Prior to our trip we heard lots of opinions on Yellowstone. There were those that thought it was the best place on earth and those that were disappointed because of the vast number of tourists. I visited Yellowstone the summer after my senior year, but it was a short trip through on my way to Flathead lake in Montana. I was pretty excited to explore our nation’s first national park with my kids

We did not leave disappointed.

Sure, there were a few busy spots with lots of tourists, but the park is huge and there is plenty of wide open space for exploring too. The park has so much diversity it truly is an incredible experience to walk among burnt forests, mud volcanoes, waterfalls, geysers, lush valleys, and of course wildlife. We took our time at each stop and tried to really learn as we went. There is so much to learn in this amazing outdoor classroom.

We did not give ourselves a timeline or try to rush from place to place. We took our time and let the kids lead the way in what the daily agenda would be. Giving them the freedom to choose to leave someplace, stay longer or skip a location I think really helped make it a fun adventure for us all.

The boys also heard the rangers talk a lot about animal scat. That alone make the park awesome to my boys.

We drove through a couple areas where forest fires had dramatically changed the landscape. There was a beauty in those areas that was so different from the rest of the park. Learning about the role of fires in the health of the forest reminded me of how going through fires in life in general really produces a beauty that can’t happen without the fire. What a gift to be able to talk to the kids about the restorative role of fire.
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Yellowstone Lake"6.14yellowstone1-2</p

In all that wide open space the boys’ spirits ran wild…so much room for adventure and exploration with a good amount of danger mixed in. They ate it up.

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The Mud Volcano area – We decided the area smelled stinkier than her feet when she wears tennis shoes with no socks. That is serious stinky.

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Chris had the camera most of this day to record that I was actually on this trip too. I tried pulling the kids aside to read all the information markers. So much knowledge and insight we crammed into our heads in a matter of days. We won’t remember it all, but we will remember more than if had just passed by the sites without reading anything.

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Waterfalls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

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Mammoth Springs

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We ended our last day in the park at Lamar Valley. Before our trip we had each kid pick on place in the park they wanted to be sure we stopped. My oldest did a little research and chose Lamar Valley because it was known as a great spot to see wildlife. We dug a little deeper and read that dusk and/or dawn are the best times to visit. So we planned our last day to end in the valley. It meant for a late night (sun sets pretty late this time of year), but it was totally worth it.

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Ending our time at the park in Lamar Valley was the perfect ending. The sun was on fire, the bison were crossing the road, the kids were in awe. When the kids get older they may not remember too many details of their first trip to Yellowstone, but I think there is a good chance they will remember it being a spectacular trip and an incredibly fun time as a family.

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  • Tania // Run to Radiance - Wow…looks like such a fun trip and a beautiful place to visit! i love your last few shots of the bison. I also love the idea of the teaching moment with the fire….such a good way to look at things!

  • Diana - Gahhhhh….those pictures are amazing. You have me itching to go out west pretty bad!

  • Juice - Your comment about fire made me tear up. What a great example to share with friends who are going through tough times. How awesome that God reveals himself to us in so many ways. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  • Tanya - Fantastic! What beautiful pictures of a wonderful trip!

  • Jenn - oh my goodness the beauty. My husband and I went before we had kids when we were driving back across the country from WA state and moving back to the south. Yellowstone was one of our favorite spots and some of your pictures remind me of our time there. We can’t wait to take our two kiddo’s back there. Enjoy the rest of your time away.

  • Jenny B. - So beautiful!! I remember every road trip I took with my parents. We always stopped to read the information / historical markers (especially on our trip through the southern states … so many civil war battlefields). Your (and Chris’s) photography is lovely. Thank you for sharing. This makes me want to take my kids on a road trip!

  • Nicole L. - I love Yellowstone. Your husband is a pretty good photographer! I think even if your kids don’t immediately remember the trip, just seeing the pictures will probably jog their memory.

  • Ashley - what an amazing triP!! we are hoping to take our kids there before summer is over and I know that my boys would be just as excited about all the wildlife. enjoy your trip, and glad to see you in pictures too:)

  • Laura S. - I hope you are not coming home. You all need to stay out there and take more great family and nature photos. I loved every single picture and post. Safe travels to you all.

  • angie - simply incredible!!!

  • SherryR - Wow. Makes me want to get in the car and see our great nation. Brings this song to mind from elementary: “This land is your land, this land is my land. From California, to the New York Island. From the Redwood forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters, this land was made for you and me.”

  • Angi - This is fantastic. We took our 4 year-old to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in early May. It’s great to see it again a short time later through your lens. I had heard some negative feedback about Yellowstone too, but I loved it. Yellowstone Lake was completely frozen over still and there were still unopened sections so we didn’t see it all. Lamar Valley was our favorite also! The 4 year-old also enjoyed the “scat.” And, as a 4 year-old I hope this is a family vacation he will still always remember.

  • Heather - You said to comment with questions and I have one! :) Do said that y’all rarely eat out and that’s the main expense I’m worried about with a trip like this and a large family. What are y’all eating, on the road, for so long? Thanks so much!! I am enjoying keeping up with your trip! :)

  • erin - the shot of the bison roaming with the sun fiery in the background…
    AMAZING!!!

    thank you SO much for continuing to share so much of this with us. xo

  • Allison - I love that your kids are so involved and excited to see the places they’ve chosen. The Valley pics are amazing!! I’m sure your kids will remember the peace and awe in those moments you sat there watching the wildlife and the sunset. Those are the things that stay in your heart whether you have a photo or not. Thanks for your inspiration and helpful tips on traveling with children. We did lots odf these types of vacations during my childhood and plan on doing them with our family too. This makes me want to plan my trip to yellowstone and glacier right now!!

  • Cary - I rarely comment, so already apologizing for it being a “negative” one. The wildfire pictures make me tear up for another reason. As a logger’s daughter who has seen national lands essentially shut off to logging in order to let nature takes it’s course, I am heartbroken to see how prevelant this mentality has become. Looks like you’re one who researches and studies with the hope of raising children who think, comtemplate, and evaluate wisely, so maybe just take a second look at this topic :-).

  • Taylor - Love these pictures! Also, I really like that your little boy carries around a camera to take pictures of nature. So awesome!!!

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Natalie - It’s nice to see you in the pictures! And the 2nd to last photo is breathtaking!!!

  • Haley - These pictures in Lamar Valley are amazing! Thanks for sharing pictures from your adventure.

  • JulieB - We visited Yellowstone for about 24 hours on our drive through to OR (to pick up our Airstream!!). I could have spent weeks there. You just can’t describe what pine trees smell like until you go there! It’s amazing!!

  • AshleyAnn - Cary – I will do some research on that. Thank you.

  • Kristin - Oh my goodness, those sunset pictures with the bison are breathtaking!

From our campsite in Colter Bay we weren’t far from the south entrance to Yellowstone. We took a day to drive up and explore the southwest part of the park – mainly the geysers. The weather was bitterly cold, but it didn’t slow the boys down. The girls…well it slowed them down a bit, but they did great. I was too busy watching my kids react to Old Faithful to get a picture. Their faces and shouts were pretty awesome to witness.
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Our youngest daughter completely shuts down when she gets cold. Literally, she falls asleep and doesn’t eat. She was born in warm southern China, so we joke that she goes into hibernation in the cold. She slept through the geysers. Yellowstone is an incredible trip for kids for so many reasons, but the vast diversity of nature all in that one park is one of the best parts. History and science come alive in such a fascinating way. I loved it!

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I did place a bit of fear in my kids regarding staying on the path and not falling into a boiling hot spring. Of course, we ended up behind two teenage boys goofing off like they were falling in.6.14westyellowstone-3

We then took the road into the town of West Yellowstone. We don’t eat out really at all, but we made an exception for dinner that night. Chris ‘urban-spooned’ West Yellowstone and found great reviews on a restaurant called Las Palmitas. He wanted to try it, but I saw a Taco Bus and wanted to try it. We couldn’t find his restaurant so we headed to the taco bus and realized they were one and the same. Las Palmitas Taco Bus – so worth eating out. We took up half the bus, but it was awesome food. If you are ever in West Yellowstone, I highly recommend it.6.14westyellowstone-46.14westyellowstone-56.14westyellowstone-6

We finished our day at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The center houses rescued grizzly bears. We learned so much about these incredible animals and how human actions can really harm the bears. We took our time there and really tried to learn as much as we could. A big part of this trip for us is education, this was a great place for that to happen.

The boys also got to hide food for the grizzlies and watch them come out to find it. So much fun even in sleet, hail and rain.6.14westyellowstone-76.14westyellowstone-86.14westyellowstone-96.14westyellowstone-106.14westyellowstone-116.14westyellowstone-126.14westyellowstone-13

Part of the fun of the center was hearing the stories about the bears and why they were rescued or relocated. I’m sure I will get the details of this wrong, but here is the gist. One of the bears got a taste of a donut and was relocated 1,000 miles away across two mountain ranges. He must have really liked that donut because he made the trip all the way back to that yard for another one! It reminded me of my sister. She really likes donuts too.

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  • angie - What an INCREDIBLE experience your family is having. Memories for a lifetime…

    And oh, the donuts. I giggled. But really, poor bear. At least he’s well taken care of where he’s living now.

  • Meg - Ha! He “moved mountains” for that donut! Hehehe. I’m a dork. Who wouldn’t for a good donut though?

  • Kari - So does this bear now stalk other campers with his little sidekick and wait to steal their pic-a-nick baskets?

  • Dana - Do they still endulge him with an occasional donut? I mean how cruel to know they exist and have zero access to them? Poor bear…

  • Monica - Hi Ashley, Thank you for sharing all of this. It is a great experience for your family!. We are planning to go this year. SO I am excited to see all these pictures , well maybe we will go just for a week or I hope for two. I will show my husband the pictures of your trip to tell him how awesome can be. He really want to go and see the geysers and bears! And I think the girls maybe the oldest one will be fascinated with all of these. It will be great hear all your tips! Thanks again and continue your wonderful experience!

  • Amy Espinosa - Yep, that restaurant is just TOO cute! You’re living my dream trip! Thanks for the inspirations!

  • Ethel - We love the town of West Yellowstone. The men in my family have fished there for the last 25 years. We have recently been staying at the Kelly Inn right across from the Wildlife Museum. They always go in early Nov. GOD’s country for sure. Glad to hear your family is enjoying their adventure. Safe travels

  • Stephanie - This trip looks so much fun, it would be a dream to be able to do this! Logistically, what do you eat? Did you pack a bunch of snacks, go grocery shopping and cook on a camp grill every night? Curious minds would love to know!

  • Lacey Meyers - Hi Ashley! I am having such a wonderful time viewing your images from your trip, as it is one I have dreamed of taking again for years now. My husband and I took a very similar trip (though from Oregon into Montana) and LOVED every second of it. And now I cannot wait take our boys there as well and your photos clearly remind me of why! Thank you so much for sharing as you always do!

  • kimberly oyler - i love bears. i saw a big pack of them on my way to the airport in alaska. a momma and her 3 cubs. it was so fun to see them up close, but i regretted stopping once i read a news article stating that the will have to be moved or killed because they have become too desensitized to humans. isn’t that sad?

  • Laura S. - Amazing pictures of your children’s faces when they saw the bears come get their hidden food. So glad to hear there is a place like this. Love that food bus! Happy and safe travels to you and yours.

  • erin - i literally laughed out loud at your reference to your sister…
    she’s already posted a “Donut Friday” post on IG this morning!!! :)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Totally laughed out loud about Lesley – awesome! LOL. And total marriage win for the Taco Truck! High five.

  • Debbie C - It’s hilarious how you are living out of a trailer and then “eating out” in a bus. ;)

  • Addie - Wonderful pics! We’ve traveled to Yellowstone twice from Oregon! LOVE it there! That wolf & bear center is the best!

  • Kimberly - I am so enjoying all of these posts from Colorado and Wyoming. Being from Colorado and having family in Wyoming it is fun to see all of the sites through your lens. It also brings back many fond memories of all of our family vacations to Yellowstone and Jackson. Not sure which way your travels are taking you next, but if it is along your path, Thermopolis is a fun place to visit with kids. Very small little town, but they have hot springs for swimming as well as hot springs state park.

  • donna - Maybe the donut bear was “Smokey the bear” he was a cop. lol

  • Stoich91 - Haha, oh my, what an adventure! The donut story is hilarious!

  • Diana - That’s exactly why I love Yellowstone – the diversity is incredible! So many different wonders to see within the park!

  • elizabeth H - these photos are so great; your family trip is looking amazing!!
    such beautiful memories your making!

  • Katie - So weird!!! My husband and I almost never watch tv, but we flipped it on today and actually watched a show about these very bears and the guy that started it all. I hadn’t really been online much, so I just sat down tonight to catch up and read this. So funny! The show was great. I now want to hug a bear.

  • Sharron - That’s so funny about Little One and the cold. Our daughter is from the Guandong province and she is the exact opposite. Won’t wear socks in January, says she doesn’t need a coat, etc. And we live in central Indiana! She acts like she’d dying when it’s 80! LOL

  • carole - I love seeing your pictures. I am just starting to learn how to use my dslr and love to see the settings you use.
    What lens are you using on this trip?

  • AshleyAnn - Carole – I am mainly using my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens

  • Kristin - Oh man, I would love to try that taco bus. I love mexican food =)

I’ve had a few requests for more details on our trip itinerary and general tips regarding doing a trip like this with 5 kids. I am going to go ahead and keep posting as I go and then at some point I will add in a few posts answering all those broad topic questions. Internet is really spotty – right now I am doing laundry and have wifi. Soon, I’ll head back to the trailer and will be off the grid again. So, if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them and I will try to answer them later.

Chris has always wanted to visit Jackson Hole, WY. Instead of staying in town, we camped at Colter Bay on Jackson Lake. This location is in the Tetons and gave us access to Jackson Hole and West Yellowstone. We spent five days at Colter Bay and really loved our time there. One night we went into Jackson Hole. I think if it were just Chris and I we might have explored there a bit more, but with 5 kids in tow it just didn’t sound fun to me. The antler arches at the town square were the highlight for the kids.

ISO 100, 1/320, f/2.8
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This was on Father’s Day:)ISO 100, 1/320, f/2.86.14colterbay1-2

From Colter Bay we explored the Tetons – stunning. ISO 100, 1/125, f/4.06.14colterbay1-3

Colter Bay at Jackson Lake. ISO 100, 1/160, f/106.14colterbay1-4

My oldest daughter came alive on the dock…singing and dancing like it was her very own stage. I attempted to get pictures of her performance, but a certain brother had other plans. ISO 250, 1/100, f/106.14colterbay1-5ISO 250, 1/100, f/106.14colterbay1-6

The trees were a dream come true for this climber…so many branches so close together. ISO 100, 1/200, f/2.8 ~ both

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I’m pretty sure even if you paid us, we couldn’t take a ‘normal’ family photo. That is fine with me though. This is us and I love us. (the youngest doesn’t like cold!) ISO 100, 1/800, f/2.86.14colterbay1-16

ISO 100, 1/400, f/8.06.14colterbay1-15

ISO 160, 1/60, f/9.06.14colterbay1-14

This guy sat motionless for several minutes as a prairie dog (I think that is what it was!) kept popping its head out and looking at him. ISO 100, 1/100, f/8.06.14colterbay1-7

The Grand Tetons. ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.06.14colterbay1-8

My oldest grabbed a book one day and told me he found the “perfect place to read a book.” Hard to disagree. ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.06.14colterbay1-9ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.06.14colterbay1-10

I dared him to walk across the log without getting his shoes wet. I think he made it about 4 times before he had soggy shoes. Then it snowed for two days and I couldn’t get his shoes dry. Mom fail. ISO 100, 1/200, f/8.06.14colterbay1-11ISO 100, 1/200, f/8.06.14colterbay1-12

I mean really…it almost looks fake! Breathtaking….the girl and the backdrop. ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.06.14colterbay1-13

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  • danielle - Beautiful. You are making me anxious to set out on my own adventure. My husband and I went to Glacier last year but I am hoping to head west again with the boys next year!

  • isabel - Right, this last picture take my breath away !!!
    A kiss from Paris !
    isabel

  • Lisa | Winter Heights - Wow, absolutely stunning. Our upcoming adventure involves a completely different environment (a beach) but these photos and your family make me excited for the adventures to come with my little family. Your blog is like a ray of sunshine in the morning, thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  • Michelle Hill - What a breathtaking part of the country. You have motivated me to explore areas of America that you don’t often hear about, but are stunning nonetheless. I am loving all of your photos from your trip. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  • Amanda - Absolutely stunning! What beautiful memories you are making with your family! :)

  • Paige - So beautiful! My favorite is the flowers blooming and snow capped mountains in the same shot. God is showing off and I love it!

  • Isabell - Your pictures are stunning, I look forward to them everyday, just beautiful!!!

  • Tiffany - These are all so beautiful, but I especially love the one of Chris and the kids and the last one! Hearing your stories are fun too. What great memories!

  • Dana - Amazing! I’m with little one about the cold, but the view is more than spectacular!

  • Amanda @ Click. The Good News - Simply stunning! It’s on our bucket list of places to go & I love that you family had such a wonderful adventure there.

  • Debbie C - My heart yearns to be there! It is just so beautiful and clear. Reminds me of “How Great Thou Art” and all the hymns and songs about all that God has made. Gotta add this to the vacation list!

  • Emiles - le sigh. We got engaged at sunrise near the Snake River Valley. So amazing. Took pictures under the antler arches that night. Enjoy!

  • Jen H - We just returned from a trip to Jackson, Yellowstone and Henry’s Lake. Isn’t it such beautiful country?! It’s so amazing to see, it almost doesn’t feel real like you said! I’m guessing this is a first, since you are from the Midwest? We love this area. It’s so refreshing for the soul. If you have a chance and haven’t done so, Jenny Lake in the Teton National Forest is beautiful too. We also just happened to see a pack of baby wolf, foxes or cyotes (not sure) in an abandoned building on Mormon Row. This is an old settlement on the road leaving Teton National Forest and headed to Yellowstone. Maybe they are still there:) Best wishes on the rest of your family trip. I’m enjoying reading about your adventures and was excited yesterday to see that you were headed to the Tetons. Have fun!!!

  • Heather Johnson - You are taking my dream vacation. I look forward to the “broader” email in the future–would love to plan this sort of thing next year with my kiddos!

  • Lori - Wow! How beautiful! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Melissa - Gorgeous photos! What a great trip

  • kassondra - It might be because I am a hormonal pregnant lady but these pictures have me crying! God created such a beautiful place! My question is some of your kids and husband are wearing long sleeves and some shorts….what was the temperature like?

  • kimberly oyler - ummmm. these are beautiful. like really really beautiful. which lenses do you have with you? i’d be tempted to take every one i own on a trip like this.

  • Julie - Wow. Beautiful! I always leave your blog feeling a little happier. Thank you!

  • Jenny - I love your family picture down by the water. It’s perfect. You are going to have so many fun pictures and memories from this trip. So fun!

  • Kaitlyn - Love the family picture! What beautiful memories you are making!

  • Cassie - I have been loving reading your blog recently. My husband and I love to camp and we both really want a large family. Usually people tell us that camping is exhausting and not worth it with kids so seeing your pictures are encouraging! I’m sure it is exhausting…but I just want it to be worth it! I think getting some of these photos alone look worth it to me! Love the fathers day one!

  • Sarah - Saw this at Cracker Barrel last night and thought of your sweet family and all the memories you’ll make in your camper.

    http://shop.crackerbarrel.com/Hanging-Camper-Sign/dp/B00IXW1B4G

  • Natalie - Your blog is so inspiring and I’m so glad I found it. I have enjoyed your posts and look forward to more.

    Thank you for your pictures and your blog.

  • Naomi - What beautiful photos. You’re giving your children such a gift both the memories and experiences and the photos to remember them by. I wondered, do you use a graduated filter to get the skies so perfect? And also, do you use a tripod or shoot hand-held?

  • Teresa - We were there on Father’s Day! What a lovely weekend in the Tetons.

  • Karen - Beautiful! and I might be a little bit jealous of the traveling. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that at the same time of year it is cold and snowing there when here in Mississippi the heat index is almost to 100!

  • Brielle - Hi Ashley, I love reading your blog and I’m so happy to see these photos of your family in my backyard! Hope you had a nice stay. Too bad the weather has been a little chilly. Happy trails!

  • Jolene - Wow!Beautiful photos of God’s awesome creation!!

  • Mitch Zeissler - Beautiful. I love the Tetons and the area around there. Here’s what Colter Bay looked like in late April of last year: http://zeissler.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/20130428-03633.jpg

  • Izzy - I love these posts. The mountain scenery does look almost unreal, so beautiful!

  • Jenna Lou - Wow stunning!! My family visited these sights when I was firecrackers age… I don’t remember it as beautiful, but we sure had fun and now that I’m older I want to go back as my appreciation for nature has developed. Absolutely stunning photos. And thanks for sharing the exif details… they always fascinate me as I’m trying to better my photography.

  • hili - the photos are great . I love that you’re taking the time to add the photo settings, it’s so educational . thank you

  • Kristin - Love, love, love the Tetons! It has been a destination for our family for years. In fact, my grandparents’ ashes are at Jenny Lake. So glad you enjoyed it too.

  • Tiffany - Your pictures are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing! Are they SOOC?? If so…can you give me some “in-camera” tips on keeping pictures vibrant? Beautiful photos move me and I have a desire to learn all I can about bettering my photography skills. God bless your travels!! My boys and daughter would love to do something like this!! :-)

  • Karen - Stuff newspaper into wet shoes – it’s amazing! The newspaper draws all the moisture out of the shoes and they dry in hours. You might need to change the newspaper a couple times, so keep an eye on them. I’m loving the photos of your trip, by the way! Safe travels x

  • Kerri - My husband and I LOVED the Tetons and Yellowstone. We can’t wait to take our kids there (once we have some!). Really enjoying your photos and stories of your trip. Your son probably saw a Uinta ground squirrel. We saw tons of them in the Tetons.

  • Katie - Looks like you guys are having an amazing time!! Love love the pictures…breath taking!!

  • Kristi rediske - Loving your pictures-enjoying your fun family times-sure wish my family would have been able to do this -I am a grandma now! I do have a question- are your pictures straight out of the camera or with some adjustment? They are beautiful! I have taken your class and loved it.

  • erin - i’m following along on your magical journey, friend!!! what a fabulous opportunity…and the memories!!! keep posting here and on IG as much as possible…i’m eating it all up! xxx

  • Ashley Lemaster - Beautiful! The place and the pictures! I need a family vacation with a photographer since hubs and I are not.

  • candy - Your vacation looks amazing! I’m curious how you feed your family . . . how do you eat healthy and on a budget while traveling? Thanks for any tips.

  • Erica Baker - Wow. That backdrop is just stunning!! What amazing memories you are making. Such a gift. Keep soaking it in :)

  • Lauren - My family and I went to Jackson Hole for a family reunion a few years back! The town and the Grand Tetons are my favorites.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - AAGH! Every single one of the pictures puts a huge smile on my face. And now I want to go see WY. Thank you, Ashley! Hugs. Prayers for continued safe travels coming your way.

  • christina larsen - These pics look amazing. I have never wanted to camp across the US, but you are making it look more inviting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Stoich91 - Breathtaking, your family, the photos, the land…such beautiful photos of a place I have not such good memories about. Thanks for the cheerful brightening! :D

  • D'On M - I absolutely LOVE, love, love these photos. Perfection!!

  • Diana - These pictures are incredible! Your skills and the scenery! And love the family portrait!! Looks like a wonderful trip!

  • elizabeth H - breathtakingly beautiful! that’s all.

  • Randi - That last one! It’s like a scene from sound of music, but NOT fake! Wow. Just wanted to say thanks for posting all of your settings! Always so helpful :) and I’m having fun reading through all of your travel posts … looks so fun. What an adventure!!

  • Marissa - Newspaper stuffed into your shoes will dry them out even in a damp place.

  • Kristin - The last pic makes me want to start singing “The hills are alive…” for some reason. It just reminds me of the movie The Sound of Music. I’m really enjoying your travels!

  • Krystin Robertson - Oh my goodness. This place is so gorgeous, and the photos are beautiful! That father’s day picture is too cute! You should get it framed!