Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rafting the Yellowstone River

Tuesday Aug 25th – Today, we were off on another adventure! – rafting the Yellowstone River! We drove up to the north end of the park and stopped to get a quick look at Mammoth Hot Springs. Then we drove just outside the park to Gardiner, Montana.

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We met our group at Montana Whitewater and after a short safety briefing…..

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We were on the water.

The Yellowstone River runs south to north, and the section that we would be rafting was outside of Yellowstone Park, but flowed along the north boundary of the park. The scenery along the river was beautiful…..

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We were in a paddle raft with our four and a father and daughter, and our guide, Sam.

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The Yellowstone River along this section has smooth water…….

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Interspersed with a number of class II rapids.

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Just enough to keep things exciting!

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This is a good shot of the group. Left to right – front to back – Brian, Rebekah, the father and daughter (Morris and Shawnee) and Fred and Sue with Sam the guide in the rear.

We stopped after a couple of hours and let the father and daughter get off. They were just going for the morning and were picked up by Montana Whitewater. Our group was continuing on for several more hours.

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A little down river, we stopped at a scenic place for lunch……

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And enjoyed a wonderful deli sandwich provided by our guide.

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Then headed back on the river through Yankee Jim Canyon and an afternoon of more rapids and fabulous scenery. This stretch of the river was my favorite – it was more secluded and we felt like we were all by ourselves.

This was a great trip and a fun way to see more of Yellowstone than just the Park. It also reminded Fred and I of all the fun that we have had rafting……

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hike to Fairy Falls and the Geyser Basin Boardwalk

Monday Aug 24th- We set out on a hike this morning from the Middle Geyser Basin to Fairy Falls. It was an easy 5 mile total, out and back hike, that was supposed to pass Grand Prismatic Spring along the way. This was described in our day hiking guide as “so beautiful as to hurt your eyes”. It may have been, but from the side where we passed it, we  really could not tell. I didn’t even bother to take a picture.

We arrived at Fairy Falls – a nice little waterfall, but nothing spectacular.

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Though we all did stop to get our picture taken beside it.

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The best thing about this hike was our timing. We had gotten an early start and had the trail all to ourselves on our way out.

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On the hike back, we spotted this little buck, who did not seem bothered by our presence.

By 10 am, on our hike back, the trail was getting more crowded. By the time we arrived back, the parking lot was full and overflowing. We really congratulated ourselves on having gotten an early start.

After the hike, we had lunch at the Old Faithful Inn. Brian and Rebekah tried bison for the first time with a delicious looking bison burger. Then, we headed out along the boardwalk to get see all the geysers. We had stopped at the Visitors Center to get the update on when to expect the major geysers to go off.

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Due to a detour, we had to enter the boardwalk at Castle Geyser. This geyser had not had a predicted eruption time. It was noted that after a minor eruption (which Castle had earlier) the next eruption of Castle was unpredictable. Just as we passed by, Castle began to erupt! It spewed water 200 feet in the air for 15 minutes.

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Then, it continued to spew out steam for another 20 minutes. Very impressive!

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We watched awhile, then continued on along the boardwalk, stopping to enjoy all the major features. We realized that it was just about time for Old Faithful to erupt again.

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We found a spot along the boardwalk where we could watch Old Faithful from a distance. And, true to its name, Old Faithful was right on time.

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Grand Geyser was one that Rebekah remembered from a visit to Yellowstone that she had taken as a child. She remembered it as being even more impressive than Old Faithful.

It was about 45 minutes before the predicted eruption, but this geyser could erupt an hour earlier or an hour later than the predicted time. On our previous visit to Yellowstone, Fred and I had waited 2 hours for Grand Geyser to erupt (it was 1 hour late).

We found a seat on the benches and settled in to wait.

We did not have to wait long. Grand Geyser erupted 30 minutes ahead of the prediction! And it was GRAND -  pumping bursts of water several hundred feet into the air.

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As the height of water gushing out of Grand Geyser began to die down, a second side geyser began spewing steam and water. Quite the sight!

After the timing of Castle Geyser, Old Faithful and Grand Geyser, I was beginning to think that we were charmed.    : )

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We walked on along the boardwalk, learning about the various hot springs and colored pools…..

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And marveled at the shapes created by the silica deposits. At the end of the section of boardwalk that we were walking was Morning Glory Pool, so named for the shape and colors of the water. So lovely……

 

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Along our walk, we spotted a bison and had to take a picture (from a safe  distance, of course). 

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We headed back to find a seat next to Riverside Geyser and sat in the shade to wait for it to erupt.

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We were not disappointed!

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This had been a charmed afternoon filled with all of the geyser watching that one could hope for.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Horse Riding in the Hayden Valley

Sunday Aug 23rd – I had scheduled a horse ride in the Hayden Valley area for today. It would be an all day ride, which I was very much looking forward too. Though, I must confess, that I was a bit worried about all of our ‘sitters’ and knees holding up with 6 hours of riding.

We met Mike Thompson, our trail guide, and Bubba, his young helper at the Alum Creek parking area along the Grand Loop Road.

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It only took a few minutes to give us all some instructions, and we were saddled up and ready to ride.

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Brian was riding ‘Elmo’ and Bekah was on ‘Leo’.

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I was riding ‘Lobo’, and Fred was riding ‘Bob’.

My horse, Lobo, was a special horse with a pedigree. The Nez Perce Indians are credited with developing the Appaloosa horse. Lobo is supposed to be a direct descendant of the Nez Perce Indian line of horses. He really was a wonderful and spirited horse, as were all of Mike’s horses.

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Mike told us that we were going to ride across this open valley, up and over the hills, then around the trees, and make a rather big circle back to the road.  We could ride single file or grouped together, but the horses seemed to just mostly follow the leader. Once in a while, one or another of the horses would get a bit behind, then he would trot a bit to catch up. At first, this caught me by surprise, then I realized that Lobo would just trot a bit and slow back to a walk. They all just liked keeping up with their buddies.

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Up over the hill, we stopped at a geo-thermal area. The white ground is from the silica  that the geyser waters deposit when they overflow and cool.

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There were several steaming fumaroles…..

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And one large bubbling hot spring pool.

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It was amazing to just wander around this geo-thermal area without having the crowds, or having to walk only on the boardwalks.

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As we rode on, we spotted this herd of bison.

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There were hundreds of bison scattered about this valley.

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That did not stop us….we rode right around and through the bison herd! It was a bit intimidating, but such an awesome feeling to be able to ride quietly among these huge animals, remembering that these bison are wild animals, not cows.

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Around 1 pm, we stopped for a much needed stretch and lunch.

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As we ate a delicious lunch provided by our guide, we enjoyed the view out across the valley.

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We continued on, always alert for any wildlife……a wolf pack as well as elk, moose and bear all live in the Hayden Valley. We did not, unfortunately, spot anymore wildlife, but that did not matter with the amazing scenery all around us to enjoy.

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We did, however, see a surprising number of bison skulls and elk antlers. On the left, Mike holds up a bison skull with one horn still attached. On the right, is Bubba, proudly posing with another skull.

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Everyone got a turn to hold the skulls….

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And there were several more full sets of bones that we spotted.

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Brian and Bekah pose with one gigantic set of elk antlers (still attached to the skull) !

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The last hour of our ride, we all were looking forward to getting off our horses and letting our sore seats rest, though, we were not eager for this adventure to come to an end. I do think that this trail ride will be  a highlight of the trip.