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HomeFunTravelA single mom takes her kids on an epic adventure to Yellowstone

A single mom takes her kids on an epic adventure to Yellowstone

Yellowstone adventureBy Lindsay Ellison

Just a year after a divorce left me the single mother of two boys, I went out on a limb and did something a little crazy – I booked a five-day adventure camping trip in Yellowstone National Park that included biking over mountains and sleeping in a tent. You’d think I might have thought twice after a failed weekend camping trip the summer before, but maybe I had something to prove.

When my husband and I separated in 2010, I pledged that I would not let my status as a single mom keep me from passing my passion for the outdoors and camping on to my boys ages 7 and 9. But that weekend camping trip in 2011 — riddled with rain, injury and a busted tent — shook my confidence. As time passed, however, I acquired more single mother skills. I started demanding teamwork from my children and learned to break up sibling squabbles on my own, and with that newfound confidence came the idea for the trip. After a little research, I booked a six-day adventure with Backroads — an outfitting company that offers multisport journeys worldwide. And so my epic single mom journey began.

The trip was five nights and six days of biking, hiking and kayaking along with “deluxe camping.” While the trip was far from cheap — around $5,000 for the three of us, not including airfare — I figured it was worth the cost of not having to set up a tent in the rain by myself. We would get the benefits of camping outdoors, without the hassle of having to bring all of the stuff, cook, or scout the best camping spots. Backroads provided the tent, sleeping bags, and biking gear, and we brought the rest — which I kept to a minimum since I would be the one lugging it through the airport.

After the long flight, making it to our hotel in Jackson Hole, WY, getting pizza for dinner and the boys into bed, I was already feeling proud of myself for making it this far.

The next morning we walked a few blocks to our meeting location where the Backroads’ trip leaders and other families awaited. I surveyed the 26 adults and children and was pleasantly surprised to find three other single moms. I had wondered in the months prior if I would feel out of place as a single mom, but I felt right at home with these moms and we had yet to even introduce ourselves.

Before the trip began, I had been told the ages of the other kids in the group (7-13) and that they were mostly boys — so my boys would fit right in. We piled into four vans topped with bicycles and began our 4-hour ride to the west entrance of Yellowstone. Our three trip leaders, Evan, Katie, and Kyle, were young and enthusiastic, and eager to get to know us. They entertained the kids with brain twisters and games along the journey, and even got out to play Frisbee during a traffic jam at the park entrance.

Once in the park, we stopped for a decadent, yet healthy, lunch and the adults were set up with bikes, which were hybrids for mountain and road riding. There were printed directions for our ride, and a well-provisioned snack table of nuts, crackers, dried fruit and granola bars.

Biking in Yellowstone

The first leg for the adults was a nine-mile road climb, at the end of which we would meet the children at flatter terrain. I was glad the kids didn’t start with me because I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to make the 9 miles. My longest bike ride before the trip was a spin around my neighborhood wearing flip-flops, but I noticed many in the group were in the same boat and this created an instant bond between us.

The adults climbed the hill together, taking in the beauty of waterfalls and geothermal holes along the route. And it wasn’t long before these strangers felt like friends.

At the end of the first leg, we found the kids getting fitted for their bikes. I couldn’t believe that my 7-year-old was about to ride 16 miles, but I wasn’t worried because tired little ones can hop into the van at any point along the route while you continue on. The miles, however, flew by because of the changing scenery and varied terrain from neighborhood roads to remote off road paths. And there were plenty of breaks to look at hot geysers spouting sulfurous gasses or bubbling mud ponds.

My kids amazed me. A few times my youngest, Niko, needed to rest, but the energy from the group and encouragement from the other kids kept them going. Our final destination of the day was Old Faithful, the well-known regularly erupting geyser. After watching the eruption, our group leaders led us to the parking lot to hoist our bikes on the vans, and provided us with cold beer, drinks, and snacks — a daily occurrence after each long biking day.

When we arrived at our campsite, our tents had been pitched and there was a spread of homemade guacamole, margaritas, fresh cut veggies, and lemonade for the children. Our campsite staff, Ryan and Sam, who prepared daily gourmet breakfasts and dinners, greeted us.Yellowstone Margarita

The next few days were filled with biking, hiking along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and kayaking Yellowstone Lake. On day three we shuttled to a new campsite in Grand Teton National Park, where we camped within walking distance of Colter Bay, a pebble-beached lake with a backdrop of the Teton Mountains. After a long day of biking, we all went for a swim. The kids frolicked in the cool water while the parents lay out on the warm pebbles, soothing sore muscles. A family sitting nearby our group asked if we were on a family reunion and were surprised to learn we had all just met days before.

And that’s what this trip was all about – making new friends. My new single mother friends were all in different places in their lives, and it was good to learn about their journeys and challenges as single parents. One night we a stayed up late, drank wine and laughed until we cried.

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