Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yellowstone Vacation – Anxiety and Anger in the Tetons

After our wonderful time the day before, we were looking forward to another great day in the Tetons.

After breakfast, we took short stroll around Jackson, stopping to take a picture at one of the famous elk antler arches.

And then it was on to the first of our two big activities of the day – riding the Aerial Tram up to the top of the mountain at Jackson Hole.

Kai was eager to board the tram.

But as the door to the tram shut, the operator made a few announcements. She explained that we would pass five towers that held up the cable, and at those moments, we might feel a shifting in the tram.

Well, that was all it took for Kai to feel anxious.

“I’m scared!”

We assured Kai that there was nothing to be scared about. The tram takes thousands of people each day making trips up and down all day long.

Yeah, logical explanations never seem to help with Kai in times like these.



I explained that it would be a long walk.


The more we tried to get him to calm down, the angrier he got.


That comment drew chuckles from several in the very crowded tram, all of which could clearly hear him.


After 12 minutes, we reached the top, and he quickly got off.

I got him to pose for a picture.

I walked up to the top to take in the panorama.

But Kai would have none of that and wanted to get back down to where the tram was.

There was a very tiny café and I enticed him with the promise of an ice cream. And as he ate his treat, he started to calm down.

And when we boarded the next tram to go back down. My wife warned him that he would have to stay quiet and not shout on the tram or he could not watch his videos in the car.

He was tense at first, but gradually seemed to relax.

We reached the bottom with no further anxious moments. And as we got off, he said, “That was a lot of fun!”

My wife and I looked at each other and shrugged, feeling more exasperated than happy.

Still, we were relieved that it was over.

* * * * *

After lunch back in Jackson, we drove north, back to Grand Teton National Park, where we would do our second major activity of the day. I wanted to take the boat ride across Jenny Lake, and then take the half-mile hike up to Hidden Falls. I also was hoping to take the additional half-mile hike up to Inspiration Point, but was not holding my breath on that.

There was a line for the boat, and Kai got upset when the people just in front of us were the last ones allowed on. We had to wait for the next one.

I explained that being the first ones on was better, as we would have our choice of seats. Still, he was mad until we saw the next boat come into view.

We boarded, taking seats in the front row. And once we got going, Kai was very happy.

It was a pleasant ride across the lake, the spray from the water refreshing us while we took in the great view.

And then we reached the other side and began our hike.

We couldn’t have gone more than 20 yards, barely above the dock, when the complaints started.

“I’m tired!”

“I don’t want to hike!”

Our patience was already running thin. I told him sternly that he couldn’t be tired already, and that he would have to keep walking.

The trail to the falls was uphill and full of rocks. It was not the easiest one to walk. But I tried to take it slow, as much for my father-in-law as for Kai, and it should have been easily do-able for a healthy nine-year old.

Still, the complaints escalated.



We stopped for breaks along the way. Other families jaunted past us.

Finally, we made it to the falls. Kai was very happy as I gave him a high five for persisting.

And the falls were a beautiful sight.

I knew that there would be no way Kai could make the additional half-mile up to Inspiration Point, or my wife and father-in-law either. I briefly considered going up there by myself, but felt that it just wouldn’t be the same to do it without them.

I decided that we would head back down to the boat.

Kai happily walked much faster on the way down. I had to tell him to stop so that we could take pictures along the way.

But his happy mood was shattered as we approached the dock. There was a really long line for the boat to go back.



It was hard to know what to say. The line was long. The wait would be long. I estimated that there were enough people in line to fill 4 or 5 boats, meaning we might have to wait an hour or longer.

Kai’s complaints were constant. We felt self-conscious. Everyone in that line could hear him.

My wife spoke sternly to him that there is nothing we can do. No one likes to wait but no one else was getting so upset. She told him to please be quiet. If he did not, then she would not go to the swimming pool with him afterward.

And that made him mad at her.

He said some angry words at her, but I told him to be quiet. He sidled up to me and held my hand, saying that Mom could drive the car after we got back, and that I could sit in the back with him.

Whenever we saw a boat approaching to take more people, Kai pleaded with it.

“Come on boat, you can do it!”

It seemed to take forever, but boat by boat, the line grew shorter. I counted about 45 people in front of us. A boat could take about 35 passengers. I told Kai that we would be on the boat after the next one.

We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when we finally boarded.

No one talked much in the boat or in the car ride over to our lodge.

At the lodge, my wife and father-in-law said they were too tired to go to the pool. I had a headache, but took Kai. It was actually refreshing to swim.

After dinner, we sat outside and relaxed. My wife had her coffee, Kai had his iPad, and my father-in-law just contemplated the view.

There’s nothing quite like the Tetons to help you get over a stressful day.

Next: Yellowstone Vacation – Vacation Fatigue, a Bison, and Grizzlies


  1. Well, I can say that this would have stressed me, too! I suppose you will have good and bad days while on vacation. The views are spectacular, though! Wow...I love that panoramic photo...amazing!

    1. The view from up top there was spectacular, Betsy. Yes, I think we have to expect that we'll have our bad times on a vacation like this. Frankly, I was afraid that we would have even more difficult moments.

  2. Wow...nice article. You had lots of beautiful pictures. One thing I remember as a child was what my mom had done if we misbehaved in public. She would just lean over and give us the hidden pinch on the arm. It rarely worked...when ever she did...we would protest loudly that her pinch had hurt. She would then get too embarrassed to continue :) What did work, however, was when she would just look at us with laughing conspiratorial eyes and a smile, and just say, Okaaay. It was this that usually got us in line. The fear of the unknown :) We didn't know what we would lose out on...but we knew that it would be a boring day if we didn't behave.

    Even though Kai had run through a little rough still seemed like a very nice time for your family. Just seeing all of the sights will be memorable.

    1. Ha, I know what you mean about the fear of the unknown being worse than some specific punishment.

      I think what makes it difficult with Kai is that there are times when he misbehaves and we think that he should be able to do better, and other times when he just cannot help himself. Waiting for a long time is one of those times where he is just unable to keep under control, no matter what punishment may await him. And actually, during those times, it is probably better to try to comfort him than to threaten, even if that is seems contrary to us.

      Yes, I'm sure we'll all have great memories, and the bad moments will gradually fade from our minds.


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