We recently took a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. This was a unique trip because we were able to enjoy it with the some of our immediate family. Via planes, cars and campers, we arrived and frolicked within America’s first National Park and the area surrounding it. We love to travel and it is a treat when we get to go on an adventure with others.
The plan for our trip was a full day at Yellowstone National Park (YNP), then spend our remaining time fly fishing and taking in the sights near where we were staying in West Yellowstone, Montana. For the full day at YNP, we wanted to maximize our day and also avoid the crowds. The primary road layout of YNP consists of a giant loop that is over 140 miles long with multiple spots that you can stop at along the way. We had great timing and got there soon after the park opened. One member of our family stated that it is human nature to always turn right, we like to be different and so we turned left as we entered the park. Whether or not this observation played a part in our good fortune, we were able to enjoy the park with very little shoulder rubbing due to overcrowding. Overall it was a long, but wonderful day filled with amazing sites and great memories.
This trip took place before we officially started school. Even though it was still technically “summer”, I wanted to educate the kids a bit about what they were going to see within YNP. We went to our local library and checked out all of the books in the children’s section that pertained to YNP. These books helped educate while keeping it kid friendly. It was exciting as we traveled through the park to see the kids associate what they were seeing with what they had read about. There is definitely a lot of information about all of the neat geologic features, but I feel that one of the biggest things that is prevalent all over the park are the effects of fire. One of the largest fires was in 1988, but there are many fires that happen frequently throughout the park. It was a marvel to see the many different stages of growth occurring within the forest due to these fires. The kids were able to recognize the fire as something that helped the forest rather than destroy it.
I have this idea that while we travel I would like the kids to keep a journal. This would help them with their writing skills but also serve as a memento. Before we left, I took a small booklet with blank pages and tried to make it journal friendly. I also created a scavenger hunt in the back of the book based on the items that we read about. I made a journal for both of my children and also my niece. The kids thought it was neat, but in the end, it did not get used as much as I had hoped. It was a great learning experience for me to see what did not hold their interest and how I can improve and or incorporate journaling on future trips.
The one thing that did hold their interest though was the Junior Ranger Booklets that we purchased once in the park. Check it out here: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/kidsyouth/beajuniorranger.htm. I read about the program online and thought it would be a neat way for the kids to learn about the park and also have activities to do during the long stretches of driving between the attractions. These were a hit and definitely helped the older two kids stay busy during the drive. Fred, who is 6, was more motivated to complete it because he wanted the cool patch. Red became so immersed in her work that at times, we had to pry her out of her book so she could enjoy the natural wonders outside the truck’s windows. After completing their books and attending one of the designated programs, they went through a little ceremony and received their badges. They were very proud of their accomplishment. These patches will look great on their backpacking packs. We now have a goal to see how many patches they can earn and put them all over their hiking backpacks. A goal I will happily help them with!