Day 7 - Yellowstone: Grand Canyon, Falls, Yellowstone Lake

Highlights: Bison grazing in our campground; Junior Ranger badges; running into our neighbors (again).

This is a sad day as it's our last day with the Jordans. We try to pack in all the stuff we haven't seen yet: the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Falls and Yellowstone Lake.

But first, during breakfast, we're told a bison visited our campsite the previous evening while we were away in Lamar Valley. Our camp neighbor sent us this pic. That's our white and blue tent right behind the bison! Hope he enjoyed his meal!

And speaking of bison, I can't forget to mention last night's "near death" collision with two bison. After staying well past sunset to see the wolves, it was pitch black on the one hour drive back to camp. Pretty eerie as we wended our way up Mt. Washburn, unfamiliar with the road and only able to make out the few yards ahead lit by our headlights. I was breathing a sigh of relief as we finally got down the mountain, passed the Canyon area and headed towards Norris. I think it was after we passed Norris, the road took a sharp turn to the left and all of a sudden my heart was in my throat as these hulking, shaggy, bearded beasts appeared out of the dark right in front of us. Think bicyclist in the bike lane, except of course the bison is 10 times more massive and with a little swing of its butt could put a nice dent in a car. I think I let out a shrill "Bison!" to which Tristan promptly scolded me - "Don't scare me like that! I saw them!" Ok, so maybe his eyesight is better than mine, but I still felt like I was in a horror movie where the hairy monster leaps out at you from the blackness of night.

We get a slightly later start this morning as Mary and Pete need to break camp. We ourselves are undecided about what to do next. We have one more night here at Madison and then our reservations are up. It's possible to stay another night at Madison, but our particular spot is taken for Saturday night and we would need to break camp and move to another site. That seems rather a pain. Additionally, we're still unsure about our plans this evening. Our friends Charlie and Pauline, with whom we had dinner in Elko, left a message on our cell phones to meet them at a rodeo in West Yellowstone. But coverage is spotty and we haven't been able to contact them and confirm anything.

It's such a gorgeous morning as we finally leave the campsite and mosey over to the Madison Ranger/Information Station. The kids are all excited about getting their Junior Ranger badges. They've each completed several activities outlined in their booklets, but before they get their badges, they're actually quizzed by a ranger about what they've learned. Some of these questions are hard! Afterwards, the ranger tells Portia "Those are some of the best answers I've ever heard." Tristan and I are so proud of Portia - she really cares about wildlife and the environment.

We retrace our previous drives and head over to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was originally known as just the Grand Canyon, until that one down in Arizona usurped it.

The North side drive is closed due to road repairs, so we take in the view from the South side and enjoy Artist's Point with spectacular views of the Falls.

Pierce, for some unexplained reason, really, I mean REALLY, wants to go on a hike, to the point where he's throwing a tantrum! But we don't have time. The Jordan's need to head home and we still haven't been over to Yellowstone Lake. We promise Pierce we'll do a little walk after seeing the Lake.

Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake in the park and the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 ft in North America. (Lake Tahoe is larger than Yellowstone Lake but it's at a slightly lower elevation.) It's also home to the largest population of wild cutthroat trout in North America which unfortunately is under some pressure from illegally introduced rainbow trout, which interbreed with them, and lake trout, which dine on them - the latter seemingly worse in my mind, although I suppose to a biologist it's all the same.

I think everyone's tuckered out; instead of heading towards the lake edge, we take the view from the Lake Lodge.

While the kids are enjoying one last powwow in the gift shop, I head over to the check-in desk and make horseback riding reservations for Portia and myself. It's an early birthday present to myself :-) Finally, Mary has to end the fun in the gift shop; it's time to go; we wave our good-byes from the porch of the Lake Lodge. After their departure, I feel like the wind's been taken out of my sails. I just want to sit on the porch and write postcards.

But Pierce is an elephant; he hasn't forgotten and is still determined to go on a hike. So Tristan takes him off towards the lake for a quick stroll. The skies are turning grey and the wind is whipping up; small whitecaps are visible on the lake.

While in Yellowstone, we've had such incredibly great weather I'd forgotten about all those pre-trip weather forecasts - snow, freezing rain, lows in the 20s - 30s. The days have been warm and blue, perfect for shorts; while the nights and early morning, though cold, are manageable with winter coats and hats. Now, we're getting our first taste of inclement weather.

The girls and I are well protected on the porch and we spend our time snacking, reading and writing postcards. It starts drizzling and I look up more often to see if Tristan and Pierce are returning. At last, we see them trotting up and they're very animated.

"Guess who we ran into?!!?!"
"I dunno....Mary and Pete??" although I'm not sure why I thought that would be a possibility.
"No! Charlie and the girls!!!"

What luck! Not more than 30 minutes after the Jordans leave, we run into probably the only other people we would know in this 2.2 million acre park.

Day's mileage: 100 miles; 10 hours sightseeing and on the road

View Day 7 - Yellowstone Canyon, Falls & Lake in a larger map


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