Day 4 - Yellowstone

Our last day in Yellowstone began here at the sign before the West Entrance. Love the bear hanging onto the pole at the left!
First stop was checking out a herd of bison that were grazing on the other side of the river.
P.U.! Bison poo...
When we arrived back at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone a bison was lounging next to the restrooms. Not my ideal hang out spot... You can see how close we were able to get. He was there for quite awhile too.

We hiked the trail down to the Lower Falls where you can get right up to the edge of the waterfall. It was gorgeous and very loud! This and Old Faithful were my favorite sites to visit while here. Just beautiful!

After we finished at Canyon Village the last thing Jordyn and Rusty needed to do to earn their Junior Ranger badges was attend a Ranger-led discussion. It was beginning to rain but Ali and I took the kids to Fishing Bridge to meet a ranger. Because of the weather we were the only ones who turned out. This nice, lovley man did a personalized game show for Jordyn and Rusty. Jordy & I were Team Bears and Ali & Rusty were Team Tatanka (buffalo). It was neck and neck the entire time as we went back and forth answering questions about what we'd learned at Yellowstone. Lots of fun!
We headed back to Fishing Bridge to collect their Junior Ranger badges and the Ranger at the Visitor's Center made a big fuss about presenting the kids with their badges.

Look at those SMILES!
On the edge of Yellowstone Lake. It was very cold water!
Caught a quick picture of this bison swimming across the river. Awesome!
These last two photos are not good quality at all but these two bison were playing around and head-butting each other. They were galloping up and down the hill chasing each other. So fun to witness since most of the time when we saw bison they were lounging or grazing.


Family Reunion Pictures

I spent some time the week before heading to Yellowstone in Tooele while Bryan was back home in Texas working. One of the things that kept me busy was making t-shirts for the kids to wear when we were finally all together.

Thomas, Maya, Cara, Rusty, Jordyn & Tyson

The whole Family (minus Alissa who wasn't feeling well)!
Not bad for a self-timer shot...


Day 3 Part 2 - Yellowstone

After our exciting rafting trip we split up and most of the family went back to the cabin to await Jill, Jared & Maya's arrival and get dinner ready. Ali stayed with us as we explored some more of Yellowstone National Park. We drove back through the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of YNP on our way to the Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor Center.

There were many, many elk hanging out near the visitors center so we got some great close-up shots. 

Cara at the Minerva Terrace.
Jordyn getting another free ride. She spent a lot of time hitching a ride from her sister, aunt or parents...
The hike to the top of Mammoth Hot Springs was the longest we'd been on so far in Yellowstone. It was switchbacks and steep climbs up the boardwalks. By the time we got to the top we were exhausted!
After such a long trip to the top we were kind of let down by the Main Terrace view. I've learned that when it is active the sight is spectacular. The disappointment was probably in part from being so tired from our rafting trip earlier that afternoon... 
A mother elk and her babies crossed the road right in front of us!
Before we headed back to the cabin we decided to go check out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone at Canyon Village. It was spectacular! Look at Jordyn peeking out from underneath the sign. :)

We could see the water fall had a trail down to it but after rafting and Mammoth Hot Springs we didn't have enough energy in the tank and resolved to come back the next day. Here's a random bison we saw on our way out of the park.
Even though the rest of the family left hours before us for the cabin we got home about a half an hour after them. Apparently there was a huge wreck on the West Entrance Road. Super glad we missed that!
After dinner we watched the fireworks in Island Park and did some sparklers together. It was a 4th of July to remember!!


Rafting the Yellowstone River - Day 3 Part 1

Day 3 was the 4th of July. Mom and Dad decided to treat the family to a white-water rafting excursion. We drove through Yellowstone to the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana, had barely enough time to eat lunch and then got ready for the rapids!
Before we left we bought a water-proof box camera to take on the trip. You can tell which photos were taken with that camera and which ones were taken by the professional camera man on the side of the bluff... We loaded onto a bus and traveled a short distance to the put-in site. I've been on several rafting trips but this was the first one that I had to help carry the raft down a super-steep hill to the river... Thought I was going to biff it for awhile there.

Since there were 14 of us they split us into two rafts. I dubbed our raft the geriatric and pediatric raft. My folks didn't seem to think that was funny. :) Krysta, Paul, Jeremy, Alissa, Alison, Rusty & Tyson were on the other raft. We had some epic splash battles between our two rafts. I'm pretty sure I was on the losing side of most of those! :)

 Group shot of the 4 rafts...

 Cara and I wore splash jackets because although it is July the water was super cold. We had one for Jordyn but she refused to put it on. Our guide put her right up front between Bryan and I and when that first wave hit her square on she really wished she had that splash jacket! I felt bad that I didn't force her to wear it... She had an iron grip on my left arm and was holding onto to a strap between her legs as well.
Here she is getting the brunt of this wave!
Bryan paddling like a champ - really digging in.
In a quiet part of the river - whew!

Not sure who I'm waving to here... Everyone else seems to know who to wave at but me! 

This was a really fun trip for the family. Cara got to "ride the bull" and sit on the front of the raft while hanging on to the ropes at the front. She did a great job!

My nephew, Thomas, however mysteriously slipped off twice while riding the bull and guess who got to haul him back into the boat... twice!

I love how in every professional picture of our boat (and there were 18!) Cara has a huge cheesy grin on her face. This was her second river run - the other was on the Colorado River in Moab - and she just had a blast!
Oh, one more plug for the splash jacket - both of my parents were super sun-burned after this river run so I was very grateful to have dodged that bullet.

 When we got back on the bus after getting out of the Yellowstone River because it was July 4th the raft guides led the entire bus in singing The Star-Spangled Banner together. It gave me chills to hear it sung like that - spontaneously. Fun memories! We finished off the trip with ice cream at a local parlor. Yum!