Despite a great tragedy in Jason’s family, Jason and I made a planned trip to Yellowstone National Park with my family work out. Although there were some schedule hiccups, weather glitches, foot wrenches, and strain-induced illnesses, I’m glad we chose to make this outing happen regardless of the circumstances. The experience was perfectly contrasting; cruising around Yellowstone in winter felt as alien as hanging with my family felt familiar.
Due to all the runoff from thermal features, the Madison River doesn’t freeze so wildlife congregates along its path in the winter. That was where we found these bald eagles.
Jason and I reserved a posh condo in West Yellowstone months ago for the purpose of exploring Yellowstone National Park during its most inhospitable season. We invited the hardiest of my family to join us. Via a self-selecting method, the “hardiest” ended up being my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews. The whole group, except for my parents, spent a day snowmobiling through the park; my parents opted to take a milder snowcoach.
This coyote was waiting to be served a dozy-bird breakfast burrito.
Our many-layers look was stylishly completed by coveralls.
When we headed out the morning of our snowmobile reservation, the temperature was -39 degrees F. Yes, you read that right, as in almost 40 degrees below zero. We had to wait for about an hour at the snowmobile center for the temperature to rise to about-20. Evidently, if you go snowmobiling in weather below -20 it’s a lot like an ice cream truck came into town and you’re the popsicles.
Kristen and I rented telephoto lenses so we could give wildlife a zoom.
That a.m.’s -39 was about 30 degrees colder than I have ever been in my life. What did it feel like? It felt crunchy. Everything crackled from car doors to backpacks. Touching metal felt a lot like stabbing yourself in the hand. Sound seemed slow and muted. Oddly, other than a few weird things like that, -39 didn’t feel much different than 0. When you’re unthinkably cold, what’s 40 degrees less?
I had to remind myself that I was still on planet Earth when this scene came into view.
Yellowstone’s bacterial mats seemed even more striking when surrounded by a blanched palette.
When temperatures finally hit the balmy negative twenties, we were able to depart on our private snowmobile tour of the park. Kristen didn’t take to snowmobile operating. After an incident with a snowbank, which resulted in a sprained ankle, she wouldn’t drive above 5 MPH. I was therefore tasked with taking over the driving of her machine. I was starting to come down with a respiratory infection, one that would eventually become my worst sickness in years, so I wasn’t feeling exceptional to begin with and the mighty negatives were taking their toll but when we hit the splendor of Yellowstone all of that was forgotten.
The Lower Geyser Basin contained many marvelous fountains and pots.
Yellowstone looked like a misplaced land with snow-masked hillsides and meadows framed between wavy vapors and steamy rivers beaded by ice chunks. It was unreal! Since only about 1000 tourists enter the park daily during the winter, the animals are rather sociable and uninhibited while they are unpleasantly cold. (That sounds like a lot of people until you consider that over 30,000 visitors encroach on Yellowstone every day during the summer months.) We met bald eagles, coyotes, elk, and trumpeter swans. We plowed right through a herd of lethargic bison. Moving among them on a snowmobile, with nothing but frigid air between you, is quite a different experience than passing them in a car. We traveled through a valley where plumes of geothermal steam billowed toward the sky and crept along the horizon in a hazy dance full of a motion at odds with the utter stillness of the rest of the scene.
Red Spouter’s name makes more sense after seeing it in the winter. In the summer, it’s too dry to do any spouting.
The trees near pools, pots, and geysers looked more like gritty beasts than plants.
Did I stay warm? Shockingly, yes. Thanks to -60-degree boots, two pairs of socks, various foot warmers, a down jacket, a down coat, a thermal top, a snowboarding jacket, three layers of thermal pants of various sizes to allow for their overlay, two glove liners, mittens, two balaclavas, half a dozen handwarmers, and one hideous one-piece snowmobiling suit I stayed unexpectedly cozy. How I even moved while wearing all of that remains a mystery. I wasn’t the exception; no one in our group got cold. In fact, Miles was so comfy that he kept falling asleep on the back of Jason’s snowmobile. It was nerve-racking cruising behind them while he slid this way and that in a speedy slumber.
Even the more typical features of Yellowstone’s landscape didn’t look typical.
Although our trip passed too quickly, we still reserved some time at the condo for poker and conversation. It was pleasant and mellow thanks to my great family.
The only time we were assailed by other tourists was when everyone was heading out of the park for the day.
Spending time with my family was a delight as always.
What a memorable vacation! I will never forget the astonishing scenery, chummy wildlife, crinkly cold, and family warmth. Of course, I will also never forget how sick I was afterward. The day we left, my body was so worn out and ill that I could barely move. I slept the entire way home and had a fever the whole night. Yet, oh what a trip!
Our Christmas this year passed much like many others before it, only faster and with a certain finality.
We had no idea at the time but this would be the last gathering of these people in this life.
Christmas came quickly after my fall semester ended. Thanks to school, our present turnover rate was much higher than normal. Our tree went from barren to presented to barren again quite speedily. There was nothing underneath it until just a couple days before Christmas. For a planner like me, that was practically unacceptable. However, I switched from writing 25-page papers to crafting gifts without taking a needed pause and, miraculously, completed everything in time.
Making a wrapping-paper mess is a Sabin tradition.
We spent Christmas Eve with Jason’s family. We had a nice meal and then opened presents unhurriedly, enjoying the inside jokes and perpetual teasing. As is Sabin custom, we piled up the wrapping scraps and threw cats and each other into the disarray, creating even more chaos. Little did we know that this would be the last time we’d all be together on this earth.
I did not make these red velvet cakebites but I bought them expertly.
Jason masked the kids’ present under many layers of boxes and giftwrap, which resulted in an intense group effort fueled by impatience and curiosity.
Due to one final wrapping marathon that didn’t conclude until 3:30 AM Christmas morning, Jason and I slept in a bit on the holiday and headed to my family’s in the afternoon. We had a lovely lunch with them and then set about unwrapping duty. The kids were almost eerily calm during most of the gift giving. Too much sugar? Too many tablet games? Present overload? Whatever the reason, it was pleasant but unnatural.
Santa left nerdy sweaters in our stockings on Christmas morning. They were already washed and ready to wear. That was so thoughtful of Santa.
At the time, Christmas felt like it always does, hectic and tiring. Now, after the unwavering irrevocability of the events of the last month, the filter by which I view that holiday has changed substantially. Recollections of it come to me in potent succession, the fleeting minutes of a transient and unpredictable life. They are moments that cannot be regained with people that can now only be visited in memory. Jason and I have always lived fully but these days, more than ever, even the craziest of holidays seems exceptional and precious to us.
Christmas is accompanied by a certain level of decorum and pomp for most but, for us, it comes with tackiness and hair.
Our Christmas party is a December tradition that went from formal and fancy to ridiculous and irreverent many years ago. Never heard of it? We keep the invitee list slim so we can actually talk to our guests, a refreshing change after our Halloween largeness. There have been almost no new additions to that list for over a decade so our attendees are pretty much the people that have known us since our rollerblades and overalls days.
Jeremy typically goes a few disgusting steps beyond an ugly sweater and completely exemplifies holiday hideousness.
This event has some holiday standards mixed with a few seasonal abnormals. Gaggy gifts, tinselly sweaters, tasteless fake fur, tasteful food, massive moustaches, ping-pong showdowns, awkward dance competitions, absurd photos, and close encounters of the Rowley kind are all part of the routine.
Yes, tacky comes standard with the Sabins.
This year we ordered food from Corner Bakery Café. The spinach salad, pesto cavatappi, hummus and veggies, bruschetta with parmesan toast, and sweets basket probably made for our favorite catering in years.
Just Dance has become a tradition at our party.
I took pictures of any of the assembled crew that wanted them for over an hour and a half at the affair. Sadly, this took more time away from busting my sweet Just Dance 2017 moves than expected but some of the resulting images are priceless… revolting, but priceless.
Boys 4 Toys is sure to become the next boy-band sensation.
The white elephant gifts were much the same as they always have been… good, bad, even worse. Man-scented candles, fry pillows, and pooping-dog calendars were just a few of the finer things that could have been mine. (Incidentally, I just got good hot chocolate and I was just fine with that.)
What an adorable couple!
Thanks loyal Christmas partiers! It’s cool to celebrate the holidays every year with a lowkey gathering where the same small group of buddies wear what they shouldn’t and shake what they definitely shouldn’t- from hind ends to hidden gifts.
I love to dance even when I’m trapped in a hoopskirt so immense that I could be mistaken for a ruffly blimp. That’s one of the many reasons why Jason and I have happily become repeat performers at the Festival of Trees with our old-school pals.
There were probably about 90 yards of fabric stretched across all these dresses.
The Festival of Trees is a charity event that supports Primary Children’s Hospital. The Old Glory Vintage Dancers have twirled there annually for years. Jason and I have been involved in these performances for the last three years.
Although I’d have fun swaying with a toaster, people do add to the innate pleasures of prancing. We’ve made some great dancing buddies and laughing with them during rehearsals is as enjoyable as the turns of a reel.
Although I make most of my historic attire, I borrowed this elaborate gown from our dance leader.
I’m grateful for all the fine music, lively steps, excellent friends, and enormous dresses in my life.
Although my semester was keeping me rather occupied, Jason and I took a little weekend break in November. We invited a couple friends, Tom and Aimee, to stay with us at a condo in Park City. It was a relaxing pause with great chats, fine chow, and a few unexpected stops.
Park City’s Main Street is famous for its foodstuffs and posh shops but, surprisingly, not for its Pokestops.
One of my favorite things about Park City is the food. There are so many fantastic places to eat there that a rent-a-stomach service could be a big hit. We gorged at Zoom, The Bridge Café & Grill, and Billy Blanco’s. Yet, we still found little spots in our gastrointestinal tracts for some custom-made diminutive donuts from Peace, Love, and Little Donuts.
I love great food and Park City has heaps of it.
We discovered that Main Street, Park City’s famous center, not only possesses sustenance aplenty but also Pokéstops galore. We endured the unpleasant winter wind for a few Pokéwalks, some to side streets and lanes we had never seen. We caught a lot of Pokémon we hadn’t encountered before like Nidorinos, Bellsprouts, and Beedrills. Plus, we found numerous Jigglypuffs, Tauros, Seels, Shellders, and Weedles. Yes, we were four adults roaming a ritzy area full of art galleries and luxury boutiques in search of cartoon creatures and we didn’t have a problem with that.
I am not particularly good at Bananagrams, Scrabble, or Boggle but that has never stopped me from tinkering competitively with the alphabet.
After our strolls, we played Bananagrams. I am not terribly good at word games but I love messing with letters anyway. Aimee’s domination over my feeble word realm didn’t bother me in the slightest.
Our wee break was quite nice. Park City didn’t disappoint our stomachs or our Pokédexes.