Today is our first full day with the Coldiron's - Travis, Kelley, Austin and Kennedy. Austin is in the 5th grade with Ben and Kennedy in 4th with Claire, we have known them since our kids started at Summit Elementary 6 years ago and they live right around the corner in Anderson. When we told them about our trip back in February, they talked about maybe doing an RV trip out to Yellowstone this summer, and they ended up doing it. They rented a large pull trailer and are doing 2 weeks to Yellowstone, Teton's, Black Hills and Badlands. We were able to overlap for 2 days in Yellowstone which will be fun.
The first activity for the day (after a sleepover last night of course - boys in their RV, girls in ours) is a Ranger led hike to Storm Point on Yellowstone lake. On this hike we would learn about the wildflowers, forest and animals of Yellowstone. Our ranger was Shawn, he was young and funny, he reminded us of Jim Carrey a bit and he was passionate. He had a book for everything and answered any question asked of him. If you wanted to know if the native Indians used the animal for something, he would look it up. If you wanted to know what wildflower you were looking at - he had a book for that. His poor backpack was filled with lots of books for sure. And he was patient, as our five kids were up front the entire tour and he answered all their questions. Here is a pic of the kids prior to taking off, and the exciting buffaloes we saw before we even left who delayed our start quite a bit, as they were being aggressive with one another.
We saw some beautiful flowers on the tour, and thanks to the presence of a nice older gentleman from NY, whose hobby was botany, we found out what each one was...because he asked. Our tour was supposed to be 2 hours, but we went almost 2.5 hours...lots of questions ,but it was beautiful out and well worth it. Here are some pics of the flowers.
We hiked up to the point and had a wonderful view of the lake. What it also was, is the home of a colony of yellow bellied marmots. There was poop everywhere, or scat as they call it. Here are come great pics of us and the Coldiron's at the overlook.
Yellowstone lake itself is HUGE. I think about 28 x 16 miles, quite large and lots of little fingers/thumbs that extend out of it. On a good day you can see down to the Grand Tetons which are about 65 miles south of the lake. You can rent a boat to go out on the lake or take a scenic tour. You can also kayak on it. We heard about a big issue they are having with the lake. I am going to get it wrong ,but essentially they introduced some sort of new trout about 15 years ago, and unfortunately have found out that it kills off the native trout in the lake, as well as forces it to deeper areas of the lake. This means the eagles and osprey that used to feed on it, no longer can get food...so they have all but nearly left Yellowstone. This doesn't make the rangers happy, so they are now getting rid of the new trout. They have hired a contractor to get rid of them, so far they have pulled out and killed 136,000 of them. They pull them out in a net, pop their 'air bubble" to kill them, and throw them back in, so other animals in the lake (crustaceans) can feed on them (or you can bring it home to cook it). They think this is only about 10% of the total fish in the lake...it will take a while...but if you like to fish you can go out and volunteer to help them accomplish this task. Here are some pics of the beautiful lake.
At the end of the walk we went through a forest, with lots of dead trees left from the big fire in 1988. This fire was a big debate, as 36% of the park burned during it. It was constantly on the national news and many people wondered why they let it burn. The forest service has learned over time that fires are actually very good for the land and natural, and it is better to let them burn. Dead forest feed different animals than live forests, so it keeps the eco-system in balance. You can still see the remnants of the fire today, but nothing like it was in 1999 when we were there, now you have millions of 8-15 foot lodge pole pines everywhere, with larger dead trunks sticking out of them.
Next we headed back to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to show the Coldiron's the falls. This time we would do the North Rim where you can get right next to the top of the lower falls. The lower falls are twice as high as Niagara (I don't believe it but that is what they say) and quite powerful. It was really cool to be that close and see how much water goes over that thing. What was even neater was there was still snow on the canyon just next to it, while it is high 70's out and a rainbow is shining across it, surreal. This view also gave us a spectacular look at the canyon, it was worth the very steep hike back up (that seemed like nothing after crater lake).
Our last stop for the day was the Mud Pot areas. We were a bit disappointed by this area, we thought it would be more "mud like" - like the little one we found on our bike ride. We learned a ton from Ranger Patrick, who was great, but the smell was awful and it was quite hot, so the girls went back to the car early feeling a bit queasy. Here are some pics, the best part was the great names they gave them like Dragon's mouth and others.
Back to the RV park we headed, all tired but happy with our great day. Brats, hot dogs, salad, soup and mac n cheese for dinner. The kids met tons of other kids in the RV park and had a massive game of capture the flag before we all played left/right/center in the RV (thanks Marcia Hunt and family for introducing this to us). Tomorrow is our last day in Yellowstone, should be a good one.