I know it is hard to believe, but this was not my most favorite year. Weird, right? Our luxury family vacation to the Mexican Caribbean had to be canceled, and I am still crying about that. Really… a tear just dropped down onto my keyboard… sigh… Luckily we were able to go on a Yellowstone and Grand Tetons family vacation road trip in its place.
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Summer was jam-packed, which made no sense to me since we in a pandemic, but work was crazy for my husband and me. We only had a five-day window that we could get out of town. So, we booked a house using VRBO and were able to take a trip to Idaho, Wyoming, and a little bit of Montana. I’m not sure when exactly we were in Montana, but I’m counting it. Three states sound way more exciting than two! Consequently, we were able to add 3 pictures to our photo map. That was my main goal anyway! It honestly helped to lessen the blow of the missing all-inclusive resort when I realized that I would add THREE photos to my map.
Spending the first day of our trip exploring Yellowstone National Park was exciting. We saw some incredible sights that seemed straight out of a science fiction novel. The ground literally bubbles and there is danger around every corner! My Fitbit was telling me that I was in fat-burn mode all day. That is a big plus for vacation. The stress of being swallowed up into the ground or eaten by a bear tricked my watch into thinking I was exercising!
Day 2-Snake River Float Trip
Thanks to previous guests at our rental house, we headed out for a relaxing float down the Snake River with our bear spray in hand. The drive to Jackson Hole was a breeze, and our experience with Lewis and Clark Expeditions was top-notch. They took precautions to keep everyone as safe as possible during the pandemic but still made it a great outdoor experience. Upon arrival, we checked in outside and got fitted for our life jackets. They provided us with protein bars as a snack to take on our adventure. The group boarded the bus together, but there were only ten people in total. Consequently, there was plenty of room and air circulation with the windows rolled down, which was good since I’m not sure when my boys last showered.
The Scenery was Grand (Get it… Grand Tetons) for our family vacation
Originally, I wanted to do the whitewater rafting portion of the Snake River, but one of the boys said that he didn’t want to if there was a chance he could fall out. As one who has fallen out of rafts on numerous occasions, I thought I should ease him in with a float trip down the river. This part of the river’s calm allowed for some things we could never do on a more bumpy ride. For instance, Loren could bring a good camera with a zoom lens to capture some wildlife’s still photos.
Loren had just purchased a new mirrorless camera, the Cannon EOS RP. This was the perfect vacation to try it out!
The morning was relaxing as we coasted down the river. Our guide told us all about the wildlife and pointed out sights that might interest us. We did not get wet at all, except when we put our hands in the water to cool off. If your desire is for a peaceful float with some gorgeous scenery, this is the perfect activity for you. Although, next time, I think the boys will love whitewater rafting.
After a lovely day on the river, we found a park in Jackson Hole to sit and enjoy the lunch we brought along. We usually pack lunches to save money and ensure that our kids will like what they are eating. There is nothing worse than spending $80 on lunch that our kids don’t won’t touch.
Jackson Hole is a beautiful town, and it was fun to go someplace that didn’t feel as touristy. I told my kids that we were going to head to a lake in the Tetons that they will love. Instead of being met with excitement, the kids said, “Please don’t make us hike!” So, we decided to go back to the house and play Wiffle Ball.
Family time back at the house
Our boys are homebodies. When we are on vacation, they do better if we give them some downtime to do their own thing. I have finally given in to this and stop forcing every moment to be a scheduled adventure. We always try to bring activities to do as a family like Wiffle Ball or Kan Jam.
Sometimes the best memories of the trip come from the downtime. I typically chose rental houses for these closer-to-home trips because it gives my kids the space to be creative. My kids on vacation have filmed many movies, and we discover new games together. I love to see what their minds invent.
String Lake: my new favorite place
I must begin by confessing that I did not pack for my children for this trip. I told them the essentials that needed to be packed, yet I did not check their bags. They are in Jr. High and can theoretically handle this task. Consequently, One of my boys did not bring swim shorts. Therefore, he had nothing to wear in the most beautiful lake I have ever seen.
After waiting 25 minutes for a parking spot, we arrived to find the most amazing little piece of heaven I have ever seen. The friend who recommended it to me has yet to lead me wrong in any situation, therefore I was prepared for it to be pretty great. This completely surpassed all of my expectations. I mean… we’ve been to Hawaii and the Caribbean. I didn’t think Wyoming had a chance to compete with that. Boy was I wrong.
String Lake is crystal clear and shallow throughout. Although it was packed with people, somehow we were still able to find a peaceful spot to ourselves. My son, who chose to wear pants, got in up to his waist.
Hiking to Leigh Lake
After the boys got out of the lake, we hiked a bit to dry off. The hike over to Leigh Lake was great. I made sure that Loren went ahead of us with the bear spray. Rangers were walking around warning people of nearby furry friends as well. My children are not quiet by any sense of the word; therefore, the chances of us sneaking up on a bear were slim, but the rangers had recently spotted several in the area. Of course, I was paranoid and watching all around us. I never knew having loud kids could come in handy. On this day, I was grateful.
Traveling on the trail to Leigh Lake provided a fun opportunity to decode scat. In other words, we saw lots of poop. I’m pretty sure only one of them was from a bear, and the rest were from horses on the trail. It could have been from wolves or Sasquatch, but I’m not a scat expert, so I’m going to use some of my reasoning skills and go with horses because we passed a few on our hike. It’s a good idea to watch where you are stepping; that might not end well with my Keens, which consequently are my favorite vacation shoes. I keep imagining the holes filling up with poo… gross! It was also quite stinky—the masks we were required to have come in handy to block the smell. We put our feet in Leigh Lake before we headed back.
We didn’t get enough String Lake time
That night we decided to find a way to rent something that floats and go back early the next day. Every day in Jackson Hole was like the 4th of July this year. Stores had rented out all of their stand-up paddleboards (SUP’s) everywhere we looked. We were able to find two Ducky kayaks, however. These were really safe, fun, and wound up being a perfect fit for us. We also had to buy actual swim clothes for the kids… but that was my fault.
Vacation parenting fail…
Pro tip: Check your Jr. Higher’s bags before putting them in the car to see if they brought the essentials. When I told them to do their packing independently, I intended to teach them a lesson on packing and listening to their mom. If they forgot something, too bad so sad, they would have to deal with it, and hopefully, they would learn for next time. In reality, though, our family time is precious, and I don’t want our time together ruined by my desire to prove a point. So, we ended up purchasing the necessary items for the kids to enjoy the day. In hindsight, I wish that I would have been more helpful in the packing process and used a non-vacation time for those hard life lessons. It turns out that I learned more than they did this time.
I still can’t get over how crystal clear and shallow the water was. The kids were able to climb on rocks in the middle of the lake. I wouldn’t let them jump off like others were doing because it was so shallow since coming up with “worst-case scenario” situations is one of my talents. At least if they fell out of the kayak, they could be their own hero and stand up. I think that was one of my favorite things about this place.
Loren found this beaver dam while exploring the lake with my oldest. Nature is wonderful.
I appreciate the fact that this Teton family vacation was forced upon us. We have now discovered this treasure that is only four hours from our house. We will soon return, and next time we will be prepared with SUP’s (which we purchased immediately upon returning home) to enjoy the lake again. Maybe we will even bring friends along.
Want to read more?
If you missed the Yellowstone portion of our vacation, you could read about it here: Yellowstone National Park: A 2020 Vacation. I would recommend doing them both. Or, if you plan to go big this year, read about our Best Vacation Ever to Universal Orlando and then on a Disney Cruise. It was the trip of a lifetime!