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Vacation Recap, Part 5

Day 5, over halfway done! I feel like I’ve been writing about vacation forever so I hope it is easier to read!

Today was full of more Yellowstone adventures! We made breakfast and cleaned up camp pretty quickly in the morning so that we could make sure to fit in as much site-seeing as possible. It was much cooler for our second campground breakdown than it was for our first one in Yakima! That definitely made the work easier.

We took a clockwise route along the main Yellowstone park road starting at Madison campground. There was so much to see! We stopped as much as time would allow, since we knew it would take at least a few hours to complete the whole loop in the park. Plus it actually took more time than we calculated because, even though they tell drivers over and over to pull over rather than stop in traffic when you see wildlife near the road, people stop anyway! We passed by a large herd of bison which was amazing but slowed us way down! But we stopped to appreciate it anyway.

Another time the traffic slowed way down and there were people pointing at something in the near distance, but we could not figure out what it was! Tons of people were stopping. I kind of wonder if there’s a “mod mentality” thing that goes on there sometimes: people see other people stopped so they stop to see what the other people saw. It it an interesting phenomenon there!

My plan was to show our Yellowstone adventures just in pictures, but would you believe it I can’t find them! We used our phones to take photos almost everywhere on our trip, but since Yellowstone doesn’t have any cell reception (which is both fantastic and frustrating) we took almost all our pictures with our Cannon D40. But somehow I’ve lost the memory card. I’m sure it is around the house somewhere… I hope! When I do find it I will update this post with all the amazing images we saw in the park!

The pictures would have showed a cool sulfur pit. It smelled really bad but it was all smoky and erie. And there was a bison just chillin’ in the middle of it all! Clearly the bison didn’t mind the smell. We saw a bunch of little geysers and hydrothermal features. I liked the places that had boardwalks so that you could get to the main attraction – they had to have boardwalk because the ground is too acidic to walk on! Funny that we saw two very acidic sites (the Berkley Pit and Yellowstone) but both are the way they are for very different reasons!

We could have spent another few days there easily, but we had so much to see elsewhere too! We noted the places that we want to come back to and the places we missed. We hope next time we can spend a couple days in the park and stay at at least two different campgrounds or hotels in the park so we’re not rushing around the loop the whole time.

After the awesome and super large Yellowstone lake came the Tetons, awesome and super as well! We had an excellent view of them both from the road and finally from our hotel for the night which was a charming little ranch about an hour South of Yellowstone. Quite a view! (You can tell we’re out of Yellowstone because we have pictures on our phones!)

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Getting stormy, just after we settled in at the ranch

We didn’t have time to try out any horseback riding or other ranch animal fun while we were there, but we did enjoy the full-service restaurant where we had filets, potatoes, and fresh salads before bed. Finally, a meal we didn’t have to cook in a place that had some non-super-processed foods! Which was great because we were just about out of food at that point!

We met a few fans and alumni of Auburn University while we were at the ranch. Mr. Handsome is a big Auburn fan, always wearing his fan gear everywhere we go, so of course we are bound to run into other Auburn fans here and there. They are always the nicest people to talk to. The conversations usually start with where everyone is from and how we all became Auburn fans. It’s always interesting to hear about the people who are often just as obsessed with Auburn as my husband!

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A lesson after dinner

We hung out in the lodge for a bit after dinner but we were all pretty tired from all the nature! I’ll write all about our more relaxing day 6 next time!

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Vacation Recap, Part 4

After our good times with friends and good food stores in Montana, we headed out for a full day 4!

Our first stop was the Berkley Pit in Butte, Montana. home of the Evel Knievel festival that we missed by just a week (but one of our friends went and it did look like a good time, although one you would probably want to go sans children). But we did learn all kinds of interesting and weird facts about the Pit: it was a mining pit, one of the richest in the country. It’s very deep, I don’t remember how much, but more memorable facts had to do with the toxicity of the Pit. The water is as acidic as lemon juice, even though it is filled with only fresh rain water. The folks that watch over the Pit have to shoot at water fowl (to scare them off) so that they don’t land in the water because if they do they’ll die (right away or later from complications I’m not sure…). And the Pit only has a few years left, I think until 2015 or 2020, until it is totally full and will start to overflow and spread toxic water everywhere. So they are building (or just finished building?) a pump to control the water level. WTF??? I just smacked my head like the whole time we were there. I can’t believe how people screw themselves over voluntarily. But that is probably a discussion for another blog altogether (perhaps one for which the writer can actually remember her facts!).

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Beautiful toxic reflection

All those facts about the Pit were interesting, though, and it was a great opportunity to talk with Kiddo1 about how choices have consequences! Plus they had a nice little gift shop. I got myself a copper necklace and Kiddo1 picked up a wolf tooth charm necklace and a magnet (Kiddo1 and Mr. Handsome loved picking up magnets at almost every place we went).

We had a little picnic before taking off…

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Picnic at the Pit, very amusing

And then did more driving through Montana. It seemed like around just about every turn was an idyllic Montana scene: a small river running through evergreen-covered rolling hills with a mountain in the background. If only the road pictures could do it justice:

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Montana!

Our last Montana stop was at the Southern-most tip of the state, that little bit that hangs down between Idaho and Wyoming. There we stopped at Earthquake Lake for a little break and some education before heading into Yellowstone. Earthquake Lake had all kinds of interesting and depressing facts too!

The lake was the site of pretty severe earthquake back in the 50’s. It occurred in the middle of a busy summer night in which the whole area was full of campers. The articles said there were even people camped by the roadside because campgrounds were full and the weather was beautiful. There was no moon that night, it was super dark, and all of a sudden this huge quake hits. They call it “the night the lake tilted” because apparently one side rose by like 20 feet I think, causing the lake’s dam to spill over (although it did hold even though it suffered significant structural damage) and all kinds of violent water sloshing. Geyers in Yellowstone erupted and aftershocks continued for months. It caused millions of dollars of damage, even in the 50s. A few dozen people lost their lives and the survivors had to huddle in the near-pitch darkness and wait until morning until they could both be reunited with their families and seek medical attention.

Luckily our time at the lake was much more pleasant. We toured the Visitor’s Center that gave us all the facts about the Earthquake and took some pictures of the lovely lake.

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Those tree trunks sticking out of the lake weren’t stuck in water before the quake

Then it was time to get into Yellowstone! We were so excited!

We arrived via West Yellowstone so we made Old Faithful our first stop, both because it is also in the West side of the park and because we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it! We only had to wait about 20 minutes for the next eruption so we spent the time in the gift shop (of course) and running into some interesting characters who tried really hard to take pictures of our Baby2. They did ask nicely if they could take her picture but I politely declined. It happened several times while we were in the park, so by the time we left we were ready to be away from people for a little while!

After our gift shop adventure, we found a nice spot to watch Old Faithful, back far enough that we could get a good overall view:

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There she blows!

And we’re glad we were far back because the wind really kicked up and half the people sitting on the benches in front got pretty soaked with sulfur water! Stinky.

After Old Faithful we drove North and tried to fit in the Grand Prismatic Spring, but it was getting to be dinnertime and we still needed to set up camp. Kiddo1 and I rushed through the boardwalks and snapped a couple pictures while Mr. Handsome waited with sleeping Baby2 in the car. We were in a hurry, though, so we didn’t make it all the way back to the Grand Spring, just a few little pools off the parking lot, but it was still pretty cool! We will have something awesome to come back for next time.

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This little pool is a subdued version of the larger spring’s deep blue waters and orange “beaches” of sulfur

After the spring/pools we made our way a couple more miles North to Madison Campground were we stayed the night. We got all educated about what a “bear box” is (we didn’t use it, we just put our foods in the car), bought some Montana-grown firewood and set up our camp and cooking fires.

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Kiddo1 to the right, hacking up a tree stump with the hachet

We made beef stew in the cast iron dutch oven that night and it turned out pretty good. I had seared the meat and combined everything in a large freezer bag and frozen it solid before we left. I kept it at the very bottom of our cooler and it was still a little slushy when I got around to using it. I was a little nervous carrying around frozen beef for that long but we ate it and we’re fine! And it was already cooked so I felt the danger was fairly minimal, given that we were boiling it all again at the campsite.

After dinner we had to have some s’mores, of course:

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S’more and lingering sausage

Then we got everything cleaned up and we headed off to a nature talk at the campsite’s amphitheater. We took a path recommended by the camp director and it was very lovely in the evening!

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Trying to take a picture of Kiddo1 and Baby2 side-by-side but Baby2 was not having it and Kiddo1 had had enough

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Lots of bubblies coming up from the creek bottom

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His must-have standing-on-a-rock picture

We made it to the nature talk… but we didn’t stay very long. Baby2 was not amused and it was getting dark quickly. So instead of sitting with the others and watching the stars come out, we had another lovely walk along the creek back to the campsite. Luckily we had a near-full moon and flashlights to guide us back.

 

It was a great day 4!