Lessons Learned on the Trail

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A look back at our June 2012 Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park trip journal. A common occurrence we learned when visiting the parks is that there is traffic. Throughout our trip we encountered “bear jams” or “buffalo jams” or “elk jams”…you get the idea. Anytime there were animals within viewing distance there would be lines of cars either driving slow or parked on the side of the road. We learned that first day that the early bird gets the worm. The men in my life (my husband and son) love the outdoors. They hunt,fish and everything in-between so understanding the nature of animals we would get up early and get on the road to find spots to view wildlife. Leaving early helped us escape many of the “bear jams” and allowed us to see the wildlife in the quiet early mornings or late evenings. We were able to see all the wild animals in the park multiple times while many we talked to in the park barely saw any. When we would come across traffic that was slow or stopped the kids would say…”look at the bears, look at the bears” in their best Yogi bear voice. Emily and Brady use to watch Yogi Bear all the time and there was a scene from one of the cartoons where Yogi says: “look at the bears, look at the bears, look at the bears”. After our trip she decided we needed to make t-shirts with the “look at the bears” saying on it because of all the time we spent in traffic.

Journal excerpt:

“We got up early and drove the loop and saw some cars pulled over so we stopped to see what everyone was looking at. There was an Elk and a pack of wolves. The wolves were trying to circle the elk. We sat for an hour watching the scene. The Elk outsmarted them and ran off as the wolves moved in. We then headed to Mammoth Springs to go on our first hike. We were prepared with our new handy hiking poles and took off on a 5 mile hike. (Did I say it was our first hike….ever) We hiked to the Beaver Ponds trail and the climb was pretty steep but leveled out. We were by ourselves for most of the hike. Emily and I started twirling and singing The Sound of Music song: The Hills Are Alive,  while the guys kept looking and pointing out the animal scat and tracks. We picnicked at the lake (never saw a beaver) and then hiked back out. It took us almost 5 hours to hike the trial, Mark hung in there the whole way.”

I would definitely recommend starting out on a shorter hike if its your first…

A good set of trekking poles is a must! We started out with some off brand ones that were inexpensive but learned over the years that quality does make a difference. We now use the carbon fiber black diamond poles we bought from R.E.I. Do the research when investing in your camping equipment. It does make a difference.  Those first set of poles didn’t make it through the first vacation.

One thing I haven’t talked about is the challenges that face my husband in our outdoor adventures. I have so much respect for him, and he is a good sport. It always seems we have something crazy happen to us! He always goes along with what we come up with despite the challenges. Mark was born with Cerebral Palsy and has spastic paralysis on his left side. He has always taken on challenges and doesn’t let his disability stop him. We probably should have picked a shorter hike for the first one, but he just takes his trekking poles and takes off. We hiked around 20 miles that first camping vacation and learned so much. Needless to say over the last few years we now look at that first vacation and see how “green” we were. We now look at that 20 miles of hiking from that first trip and think that’s nothing.

Blessings, Cathy

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Bought The Tent and Took Off

June 25, 2012 changed the way the Foreman family would vacation forever.  We spent 2 weeks camping in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.  When we first started talking of going to YNP and GTNP I was planning the typical hotel, cabin vacation, but my son kept pitching other ideas like tent camping.  I was dead set against it because of bears and other wildlife.  After plenty of research and reading on how to camp with bears my husband and I decided to go for it.  We did the typical Texas travel trailer camping as the kids were growing up, but Texas camping isn’t the same as camping up north.  We have come along way and learned so much about how and what to bring, and do when camping.  Our first trip we didn’t know much and made a lot of mistakes, but the memories we made were the best.  Heres a snippet from the journal I kept.

“We went to Walmart and bought our groceries, tent, cooler, skillet, a roll of foil and spatula. We loaded up the stuff in our Ford Flex rental car and headed out to Yellowstone.”

Yes that is all we took with us!  Needless to say we were minimal camping!  I can’t explain the excitement as we set up our little 30$ Ozark trails tent.

Journal entry: June, 25, 2012

Emily was reading the instructions and we put up the tent. Brady was playing with the rubber mallet we had bought with the tent.  After driving the stakes in the ground he turned to Emily and said “REDNECK THOR” and swung down and the rubber part of the mallet flew off and almost hit Emily. Her response was “don’t ever do that again”.  We still laugh about that happening.

We learned so much that first year.  

  • We learned to make sure and buy matches or have a way to start a fire so you don’t have to borrow from the neighbors.
  • Invest in camp mats and leave the air mattress  at home.
  • Good sleeping bags are essential!
  • Be prepared for any kind of weather.
  • Good hiking shoes are a must along with hiking socks (merino wool is our preference)
  • If you might need it….take it!

I have decided to share the knowledge we have learned over the years camping.  Each year we have learned more and experienced do’s and don’ts and some of our stories are just plain hysterical.  Many of my friends have asked me, what do I need to do to go camping? I have decided to blog about our adventures and what we do, and what NOT to do! I hope you enjoy our adventures, and I hope it inspires you to take one of your own.

I will leave you with a snippet from my journal on our first camping vacation.

June 26, 2012, I woke up early (5:00 a.m.) and it was freezing. Brady had scooted up on our air mattress during the night.  The poor kids sleeping bags were directly on the tent floor.  I wasn’t thinking of the ground being frozen all winter. Emily was curled up in a little ball with her teeth chattering.  It was 34 degrees! Instead of breakfast (because we had forgotten matches) we dressed in the bathrooms because they were warm, snacked and drove to the gift shop.  Emily bought a fleece blanket and Brady bought a beanie hat that looked like a stuffed bear.  That night they wrapped up in double layers.  Emily wrapped her blanket around her feet and brady had his hat on.

Needless to say research the weather before you go.  Freezing that first trip made such an impression on my 12 year old son that anytime we go on a trip he is more than prepared.  He takes jackets, rain gear, shorts, swim trunks and everything in-between.

These are some of our  best memories! It has been so much fun looking back over my journals from vacation.  I am amazed at how far we have come.  Look for more about how to camp and what you need in the coming weeks.

Blessing, Cathy