How much longer?
It is a familiar complaint heard parents' car to crawl along the road to Yellowstone National Park – some 466 kilometers – as vehicles slow to gawk at nature.
But we're not driving. Together with our Austin-Lehman Adventures, Guides, Matty Kirkland and Katie Gugliotta, we are canoeing in Yellowstone Lake is a wilderness camp called 7M7. We paddle five miles from the point where the fishing boat dropped us off and spy osprey and deer along the way, but not to other people. We spend two nights in a tent outside pottys, no shower and not the Internet or cell service, and we can not wait, especially when we do not have to set up tents or cook. Is that a bald eagle flying above? Wow!
There are many remote campsites along the huge lake, which stretches 20 kilometers from north to south and 14 kilometers from east to west, and offers 141 miles of shoreline – and we're going so far away from the crowds as we can. Last year, Yellowstone had a record 3.6 million visitors, a visit to records for the third time in four years. The National Park Service recorded 906 935 visitors in July this year – the second largest monthly Visitation than ever recorded, although down slightly from last summer – to make reservations to leave the park sometimes difficult to obtain.
When we visited last week in July, the park is full of families – especially around the Old Faithful Geyser (just one of park's 300 geysers), and a new children's discovery area of Old Faithful Visitor Center. And despite plenty of space to get away from the crowds – Yellowstone extends to 3472 square miles in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho with a 1000 km trails – the National Park Service says the vast majority of visitors do not take more than a quarter-mile of road, even though only about 3 percent of a large park can be seen that the vantage point .
That is why we decided to lead the way to Austin-Lehman way. The company is directed by the families Yellowstone 25 years – many hundreds of summer – and even if they offer tours around the world, including many specifically for families, Montana and Yellowstone remains their most popular trips (to find more Montana family itinerary next summer to include more camping) if you sign a tour with other families or organize a trip for your family alone, as we have. Our family trip with my cousins Mike and Jayme Sitzman in Denver, and their children, Ethan, 9, and Hannah, 6
"Guides were able to take us to places that we would not have even noticed if we were alone," said Katherine Shatrau, visiting from a suburb of Chicago. He was just finishing Austin-Lehman trip with her husband and 7-year-old son of Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa is very Yellowstone.
"The trip did not have any stress," Shatrau added. "No worries about where to get gas, whether we were lost. We had to do was to wake up and bring a camera / water bottle / sense of adventure!"
Mike Sitzman agreed. Guides meant that he could concentrate on the fun of his children in such iconic and memorable place instead of sweating the details. "And it was huge," he said. Just as significant, and loving guides the way, children do not bicker or whine (much anyway), and they seem to want to electronics, they can not live without a home.
When we spied the bear the way, Matty Kirkland made a U-turn (no small feat with the van and trailer), parked and ran to the hill to set up the scope so we could watch from a safe distance (Park rangers say visitors should be at least a football field away), as he chowed down Wildflowers in the field of green. When it was time for children has vowed Junior Rangers, Gugliotta Kirkland and whispered into the ear of the Ranger, "the production of tea," it exciting for the children and make all around us smile, because they were the coveted Ranger characters.
Keeping the kids occupied our guide knew exactly where to hunt frogs and fashioned a balloon animal scavenger hunt for our campsite, they were Magnifiers ready for nature walks so they could be near at bugs and flowers, and they helped children to build a bona-fide Arch rock along one path, and snapped photos along the way, by putting them together with the CD they gave us a chronicle of the trip at the end of our adventure.
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"With children, It is always a journey, not a destination," explained Matty Kirkland, who has directed the families for the Austin-Lehman 15 years.
Sure, it costs more to this tour of the park (usually $ 400 per person per day, fewer children), but that includes everything – accommodations (do not worry about getting a room here in Park left), stellar meals (how about a taco picnic while the kids bang away at a piñata is a picnic area?), action (We ended the trip whitewater raft trip down the Yellowstone River), and most knowledgeable guides, who not only interpret what we see (did you know pine SAP is doing a good chewing gum?), but also to entertain the children with endless jokes, riddles, songs, piggyback rides and snacks.
Of course, had errors. The mosquitoes were terrible our campsite. The crew that set up our camp did not bring the promised fishing rods for children. Hot springs, where we planned to swim in the park was closed because of high water. But because our guides were always ready for plan B (ready to fly a kite instead of fish), things that can be bounced off second trip turned out to be just minor annoyances, and adults can relax instead of fighting options.
Other thoughtful touches made us all smile. Think about the homemade ice cream with a special gadget to REI, and served in cones at the top of a bright turquoise trail at Grand Prismatic Spring – the third largest geyser in the world – spread out below us in all its glory, or yogurt parfaits are presented on a silver platter over the waterfall.
"Definitely worth the money," said Atlanta's Tim Mast, whose Austin-Lehman Family visits are also on top of us. His wife and three daughters were both in good time – their first trip to this group – that they are already thinking about next summer.
The last morning in Yellowstone, a 9-year-old Ethan declared: "It's better than Disney World! I do not want to leave."
© 2011 Eileen Ogintz … Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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Submited at Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 6:00 am on Family by dave
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