglers at our chuck wagon dinner. It's a little shaky, but considering I was hand-holding the camera from near the back of the house - I was pleased.
Today's adventures started with a visit to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. We let the boys explore a little on their own before having a guided tour focusing on the life of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. We were divided into two groups for the tour and the kids were excellent. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is a world-class museum - actually five museums in one.
From Cody, Wyoming we drove to our night's destination in Dubois, Wyoming. It was a long trip but the scenery was absolutely worth it. We drove through the Wind River region of Wyoming along the Wind River Mountains and even passed through the Wind River Indian Reservation.
We got into Dubois just about the time most shops were closing which probably wasn't a bad thing, though most boys aren't quite shopped out and still have money left. We did have time for some swimming, hot tubbing, basketball, and walking the wooden sidewalks of Dubois and then walked a hundred feet to the Cowboy Cafe for dinner where amazingly the boys picked up their sixth and seventh sincere compliments. This is by far a record - and compared to last year's zero number of complements - nothing short of phenomenal.
We are heading into Jackson tomorrow morning for our final couple of days. Lots ahead.
Click to see photos from our trip.
Becker with his winning prize coupon at the Cody Nite Rodeo.
Several boys went to the Cody Nite Rodeo in Cody, Wyoming this evening. It was the first for most of the group that decided to go. Becker Andry made us proud as he was one of three of about a hundred kids 12 and under who got a ribbon off of a calf's tail. Okay, you had to be there to appreciate this part of the rodeo - which in Cody is king! Becker's prize - a free horseback ride on a ranch. So Andry parents...I guess you'll be planning a trip back out here soon because I think the prize expires in September. Becker's name and home city were announced over the PA system.
But not to worry, a large group of boys went horseback riding this morning up in the hills above Cody. it was just over a hour's ride and for most of them, that was just about all they wanted.
At the same time the one group of boys was out trail riding, the remaining kids visited the reconstructed Old Trail Town, which is made up of over two dozen authentic buildings brought to this settlement. It's quite an impressive collection including the cabin of Butch Cassidy. The guys also saw the grave site of John Johnston, AKA Jeremiah "Liver-Eaten" Johnson who was reburied on this property several years ago.
Another big activity today was LAUNDRY. So now if you if moms keep noticing your boys wearing the same clothes, it's not because they don't have clean clothes to wear. We do encourage them to change clothes and most comply, but they seem to think wearing the same clothes day after day is the cowboy way. It's hard to argue with their reasoning! Jeff Peisner and I got the laundry done and in the dryers and then the boys came to help finish off the process including sorting their clothes and folding them. I think that might have been a first for some of these boys - another MindStretch Travel Adventures life lesson.
There was also time today for swimming in the motel pool and for a round of miniature golf in the town park. A few groups went into downtown Cody for a little shopping. Our motel is actually in downtown so we can be in the city center in about a five-minutes walk.
So that wraps up another busy day. It was a whole lot of fun.
Click to see photos from our trip.
This group of boys had a minor run-in with the Cody law.
We had a busy day of adventures as we left Yellowstone National Park for Cody, Wyoming.
We took the park road out of Yellowstone that passes through Lamar Valley which is known for its abundant wildlife.
We weren't disappointed with our viewings. Today we saw another bear (the second one of the trip - the fourth if you count the two cubs we saw with their mama a few days earlier. We also saw antelope and great herds of bison including a couple really close up.
As we left the park boundary we took the Beartooth Scenic Byway up to Cooke City, Montana where we stopped for one of the boys' compliment treats at the Cooke City General Store which dates back over a hundred years. After our treat we took the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway across Indian Pass (8,000 feet elevation) down to Cody.
We checked into the Moose Creek Lodge in Cody and then immediately drove out to the Buffalo Bill Dam to check it out. On the way back into town we stopped at the Tecumseh Trading Post which features an incredible private museum of the Old West including a miniature representation of the entire history of the West. The boys found it pretty amazing. They also loved the stuff for sale in the Trading Post.
We returned to our motel and walked the two blocks to downtown where we witnessed the Cody Cowboys Shootout, a Cody tradition. It takes place in front of the historic Irma Hotel - Buffalo Bill's hotel he built in honor of his daughter.
We gave the boys money for dinner and they could, in small groups, choose their own place for dinner. One group actually decided to pool their money and eat in the Hotel Irma dining room. After dinner, boys had time to explore some of downtown Cody.
It was a busy day and the kids are really enjoying themselves.
It should also be noted that the boys picked up two compliments today. The manager of the motel in Gardiner said they were great as did the store clerk at the Cooke City General Store. So that's five total compliments this trip and that sets a MTA record.
Click to see photos from our adventure.
We spent all day today exploring many of the geyser basins in Yellowstone. We saw geysers, mud pots, bubbling rivers, and more.
It's hard to describe these geothermal features except to say they are totally fascinating.
Kids enjoyed the short hikes on boardwalks around the various features. Many of these are spouting water that's over the boiling point.
We also had a great wildlife viewing today including Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, bison, and elk.
After our 8 hours in the park, we had one of our compliment treats back in Gardiner, and then we had a big crowd in the pool.
It was another great day. No compliments today, but the kids are still staying reasonably calm. Now it's time to go out to dinner. Tomorrow we're off to Cody.
Click to see photos from our big adventure.
Check out this short video of one of the geothermal features.
The big activity today was our half-day trip on the Yellowstone River. It was hardly a half day, but that didn't matter. All the kids had an absolute blast including navigating the rapids, having a few splash wars, and some nice scenery as the river flows north out of Yellowstone River. It was a very successful trip and moms, all kids are fine.
After lunch at Subway we visited the shops of Gardiner, Montana for an hour. Mid-afternoon was a time to rest and kids had three choices: chill around the motel, go swimming, and/or go geocaching. Some did all three.
Now the day is done and the kids are settling in for the night. Tomorrow is another full day in Yellowstone.
These guys went geocaching this afternoon. They found three geocaches in a row including two micros and an ammo-can cache. We had great fun. Hopefully we'll get to do some more in Cody.
Click to see photos from our trip.
Today was our first full day in Yellowstone National Park and it was fantastic! We were treated to an amazing assortment of wildlife including seeing elk, pronghorn antelope, bison, deer, ground squirrel, and...here's the best...a mama bear and two cubs. It was incredible. Don't worry moms, we were actually in the vans when we saw the bears - but we were treated to that view from 30 feet away. Check out the photo links to see the mom with one of her cubs. We were all pumped to see this much wildlife in one day.
We had a couple of hikes today - one very short trip out to Artist's Point in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. You'll see the photos in the set from today's adventures. And after that hike we took a longer one along the Uncle Tom's trail that followed the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone down for a closer view of the river. Some boys went the full trail and others only part way. All had a good time.
We also saw a petrified tree!
We did stop at the general store at Roosevelt Lodge to give the boys their first treat earned for garnering those compliments. We didn't get any compliments today, but believe me - behavior is fantastic.
Click to see the photos from today's events.
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.