What's this about a super volcano turning the roads inside our treasured national park into a "soupy mess"?
Park officials once closed a 3.3 mile long stretch of Firehole Lake Drive because the pavement has become too soft for vehicle traffic.
A spokesperson for the park explained that Yellowstone, our first national park, sits on top of the caldera of an ancient super volcano. That's the source of the heat that spews steam from geysers like Old Faithful. That same heat has melted roadways. In fact, geologists recently discovered that the volcano was more than twice as large as previously determined.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the wonderous home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk. It is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.
Visitors can find travel and other Park updates here.
Wish you were here to join us for a horseback ride under these great Montana skies.
There is so much to do here at the historic 320 Guest Ranch.
Families are hiking, fly-fishing, checking out the zip line over at Big Sky and heading into Yellowstone Park for the day. Our favorite National Park is just a few miles down the road!
At home on the open range, self-reliant and hard working, the American Cowboy remains an iconic figure. With spurs jangling and hat tipped against the wind, he continues to symbolize the free-thinking, rugged individualism that, in part, defines the American West and much of our country’s history.
The first cowboys or vequeros came from Mexico in the late 1500s, hired to move cattle into what is now Texas and New Mexico. In the centuries that followed, the cowboy played a crucial role in the development of the West. Working hard for low wages, breaking trail through dangerous country and enduring long, lonely days and nights sleeping under the stars, cowboys helped establish the new frontier.
Despite fewer numbers and changes in ranch management, the cowboy’s work still must be done. Throughout the West, you’ll find men and women on horseback, protected by hats, chaps and boots, riding into the far reaches of the backcountry to round up errant cattle, mend fences and doctor a sick calf. You’ll also find them on the rodeo circuit showing off their skills, often including tricks of their trade passed down through the centuries.
For many who are part of today’s Baby Boomer generation, childhood play might have meant donning a pretend holster, hat and cowboy boots before heading out, fully outfitted for a Wild West adventure. Then came watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on television and perhaps catching a John Wayne movie on the weekend.
Yet, free time for modern day kids is more likely to include high tech pursuits ranging from globally-themed video games to text-heavy “conversations” with friends or organized athletic pursuits.
“Unplugging from our busy lives can benefit everyone. “ That, according to Tyler Beckley who owns and operates the Three Bar Ranch in Cranbrook, BC and coordinates the efforts of the Spur Alliance, a group of ten, like-minded guest ranches in the West. “We see what it means for families when the kids are able to run free, there is little focus on time or technology and adults and children are able to connect with animals, nature and each other. “
For those interested in savoring the rich flavor of the old West and tapping into the compelling culture of the cowboy, the options remain plentiful. Even if the name “Trigger” doesn’t ring any bells, grab your boots and a bandana and hit the trail. Here are five places to consider:
Santa Fe: Cowboys Real and Imagined.
The storied Santa Fe Trail comes to an end in the heart of Santa Fe, NM, just steps from modern day museums, shops and galleries. What was once a challenging, 900-mile trade route brought many a weary cowboy into town. There, he would tie his horse to the hitch rail and seek refreshment, grateful for a break from the dusty trail where rattlesnakes, weather and the threat of Native American attack kept him on high alert.
The city of Santa Fe has celebrated this beloved aspect of their local history with a multi-faceted exhibit, Cowboys, Real and Imagined, at the New Mexico History Museum.
Drawing on photos and artifacts from its extensive collections as well as loans from more than 100 individuals and museums, Cowboys, Real and Imagined sought to answer the question: Who is a real cowboy?
“One of the reasons the cowboy myth has been so pervasive and long-lasting is because anybody could become a cowboy of sorts,” said guest curator B. Byron Price, director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma and director of the University of Oklahoma Press.
In its search for an answer, Price said, the exhibit discovered that cowboy “is a verb, an adjective, a noun, an adverb.”
The interactive cowboy extravaganza offered plenty for visitors to see, touch and hear from recreations of a saddle shop to cowboy movie nights. Popcorn, a palomino horse character, offered his take on the cowboy story in kid-friendly language. Children had the opportunity to try on cowboy costumes and participate in hands-on activities.
The annual family-friendly Wild West Weekend, (check the web site for dates) features cowgirls and cowboys in full dress, music, saddle and boot makers, plus cowboy cooking and roping demonstrations.
Contact: (505) 476-5100; www.nmhistorymuseum.org
Cowboy culture is alive and well in this Wyoming town, founded in 1896 by Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Thanks to the legendary showman’s traveling Wild West shows, Cody was once bestowed and now retains the title of Rodeo Capital of the World more than a century after he put an entertaining twist on the skills local cowboys used in their daily endeavors. The Cody Stampede Rodeo attracts topnotch talent and also serves up classic rodeo entertainment, parades and a craft fair.
Each year, from June 1st through August 31st, Cody’s night rodeo, the longest running in the country gets underway at 8:00pm. Operating for more than 60 years, expect fan favorites including riding, roping, and bull and bronc exhibitions.
The musically inclined will want to tune it to Dan Miller and his "Empty Saddles Band" at the historic Cody Theatre across from the famed Irma Hotel. The Cowboy Music review offers up music, comedy and poetry throughout the summer months.
Also outside the Irma, catch a nightly Wild West street performance where the good guys and bad guys battle it out to the delight of visitors.
Make your way to Old Trail Town on the original site of Cody City to see 26 authentic frontier buildings dating back to 1879.
The onsite Museum of the Old West features artifacts that offer insight into how trappers, frontier folks and cowboys lived in the era as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids’ “Hole in the Wall” cabin and the gravesites of mountain men including Jeremiah “Liver Eating” Johnston. (Contact: www.YellowstoneCountry.org.)
Once home to the likes of Calamity Jane and her cohorts, Livingston, MT rests on the outside edge of a lazy eastward bend in the legendary Yellowstone River. Just fifty miles north of Yellowstone Park’s Gardiner Gate entrance, the former railroad town’s main street and historic buildings still stand as a testament to the ways of the old west. Their authentic turn-of the century charm cast the town as the perfect backdrop for movies like A River Runs Through it and The Horse whisper.
Today, the region’s cowboys still mix it up with local artists, writers and visitors, all of whom pay homage to the area’s blue-ribbon fly fishing and the rugged Bridger, Crazy, Absaroka and Gallatin Mountain Ranges that beckon many into the backcountry.
Each year over the Independence Day holiday, top-ranked PRCA cowboys and cowgirls gather for the Livingston Roundup, one of the country’s top paying rodeos. The festivities kick off with an old-fashioned parade, complete with tossed candy, costumed Shriners, themed floats and crusty wranglers pulling mule-trains along the parade route.
After three sold out nights of barrel racing, team roping and bronc riding, the festivities come to an end on July 4th when fireworks light up the western sky and a patriotic sound track gets the flags waving.
Extend your experience with a stay on a nearby guest ranch or the historic Chico Hot Springs Resort.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Oklahoma City, OK.
Founded in 1955, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has shared its extraordinary western art and artifacts collection as well as a wealth of history with more than 10 million visitors from around the world.
The stories told through the works of famed artists Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell and James Earle Fraser combine with interactive history galleries to illuminate the enduring legacy of the American cowboy, rodeos, western performers and the region’s frontiersmen.
“There is nothing more American than the American cowboy,” explains Don Reeves, the Curator and McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture at the museum. “People can really relate to the Code of the West and everything the cowboy stands for. We get a lot of young families in the museum who talk about integrating those values into their lifestyle.”
Throughout the year, families can enjoy the Children’s Cowboy Corral and interactive exhibits. Over Memorial Day weekend, the annual Chuck Wagon Gathering & Children’s Cowboy Festival gets underway. Expect authentic cowboy grub served from a chuck wagon as well as stagecoach and covered wagon rides, weaving and roping demonstrations and a range of western stage entertainment.
Contact: 405-478-2250; www.nationalcowboymuseum.org
Visit a Dude Ranch.
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch
High-profile families flock to Big Sky Country where there are more buffalo than paparazzi.
From Ted Turner and Dennis Quaid to the recent arrival of singer John Mayer, Montana offers
a chance to unplug from a pressure-filled existence and enjoy the wide open spaces. Local
guest ranches, such as Mountain Sky in vista-rich Paradise Valley, treat all their guests like
celebrities, according to general manager Yancy Arterburn. “Whether they choose to sit on the
porch reading a book or load the kids into helicopter for a day of private fly fishing or
Yellowstone sightseeing, we just want everyone to have a good time.”
Contact: visitmontana.com; 1-800-548-3392; www.mtnsky.com
Established in 1861 by Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill and his wife Esther, the Hunewill Ranch, is the oldest working guest ranch in California and home to 1200 head of cattle, 190 horses, and an assortment of llamas, goats, and sheep. “The fact that we are one of the oldest continuously owned family cattle ranches in the American West means our guests have the benefit of all that history. We are the real deal,” explains Betsy Hunewill, the great, great granddaughter of the founder, who was known as “NB”.
“Some of our guests show up wound pretty tight,” adds Hunewill, “but by the time they leave they are different people.” It makes perfect sense. Guests have the option to disconnect from their daily stressors and enjoy outdoor adventures on the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park in the shadow of the Sierra Nevadas. Days begin with a cool morning breakfast ride through a lush meadow.
Later guests can saddle up and help move cattle, fly fish, watch as young foals or yearlings are worked in the corral, or explore a corner of the 26,000 acre expanse on which five generations of Hunewills have shared their western ways. Riding programs are crafted to match the skill and interests of each rider, explained Hunewill. Wranglers have designed games to help beginners learn horsemanship, activities that Hunewill says are as enjoyable for adults as they are for the youngsters. Following a home-style dinner in “NB”’s original Victorian ranch house, families gather for talent night, square dancing, stories around a campfire or a little roping practice before retiring to their comfortable cottage-style accommodations.
“We get a lot of repeat guests and many families have been coming generation after generation,” said Hunewill. “One mom recently told me she had offered to take the kids to a popular theme park. But the kids insisted on returning to the ranch. It’s kind of neat to hear that.”
Happy trails to you until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then. Who cares about the clouds when we're together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather. Happy trails to you 'till we meet again. Dale Evans – 1950.
Do you love to hike?
Taking to the trails is a great way to introduce youngsters to the benefits of fresh air and the natural world.
Here are five hikes to enjoy together:
There is plenty of family fun to be found in mountain towns during the summer. Cool temperatures. Hiking, biking and family fly fishing abound.
Your whole crew will enjoy witnessing the American tradition where the rough and tough iconic cowboy meets good, old-fashioned family fun.
Check out these epic mountain towns while you are in the mood for high altitude fun.
Single parents looking for time with the kids might welcome the chance to connect with other adults while traveling.
Here are five ideas to consider:
1 Check out a dude ranch.
Join a cattle drive, learn to rope a calf, play games or enjoy a picnic in the hills. You’ll savor time together in a pristine setting with as much activity as suits your personal style. Join other families at mealtime or around an evening campfire to share stories and plan the next day’s adventures. Many ranches have kids-only programs that give grown-ups a chance to learn a new skill or recharge on their own.
Contact: bestduderanches.com; www.duderanch.org
2. Stay in an all-inclusive.
Leave the credit cards behind and feel comfortable on the beach, at dinner, and pursuing paddle boating, water-skiing, sailing and snorkeling with and without the kids. At Curtain Bluff, a relaxed yet luxurious family-owned resort in Antigua, you can pamper yourself at the spa or sway under the palms in your hammock while the youngsters enjoy a tennis clinic or Creative Camp.
Contact: 1-888-289-9898; www.curtainbluff.com
3. Raft a river.
Cast a line in the water in between rapids in on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Warm up in hot springs along the way and check out Indian pictographs. Join other parents and kids in camp for a short hike, organic seasonal fare and conversation around the campfire. For a luxury-in-the-wilderness experience , parents can treat themselves to a riverside massage.
Contact: 832-755-7661; far-away.com
4 Volunteer together.
Forge a parent-child bond while giving back to others. Learn about community-based tourism through a cross-cultural exchange that includes home stays, family-style meals, exploration, adventure and time with locals in indigenous communities. Opportunities include building schools as well as assisting with the pressing need of the moment in Peru, Guatemala, Kenya, India and beyond. Closer to home, venture into America’s breathtaking backcountry to rebuild or create trails, shelters and cabins in more than 50 locations with the American Hiking Society.
Contact: crookedtrails.com; www.americanhiking.org
5. Plan an adventure.
Interested in exploring the rain forest in Costa Rica? Perhaps you’d rather cycle together through Ireland, see lions and leopards in Africa, or learn about the natural world in Yellowstone. When joining small-group family adventure trips, the details are handled and you can enjoy time with the kids, other families and the destination at hand.
Contact: www.austinadventures.com; www.tauck.com
It is reported that nearly 90 percent of Americans love ice cream.
Whether in our home town or on the road, a trip to the local sweet shop is often on the itinerary.
If you and your family are in the majority, consider incorporating the cool confection into your next holiday.
Here are nine places where ice cream takes center stage:
Salt & Straw, Portland, OR.
Billed as “farm-to-cone ice cream”, the delectable and creative flavors regularly result in lines out the door, as patrons debate their new favorite concoction. Launched by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek, the pair uses local, sustainable and organic ingredients to deliver hand-made, small batches of Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero, Cinnamon Snicker Doodle and Double Fold Singing Dog Vanilla.
Contact: 971-271-8168; www.SaltandStraw.com.
Velvet Ice Cream’s Ye Olde Mill. Utica, OH.
This 99-year-old, family-owned spot celebrates the month with activities that include 99-cent cone day, music from a barbershop quartert, magicians, clowns, tastings and a special sundae celebration. Pets even get in on the action during the 4Paws Dog Show
The company, fittingly located in Licking County, churns out more than 5 million gallons of ice cream each year on the 25-acre grounds of Ye Olde Mill where visitors can tour the ice cream and milling museum. The playground, picnic area and catch-and-release fishpond are popular with families.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. SD.
Thomas Jefferson is well known for service to his country, efforts that included writing the Declaration of Independence and serving as President of the US. But few know he is considered to be the first to craft an ice cream recipe. Xanterra Parks and Resorts serves the same vanilla recipe that Jefferson offered his guests at a state dinner held at Monticello home. Monumental scoops of “TJ’s Ice Cream” are available throughout the summer at the Memorial Team Ice Cream shop.
Contact: www.nps.gov/moru; www.mtrushmorenationalmemorial.com
Little Man Ice Cream. Denver, Co.
Visit this Coney Island inspired creamery for hand-made and locally sourced taste treats, crafted within a 28-foot tall silver cream can. In addition to providing an experience for their local customers, Little Man is committed to a Scoop for Scoop program. For every scoop of ice cream purchased, the organization provides a scoop of rice or beans to those less fortunate in developing parts of the world.
Birchwood Dairy, Abbotsford, BC.
Koralee Teichroeb, author of Everything Goes With Ice Cream, taps the 150-acre Birchwood Dairy as her go-to spot for the creamy confection. “This little neighborhood farm and dairy sells the best homemade ice cream ever,” declares the frozen treat aficionado. Visitors can take a farm tour or enjoy petting small farm animals before enjoying a scoop of Candy Cane or Caramel Wave.
Waterbury, Vt. –
Two guys named Ben and Jerry have turned their mail order ice cream business into this state’s number one tourist attraction. The kids will have fun outside engaging in fun activities that include spin art, a tie-dye tent, temporary tattoos and a playground. Inside they will be mesmerized by the “cow to cone” process. Everyone’s favorite focus seems to be taste testing. Don’t miss the ice cream graveyard where has-beens and wanna-be flavors are given their due with colorful grave markers.
Contact: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tours; 1 (802) 882-1240; www.BenJerry.com
Fairbanks and Denali, AK –
If the urge for ice cream strikes in between animal sightings, camping, climbing, biking and kayaking, head straight to Hot Licks for some premium cream. Launched more than 20 years ago by two brothers from Boston, Hot Licks offers locally inspired flavors including Aurora Borealis (local blueberry and cranberry purees swirled into vanilla ice cream), Alaska Birch Walnut (local birch syrup and California walnuts) and Nanook Nosh (vanilla, melted milk chocolate and caramel.)
Contact: www.HotLIicks.net; :1- (907) 479-7813
Fort Lauderdale, FL --
At the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa you can enjoy in-room ice cream sundae service. During July ( National Ice Cream Month ) you can go overboard with free toppings. Watching your calories? Indulge in a 50- minute ice cream pedicure, customized to your taste. Will it be vanilla, kiwi or mango?
Contact: www.marriottharborbeach.com; 1 (800) 222-6543.
San Antonio, TX –
After a stroll on the Riverwalk or a visit to the Alamo, indulge in a cool, refreshing ice cream sundae for your feet! At the luxury Watermark Hotel and Spa you can climb into the chair for a 50-minute ice cream pedicure treatment that promises to nourish, relax and beautify your legs and feet. Your special take home gift: more ice cream.
Contact: 1 (866) 605-1212; www.watermarkhotel.com.
"How we define the "experiences of a lifetime" for ourselves and our families is as diverse as families themselves. So what matters to you? What are you aching to experience with your clan? As you plan for grand family travel, here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Reflect your values.
The travel choices you make can send a strong message to your loved ones about what matters most to you. Consider the bucket list as a thoughtful and deliberate reflection of your own values, hopes and dreams. So before you begin listing desired destinations, ask yourself what aspects of the world - geographically, spiritually and culturally - you want to share with your children, grandchildren and perhaps other friends and family members.
2.Identify Priorities and Passions.
Are you a nature, history or art lover? Do you want your children or grandchildren to learn how to ski, photograph or scuba dive? Do you hope to share your love of baseball or botany with the next generation? Will volunteer vacations or heritage tours be an important part of your mix? Take time to consider these ideas that will expand your family’s horizons and weave them into your travel plan.
3. Identify places.
Americans get low marks for knowledge of geography. Begin with a good map or atlas and consider studying the globe an important part of your family travel education. While your list will most certainly change over the years, think about which destinations you hope to visit while your children are in the nest and beyond? And, when it comes time to involve the children in creating the bucket list, remember that kids don’t know what they don’t know. Certain theme parks and resorts will likely be on their radar screens. But they may not be aware of the glories of Yellowstone or Yosemite or the historical significance of Gettysburg or Montpelier.
4 About the money.
Choosing to make travel a priority is a decision that may require foregoing other luxuries or experiences. But the quality bonding time and lifelong memories are sure to be worth it. Consider creating a travel savings account. Opt for travel related gifts for birthdays, graduations and holidays. Encourage the children to establish their own travel fund. Saving for a specific trip can be an important part of the overall experience.
5. About the time.
Whether you begin by tossing up a tent in the backyard or strategizing to experience a safari in Africa, there is no time like the present to begin planning family travel. As children get older, their schedules become more complicated by their own commitments. Take advantage of school breaks. Consider off-season adventures when you will experience fewer crowds and lower prices, even if it means missing a few days of class. Is a month, summer or year abroad on your family wish list? If, so, begin the research now.
6. And now.
You’ve planned and prioritized. Now, have fun. Take pictures.
Spending time outside matters.
This revelation, underscored in a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute ("More Than S'mores"), doesn't surprise me.
The report suggests that girls who spend time outside regularly surpass their peers who spend less time in fresh air in environmental stewardship, they readily seek more challenges and are better problem-solvers.
Other findings include:
Spending time outdoors in nature is different from playing or learning inside.
Here’s how . . .
Outdoor spaces support physical play. Unlike most indoor environments, the outdoors offers open space where children are able to be messy, make noise, and move in more physically intense ways.
This allows them to develop their movement capability and confidence—both of which create foundations for physically active lifestyles and general health (Little & Wyver, 2008; SPARC, 2009).
Time in nature promotes attention restoration.
Spending time in nature (even just a walk in a park) has been shown to improve concentration and creative reasoning among children and adults, including those with attention deficits (Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012; Taylor & Kuo, 2009; Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008).
Nature provides novelty and challenge, which enhance leadership.
Outdoor experiences often place girls in new physical, psychological, and social situations that motivate curiosity and foster a sense of discovery. Authentic challenges in nature (think . . . starting a fire in the rain or negotiating a set of whitewater rapids) require girls to become more self-aware and to cooper- ate, communicate, and solve problems more effectively (Rickinson et al., 2004).
For me and for my children, outdoor experiences have always been healthy, enriching and expansive in every way.
Our favorite family vacations have included river rafting, hiking, fly fishing, and camping.
What role does outside activity play in your family?