Author Archives: SMS

Family Adventure: Yellowstone N.P.

We had always talked about doing “Christmas at Yellowstone.”  It was sort of a bucket list trip. So we decided that now was as good of time as any – packed up my mom, the kids, and the two of us and went for it.

Here’s a rough outline of our agenda with a sampling of the 3,000+ photos we took!

Note: This post was a long time in the making.  Our trip took place Dec. 16 – 24, 2017.

Day 1 – December 16

This was mostly a travel day and fairly uneventful.  

Welcome to Jackson

We flew into Jackson, WY and rented a car.  Grabbed a quick bite to eat at Snake River Brewery. And hit the road to drive up to West Yellowstone, MT.

There is a pretty decent mountain pass between Jackson and West Yellowstone (Teton Pass Highway).  And Google routed us backroads to save us I am guessing 38 seconds at the risk of being lost in the wilderness if we encountered car troubles. Although, we did see the largest mule deer that we’ve ever seen.

Route from Jackson to West Yellowstone

We used the Kelly Inn as our base camp in West Yellowstone, and it got the job done.  

Day 2 – December 17

The second day was about getting into the park as we were staying the next couple of nights in the park at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

We decided to spend a little extra and use the trip in as a private geyser tour (totally worth every dollar).  We used Backcountry Adventures as our tour guide for all our tours.

The snowmobile tours are pretty popular.  That really wasn’t an option for us with my mom and daughter.  But there are some advantages to the snowcoach – mainly you’re not driving.  Also, you have more sets of eyes to see things that I think you’d just motor past on a snowmobile.

Madison River

We saw some awesome sights on the way into the park.

Bison herd
Trumpeter Swans – Parents and Juvenile

When your guide is impressed by the sights, you know you’ve just seen something cool.

Fox with Carryout
When the guide is impressed, you should be too!
Yeah, kid. This is amazing.
Paint Pots

The cold temperatures really highlight the thermal features.  

Bison in the Mist – could be my favorite photo of the trip…
Grand Prismatic Spring

Flocking occurs when the steam refreezes where it lands

Flocked Trees & Shrubs

We stayed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.  Our trip coincided with the first week the park was open for its winter season and that seemed to work to our advantage as visitor traffic was pretty light for our whole trip.

Day 3 – December 18

We decided to do a day excursion from the Old Faithful area over to the West Thumb Geyser Basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake.  The trip took us across the Continental Divide via a snowcoach.


One of the interesting parts of visiting in winter is that the snow and cold temperatures really highlights the multitude of thermal features – that you probably wouldn’t notice in warmer months.  All those unfrozen spots in the lake are the result of hidden thermal features.

Yellowstone Lake
Kepler Cascades

After returning to the Snow Lodge back at the Old Faithful area, Mrs. SFTE and I rented some cross country skis from the Bear Den Ski Shop and she proceeded to pound me into the ground.

Mrs. SFTE says “Eat my dust!”
Nordic Trails

We attempted to make it out to the Lone Star Geyser, but ran out of daylight.

PistonBully grooming the roads.

Day 4 – December 19

This was our last day at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.  We scheduled a group shuttle back out to the West Entrance around mid-day, but that gave us some time to explore the Upper Geyser Basin in the morning.

When I tell folks about the trip, this was one of the most amazing parts (to me at least).  I think we were about the only people out in the Geyser Basin this morning. Compare that to pictures during other seasons.

Old Faithful all to ourselves!
Old Faithful
Old Faithful and Old Faithful Inn
Transportation back to West Yellowstone
Wild West Pizzeria & Saloon – Eat Here!

Day 5 – December 20

The fifth day was a trip to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The canyon (Canyon Village area) is in the north central part of the park.  It was actually easier to get there from West Yellowstone, than from the Old Faithful area.  That’s why we chose to leave the park the day before. And the Kelly Inn was a little more economical than the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

However, even from West Yellowstone, this was a full day trip.  We chose to do a private tour again and we had Mr. Pierre as our tour guide again.

Upper Falls
Enjoying the snowcoach decision vs. snowmobile.
Bald Eagle
Beryl Spring – This might have been my favorite feature.

Our tour guide was awesome!

Mr. Pierre (our tour guide)

This was a good day (every day on this trip was a good day).  It was a lot of windshield time. If you made me choose one thing to take out of our trip, it probably would be this day.

Day 6 – December 21

The sixth day was a travel day back to Jackson from West Yellowstone. But we stopped by the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center before we left town.  

The drive back to Jackson was beautiful.

Stopped by the Teton Science School for a private tour.  Check out their amazing programs!

And had a nice evening in Jackson.

Day 7 – December 22

We started off the seventh day with a half day wildlife tour guided by Bear Witness Safari.  Highly recommended.

Through the spotting scope.
Bighorn Sheep
Through the spotting scope.
And visiting up close.

And did a tour of the National Elk Refuge.  The weather had been pretty warm without much snow, so despite a heroic effort of our sled driver, we only saw a few elk.  In fact there was so little snow, the sled was actually a wagon.

 Can you find the elk in this picture?  There’s at least three.

Day 8 – December 23

The eighth day of our trip was open.  We stopped by Jackson Hole and drove over to Grand Teton National Park.

A good snow fort is hard to beat.

Day 9 – December 24

The ninth day was our return trip back to Ohio.


We’ve all said that we would do this exact trip again.  

The only thing I think I would change is spend a few more days at the Snow Lodge in Yellowstone.  Originally, I was thinking that you might run out of things to do here. Far from it. I could easily spend several more days here and would plan on some snowshoeing or nordic skiing trips out to some of the geysers a bit further out.

Family Mission: Solamere Loop Trail

Another family mission in the Park City area.

We did most of the Solamere Loop Trail – although we traversed across the ridge line to the other “peak” versus taking the trail around the south side.

Took about 2 hours with a couple of snack stops.  Nice views of Park City, Deer Valley, the Jordanelle Reservoir and surrounding area.  Not a long trail, but the elevation gain made it rewarding.

Influential Reads – March 2020

Two books this month.  And lots of articles. Apparently there was some stuff to read about going on.

Updated stats through March:


Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. To be free, stop caring what others think – “Tranquility comes when you stop caring what they say think, or do. Only what you do.”
  2. Bird in the Hand – “If you are able, increase your 401(k) savings to front load contributions for the year.”
  3. Why Leaders Need Meditation Now More Than Ever – “On the contrary, starting the day with a few minutes of meditation can help you center and calm fear-based thoughts.”
  4. Muni Bonds Have Started to Rally. Why You Should Get on Board — and Where to Find Bargains – “Muni yields are currently almost double those on Treasuries, a rare occurrence.”
  5. What’s in Congress’s $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package – “Democrats: Won language that would bar any business owned by President Donald Trump or his family from getting loans from Treasury. Businesses owned by members of Congress, heads of executive departments and Vice President Mike Pence also would be blocked.” Stephen here, good for them, but wondering if golf courses are considered essential businesses?
  6. The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming – “A billion people would get sick,” he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.”
  7. The Virus Infecting MLPs – “But the delevering of MLP CEFs has exacerbated the drop for everyone.”
  8. Calm also has a coefficient – “Being up-to-date on the news is a trap and a scam. Five minutes a day is all you need.”
  9. Flowing Uphill: Tips for Efficient Skinning – “The irony of efficient skinning is that you are practicing something as basic as walking uphill, but touring is a sport of subtleties and you get better with every step you take … just in very small increments.”
  10. Coming Back to Powerful Habits – “In fact, coming back to a habit might be the most powerful habit of all.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

That’s A Bunch Of…

As an Associate in an investment bank more than a decade ago, I had to clear all trades with our compliance department.  If we started to do business with a firm, regardless of whether I knew anything about it, I could get locked into or out of a position indefinitely.  And trust me, about the only thing I was influencing was Excel.

Senators can’t rely on ‘my adviser did it’ excuse to dodge insider-trading questions

So, yeah.  This is total bullshit.

I would pay to see Martha Stewart go batshit crazy on these people. 

Magnitude & Velocity

In my experience, the velocity of change is much more impactful than the magnitude.  Most systems, companies, species, can adjust to most changes if provided enough time.

Climate change on the scale of centuries is manageable.  Climate change on the scale of years is much more problematic.

It’s the velocity, then, that has the more significant impact.  If the change happens too fast to adapt, then you have issues.

The velocity of the economic impacts of the coronavirus are almost incomprehensible.  It’s been so fast, there’s barely any real data available yet.

Act accordingly…

Extrapolate This

You don’t see trends like this every day.


I’m not sure what it going on, but something isn’t right: 41% discount to NAV; 120% yield.


Proving the Negative

Oh, just sitting around trying to prove the negative.

  • That I do not have the novel corona virus.
  • That none of my family has the novel corona virus.
  • That the economy is not falling off a cliff.
  • That the world is not ending.

Proving the negative is very difficult. Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

Lots of Fear

We flew from Columbus to Salt Lake City on Saturday.

I think Mrs. SFTE and I did a decent job of evaluating the risks and potential scenarios and making a rational decision to go on Spring Break.  We’re prepared to be stranded here in Utah. We didn’t count on all the ski resorts closing. Still waiting on the news that they’re closing all the country clubs and golf courses too.

Ironically, I think we’re safer here for the moment.  We’re much more socially isolated than if we were home.  Picture snotty nosed neighbor kids knocking on my back door and asking my daughter to play.  Good luck stopping that one. And I am not going into work – probably the second riskiest action aside from my daughter going to school (I think the latter won’t be a problem for the rest of the school year). 

Side note:  Figure out which insurance companies provide private school tuition insurance and short the #$%@ out of them.  You know I’m reviewing that contract when I get home.

The fear is palpable.  That’s a cliche. But a true one.  Don’t cough on the plane. You’ll be treated like someone wearing a turban on a flight back in the early 2000s.

Lots of suspicion behind everyone’s eyes.  That’s all you could see on us. We wore surgical masks.  We know the experts said you didn’t need to. We figured they just said that because there weren’t any masks to be had (or hoard). 

Instead, please hoard toilet paper and water.  Rookie preppers. Now the rest of the country knows what it is like to prepare for a hurricane.

I do not mean to marginalize anything here.  These are historic times. Another cliche. I commend the public officials taking bold actions.  I don’t even mind that you cut my ski season short (I was going to get 30 days in this season). 

However, it does demonstrate the downside of deploying a policy of saying whatever you feel like will get the response that you want.  It’s called an erosion of trust. Nobody believes a word you say. Or maybe more precisely everyone knows that every word that comes out of your mouth is based on your own personal agenda of getting what you want at that moment.  But might not be grounded in any truth or facts. Thank you, Mr. President.

Unfortunately, we need truth and facts right now.  Or else the fear is going to escalate.


Patience is not a virtue I possess in great quantities.  However, I’m working on it.

It’s hard.  Things are happening fast.  And look like big moves.

But are they big moves?

Right.  Patience.  Working on it.

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