FC: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks Summer 2009
2: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | We are at Yellowstone, and this is a trip of many firsts. First time we have seen almost NO wildlife! We arrived yesterday before noon, and now, almost 36 hours later, we've seen 2 bison, a few elk, 2 deer and a few squirrels, chipmunks and birds.
3: First time I saw the mating rituals of, uh, the not-so-wildlife. We were on a lovely hike to Ice Lake, and, as we came along the bank, across the lake I could see something pinkish, not a color I expect to see, even among animals. I happened to have the binoculars with me, so I looked and discovered that the pink was human skin. Lots of human skin. Two peoples worth of human skin. When I sort of expressed my surprise, Alexa was panicked and said, “what do we do now?!?!” I said to just keep on going, but to make lots of noise. Sure enough, it worked, and the next time I peeked over that way, they were getting dressed in a hurry. As it turned out, the trail didn't even take us over in that direction, so we were stressed out over not too much. | Holy cow! What is THAT?!?!
4: This is the first time we've gone on hikes without a lot of kids whining! Two beautiful hikes, the one to Ice Lake and today's hike to Riddle Lake, each at least four miles, with nary a whimper. OK, Jacob whimpered about the leeches he saw (another first) that he was afraid would jump out and get him if he was within 100 feet of the water :o)
5: First time we've needed bug repellent. We have NEVER used bug spray! But as we were on our hike yesterday, we had times when we were swarmed with mosquitoes! Literally! Jacob was in front of me and I kept trying to squash them when I saw them on him, but he has had over a dozen welt-like bites on his neck and head today. For once the bites haven't bothered me, but he has really suffered. Thankfully we had a can of bug spray along just in case, and it came in handy today on our hike.
6: The hike to Riddle Lake today was beautiful, with bright, clear skies, and a cooling breeze. We went to a beach which was covered with tiny pebbles. We just sat and enjoyed the sights and sound of a loon somewhere on the lake. I just had this “wow, Heavenly Father must be so pleased with His creations!” moment and such gratitude for the beauty of this Earth! Grateful to be able to experience the warm pebbles on my feet, with the cool, moist sand underneath. The feel of the breeze on my face, along with the sunshine, and the sound of the waves against the shore. The mountains in the hazy distance. Watching the boys skip rocks on the water. Sitting next to my best friend. What a perfect moment, one I wish I could always remember! Not a worry or care in the world!
7: Our first hail storm, as we were hiking back from the lake today. Suddenly it started to rain, and then quickly turned to hail! Fortunately it was smallish, maybe pea sized at the most. Spencer was complaining because he didn't have a hat, but his hair kept his head safe. When the storm was over, he just shook his head and the hail all came tumbling out.
8: Our first bizarre ranger program. Jacob needed to watch a ranger program to get his Junior Ranger passed off, so we went to the program tonight. Holy cow! (that's what I kept saying). I'm sure “Ranger Dot” is a good ranger, but she could use a lesson in computers if she's going to rely on powerpoint! She started by clicking something that made everything on the screen go sideways. She asked for help, and a teenaged boy in the audience offered some advice. She invited him to come up, but then didn't listen to him, just kept trying to fix it herself, even trying to turn her computer sideways, and then the projector sideways. All the while, this kid is standing there, trying to help, but she wouldn't let him. So finally, she turned away for a second, and he fixed it, just like that! So, her program was pretty random, kind of a compilation of all the pictures she's ever taken, I think, set to the backdrop of Alice in Wonderland. Afterwards, as we were waiting to get Jacob's paper signed, I was trying to coach him with something positive to say to her, to thank her for the presentation, but we were both stumped :o) | Little Gibbon Falls | This tree forgot to fall! | What a nut! | The Legend of Ranger Dot
9: Another fabulous first: our first close-up experience with a bear! We were driving along toward our hike up Mount Washburn. We came upon a traffic slow-down, which always means a large animal or road construction. Off to the right we saw a bear, maybe 50 yards from the road. Of course, we stopped, and grabbed the camera and camcorder. Alexa started snapping pictures and Craig videotaped for several minutes as the bear slowly worked his way toward us, digging and eating all the way. There was a female park employee telling everyone to make space a few cars back, so that he could cross the road when he wanted to. Well, we kept getting slightly better pictures, watching him do his bear thing, until he seemed to lie down in the tall grass. We were about to leave, figuring we'd seen way more than we'd ever hoped for, when he got up and started moseying his way toward the road again. He headed in our direction, and we were SO excited and amazed. Finally, he walked within 10 feet of us, and crossed the road right in front of our car! Holy COW! You can imagine how exciting that was!!! He was totally oblivious to us, like we didn't even exist. We named him Aragorn, after the ranger in Lord of the Rings.
10: Our hike after the bear adventure might have seemed anticlimactic, but it was definitely a lot of fun! We had done this hike 12 years ago, with Spencer in a backpack and Alexa walking the entire way up the mountain. It was about 3 miles up, and definitely a challenging hike. We took our time, though, enjoying the scenery and the small animals who didn't seem to mind us sharing their space. We saw a few marmots, and lots of little ground squirrels. They usually just carried on, eating and gathering food as if we weren't there. The weather was sunny but with a cooling breeze the entire way, until we got within a few hundred yards of the summit. THEN it got cold and windy, with gusts that would blow your hat off. We were glad to get inside the look-out at the top, just to get out of the wind! The view was spectacular, but we'd seen plenty of breath-taking views all along the way. We were amused by the little ground squirrel running around inside, and I admit I broke the rules and dropped a few nuts from my granola bar on the floor so he could have a little something to fill his larder with. The hike down was uneventful, no major wildlife sightings, although Alexa and I did see a cute little mole come out of his hole. Before Alexa could get her camera ready to take a picture, he realized he was being watched, and turned around and headed back into his hole. Next thing we knew, he was pushing dirt out to the entrance to the hole and within a few seconds, he had perfectly closed off his hole. We could just hear him saying “what? No one here! You didn't see anything! Just move along now!” It was so funny! | Hiking Mt. Washburn
12: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone | This young buck was browsing on the cliff above the parking lot
13: Back in the car, and driving over toward Mammoth, we came upon another traffic slow-down. This time it was a momma black hear with two cubs. We didn't get to stop, as a tired-looking ranger kept us moving along, but they were very cute and again, didn't notice that there were people staring at them. By this point, we'd seen 4 bears, and only 2 bison our entire time in the park! What a ratio! We did see a small herd of bison a little later, but that was a totally unusual bear/bison ratio for us!
14: as we drove to glacier National Park, we hit some serious rain, sometimes so thick you couldn't see 10 feet in front of you. I kept waiting for it to clear up, but as we approached the gate of the park, there was no hope for sunshine left. While Craig considered finding a hotel near the park, I prayed for the rain to let up at least a little. Sure enough, when we got to our campsite, it was just drizzling and the trees kept things a little drier. We were able to get the camp set up quickly, with the kids all helping the whole time. We checked out our spot and found that we had THE ideal campsite! Our “backyard” was beautiful McDonald Lake. It was awesome! Beachfront property!
15: We decided to do a ranger-led hike the next morning, in spite of the continuing rain and overcast skies. We drove to Avalanche Creek where Ranger Matti showed up, and led us on an amazing hike up to Hidden Lake. He shared his abundant knowledge of the geology and ecology of the park. Fascinating! Some of the sights along the way were breath-taking, especially the little crevice waterfall. After a fairly strenuous uphill hike, we came out on the lake, another “ooh and ah” type of view. Delicate waterfalls and streams tumbling down the mountain, feeding the pristine lake. Clouds kept us from seeing the tops of the mountains, and it would probably be an outstanding scene with the sun shining on the water, but it was gorgeous nonetheless and well worth the hike. After a quick lunch of “uncrustables”, we thanked our guide and hurried down the mountain, singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and giggling most of the way
16: . The boys and I went on another ranger-led hike, where we learned more about the ecosystem of Glacier, how bald eagles had once lived here by the hundreds, but are entirely gone now due to disastrous environmental manipulation. It was a fascinating hike, lots of information, but cold and wet, as it continued to rain the entire time. When we finally got back to the car, my socks and shoes were covered in mud, my jeans soaked to the knees, but it was well worth it. By now, my faith in rangers, so damaged by Ranger Dot’s program, was restored. Our evening campground program, by Ranger Leah, again restored my faith, as she gave a very interesting and coherent presentation on water in Glacier. We came back to our tent and the kids and I played “I doubt it”, and laughed and laughed while Craig slept.
17: We had moments of not-rain in the evening, and looked forward to some sunshine and one last hike today, but throughout the night, I could hear rain falling on our tent. It continued as we cooked breakfast and broke down our camp. Everything was wet, muddy and covered in dead pine needles. Ugh! The boys tried fishing on the lake, but without any luck. We said one last fond goodbye to the lake and headed out for our drive across the park. This was a most amazing drive! Scenery that defies description! Gorgeous waterfalls and mountains, valleys and crystal-clear lakes. Alexa tried to get pictures, but I’m sure nothing can capture the breath-taking beauty that was all around us. We stopped for lunch at a lake-side picnic table, got our stuff out and started making sandwiches, but it was so windy that our plates kept threatening to blow away, so we gave up and ate our lunch in the car instead. A better idea to be sure. I even gave up on the hike I’d hoped to take, as none of us was up to the very cold rain and wind.
18: Jacob finished up his Junior Ranger for Glacier and we stopped at the Lake Mary visitor center on our way out of the park so he could get that. I was frustrated with him for not doing all of the booklet, especially since it was fairly easy, but I still got a little choked up when he was repeating (for the who-knows-how-many time) the junior ranger pledge. I guess because I'm such a tree-hugging hippie, I just want my kids to follow in my footsteps :o) | This was the first time in a long time that a kid has gone along and quickly done the Junior Ranger program without a lot of whining! Yay! This is Jacob getting his patch at Yellowstone. | These osprey had a nest right outside the visitor's center
19: Who pooped in the park?
20: I loved all the wildlife we saw on our trip | yes, that is a wasp dragging away a spider.
21: look! over there! | those squirrels... | enjoying the view | Spencer's favorites
22: There were cool plants on our trip | I am a super junior ranger
23: Obsidian was cool! | A wasp was carrying a spider. | It's a goldfish | It was the good beach! | Jacob's favorites