Wednesday, June 26, 2013


5/24/2013 Yellowstone National Park to Gardiner, MT

You want to know something weird?  So far on this trip, I've only seen ten black people, and one of them was Al Roker.

I know that's kind of out of left field, here, but I've seriously started counting and there have only been ten!  In contrast, I've seen hundreds of Asian visitors thus far.  Honestly, like hundreds, if not thousands, of Asian tourists have been in the national parks here with us.  I've never seen anything like it.   Steve said that every time I'm in a public place and I say "Mr. Lee!" about thirty people turn around.   I hope that doesn't sound racist.  It's not meant to be, I promise.  Weird.

Anyways, it snowed on us last night!  SNOW!  I mean, it wasn't much, but it's May and it's snowing and I love it!  It was enough to powder the ground and the cars, but not enough to cause any trouble. I think I was right about the hotel staff just having a few opening week hiccups, because after we packed, Steve and I got into the van to pull around to the lake side of the hotel while we waited on Mr. Lee to check out and it took him forever.  He said that they were having some computer trouble.  Apparently they expected us to be angry, because when I went in to make sure there were no problems, Mr. Lee was standing at the desk and they were very apologetic to me.  I wasn't angry or inconvenienced in any way, which seemed to surprise them.  Makes me wonder how they'd been treated earlier on.

I went back outside and Steve and I took some photos of the lake. It was huge and beautiful.  I always love to be near big bodies of water.  The sun was out and the wind was blowing, and the whole thing shimmered. Gorgeous.  It was also freaking cold out there.

Mr. Lee finally came out and we were on our way again.  As I said, we are slowly making our way back to Bozeman, still stopping frequently and taking pictures.  Today we went to Norris, which is another place to see thermal features.

 We saw Dragon's Mouth, which was much more impressive than my pictures show.  It  was cool because it made this weird roaring sound.  I wish I'd filmed it instead of just snapping the picture so you could hear it.

 We also stopped at another look off and saw this:

 Apparently, much like the Spanish Inquisition, no one ever expects a sudden thermal feature!  

I hope no one was parked over that when it broke through.  These things are so interesting.  A sign talked about how the thermals create highly acidic water, much more acidic than lemon juice.  My first thought was that it would make a great place to dump a body.

After leaving Norris, we went through Haden's Valley, which was just gorgeous.

 We stopped next at the Upper and Lower Falls in Yellowstone and it was just breathtaking.  At Upper Falls there is a place called Artist's Point (I think) and the view from that spot is just so perfect.  The falls were perfectly framed. 

I guess we can also see where Yellowstone got it's name!

The lower falls were less impressive, but only because you were standing right next to them, but it was still lovely.  I saw this nearby:

Don't quote me, but I think it's a tree monster standing on one foot.

I might be getting upper and lower falls mixed up, so forgive the mistake if so!
We stopped at a place called the Golden Gate Pass, but I hated it.  It was impressive looking, but the wind sort of funneled through it and it was strong enough to knock you down if you weren't careful.  Falling down off the cliffs is no joke, so I just got back into the van.

Next we made it to Mammoth Springs, which I thought would have mammoth bones or something, but it turns out it was just called that because it was so big!  Apparently, a lot of the springs have died, but they can erupt just about anywhere without notice.  We drove through, and I have to admit, it wasn't my favorite spot.  It probably wasn't landscaped, but the way the driving paths were laid out made it look too much like a mini-golf course.  It was kind of cool once we got to the end.  The spring had leached all the color out of the landscape around it, so except for the sky and some orange bacterial mats, it actually looked like a grayscale image in real life.

We decided to go back tomorrow to see Mammoth Springs and look around some more.  We headed out of Yellowstone and into Gardiner, Montana, which is literally just outside of the gate.  It's a tourist town, but still kind of quiet this early in the season.  I hate to say it, but something about it seemed a little post-apocalyptic.  Maybe because it seemed kind of empty.  I don't know, really, but I was a little heebed out.  I'm sure it's really a lovely little town, but I'd feel better if more people were walking around!

After checking into the hotel, we went to dinner at this tiny little restaurant.  The guy who served us wasn't that friendly, but the food was good!  I tasted elk!  I liked it, although it was a little strange to me.  After dinner we came back to the room and rearranged our luggage.  All I know is that I'm super tired. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013


5/23/2013 Jackson Hole, WY back to Yellowstone National Park

Today has been much more of a traveling day than the others have been. After breakfast, we got Mr. Lee to take us back to Jackson Hole, so that we could visit the shops that had been closed the evening before. We looked around for a while, and then we went on a quest to find...Harrison Ford's ranch!!! Shut up! Do you really think we could be that close to a place Harrison Ford might be and not look for it? Well, we didn't have an address, just a general idea of where it was, and we think we might have found it, but we can't be sure. Of course, we weren't going to show up on the man's doorstep and ask to see him, so we contented ourselves by driving by what might have been the driveway!  :)

We then headed back into Grand Teton National Park, and Mr. Lee started driving us through what I was sure wasn't a real road. It was narrow and twisty, and seemed to go nowhere.  He finally pulled over to the side of the road to take some pictures, but Steve and I were sure we were going to be eaten by a bear at any moment.

Pretty scenery out there, though.

He finally got back in and drive us back to a real, paved road, and we stopped again to take pictures in a marshy place.  These parks have the most varied areas I've ever seen. I didn't think we'd see wetlands, but we did, frogs and all!

After that we headed back towards civilization, and we saw a huge group of people pulled off to the sides of the road. Just a little hint, when you're out here and see a lot of people pulled over, go ahead and pull over too, because it usually means there is something interesting to look at.  This time it was a giant bull moose! The one we saw yesterday was a female, but this guy was big and antlery.  We got some pictures and watched him eat.  I wanted to hug him, but the NPS frowns on that, so I left him alone.  I wonder if these animals think it's weird that humans stop to watch team eat?  I hope we don't make them self conscious.

Sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Moose.

We drove a bit more and stopped for lunch at Signal Mountain Lodge. The restaurant had big windows that lined the walls, and the scenery was awesome! Unfortunately, the food made me sick again. Seriously, two out of the three lodges we've eaten at have had food that made me sick.  Luckily I had some medicine, so I took that and dozed as we traveled back towards Yellowstone, where we'd be staying at the Lake Yellowstone Lodge.

Lake Lodge is a huge and gorgeous old hotel. Currently it's under renovation, but isn't that intrusive. I think they must have just painted the walls, because there is no art out and it looks a little bare.  We heard that they've only been opened for a week, so maybe they haven't been able to get everything back into place yet.  This lodge also reminds me of The Overlook Hotel from The Shining, but I think it's mainly a feeling about the place rather than the actual look of it.  It has a huge sitting room with enormous windows that look out on the lake.  It's a fantastic place, and I don't think it's anything like I've stayed in before. They are also serious about making sure you go see the sights! there are no tvs, no internet (except in designated spaces we can't seem to find) and we can't even get cell service.  Yikes.  My only complaint is that it's kind of shabby and a little messy right now.  Our room wasn't ready when we got here, the halls have some dirty sheets and garbage in it, and it smells like someone has been microwaving Spaghettios somewhere.  She shabby part doesn't bother me, because it is an old hotel after all, but the fact that the housekeeping staff don't seem to be on their toes does kind of bother me.  I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it's because more people showed up than they planned for and once they catch up, It will be perfect.  The messiness aside, I'm excited to be staying here.

When we went to dinner (don't worry, the medicine I took earlier seems to be helping me still) Mr. Lee found out that the waiter was studying to be a math teacher, so he asked him some math question, which sparked off a conversation between Steve and Mr. Lee, taking about complicated math stuff.  I felt completely put of the loop.  Usually they just ignore me while they play with their phones at dinner, but lack of cell service just meant that they had to think of something else that I couldn't contribute to!  Heehee!  Once we finished eating, I came back up to the room and they left to find a place to get Internet service so that Steve could do work stuff and Mr. Lee could work on some PSA stuff.  I don't mind, though.  It's peaceful and I might take a nap.

LATER:  Steve and Mr. Lee came back after a while.  They apparently had to drive quite a way just to find a cell signal. You'd think with bears and places to drown, they might want more avenues of communication available, right?  Oh, well.  Mr. Lee was ready to go to sleep, but Steve and I went into the big lobby to listen to the pianist play.  I felt  little awkward, because we both had our iPads, but no one else had any sort of device.  I felt rather gauche.  To explain, though, we were reading books on the Kindle app, so it wasn't like we were playing Angry Birds or anything.

When the lady stopped playing, that was apparently the signal for the room to empty, but we didn't know that.  I was so absorbed in my book that when I realized the music had stopped and looked up, the entire room was empty and creepy.  We went back to the room after that.  The last thing we wanted to see was whatever ghosts roam the halls of this joint.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


5/22/2013 Jackson Hole, WY

We had planned to start the day by shopping in Jackson Hole and then going on to our next place, but Mr. Lee changed things a little. We still went to Jackson Hole, just for a little while, but Mr. Lee wanted to go back to a couple of the places we'd been yesterday when the light wasn't just right to retake some pictures. I hate to admit that it irritated me! Steve doesn't really care much about taking pictures, and so when he gets interested in doing something while we're out here (and he had wanted to do this) I'd like for him to be able to do them.  Oh, well, Steve said it was OK, so what can you do? We figured that he and I would go after we'd finished with the stuff we'd planned for the day!

After we went to the places where Mr. Lee wanted to take his pictures, we had lunch at a little local stop in Moose, WY and hung out there until it was time for our raft trip!  Luckily it wasn't white water, but a sight seeing trip down the Snake River.  We met with our tour group, a total of six of us, and we were carted to the launch site and put into our life vests. I don't know if I didn't do something right, but I felt like my whole torso was getting a mammogram! I was squished.  We got in the raft and pushed off. 

This is his excited face.

This is his "Someone's Taking My Picture" face.

It had rained a bit when we were driving to the launch point, but the guide didn't think it would continue one we were out on the water, and for a little while it didn't. However, once it hit, it was scary! We were never in any danger of flipping or anything, but the wind blew really hard and it started to rain.  We all had to crouch down in the bottom of the raft until the wind died down. The guide had given us all thick green ponchos, and with the wind blowing so hard, putting them on was an almost impossible task. The guide said the squall was very rough, but it didn't keep us from seeing lots of pretty scenery and animals! We finally saw a moose!

Wet Moose!

We've been looking for a moose since we got here! I was so wrapped up in my coat, life jacket, and that poncho that I almost didn't get my camera out of my pocket before we left the moose behind. Luckily I did, but I don't think my pictures even remotely show that what I took a picture of was a moose. We saw three bald eagles, a sandhill crane, sandpipers, beaver activity (alas, no actual beavers) and another fox! I also found out that there are river otters out there, but we didn't see any. Probably a good thing or I would have capsized us all trying to grab one to take home. The raft ride was so much fun, even with the storm!  In fact, I think the storm might have made it more fun!  I didn't get to take many pictures, though, but we've still got a couple of days to make up for that.  Oh, and in the "interestingly coincidental" category, a young British woman was a member of our rafting group. She was from Nottingham, but had once lived in Texas, so she, her husband and baby had come to the US to visit with some friends so that they could meet her little girl. When she heard that we were from Alabama, she told us that they had just gone there because one of the friends that they'd come to visit had died suddenly, and they went to her funeral. I asked where she'd been, and she said Athens. She thought it was cool that Athens was my home town. So I met someone in Wyoming from the UK who had just visited my home town of Athens, of all places. Is a small world after all.

After we got back, we had dinner and then Steve and I went back to Jackson Hole to see the shops. Unfortunately the whole town seems to have closed at 5:00! Boo.  Oh well, we'll make Mr. Lee take us back tomorrow morning before we leave! We did a little laundry before going to bed, which was weird for me because I've never done laundry in a hotel.  I was afraid someone would come in and take our clothes out mid cycle and put their own clothes in, but that didn't happen.  Whew.  I'm glad. It turns out that a lot of the clothes I brought were neither warm enough or appropriate for what we were doing out here, so I was glad to get some stuff clean so that I could wear them again. 

From here on we're slowly making our way back towards Bozeman for our trip home on Sunday.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Whoops!  Sorry, you guys.  Life is getting in the way of things these days.

5/21/2013 Grand Teton National Park to Jackson Hole, WY

Last night after I got into bed, some movement caught my eye. A spider was crawling across the top of the sheet right above Steve. I jumped up and tried to wake Steve, but he didn't hear me and the spider crawled across his back and ran to my side of the bed. Steve did jump up, and Mr. Lee killed the thing where I had to sleep, and even though he cleaned it off, I'm pretty sure I had to lay back down on disembodied spider parts. Steve was oddly unconcerned*, but it took me a long time to get to sleep.

*EDIT:  Steve said he didn't remember any of this. Apparently he was asleep, even when he got out of bed.  It was probably better this way!

When I got up this morning  and got in the shower, another spider decided to get in with me! I'm about sick of this nature crap!  Luckily I didn't run screaming and nude out of the cabin. You're welcome, fellow Jackson Lake Lodge visitors!  Heehee, don't worry, two little spiders were the absolute worst that happened.

After we had breakfast, we left the lodge and headed off for another stop-and-shoot. I suppose I should explain that what that means to those of you who may not know how vacations with Mr. Lee usually work.  He is a stereo photographer, meaning he shoots 3D photos for presentations and contests. Our Pratt Family Vacations usually consist of flying out west to one of the national parks, staying in a different place every night, and spending the days driving in between destinations and frequently stopping to take pictures of scenery. It's so much fun!  Today we drove through Grand Teton National Park, winding through the valley and taking pictures of the mountains. I'm absolutely sure that the Grand Tetons are my favorite mountains. They are punch your face in beautiful. We took so many pictures, and every view was just like a postcard.  We also saw a lot of wildlife! Mr. Lee got a bit too close with some bison. I was close, but he was closer.

 I swear, he couldn't have been closer if he had been riding them.  

We also saw some little critters that might have been ground squirrels! They were so cute!

 There were dozens of them and they made this cute whistling sound. I thought they were just "talking" to each other, but I found out later that they were only making that sound because they didn't want me on their turf. It was basically critter language for "Get off my lawn!"  We saw elk, a fox, a muskrat, and an unidentified scurrying furry thing.  We really hope to see a moose!  We shot pictures for several hours, getting cold, hot and sunburned all in the same day. The weather is very weird out here. 

We finally gave up for the day and went on to Jackson, WY, where we'll be for two nights in a row! Woo-hoo!

Sunday, June 02, 2013


5/20/2013: Yellowstone National Park to Grand Teton National Park.

Today we got up, packed, and went to breakfast.  Nothing of note happened until we walked out in the lobby, and we saw Al Roker!  I don't really know much about the man, as I'm usually at work when the show is on, but I thought it was neat. Don't worry, I didn't do anything weird in front of him, I promise. I wanted to get a picture of my foot with him, but that really would have been weird, and I'm trying to be on my best behavior.  Mr. Lee took a few pictures in the lobby, and we left.  It was very cold, rainy, and icy outside, which sucked. I never mind the cold, but the rain and ice was nasty. Plus, it was screwing up my pictures! You need a lot of sun for the colors of the geysers to come out, so gray skies and rain just don't help.  We decided to back track a bit since the rain messed up our plans yesterday. We went to one of the geyser areas, thinking that the worst of the rain had gone, but no. We got halfway down the walkway and the rain turned sideways. By the time we got back to the car, we were dripping wet and freezing cold.  We stopped at one other geyser area while the wind and rain were going on, and we almost decided to give up, but the sun decided to show its face and so we finally had some light to work with! You wouldn't believe the change a little bit of sun made in the scenery! We decided again to backtrack a little more to see if we couldn't improve on our other pictures. You may not be able to tell much by the two pictures side by side, but I blame my camera because it was a huge difference.

 No Sun

After that, we headed on with our plans, and had an epic Stop-and-Shoot (TM) for several hours. As we drove through the mountains, we stopped at the Continental Divide:

We saw some waterfalls:


and a lot more beautiful scenery.  It was still cold, but the sun had come out in force, so at least we weren't in the rain anymore.  The higher we went in the mountains, the more snow we saw, and that just made everything more beautiful to me.  It was kind of bizarre, because I'm used to snow disappearing when the sun hits it, but we were up so high that bright sunlight shine on it and it didn't budge. I came to the realization that, though breathtakingly gorgeous, Montana and Wyoming had yet to just knock me over in awe the same way our other trips out west had.  Don't misunderstand me! It was still amazing and I was loving every minute of what I was seeing, but even the alien-like geysers were more interesting and fun than awe inspiring.

We were hungry by the time we'd been doing this for a while, and decided to stop at the next town we came to for something to eat. Unfortunately, there were no towns in between Yellowstone and Grand Tetons! There was a whole lot of absolutely no civilization! Even the camping villages we saw were still closed for the season, so we couldn't even go to the general stores and grab something.  Since we couldn't find anything, we really had no choice but to go on to our next hotel, which was the Jackson Lake Lodge. On our way, we saw two bears! Mr. Lee said it was rare to see bears, but we managed to see two relatively close together.  Granted, they were far away from us, so my photo of it looks like a black dot in the middle of a field, but still...bears!

The correct distance to take a picture of a bear is "Very Far Away."
There is a bear in there, though, I promise.

The lodge is one of those places that you'd imagine retired couples or families might come and stay for a couple of weeks during the summer. There is a main lodge house and hotel-like cabin rooms all around it.  It made me think of that lodge in Dirty Dancing for some reason. It turned out that we were there on their opening day, which I thought was neato!  I offered to give the new employees a training scenario to see how they would deal with a guest wreaking havoc on place, but they declined.  Boo.  We put our bags away and went to the lodge house for dinner, and when I walked into the lounge area I looked to of the giant floor to ceiling windows. You know what I said in the above paragraph about none of the scenery being awe inspiring? I was so wrong.  I'd never seen anything like the view from those windows. I didn't think you could see so much from one window, but the Tetons spread out behind the lodge and it was gorgeous. Snow streaked the mountains, and a field of colorful grasses spread out in front of it. It didn't even look real, it was so beautiful.  It was more like someone's ideal of what the mountains might look like. It punched me in the gut. Oy.


We had dinner in the diner, and I'm pretty sure our waiter thought I was flirting with him.  I didn't mean to if I was.  Eh, that's fine, even though he was probably around 19 years old and I'm an old lady, you have got to give the young whipper snappers a thrill now and again, right?  We also had another waiter who found out where we were from and asked us if we "were all Roll Tide."  What does that even mean?  We said yes, thereby lying and perpetuating the stereotype of people of Alabama (sorry guys), but it was easier than trying to explain why we are more or less unaffiliated and very liquid in our collegiate football loyalties.

We were going to go do more picture taking, but by then the light was going and we were tired. I took a few pictures of the gorgeous mountains, and we came back to our room. So much fun! It's still so hard to believe the world can be this beautiful.