The Excellent Adventures of Kim and Kev

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yellowstone - The Wildlife

I can't believe that it has already been a month since our trip... and I can't believe that I still have two more recaps to post.

Life is busy and I'm ready for another vacation.  ;)
The wildlife in Yellowstone is a huge part of the whole adventure.  An adventure because you never know where or when you will see an animal next.

In the middle of the road.  At a campsite.  Next to a picnic table.  On a hiking trail.

We  managed to see every animal that we hoped to... mainly because other people spotted them first and we just pulled over because they did.  

But every once in a while, we came across a creature all on our own.


Moose!! ( He was spotted the minute we drove in to Moose, Montana!)

More bison.... they were EVERYWHERE.
A rabbit.....
These guys prevented us from going any further on our trail.  They were ensuring safe passage for the mommas and babies.

The ranger that "protected" us and suggested we back up...
"Don't mind me.  I'm just blocking the road because I feel like it."


The "Kentucky" bird named (by us)  because it was blue.
A ground squirrel... or "whistle pig"...
The face that it makes when it is about to whistle...
We also saw big horned sheep, a grizzly bear, a black bear cub, and a wolf.... all of which were moving to fast or were too far away for a good picture.

I spent a lot of time desperately trying to spot wildlife from the back seat of the car.  I had a whole set up of cameras, lenses, and binoculars.  And had to keep reminding myself not to scream if I did see something.  Screaming is not the most polite thing to do to your driver when he is cautiously driving on the side of a mountain!

A bison even made the trip home with us....
Mom's souvenir - which she named "Buffy".

I only have one more post about our trip.  I guess I've been dragging it all out because I don't want to believe that it is over.  The last post will sum up our adventures...... tours, hiking, excursions, etc.  In the meantime, if you would like to check out all of the pictures ( because I will never be able to post them all on the blog), I've got them downloaded on my Facebook page.

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Cowboy Cookout

When my Mom first asked me what I wanted to do in Yellowstone, I told her three things...

1.  Stay at The Old Faithful Inn.
2.  Hike to Fairy Falls.
3.  Participate in a cowboy cookout.

Other than that, I was game for anything.

So, Mom scheduled the cowboy cookout for the 30th ( four months before my actual birthday) and we decided to treat it as my birthday dinner.

And it was SO MUCH FUN!

This picture pretty much sums up the best parts about it... cowboys and coffee.

We started our adventure on a ranch.  Dad had opted to ride a horse out to the cookout area!  Mom and I chose the safer route and went on the wagons.
Dad was a natural and pretty much had this big happy grin on the entire time...
I envisioned the "wagons" being a little more covered like on "Little House".  I even told Mom that she might need to pack up my smocked bonnets from when I was little in case we needed to wear them while traveling.

But they were open...
And since the cookout involved such a large group, there were lots of them.  We traveled the gorgeous landscape for about thirty minutes before we arrived at our destination.  Dad was on the horse for the same amount of time.  He said his ride was awesome!  He was just like a real cowboy.
We did have a guide in addition to our driver which told us all sorts of cool information about the area... the history, the wildlife, and about her job on the ranch.

Dinner was served outside and was completely cooked by a crew of cowboys. <- straight out of my dreams!
They even rang the dinner bell ( triangle) when it was time to eat.

I went a little crazy...

All of the food was delicious... but especially the beans and the cornbread.  The cornbread was sweet and the beans were so flavorful and hearty.  One of the cowboys offered up the bean recipe and I went up and got it from him.... giggling like a school girl.  I'm such a weirdo!

Then came the highlight.... The coffee!
There was a cowboy manning the fire with a huge kettle of coffee hanging over it.  We were told that it was the strongest coffee in all of the land... which made my eyes light up like fireworks were going off inside of them.  Strong + Bitter is my favorite coffee flavor!

The coffee was SO strong!  I could even feel the coffee grounds on my tongue as I was drinking it.  It was heavenly!

A bit of our view....
The entire time that we were eating there was a cowboy playing guitar and singing to us.  And then I looked up and saw my Mom talking to him and I about died.  She asked him to sing me "Happy Birthday".

There was no where to hide.

So, I pulled my hat down low and stared down at my food and blushed profusely.

But as embarrassed as I was, being sung to by cowboys was an absolute highlight of the trip!

And I was able to cross that off of my bucket list.

Another cowboy + coffee picture.... ( I wish I could get Kev to wear chaps).
I know the experience was a little touristy... but it was incredible just as I had envisioned.  And those guys weren't just putting on a show.... they were REAL cowboys that can cook and sing and ride horses and make me giggle and blush.

I felt like I was 16 again.  Haha.

Me.. back at the ranch...
And one last picture of the best coffee of all time...
It was such an awesome night!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Yellowstone - The Food

Obviously, I take food very seriously.  Most of the time, it is because living a healthy lifestyle is important to me and I want to make sure that I'm getting the proper fuel to make me feel my best. 

But then there is vacation......and vacation, for me, is a time to try new foods and really make the most of the experience.

I spent months and months looking over menus and trying to decide my plan of action.  All of the restaurants served elk, bison, salmon, and trout and I wanted to make sure that I chose the best dish at each place.  The good news is that we pretty much all like the same things ( except my Dad is allergic to salmon) so we were able to share at most places.

Mom made sure to get reservations in advance for the places that required them.  

Our first night's meal was spent in none other than The Old Faithful Inn Dining Room.  

Mom and I shared the bison pot roast with roasted root vegetables and cheese polenta.
Our server warned us that the pot roast would be a little tougher than the beef pot roast we were probably used to.... but I didn't think it was tough at all. ( Maybe it is because Switzer teeth are the biggest and the strongest in the land).  The roast was very flavorful and the sides were delicious.  I eat roasted root vegetables all the time because I love them so much... but this was my first time eating polenta.  Which tasted like a creamier version of grits.  Yum.

Side note:  I tend to get carried away with eating while on vacation so I tried to be mindful and just eat what I needed to be full while still getting to try a little of everything.  Mom felt the same way... which was good... because we ended up sharing some meals.  Plus the restaurants served smaller portions than what we are used to in the South.  There were only two nights that I went a little crazy.  And every night ended in dessert.

And here is why.....

The Yellowstone Sundae!

I am not joking when I say that I have found my new favorite dessert!  The base of it is huckleberry ice cream.  Huckleberry! <- the most delicious berry on the planet.  Unfortunately, it is only in Montana and Wyoming.  It is a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry and just had the most amazing taste.  The sundae consisted of the ice cream + a warm berry crumble cake + a fresh berry topping + whipped cream.  

And unfortunately, in my excitement, I mainly just got a picture of the whipped cream.  

Every single night ( except for the Cowboy cookout and our last night) we had huckleberry ice cream.  Either by itself or in sundae form.

( We also bought huckleberry in forms of taffy, jam, and chocolate covered.  I believe my Dad was truly sick of us talking about it so much!)

Night Two:

The Bear Pit.  ( I can't find a link to it).  It is located next to the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room and is more like a bar and grill type of place.  We had been out exploring ALL day and just needed a place to eat that was fast and didn't require a reservation.  Because I was so in love with The Inn, I asked that we go back and eat there.  

We were so famished at this point that we didn't even take pictures of the food.  I got an amazing wild mushroom flatbread that had mushrooms on it the size of my head ( that's possibly an exaggeration).  It was just so good!  Mom got chicken lettuce wraps ( delish!) and for some reason I cannot remember what my Dad got... but we all shared sweet potato fries.  

Then we walked next door to the Dining Room and asked if we could order dessert to go.  Which they gladly did.  Huckleberry ice cream for Mom and me... and butter pecan for Dad.  We ate it in the lobby around the beautiful fire place.

Day Three:

This restaurant was in Grand Teton National Park.  Our plans to go canoeing got rained out so the restaurant  changed our reservations to 5:30pm so we could eat and get back on the road to Yellowstone.  ( Plus, we needed to make it back to the hotel in time to get our ice cream!)

The restaurant was very upscale and beautifully decorated.  One entire side was all windows so you could see the Grand Tetons while you were eating your meal.  It was gorgeous.

We had brought nice clothes to wear when we went to these fancy meals... but due to all of our exploring, we never made it back once to get changed.  Thank goodness the restaurants said "casual dress", because that is definitely what we showed up in.  :)

I also have to say "thank goodness" that the staffs also didn't seem to mind how rowdy we were.  Funny stories and loud laughter ( mainly from Dad) seemed to echo throughout the restaurants.  Dad even was laughing so hard at a story he was telling that he blew out our candle... which our server had to come and relight.

Like I always say.... A meal with the Switzers is ALWAYS a good ( but loud) time.

Moose butter...
This was our palate cleanser... Ahi tuna with eel sauce.  It was different but good and even spicy.  ( I ate Mom's)
Then we shared the following entrees...

Scallops and Shrimp in a truffle butter sauce...
Prime Rib with asparagus and truffle oil mashed potatoes...
Trout with edamame and brussel sprouts....
OH MY WORD ... the trout was the best piece of fish that I have ever had!  It was exceptional!

Every thing was delicious and you really can't beat eating next to this view....
Day Four:

At this point in our trip, we had moved in to cabins on Lake Yellowstone.  We were staying within walking distance of this hotel... which was actually the very first hotel that was built in the park.
The hotel was beautiful and very fancy.  ( The inside reminded me of a cross between The Grand Floridian and The Beach and Yacht Club for those of you who are Disney lovers).   Possibly a little too fancy for us as we were seated in the back in the corner for our meal.  I'm not sure if it was how we looked OR if our other servers had called ahead to warn of our behavior.  Haha.
This was my first time having goat cheese... I know that's weird.  I always thought I wouldn't like it for some reason... but it is my new favorite!  So creamy and scrumptious!  They served the goat cheese with a basket full of fresh breads.

We also ordered our own meals here.  Mom and I had the salmon and snow pea pasta dish.
Dad had a chicken pasta dish.

Mine was so delicious!  It had a dill and lemon dressing that I must recreate at home.  Kev would love it.

And, of course, I finished my meal with the Yellowstone Sundae.

Day Five:

The Cowboy Cookout.

I will devote a separate post to that because it was an adventure all on it's own.

Day Six:

The Lake Lodge Cafeteria.
This was our last night!!  We were staying in cabins next door, so the Lodge was the perfect place for us to eat.  We had spent the day, once again, on a million different adventures and we wanted to get to just sit back and relax and enjoy our last night at The Lodge.

Mom made it even better and got us chairs on the porch so we could enjoy the view and the weather during our meal!
This was one of the nights that I went a little crazy.  It was a cafeteria style place, so there were lots of different choices, and my Dad was shocked at what I ended up with.  Let's just say I went all out knowing that I was headed home and it was going to be "back to healthy food" time.
Mom and Dad got the coconut crusted tilapia.  Everything was very good!

The ice cream shop was closed by the time we wanted dessert.  So we settled for popcorn in front of the fireplace and a million pieces of Huckleberry taffy.

As far as our other meals... breakfasts and lunches....

Our breakfasts were eaten in the room.  Fresh fruit and granola bars.  Plus coffee for me.

And lunches were spent outside... whenever and wherever we felt like eating.  We purchased sandwiches each morning from the hotel deli and packed our own snacks like nuts and chips.

I never thought of Yellowstone as being a place for a "foodie", but the food definitely blew me away.  Yellowstone is truly the perfect place for me!  All of my obsessions... all in one place!

Up Next:
The Cowboy Cookout!