Monday, November 24, 2014

July Preston Trip and Reunion

All I have to say is be prepared for picture overload.  Because this trip was F.U.N.

Steve's Grandfather Hyrum would have been 100 this past July.  As a result, Steve's Father and Aunt and all of the grandchildren planned to do a big family reunion and camp together over the days surrounding what would have been their Grandfather's 100th birthday.  We knew we were going, we just had to figure out how exactly we would get there, so we planned our annual summer trip to Preston to coincide with the reunion.

My session of swim lessons ended on July 3rd, so we packed up as soon as I got home from morning lessons around 12:30 or 1:00 and hit the road.  We caught a hotel room in Ontario, Oregon, and drove the rest of the way to Preston on the 4th in order to be there for the family festivities on the 4th of July.
The combination of Aunt Lori, glow sticks, and shooting muffs made fireworks tolerable for Ellie.
 Of course Mckayla wanted to dive right in and help choose what would go off next.

We spent the next few days enjoying time with Grandma and Papa while we prepared for our camping trip, gathering supplies, buying food, etc.  We even managed to spend time with our niece Ella and nephew Colton who we rarely see.  We met up with them and Grandma and Papa at Willow Park Zoo on the 7th.  It was fun seeing Ellie and Ella together.  I know, I know, but cousin names weren't on our mind as we were in the hospital with our first baby...  Anyway, Ella was so good with Ellie, and Ellie loved paling around with her the whole time, proven by the fact they are holding hands here.

On the 9th we packed everything up (it felt like we brought about everything with us) in our rigs and drove to Island Park, ID to camp at the Buffalo Campground there on the Buffalo River.  We had the group campsite reserved, which was so fun because with all the family there we could let the kids play together and roam (with supervision) a lot more.  It was also terrifying because with so many hands helping out we occasionally lost track of who was doing what with one of our girls and got worried.  But, all those helping hands were SOOOOO appreciated and made the trip doable for us with a 3.5 year old, 1.5 year old, and 2 month old.

Wednesday night, after setting up, we spent the day in small family groups for dinner and explored the campground.  It was beautiful up there, and Mckayla even found the river - going backwards, feet over head, right into the shallow sandy bottom, head first.
 Luckily she was simply picking grass with Daddy when she fell in, so she got plucked right back out, but she didn't appreciate getting the gravel scrubbed out of her hair...

On Thursday the 10th more people arrived and most of us floated the Buffalo River.  Lori brought up these perfect little boat-like rafts and the girls each rode in one while Steve and I held onto their rafts from our tubes.  The water was brisk still, and so shallow you had to watch and laugh when you hit your bottom on rocks, but we still had a blast floating several times that day.  In between trips the girls enjoyed lots of otter pops on such a hot day.  Such awesome grandparents to think of such things us silly parents forget.  It was warm out, and the girls loved all the propel, otter pops, milk, and juice they got as a result.
 The girls' favorite part of the trip was without a doubt this sand volleyball court and digging in the sand, pouring it in their hair, etc.  They spent A LOT of time here.  I even played a little with a big group one night till it got too dark to see.  And the group eating was set up right here next to the court so the girls could play while each family took turns cooking for the group breakfasts and dinners.  Steve and I felt bad we were so preoccupied with kids we weren't much help, but we tried to pitch in a little and be very grateful others were so on top of things, and just enjoy it all.
 We weren't the only ones who loved this spot.  Not only was it food central, and ground zero for tubing, but it also became Kassidy's favorite spot to sleep while different people held her and snuggled her in the shade from the tents.
The group area was also the big spot for doing hair, but only Steve got in on that action from our little family.
After all that floating, the girls were exhausted, and needed a nap.  Napping together in a tent though, is much easier said than done.  We had adventures getting the girls to nap and go to sleep each night.  It's nice that they love each other so much, even if it often comes out at the most inconvenient times...
 This picture cracks me up.  Ellie was in trouble I believe and had to stay in her chair till Mckayla fell asleep.  Uncle Curtis was helping watch her for me...

 I believe it was this night that we ended with a big group of cousins talking around a propane fire down by the group spot.  It was so fun and such a wonderful day.

Friday the 11th we had planned to go as the Bennett group and visit part of Yellowstone National Park, which is not far from Island Park.  We knew we would be limited in what we could see with tired kids on a hot day with only one day to see things, but Lori, Curtis, and Bridget are expert Yellowstone guides and took us to a few awesome spots in West Yellowstone.  Seriously, Yellowstone National Park needs weeks to be seen and appreciated properly, and I can't wait to go back when the girls are older, but even just hitting a few shorter boardwalks reminded me how breathtaking and diverse this park truly is.

 See, I did take pictures of people too.  And don't think I was being mean posting this face of Bridgets, because she purposely made that face in all the pictures I took in this spot.

 After visiting a few shorter boardwalks, we had to head to Old Faithful.  It's a tradition for Lori and Curtis's family to watch the geyser and get ice cream at the lodge.  We headed out on the path that took us to the backside of Old Faithful where it wouldn't be so chaotic and busy while Grandma and Papa stayed back at the lodge.
We also had to see this, Bridget's favorite geyser which sounds like a toilet flushing as the pool empties after an eruption.  Ellie still talks about these and wants me to remind her of the word geyser so she can reminisce.  "Mommy what was the thing that shot water into the air that Bridget likes and sounds like a toilet that isn't a whale?"  (We saw whales spouting later in the summer which caused confusion the first few times she asked...)
 Here we were waiting for the geyser to go off.
 And there she is.  I also learned that if you don't have a spare SD card for your camera, and your SD card is suddenly full during the eruption of Old Faithful, and you don't get to take pictures of all the beautiful hot pools and geysers on the way back to the lodge, you will remain bitter about it for months to come.
Oh, and if you go to Yellowstone, don't wear flip flops because you'll end up walking way more than you initially planned and get blisters.  But do go get ice cream at the lodge because you get HUGE portions super cheap, and it is delicious!  That is probably one tradition we will have to adopt if and when we get back to Yellowstone some day.

When we got back to camp it was the hair day.  Kassidy ended up with a bow in her hair, and doesn't she look thrilled?    Poor Kassidy.  You can see her redhead complexion here, and she is going to have it rough.  She spent most of the time in the shade and still got a little red...
This is also when Steve, Curtis, and Ben ended up with their hair in all the tiny ponytails.
 Group tent time later that day.  I love Ellie in Curtis' hat.

The last day for us was Saturday the 12th.  We had decided to pack up and get back to Preston for church on Sunday and to get ready to head back home in the following days.  However, we left Island Park earlier in the day so that we could take the scenic route back to Preston.  On the way back we stopped at Upper and Lower Mesa Falls on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River.  So beautiful and so easily accessed even with little ones.
 We had a picnic lunch together before Kathy, Ryan, Max, and Amanda headed back to their house and we split off to go back to Preston.  Here was Uncle Ryan helping Mckayla enjoy her lunch.
 We tried to grab a family picture, with limited success as usual.  Kassidy was tired and was not a fan of the bright light.

 And the girls melted down soon after, sleeping for much of the car ride back to Grandma and Papa's house.

After that, we monopolized the wash machine at Grandma and Papa's (Two adults, one who holds a baby all the time, and 3 kids make A LOT of laundry while camping!), and enjoyed the last few days before we had to head home.

On the 13th the girls had quality girl time with Grandma painting nails.
 And loved riding horses with a friend of Steve's folks, Lena.  She is always so kind to go out of her way to help the girls get a ride in while we are down.
 Our last day, the 14th, we even snuck down to this little reservoir to let the girls throw rocks - what else.  It was a great way to end our time with Grandma and Papa.

Yeah, it was an amazing trip.  We rode four wheelers, floated rivers, watched geysers, rode horses, painted nails, played lots with Grandma with play dough and markers, and just loved being around family.  Each time Steve and I visit it gets harder and harder to drive the 10 hours back to our desert island here when the girls are so surrounded by beauty, outdoors fun, and family down south...  But, on the 15th we made the trek home so we could go to Kassidy's two month check up and Steve could attend a meeting he needed to be at.  It was such a wonderful trip, it was sad to see it end, but seriously, one of the highlights of our summer, if not our year.

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