It is the familiar lament of the parents to hear how their cars crawling in traffic on the roads in Yellowstone National Park – some 466 miles – as the vehicle slowly gawk in the wilderness.
But we are not driving. Together with our Austin-Lehman Adventures, leads Matty Kirkland and Katie Gugliotta, we are on Yellowstone Lake Kayak called to a wilderness camp 7M7. We paddle five miles from the place where a fishing boat dropped us off and spy osprey and deer on the road, but not other people. We are pottys the next two nights in tents with outdoor, to spend no showers and no Internet or cell service, and we can not wait, especially since we do not have to set up the tents or cook. Is that a bald eagle fly? Wow!
There are many remote campsites along the huge lake, 20 miles north to south and 14 miles from east to west, and offers 141 miles of coastline – and we're ready position, that of the masses, as we can get. Last year Yellowstone had a record 3.6 million visitors, setting visitation records for the third time in four years. The National Park Service recorded 906 935 visitors in July this year – the second highest monthly level ever recorded visitation rights, although slightly down from last summer – to get reservations in the park lodges sometimes difficult.
When we visited in the last week in July, the park is packed with families – especially around Old Faithful (only one of 300 parks geysers) and in the new children's area at the Old Faithful Visitor Center. And despite a lot of space away from the crowds – extends Yellowstone is about 3472 square miles in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho with 1,000 miles of trails – the National Park Service, says the vast majority of visitors do not get more than a quarter-mile from the road, although only about 3 percent of the sprawling park can be seen from this standpoint.
The way the reason why we allow it, Austin-Lehman the way it was decided. The company has been guiding families in Yellowstone for 25 years – several hundred a summer – and if she travels around the world, including offering a lot for families to stay Montana and Yellowstone their most popular trips (for more Montana family itinerary next summer include more camping), if you sign on to organize tour with other families or just a trip for your family alone, as we have. Our trip with the family including my cousins Mike and Jayme Sitzman from Denver and her children, Ethan, 9, and Hannah, 6
"The leaders were able to tell us about places we had not even noticed when we were alone," Katherine Shatrau, said visiting from a suburb of Chicago. She had just completed an Austin-Lehman trip with her husband and 7-year-old son at the Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa just outside Yellowstone.
"This trip was no stress to delete" recorded Shatrau. "Do not worry about where to get gas, if we were lost. All we had to do was awake and bring our camera / water bottle / sense of adventure!"
Mike Sitzman agreed. The leader said he would focus fun with his children in such an iconic and memorable place instead of sweating the details. "And that was huge," he said. Equally important, with the amiable guide the way, have the children do not whine or squabble (anyway), nor do they seem to electronics, they do not want to live without a home.
When we spotted a bear in the street, made Matty Kirkland a U-turn (no small feat with a van and trailer), parked and went up the hill to set up a range so that we could say from a safe distance (park guards watch visitors should be at least a football field away) as he chowed on the greens in a field full of wildflowers. When it comes time for children to be sworn in as junior rangers, Gugliotta and Kirkland at the ranger whispered ear to smile "is one such" of them, exciting the children and make all around us, as they were handed their coveted Ranger badge.
Keeping kids busy Our tour guide knew exactly where to hunt for frogs and fashioned balloon animals for a scavenger hunt at our campsite, they had magnifying glasses at the ready for nature walks, so that look like they might close up of bugs and flowers, and they helped the children construct a bona fide form of rock along a route and grabbed all the pictures on the way in bringing together on a CD they gave us at the end of the journey to chronicle our adventures.
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"With children, it is always about the journey not the destination," said Matty Kirkland, who has been guiding the family to Austin-Lehman in 15 years.
Certainly it is more cost to tour the park in this way (usually $ 400 per person per day, less for children), but that includes everything – accommodation (no worries here about room in Park Lodges), stellar meals ( how about a taco picnic while the kids bang away at a piñata at a picnic spot?), activities (we end our trip with a whitewater rafting trip on the Yellowstone River) and most experienced guides who interpret not only what we see (did you know makes good pine sap gum?), but also entertained the children with a never-ending supply of jokes, riddles, songs, piggyback rides and snacks.
Of course there were mishaps. The mosquitoes were terrible at our campsite. The team that set up our camp did not bring the promised fishing rods for the kids. Swim a hot springs where we planned, the park was closed due to flooding. But because our leaders were always ready with a plan B (ready to fly a kite instead of fish), which might have derailed another trip just a little annoying, and the adults could relax, rather than scramble for alternatives.
More attentions have us all smile. Think you made homemade ice cream with a special REI gadget and served in cones at the tip of a walking trail with the bright turquoise Grand Prismatic Spring – the third largest hot spring in the world – in all its glory below us or presented yogurt parfait spread on a silver platter under a waterfall.
"Absolutely worth the money," said Tim Mast Atlantan, whose Austin-Lehman family trip we also overlap. His wife and three daughters had such a good time – their first trip to such a group – that they are already thinking about next summer.
Our last morning in Yellowstone, the 9-year-old Ethan says: "It is 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 Sunday, August 21st, 2011 at 6:00 am on Family by ethan
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