“Its skin is falling off! Gross!”

That was the reaction from the backseat as Keely and her friend Michelle spotted their first Bison in Yellowstone National Park.

For the record, the skin was not falling off, the bison was shedding.

We left for Yellowstone the day that school was out. Michelle is one of Keely’s best friends, and we like her a lot. This is a good thing because all four of us were together 24 hours a day on the trip.

As we drove into the park, Steve instructed Keely and Michelle to keep their eyes open for animals. Bison, deer, elk, moose, bears, wolves, coyotes can all be spotted in the park. We agreed that if anyone saw something we would say the name of the animal…”bear!” “bison!” If we couldn’t think fast enough to name the animal, we could simply say “critter!”
There were so many bison in the park that we got to the point that we didn’t even acknowledge them.
From the backseat…
“Deer!” “A Deer!” “Deer peeing!” Then a gale of laughter.
Another time…
Keely said “It’s an elk. A white butted elk!” Michelle responded “They are all white butted Keely”
More gales of laughter.

We saw an eagle, and an osprey. We pulled over and watch a young wolf roll around in a meadow. We spotted a grizzly bear in the woods, although some of us were more sure of that than others. We did get to see a black bear and her two cubs pretty close. We watched an elk walk around a building in Mammoth. It actually walked up four steps to stroll around. I can’t imagine what my reaction would have been if I had walked out of that building and came face to face with an elk.
As we were driving across the park to West Yellowstone we stopped at Old Faithful. We were in luck, we only had to wait about 15 minutes for the show.

Since we had been in a plane or a car all day, I suggested we take one of the trails. Two hours later we made it back to the car in a slight rain. We only threatened to leave the girls once. The rest of the time we just kept walking when the moaning started. They always caught up.

We learned on that excursion not to let the girls walk in front of us. Neither Keely nor Michelle could walk a straight line nor could they keep a consistent pace. Steve and I either bumped into them or were constantly dodging them. So the kiddos were instructed to always walk behind us.

Steve and I had been to Yellowstone before, so we were watching for the reaction when the girls got the first whiff of sulphur from the bubbling pots.
“Oh it stinks! It really stinks!”
But the view was too good to miss, so the next comment was “Hold your breath and come over here!”

Michelle and Keely

On the drive in from Cody, Wyoming, trees stand blackened from forest fires. Michelle wanted to know “why don’t they clear out all these dead trees?” During one of the stops at the ranger stations the ranger talked about how forest fires help renew the forests. As we drove back the girls mentioned that those forests would be growing again.
We went through Gardiner, MT which at the North Entrance to the park on the third day. While we were walking around the town I saw a big bird flying close to one of the shops. It took a minute for me to realize it was one of those kite like things attached to a pole. By now the girls were so attuned to looking for “critters” that I wasn’t surprised when I heard Michelle yell “Look Keely, critter! A bird! Oh, that’s not a natural bird!” We all doubled over with laughter.
We bought them some postcard kits that they could color themselves. The cards were of animals or scenes in Yellowstone and came with a small box of crayons. There was a frantic scramble one time when Keely couldn’t find one of her crayons. “I have to find it! I have to! I only have one of those crayons and that is why I cherish it!”

The National Parks have a great Junior Ranger Program. Each of the girls got a book with lots of activities in it. We spent the next couple of days visiting specific visitor centers and taking specific hikes just so they could get the answers to their questions and fill out their book. The talk at the ranger station (required) was about bears, and the girls listened very intently. That particular station had a wolf pelt, which the rangers let them try on.
On the last day, we stopped at one of the ranger stations. They were quizzed by the ranger and took the Yellowstone Junior Ranger Oath. Then they received their Junior Ranger Yellowstone Patch. Keely has hers on her Yellowstone Cap. Hopefully it will be the first of many. It’s a great program and I strongly urge you to let your child participate if you happen to be in a National Park.

We were amazed at how much the girls enjoyed the exhibits at the visitor centers. When we walked around the park, they read every sign. They now know a lot about volcanoes and geology. They stood at the Continental Divide. They weren’t embarrassed to be with us and were interested in learning. It was a great time in their lives to let them experience the park.

Last day, Keely and Michelle were about “crittered” out. Keely started making dolphin noises. She is actually quite good with dolphin noises. She has also been reprimanded a few times in school for demonstrating her talent at inappropriate times. As we were driving along I heard dolphin noises. Then they stopped. Then they started again. Finally Steve had enough and said “If you want to keep that you need to keep it quiet”. There was a stunned silence from the backseat. Then I said “Steve, that was her mouth.” Laughter throughout the car on that one.

As we left the park we stopped for a drink and potty break before making the drive to Cody, Wyoming. At this particular stop, the toilets were in a log building adjacent to the store. As we walked back to the car Keely stopped dead in her tracks “Well you don’t see one of those every day! Look! A phone booth! With a phone in it!”
Wow. She was right.

Our last evening was spent in Cody, Wyoming. We didn’t have enough time to see the museums, which evidently are quite good. We did, however go to the rodeo which is held every night throughout the tourist season. I would definitely recommend it. The girls got to go down to the arena to participate in an event. They didn’t know what the event was going to be when they raced down, they just went. The game was to grab a ribbon that was tied to tail of a calf. Neither of them even got close to one of the calves, but they ran their butts off. I laughed until I cried.

It was great for Keely to have a friend with her on the trip. I have never in my life heard so much farting or fart jokes. Who would have thought those two little girls (10 and almost 10) could have so much gas? Steve and I finally quit looking at each other when the giggles erupted. We even got to the point where we didn’t even roll our eyes.

They never had an argument or got cross with each other. The only real issue we had with them was we could not get them to shut up sometimes. And that wasn’t much of a problem until we were trying to go to sleep and they were farting and laughing. We could live with that.

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