Learning on the Go – Yellowstone 1

On our first full day we decided to hit Yellowstone. We had ambitions of hitting the upper loop of Yellowstone the first day, and the lower loop the second day. We soon realized that was too ambitious. We were basically only able to see the West side of Yellowstone on this trip. We will have to return a second time and see the east side. It has been  years since I personally have been on the west side.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first couple of stops were small thermal areas where rivers were boiling, and with small hot pots here and there. There is something fascinating about the thermal aspect of Yellowstone – the fact that the water in this creek is boiling, in nature all on it’s own.  It’s just amazing. We also stopped at Gibbons Falls and took a small hike there.

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One of the nice parts about this trip is that we had numerous people offer to take a picture of our whole family so mom or dad wasn’t missing in it. So it was nice to actually end up with a few family photos by the time we were done. This one is overlooking Gibbons Falls.

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The Norris Geyser Basin was our next spot and we spent quite a while here.  It has been years since I have been here. I remember small bits of visiting it as a child.  We hiked the kids all over this one and by the time we were done they were exhausted and ready to head back to the trailer. But we still had more we wanted to see and they weren’t too excited about it. That is one thing about some National Parks. It can be a lot of walking and a lot of driving.

One thing that I enjoyed learning about is the temperature of the different areas of the hot pots. It can be determined based on the colors you see. The various colors will indicate what the temperature is because chemotrophs and phototrophs can only exist in certain temperatures. You can identify which one you are looking at by it’s color, and then know it’s temperature.  Our kids became pretty good at identifying how hot it was by the end of the trip. I think it’s fascinating the way nature has it’s own way of indicating temperatures.

While we were also at Norris we watched a Ranger Program on the Highest Active Geyser in the world. It was pretty interesting to learn about this Geyser that is unpredictable when it goes off, but how huge it is when it does.  We also learned some of the indicators that it has blown. Especially if it happened at night when no one was around.

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One of the reasons the kids were really excited to stop at Norris was because they wanted to do the Junior Ranger Program for Yellowstone. Some of the National Parks have an education program that the kids can work on while visiting the park. Then if they complete the requirements they can earn a patch for their efforts. I also wanted my kids to do it so that this trip was also a learning and educational experience for them. There are different requirements for different ages, and each age gets a certain patch that either has a bear, buffalo or old faithful on it. It does cost $3 for the booklet, which is quite an intensive booklet. My kids really enjoyed it.

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It had everything from identifying the animals, to understanding thermal features, habitats, the history of the area, etc. We worked on it in the car, in the trailer at night or in the mornings before heading out.  It was a great resource to keep them busy.

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On our last day in Yellowstone they turned in their completed booklet and was sworn in as Junior Ranger. They were then award their patch they had earned. They were excited and proud of themselves.

Our last stop of the day was Mammoth Hot Springs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was probably one of the areas that has changed the most since I was a child. The whole thing used to be flowing and full of color. But this time around Beau and I both commented on how little flow there was and little color compared to what it used to be. It is still gorgeous in the areas that it does flow, but it’s also interesting how much Yellowstone is a changing and dynamic place that does not stay the same over time.

By this time the kids were exhausted so we treated them to an ice cream cone, which definitely helped out some of the spirits. They shopped for some souvenirs with their own money. (Another great math lesson on a vacation.) We then started the drive back to the trailer which took us almost 2 hours, when it should have been about 45 minutes. We were stopped by construction and then a large herd of Bison going against traffic right down the road. There were a lot of young calves in the herd which was fun to see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA GE DIGITAL CAMERA The highlight though of the day was getting caught in traffic again, but this time for a Grizzley Bear. We knew it had to be something big to have that many stopped cars with tons of cameras. I was the first to see it lumbering across the meadow. (50 pts. to me in the I spy game) I have to admit that it was pretty amazing to watch it walking in real life in it’s natural surroundings compared to a zoo or caged area. She was beautiful.

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Of course at that point my camera’s battery was dead, so all we had was Savannah’s small camera that does not have a decent zoom, and so these were the best shots we got, but at least we got them. Beau thought she had a cub with her, but I don’t see it necessarily from this photos.

We also saw some herds of Elk in the distance, a few that were on a small island in a stream, a snowshoe rabbit, massive Ravens, and of course more Bison. Which are one of may favorite.  I wish we could have seen some more elk herds up close. I think they are beautiful, and that is the one animal besides Bison that I remember seeing quite a few of as a child.

It was a packed day. We made it home to have dinner, and relaxed watching a movie before we all crashed for the night. In the next post we’ll share more of our Wild West Adventures.

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