Greetings From Yellowstone (2007)

Day 1

Arrived at 12 through northwest entrance after driving from Salt Lake City and through states of Utah, Idaho and Montana. Now we’re in Wyoming. We got a campsite without reservations, lucky we were. There are 14 different campgrounds inside the park and many more outside, should we have to look around. The maximum stay is 14 days, which is how long we’re planning… In total, six people, two small tents, one minivan and lots of nature to be seen and enjoyed. The first thing we did was set up our tents. Lay the tarp on the ground in case we have rain. Unpack the food into the bear protected storage units The next thing was fishing. All the kids have their own poles and they have been practicing casting in the backyard for weeks. We’re not using bait and if we do catch we release. The river is a short walk from our tents. We spend an hour or more fishing, and we do catch and release a few trout. Later we discover that only fly-fishing is allowed here. We’ll check with the ranger to find out the areas where kids can fish and the other rules that apply. The first catch was I. I. Literally, Brian caught my shirts with his hook. The second close catch was Tina and I who were chased by bees in our hair. Just being around nature is amazing. This place is relaxing as well as invigorating. We’re meeting people from South Carolina, California, and all around Utah. We’re seeing bison, AKA buffalo, elk, golden eagles, coyotes, and lots more. We drove back to West Yellowstone for supplies, and plan to spend more time there if we can, at the museum.
There was a talk about the formation of Yellowstone, the world’s largest volcano crater (check) and the possibility of future eruption and what the result would be globally. When, not if, it erupts, the planet will be affected. From the Gulf of Mexico to Canada to the Pacific, we’d see ash and other stuff. We learned about calderas, and hot spots. We learned about the gray wolves and how they were extinct, re-introduced and now doing well in Yellowstone. We learned that one-third of the park was destroyed in the wildfires of 1988, partly because of the change in monitoring; not just putting fires out immediately. The new theory is to let nature, through lightning storms, just take it’s course. It’s normal for 22 fires a year to occur.
The pine trees here have adapted to this environment. They have a pine co that explodes with seeds when the temperature climbs, like in a fire. So there are now hundred of thousands of these seedlings, most 19 years old. The fire spurred this growth and brings back the trees tenfold. The kids like to build fires in the fire ring. Patrick is focused on the dust, stoking the fire, chopping wood, and anything around the fire area. Brian is more of a “rock” man, collecting plenty of rocks and bringing them to the campsite for show and play. Katie and Tina, ages 12 and 10, enjoyed the nature talk because it gave them answers to questions brewing, and created more questions for another day. They are learning these things in Earth Science class, so it’s reinforcing the book learning and for that it’s wonderful. No cell coverage, no e-mail coverage, and no even a newspaper sent to our campsites. We’ll be studying nature and smelling the pine and campfires for the next few weeks. This is life, a different one. Even to escape for a few weeks is precious.
My husband just brought me hot tea. I’m going to enjoy it with him while the kids still sleep.

Day 2

The food has been very tasty and easy thus far. Two nights of pasta and red sauce with corn were easy cooking ideas that worked. Last night we added fresh asparagus to the menu. Kids ate heartily. Lunch was going to be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but the Canyon Lodge restaurant had a kids meal and an all you can eat soup and salad bar, so that took preference. We snacked on ice cream bars in the afternoon. Kids went fishing again today and are getting better at their casting. Their shoes are now quite muddy and wet from wearing them in the water. Those same shoes will be the “fishing shoes”. I stayed behind to organize the car and food supplies. Because of bears, no food can be brought into the tent or left on the picnic tables. Not even unattended will be acceptable. In the olden days, rangers used to entertain visitors by feeding the bears for show. They even had a small amphitheater built for a daily show of “Bears Lunchtime” where they ate the trash and entertained the visiting guests. Yesterday was a geyser day for our family. We started out looking at small ones, but finished off with the Steamboat Geyser, the largest one in the world. It hasn’t erupted to its full 300-400 feet capacity since May 23, 2005. We saw 25-30 foot eruptions. We saw mud pots and paint pots; we walked along the boardwalks only, because to get off the path not only was risky for the environment, but also for the human. These pools of acidic water are beautiful to view with the eye, but are flesh-eating due to the high concentration of bacteria. The animals we have thus far seen include: bison…within four feet of our car…. a bit scary…. they do attack and we’ve been warned. …. Elk, eagles, robins, squirrels, red fox, and perhaps some moose, coyotes, and??? We also visited the Canyon Village area and planned future days adventures there. We found the showers and the washers/dryers, post office, stores, and Visitor Center. There are plenty of tourists through this village daily. All of the rangers and park employees we’ve met have been so very friendly and easy to talk to. The roads are well built and the accommodations very comfortable, tent camping isn’t bad when you’ve got flush toilets and running water within 30 feet of your campsite. We’ve got a girl tent for Tina and Katie and a second and larger tent for the parents and boys. Our campfire gets lots of attention nightly as well as the stove and steno for cooking. Yesterday we had egg tacos, which turned out pretty good. Our neighbors are changing…. one or two nights seem to be how long the nearby campers are staying. We met a couple from a small town in Montana who entered the east gate and saw herds of buffalo and lots of bear on the way over. Today we’ll be heading north to Mammoth Hot Springs and possibly to a white water rafting and/or horseback riding adventure. Kids are happy as long as we get to go fishing every day! Maybe they will be great fishermen and women some day. In the meantime, it builds character and teamwork skills, as well as a love for nature. They are soaking up the science, even when they don’t realize it. They are learning to distinguish small details of nature and the environment, and it’s not just observation. It’s experiential and experimental as well. They are living this two-week camping experiment and sponging up in huge quantities what Mother Nature has been doing for millions of years. Then they are applying it to their own lives and processing as their own personal history.

Day 3

This was the day we drove north to go White Water Rafting in Gardiner, Montana. And to get there, we had to exit the park through the north entrance. We drove towards Mammoth Hot Springs for about 50 miles, seeing the animals we came to see. We were driving and came face to face with two bison, which were casually walking in front of a string of 50 or so cars. The buffalo came within two feet of our vehicle as they passed us, taking a quick glance in our car as they did. We spotted herds of buffalo later, as well as herds of elk, sheep, and other majestic creatures of nature. We inquired as to a recommended rafting outfitter and chose The Flying Pig, who was celebrating “Prom Day” that day. All employees wore their formal attire. The six of us and another family of four headed out on a half-day raft adventure with Amanda. Prom dress and all, down the >>>>>>> river, which connected with the Missouri, which connects with the Mississippi further down river. We sat on pontoons and paddled upon command, getting splashed in the process. The water was a chilly 48 degrees and some of us ventured in for fun when the river was slower. One spot called “Man-eater” was scary. Brian loved the one called “Sleeping Giant” as he got splashed around and tossed to another pontoon. We had a memorable time and would recommend this trip to others who were seeking adventure. The kids all wanted to do it again the next day, a good sign of a successful outing. We did a little fishing before the rafting, along the public shores of Gardiner. Patrick caught a small fish and released it. Dogs and people were on shore, enjoying the day, about 80 degrees. We also did a little shopping in town, had cell service for the first time in days, and then drove back to Madison, our tent camping home. Again smores, and friends Tom and Shirley brought their guitars and sang a bit by the campfire. Another good day, weather wise, a bit windy at that.

Day 4

This was Sunday, and another very sunny one. Daytime temperatures are 55-60 and at night 35-40. We see animals singly and in herds nearly everywhere we drive. Today we spent time at The Canyons. Here we visited “The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” and hiked to Inspiration Point, Lower falls and Upper Falls. Each point requires a short hike, but are worth the climb and not so strenuous. Even my six and eight year old sons did them, with a bit of candy for an incentive. For the most part, we’ve been in the Geyser area thus far. The sulfur smells carry into the car and the kids don’t like them. I’ve become accustomed to the scents, and breath through my mouth if it gets really smelly. Yes, it’s like rotten eggs. For breakfast, we have pancakes and egg burritos with hot chocolate. Then we drive and smell sulfur and document animals we see with photographs. Then we drive some more. Today, we drove through Antelope Valley and saw a lot of people on the side of the road. We, too, got out of our car and walked to see what was going on. Someone mentioned a mother bear and her two cubs were there, but none of us spotted them from our group. We continued and saw a large moose, huge antlers and all. A few miles further we stopped at Tower and Roosevelt. We had lunch at the Roosevelt Lodge, where Teddy Roosevelt used to enjoy spending time. There were cabins that seemed comfortable, and a big porch with rocking chairs. It had a rustic look, including the tables and chairs. Katie and I took a walk at night and spent time by the river. We saw dozens of fish jumping out of the water and trying o catch bugs (we think). Smores again for the evening snack and bed early for a busy driving day tomorrow. We’re planning a trip to Cody, WY, about 55 miles outside of the park to the east.

Day 5

We drove to Cody, Wyoming on Monday, June 25. There were five museums that make up the Buffalo Bill Cody Visitor Center. The museums included an Art Museum, A Buffalo Bill Museum, A Plains Indian Museum, A Natural History Museum and Photography display and a Firearms Museum. We spent over three hours touring, but it was worth the drive there and back, nearly 250 miles. The kids were able to interact with most of the exhibits and the layouts were easy to follow and read. I would highly recommend this museum. The family took lots of pictures in front of the stuffed grisly bears and moose. We learned so much about animals and history of the region that we’ll be applying over the next months. Buffalo Bill was quite the entertainer. He was a friend to the Indian, and traveled with up to 80 of them in his show. He traveled the world over, performing to kings and queens of Europe, to Hawaii and throughout the US in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. His entertainment was the hit of the era, and the history was told through photographs and memorabilia. This date, June 25, was famous in history of this region. In 1876, the Battle of Custer’s Last Stand was fought here and recorded in art by the region’s best artists. This historical depiction looks different from each artist’s point of view. We had a chance to take in many viewpoints in this Art Museum. The Natural History Museum was full of interactive exhibits, including microscopes where kids and adults could look at protozoa, insect’s cornea, and more. Traffic was delayed due to construction on the road at the east entrance.

Day 6

We looked at some beautiful Geysers today. Prismatic was one of the most beautiful and colorful hot springs. We saw the famous Old Faithful Geyser today and found that this is the most popular part of the park. Lots of tour busses and resort-adventurers. We met a photographer, David William >>>>>>> and bought two of his books, one a photo journey of the Yellowstone area and the other about the Tetons, where we will visit next week. One of the highlights for the kids was the “old fishin’ hole” swimming area. It’s not a well-known part of the park, but there were plenty of swimmers when we got there. It’s near Madison, our campsite for the past week. Take Fire hole Drive nearly two miles in and it’s on the right. Lots of swimming in the river, and the current pushes you back. The water is warmer than we expected. And the closer to the springs, it got even warmer. Recommended are water shoes for this adventure. The sunny day was great for drying off. It’s been sunny and warm and very dry every day. Our skin is very dry, and the humidity seems to be less than 2%. Today we saw lots of buffalo herds, deer, elk, osprey, and even a moose. We had lunch in the Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria. At our campsite at night, we cooked hot dogs, corn on the cob, noodles and red sauce and potatoes. Our neighbor, Aida, visiting from Idaho, brought us rice with chicken leftovers. We had brought them leftover pancakes in the morning. People tend to share their leftovers rather than throw the food away in the dumpsters. We don’t want to attract bears. The nightly nature program was about Wolves and Ravens. We learned why the wolves were removed, then replaced in Yellowstone. Now there are packs of them, and total in the hundreds. They are part of the ecosystem, and re-introduced in order to bring nature back in full. A few facts: Just as many scientists here in the park as there are tourists. If you boil the water found here, i.e., boiling water removes microorganisms, instead you will get thousands more bacteria. And that’s unique to Yellowstone. Facts from Ed Daly, Volunteer Park Host, who spends four months a year here with his wife and two other host couples. He lives in New Jersey the rest of the year, and is retired. The ravens are very different than the crows. First, they are bigger, have thicker beaks, and wider wingspans when in flight. I think I fell asleep during most of this presentation. Ask my family what they remember. Instead of a shower, the swim in the clean lake was good for a day. We are going back again tomorrow.