In our original trip plans, we did not include Glacier National Park. After a day or so on the road, we decided we HAD to adjust and spend a few days in the park. We camped outside the park and spent a couple days exploring. Our first major hike was four miles long (2 miles up and 2 miles down) to Avalanche Lake. We knew the boys could handle it and were pretty sure our oldest daughter could make it most of the way. Chris carried our youngest on his back and then towards the very end had our oldest girl on his shoulders too. We didn’t see many kids on the hike, so that made our kids feel really cool that they were doing it. I think we hit the park about a week before most families arrive.

Chris got a lot of comments when people saw him carrying both girls up the mountain. One lady passed him and then turned around to take a picture of him and the girls. Made me laugh.

ISO 100, 1/400, f/2.8 ~ ISO 400, 1/160, f/2.8

We are sticklers about keeping distance from wildlife and not feeding them. My eight year old saw this little chipmunk in the distance. He squatted down take a photo and the little guy (or girl) scurried right up to his lens. It made my son’s day (and he got a super cool shot). The chipmunks at the lake were obviously used to people feeding them because they kept coming up so close.

ISO 160, 1/160, f/7.16.14avalanchelake-3

This was one of the longer hike the kids have done that is not flat. They did so good and I was so proud of them. The lake at the top was definitely worth the trip – we all agreed.

ISO 100, 1/200, f/6.36.14avalanchelake-4ISO 100, 1/200, f/6.36.14avalanchelake-5

ISO 100, 1/200, f/6.36.14avalanchelake-6

ISO 320, 1/400, f/4.56.14avalanchelake-7

It was a good day. A very good day.

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  • danielle - We were just their last year and missed that one! I could have stayed a really long time at that park and still missed hikes! We did some major leg killer hikes while there! Looks like you guys are making some amazing memories!

  • kimberly oyler - love that last shot of the girls. aren’t last minute road trip decisions always the best?

  • Addie - That looks like an amazing place! Great job Chris for packing in the kids!

  • rhonda - Glacier is so great! You should have kept coming and come across to the Canadian side and seen Waterton :)

  • Meg - The photos are beautiful. Both my husband and I grew up in the midwest but have never been to any of the places you have been visiting. Every day I send him the link to where you are and write, “We need to do this!” He is now convinced :) We thought we would wait until the kids were a bit older (7,6 & 3) but seeing your little one makes me think that next year, we are going on a road trip!
    Thank you for the beautiful photos. I really appreciate the time you take to write in the “technical” info. I am pushing myself to use manual more and more and your notes on each photo help so much :)

  • NanaBeast - Ashley,
    I am in love with the photo of the girls on the log on the shore of the lake. The composition is so pleasing, the way the downward slope of the mountain into the lake is taken up by the log, directing the motion to end at the girls. As you know, your girls are beautiful, and the colors they are wearing are perfection in this composition (to me, I’m no expert.) I know you didn’t pose the girls and just that fact makes this even more beautiful. I praise God for orchestrating all the elements so I can enjoy photography like this. And for the ability to appreciate it most of all. The Creator amazes me All. The. Time. Anyway, thanks for your part in all this.

  • Amy Espinosa - Just breathtaking! And your pictures of your husband carrying your girls brings back so many wonderful memories. My husband carried our girls just like that! They are 13 and 11 now, but it seems like just yesterday. Enjoy EVERY minute!

  • Seamingly Sarah - Hooray for not feeding the wildlife! Thanks for teaching your kids that. And the lakes in GNP are always worth it. Awesome! You make me want to go back.

  • Jenny - After living in MT for 31 years, and never having been up to Glacier Park… you have totally convinced me that I need to make time to take a trip up there. Your pictures are all amazing!

  • Diana - Gorgeous pictures (as always) and incredible scenery! What a wonderful looking place to visit!

  • kaitlyn bright - I am loving all of these pictures. I am sure you will be sharing your trip itinerary?! Or you can whip up a little e-booklet and charge some $ for that thing! PS. I am hoping my package arrived at your house. Its been a while but thought I’d ask.

  • Kelly - Love that hike! We do it every year. You’re lucky you only saw the chipmunks. Last summer we ran into a bear on the boardwalk! And then a mama and baby moose before the official trail head. All way too close for comfort!

  • erin - awwwwww…come on!!!! you *know* we need to see his chipmunk shot!!!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh Ashley, how beautiful! Thank you for sharing your f-stop with us! I was wondering how you were able to get everyone on the log so perfectly!

    And way to go Chris! Rockstar.

  • Sarah - I’m so antsy to take a trip like this! My kids are two and six months old and while I’m loving this little stage I’m looking forward to when they’re a little older and we can do more involved family activities. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to see where you are next :)

    P.S. Let’s see the picture of the chipmunk your son took!

  • Glenda - My goodness your family is just so cute! I really enjoy reading about your adventures and just you lives in general. You guys make me smile!

  • Michelle Hill - The way that you encourage and challenge your children is so inspiring. I hope one day I can be half the mother and woman you are. Your family is beautiful!

  • Christine - I love reading and seeing all your family adventures! Seriously, your husband is a ROCK STAR for carrying both girls. I would love to see your son’s shot of the chipmunk!! Can you post it?!?

  • Pat B - I’m enjoying “following” your sweet family on your vacation. Your photography is stunning! My husband & I were blessed to visit this part of the country a few years ago and hope to go back someday. In the meantime, I’ll go vicariously through you! :)

  • Taylor - Gorgeous photos! This place looks absolutely breathtaking. Also, wow, Chris! What an impressive being to carry BOTH those little girls up the hills!!


  • Kate S. - Thank you for being “sticklers” and teaching your children to respect wildlife. I rarely take a hike anymore that does not include the infuriating sight of someone’s kids chasing wildlife. I can even name a few bloggers who constantly let their children harass wildlife when they find it. DRIVES ME CRAZY. I so appreciate that you are teaching your kids better behavior.

  • Jeannine - My son would LOVE to see your son’s chipmunk shot!

  • Natalie - Gorgeous pics! Just curious- why did you crank your ISO up on the last few photos? The first few at the lake were ISO 100 and then you changed it to 320. Working on shooing in manual and when you post your camera settings its always a HUGE help! Thank you!

  • ellen patton - What an amazing trip!

  • Hannah - Ooooh!!! We just LOVE Glacier! Lake MacDonald on the west side is gorgeous along with Going to the Sun road… I am LOVING your pics of this amazing trip. What a gift!

  • Megan - The backgrounds in all of your pictures look SO fake, like I feel like you are taking these in front of a green screen. :) I can’t even fathom how beautiful it all must be in person.

  • Monica - Last picture is absolutely gorgeous! Love sisters pictures ! :) I have two girls, hopefully one day my soon two years old she can stay still to take her a picture with her sister, is so hard when I want to take a picture hugging each other because the little one she runs right away. LOL :D

6.14chrisbday-1Today is Chris’ birthday. Last night we drove a single lane dirt road to reach Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park. We barely made it with any light left. It was breathtaking and the most perfect way to usher in a new year of Chris’ life – a spur of the moment, random adventure that led to beauty. Goodness, I love this man. The world is a better place because his is alive – and lives so fully alive.

Happy Birthday babe!

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  • Melanie - This picture could totally be the cover of a worship album. Just sayin’. :)

  • Sarah - Happy birthday to Chris!

  • Sarah - Happy Birthday Chris! May you continue to be a blessing and a light to Ashley, your sweet kids, and everyone you encounter. Ashley, this picture is awesome. I’ve been blown away by your trip pictures and I can’t wait to learn from you in August!

  • Sharla - Aw-mazing picture. Happy Birthday Chris!

  • Haley - i LOVE this story about him yelling “It’s great to be alive” all the time. Happy birthday Chris!

  • Laura - Sometimes I wish you had a “Like” button!

  • Marie - Happy, happy, birthday to Chris!

  • Taylor - Happiest birthday! Hope you have a blast!


  • Michelle Davies - All the great men are born on June 25th! He shares a birthday with my hubby! Hope he has an amazing year ahead!

  • MrsFun - Oh Glacier!! You are lucky you weren’t there a week ago, they got so much snow the plows had to come back out. Because you know Montana is bipolar. Love the photo and enjoy the beauty, it’s something else.

  • Kristin S - I love how you love your husband and kids. It’s refreshing in a world where marriage isn’t valued.

  • Donzel - So glad you can visit Glacier! We live right around the corner in North Idaho, and that’s one of my very favorite National Parks. We went camping at Bowman Lake many years ago and in spite of the horrific mosquitoes it still ranks high in my list of lovely places to stay.

  • Carrie - This is a great picture! Almost looks like he is in the water??? brrrrr. I am guessing not though. Thanks for sharing – you are an encouragement to me – I am going to go hug my hubby and tell him how glad I am he is so fully alive! :)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Happy birthday, Chris!

  • Emily - Happy Birthday, Chris!

  • Trisha - Happy birthday to your husband, he shares it with the love of my, my husband!!

  • babs - please tell the people at polebridge stage their USA flags are hanging backwards. you could do a school lesson on flag code.very interesting.happy bday chris.

  • Lisa - Love this, Ashley! Thank you for lifting your man up, when too often, great husbands and fathers are not celebrated or recognized. Awesome picture and Happy Birthday to Chris :)

  • Ben, Noel & Caleb - Yes, we agree, you made this world a better place. Happy Birthday, Chris!

  • Michelle Hill - Happy birthday to a model father, husband and overall good person!

  • elizabeth H - this photo looks like it describes him *perfectly*!!!
    living fully is {the} {best} way to live.
    blessings to Chris & your lovely family that he leads.

  • Debbie - What an awesome photo….no words are needed. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kristin - Would love to read Chris’ perspective on how to live more fully & be able to share it with my husband! We live life on such a treadmill with Greg commuting & working long hours in DC. I know the stress is unhealthy and robs our family of quality time. Think it’s one reason why I love taking a few moments to read your blog whenever I can. Gives me inspiration for living in the present & finding ways to make each day special. Thank you for that, Ashley.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Kristin…I’ll ask Chris about guest posting sometime!

Over the past few years of camping with kids, we’ve learned that most state parks and national parks have some version of a Junior Ranger program or Junior Naturalist program. We make it a habit of visiting ranger stations in state and national parks. We’ve yet to meet a ranger that isn’t excited to share the joys of his or her park with our family. Most rangers are passionate about all aspects of nature and genuinely have fun sharing that with kids. Passionate people are fun to listen to – their passion rubs off.

Most ranger stations also offer free ranger-led programs that can be anywhere from 10 minutes to all day excursions. While we were in Colorado, the kids dissected owl pellets and got to learn all about the different owls in the area. Those of you bothered by germs are really grossed out he isn’t wearing gloves. The ranger told him the pellets were cleaned and to just wash his hands afterwards. Don’t worry – he survived.6.14juniorranger-3

In Yellowstone, the 4 oldest kids worked towards becoming Junior Rangers. This required them working through a nature activity book, going on a hike, and attending a ranger program. In the shot below, we attended a ranger talk about how everything in Yellowstone is related to an early volcano.  I thought it was fascinating. My 6 year old worked hard the whole time to eat an apple with no front teeth.6.14juniorranger-46.14juniorranger-5

We also went to a ranger talk on Death and Danger in Yellowstone….another fascinating talk, though also baffling what some people have done in the park.6.14juniorranger-6

The ranger asked the kids if they wanted a picture with the bear skull. He thought they would want to pose holding it. The boys, of course, had different ideas.6.14juniorranger-76.14juniorranger-8

Once they finished all the requirements, we visited a ranger station where the ranger talked to them about all they discovered. After she looked through their books and talked to each of them, she led them in a ranger pledge. She also told them if they saw anyone doing things they shouldn’t in the park, they now had the authority to kindly tell them to stop. I was glad we were leaving the park that night because I have a couple kids that would have been very serious about telling people what they should stop doing!6.14juniorranger-96.14juniorranger-10

The kids each got a Junior Ranger patch to put on their hiking backpacks, which they are pretty pumped about. My oldest, who is ten, liked the activity book and all he learned but he wasn’t nearly as excited about it all as his younger siblings. I think the 5-10 range is perfect for my kids to do the junior ranger programs. As they get older we will probably be able to do longer hikes and learn in other ways. Until then, we’ll keep adding patches to their backpacks and taking in the passion of rangers eager to share!

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  • Jill - Now that you’ve visited Yellowstone in the summer you should come back in the winter. For 6 or 7 years we’ve gone to the park in February to cross country ski. It is magical and so different than the summer experience. The bison are frosty and slow, trying to conserve energy. We’ve seen wolf tracks and heard them howl. Except for the snow machines (you can get away from them) it’s very quiet and peaceful.

  • Christina Stout - This sounds amazing! I’m not a camper, but I love the idea of my girls learning by actually doing instead of just reading about it. Your adventure makes me re-think my anti-camping stance :)

  • Scott - When you children are grown and probably even before they will realize the gift that you are giving them…memories.

  • Eva - Your junior rangers are precious. I love their zeal for the outdoors!

  • Pat P - I’d be willing to bet the Park Rangers went home that day thinking “That’s why I love my job.” I am so enjoying following your adventures!

  • Carrie - My kids love the Junior Ranger program! My five year old proudly wore her badges on her hat and reminded me that she wanted them proudly and prominently displayed on her person “so that people would know she is a ranger and they should ask her if they have any questions”. Our five year old took it pretty seriously whereas our almost nine year old also liked all the learning but wasn’t impressed with the badges. At California’s state parks they also have the “Quest” which is like an outdoor scavenger hunt for kids. So much fun! So much to learn and see and be a part of when traveling and spending so much time outdoors. Yeah!

  • Moriah - WOW! I remember doing Junior Rangers when I was a kid about 30 years ago. I loved it then and am so happy to hear it is still around. Thanks for all the stories and pictures. LOVE!

  • Kelly J. R. - I still have all of my Junior Ranger patches from when I was a kid. What a great program to get kids interested in the great outdoors. For the longest time I wanted to be a Ranger when I grew up. Maybe that will be my second career because I still think that it sounds like a really cool job.

  • Meg - So cool! We’ll have to remember to go talk to the rangers next time we visit the parks!

  • Kristin S - We are so fortunate to have such wonderful state and national parks!

  • Birdy - When I see all the nature pics and how much fun yours kids had, I really wane visit the US again… it is a while ago, when I lived there and some days I really miss it!

    Have a wonderful evening!

    Love from Germany and the -fatcatconnection-

  • Diana - HUGE fan of the Junior Ranger programs! I did my first when I was 12 I think and still found it exciting! We did them at every national park we visited after that and I still have all my badges. We just got back from some time in Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and I was a little bummed my 15month old is far from old enough to do it! So fun!

  • Heidi Jo the Artist - In 2012 we started doing the National Parks Junior Programs. The kids love learning about nature and especially love receiving the badges. I also got a national park book for our family, but got inexpensive notebooks that each of the kids could stamp with the rubber/wood stamp that is at each park. Last year I was looking around on the internet and happened upon this boy’s impressive collection: We’ve done junior ranger programs in a couple of other states. Iowa is one of the few that you don’t have to pay to get into any of their state parks, so they unfortunately don’t have any kind of junior program like most other states. But that hasn’t let us stop us from exploring many of the beautiful parks here. To date we’ve camped at 20/60-ish Iowa state parks. One-third of the way done!

  • Kimmie - I love the Junior Ranger program! Last year we visited Bryce Canyon, Zion & Great Basin. My kiddos did the program & received patches at each. I sewed them on my oldest child’s school backpack & he just loves them. So cool to be creating those memories :) Can’t wait to do more National Parks with them.

  • Erica - What a great idea and use of resources!

  • Dawn - Those missing front teeth!!! Amazing! And Juliet saw these pics over my shoulder and wanted to tell her friend to have a good trip! I am sure they will all have lots of great presentation material for next year :) Safe travels for you all!

  • Mrs.T - Several of my grandkids just became Junior Rangers in May at Great Basin National Park. So much fun! Loved seeing the pictures of your Junior Rangers!

  • beth - I’m still loving all of these roadtrip posts!

    I thought of a question… I see your kids taking photos. I want my kids to be able to take their own photos when we go on our big trip next year. They’ll be 10 and 8. What do you recommend for setting them up? How do you approach your kids’ photography?

  • Taylor - This looks like such a blast! I love learning about things that rangers have to teach others!


  • Molly - I love that there is no age limit. I’ve been becoming a Jr Ranger throughout my life, but I’m 28 now and have earned most of them in the past two years. The Rangers never bat an eyelash when I ask for the packet. They usually share a story about how “last week a knitting group of 20 old ladies all were pledged in together.”

    It started out as just a fun thing to do, and lately I’ve realized that it makes me enjoy the parks more. At Mount Rushmore earlier this month, most people just go and see big rocks and leave. I stayed for hours, watching the video, looking through the museum, looking at all the flags, etc. I learned a lot, and really enjoyed my time there.

    The Jr Ranger program is amazing.

  • Seamingly Sarah - It’s so awesome to see your posts about Yellowstone. I worked there through the SCA one summer during my college years, at the South Entrance. It was an awesome time in my life. I was obsessed with wolves at the time, but never saw one. But the ability to go camp there, see moose, moose calves (so homely they’re cute), bears and so much more. The next summer I worked at the University of Idaho and made sure to visit Glacier National Park. Again, an awesome experience.

  • tashsa roe - we love doing this too!! did you guys do it at the Lincoln museum & the town? we had a lot of fun there! The Arch has one too!!

  • thedenverpack - My kids loved the junior ranger program, although it took them by surprise the first time when the ranger actually quizzed them over things and didn’t just hand them a patch. It’s been a great way to interact with the parks. At the Garden of the Gods in CO Springs, they even announce it over the loud speaker and everyone claps (mortifying my 12 year old, who was quickly outgrowing the program).

  • Amber - My kids have badges from all over the United States. We love the JR Ranger program. Do you have a National Park Passport to get the cancellation stamps at each park station?