The hospital here in Billings has been crazy for Erich. They are understaffed and over-scheduled. When they offered us an extension after our initial contract, we gladly accepted because Fall in Montana and Wyoming is amazing. However, the schedule they gave Erich was the worst we’d ever experienced. It was one day on, one day off, two days on, one day off, three days on, two days off… you get the idea, no time for fun. We never had more than a couple days off in a row. Last week we finally had 5 off in a row and planned a trip to the Tetons. Teton National Park in the Fall is breathtaking and we couldn’t wait to get there. What we forgot, is that this is the week every year where half of their campgrounds close for the season. Except this year, because of the Kung Flu, only one campground remained open. We were out of luck. Thankfully, we finally found boondocking at the Tetons! There was this amazing hill in the National Forest, just across the valley from the National Park, where you could park for free. We arrived just before sunset and didn’t want to crowd anyone along the edge of the hill, but we were kind of drooling over the view when some full-timers invited us over. Full-timers are so much friendlier than regular campers! No offense to anyone. =) We pulled our camper up beside theirs and exchanged stories of life on the road while we watched the sun go down over the Grand Tetons. It was incredible.
The next day we tried to hit up a few new spots including an old barn on Mormon Row and the Red Hills, just east of the Tetons NP. Colder weather was setting in so we tried to get a spot at the campground so that we wouldn’t get snowed in up on the hill. After hanging out at Jackson Lake for the campground to release the last campsite (reserved until 6pm for people with disabilities), someone swooped in ten minutes early and stole it! We were all pretty bummed. I tried encouraging the kids and said that God must have something better in store for us. Asia and Jake both asked “Why are you always so optimistic?!” I reminded them that God always provides us with something better than what we lost, and in this situation, I felt like being angry was a waste of time and energy. I think they were nodding their heads and rolling their eyes at the same time. We headed back to the primitive camping and parked at the bottom of the hill since we were expecting rain or snow, and called it a night.
I don’t sleep well when we camp. I am an incredibly light sleeper and sharing such a small space with 5 other wiggly humans, tends to keep me up. Sometimes as I lay awake, I think about how much I love that little camper, wiggly as it may be. Sometimes it feels like a time machine, only instead of transporting me to a different time, it transports me to new and exciting places. Other times the camper feels almost like a cocoon. We can be parked in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by wildlife and extreme weather, rough roads, and the unknown, yet we sleep all safe and warm and cozy. Protected. As I laid in bed that night, entertaining all these thoughts, I also felt a sense of anticipation. When we planned this trip, there was no bad weather in the forecast and I was a bit bummed when we arrived at the park and there was barely a trace of snow on the mountain peaks. Don’t get me wrong, the Fall colors were beautiful. But my absolute favorite thing in the Tetons and in Yellowstone, is the transition from Fall to Winter, when there are still deep, vibrant colors on the trees and a frosting of white on the hills and mountaintops. The first snow is my absolute favorite. That night, I knew that a storm was brewing, and I felt like a little kid at Christmas, laying in bed with the knowledge that mom and dad were downstairs putting gifts under the tree. I just knew that my Father was wrapping the mountains in glitter for me and I could barely wait until daylight to sneak out and peak. As the sun rose, the amount of light coming in the windows told me we had gotten snow even in the valley. I pulled on my boots and, man alive, does God know how to do things right! As I walked alone in the silence, He quietly whispered to me, “Sometimes storms make beautiful things even more beautiful.” Oh, my heart! How many of us need to hear that right now? We spent the day driving to all our favorite spots to soak up the freshly painted views, hopping out in the cold to snap a picture and quickly jumping back in the van to warm up. It was heaven. Only a little colder than I imagine it. But, God’s words simmered in my heart all day, and ever since. I hope they encourage you as much as they did me. I hope you can rest in the storm, knowing that the Creator has you, all safe in His hands, and is perfecting you in the midst of what may feel like chaos.
We decided to drive home through West Yellowstone in an attempt to avoid the worst of the coming weather. It ended up being really cool because, last week in science, River learned about all of the different ways that heated ground water rises to the surface of the earth: geysers, hot springs, spouters, steam vents and mud pots. As we stopped and visited the hot springs, she was able to recognize all of them and explain where the different colors come from! I always love it when book knowledge becomes life knowledge. I hope you all have a great week, thanks for tuning in!