Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer Visitors and Yellowstone

My husband's parents (Grandma & Grandpa H.) were out to visit us around the beginning of June. The day they arrived was also the first of two days of testing for hubby's EMT course final exam. We all waited on pins and needles for the report following his second day of testing, and... he passed!!! Congrats to my hubby, the EMT! (Good job, babe. I'm impressed.) So, after that was over with we finally said “hi” to our guests (just kidding, kinda).

But seriously... After a busy weekend (which also included Grandpa H. preaching at our church on Sunday morning), we were all excited for a day off on Monday! We had planned a day trip to Yellowstone. Before we had kids, when we were living in Wyoming for the first time, we were typically in Yellowstone and the Tetons several times a year for both day-trips and camping trips. It's one of our favorite places to be. Circumstances combined over the last several years to keep us away from “our” parks. As such this was to be our first trip there in five years, and it had been even longer (close to 10 years, if I remember correctly) for hubby's parents. Also, it was the first time EVER for our kids to see the park.

We packed up snacks and water and lunches and cameras and toys and backpacks and... Goodness. How long are we going for again? Well, we headed off early in the morning, opting to travel over the Chief Joseph Highway and enter Yellowstone by the northeast gate. Just so we could take in some more breath-taking scenery. For example, here is the view from Dead Indian Pass:

Goodness, is it ever GREEN! We have been having a lot of rain this spring.

After we got down off the top of the mountain we stopped several other times. Once for an episode of car sickness, but we'll just skip over that part. Remember in my post about my sister-in-law's visit when I mentioned the “distinctive” mountain peak that we saw from just outside our town? Here it is. Up close and personal. 

It is actually two separate peaks. Pilot Peak and Index Peak. Beautiful, but a little hard to see clearly in this picture because of the SNOW clouds. Yup, we drove through some snow showers. In June. Not unusual out here, but it still seems weird.
Soon we passed through the gate and into the park. Hooray! I guess the first wildlife that was spotted was a deer, but Grandma H. was the only one that saw it. The first critter we all saw was... (drum roll, please)... buffalo! 

It seems like it's not possible to go to Yellowstone without seeing buffalo! They are everywhere. There are a lot of buffalo calves running around at this time of year, and it is always fun to watch them playing. Or sleeping. Or eating.

Yellowstone traffic jam. :)

We stopped at an enormous “wildlife jam” and got out to see what everyone was looking at. They said there was a grizzly, but it was pretty far off and we couldn't pick it out right away. There were a bunch of people with spotting scopes, some of whom were being generous and sharing their scopes with the large crowd, so we got to take a turn looking at him that way. They said there had been a momma bear and a cub there earlier, but the boar we were looking at had driven them off.

We drove another few minutes down the road when we spotted some buffalo acting a little funny. There were several of them bunched up together with their tails in the air. They would walk forward a little way, then stop, then walk forward again. As we drew closer to them, we came past a small hill and saw a large black bear out in front of the buffalo. He wasn't acting too concerned, but the buffalo were definitely chasing him off. We slowed down and got a few quick pictures, but there was nowhere good to pull off the road right there so we had to keep going. It would have been fun to watch them for a longer time. (photo #1 credit Grandma & Grandpa H.)

A short while later we ran across some pronghorn (antelope).

We made our way over to Mammoth Hot Springs. You can usually spot some elk around there, and we found some.

White-Crowned Sparrow, looking all fluffy in the wind.

Here are some (okay, a lot of) shots of the hot springs. I had so many favorites!

After we walked the board walks and checked out the hot springs, we had a picnic lunch. It was a pretty hurried lunch between all the wind and spotty rain showers we were having. As we were packing up our lunch supplies, we spotted a lone cow elk going for a stroll. 

After crossing the road, she walked right through the thermal area. I got a kick out of this.... Notice how all the people are so focused on the hot springs that they are totally missing the elk right behind their backs? Just goes to show you that you can't possibly see everything in Yellowstone at once. That's why we keep going back!

After lunch we drove around for a while, stopping at a few places. We found some more buffalo to look at. This first one looks dead. (It's not.)

I spotted this beautiful Trumpeter Swan going for a swim.

We got out and hiked a little at Artist Paint Pots.

Mountain Girl, just being herself.

And of course we stopped to see Old Faithful. We had to wait on her a little bit, so we walked some of the boardwalks first. The geyser basin has a lot for you to discover. We didn't have a lot of time, so we just did a short loop. We saw a smaller geyser spouting off in the distance, but I don't know which one it was. There are some interesting hot springs to see, too. This is Blue Star Spring.

And this is Chinese Spring.

Here's a better shot of a bluebird. These are Mountain Bluebirds. They are so brilliantly colored!

And finally, Old Faithful herself.

This was our last stop of the day. Afterward we drove back to town for a late supper.
Of course, our trip to Yellowstone was not the only thing we did while Grandma & Grandpa were here. The kids enjoyed a lot of time playing outside. One morning, we were outside our building – playing in the parking lot – when up walked a chicken, of all things! (photo credit Grandma & Grandpa H)

It was surprisingly pretty friendly and tolerant of the kids attention. It hung around all day but was gone the next morning. We still have no idea where it came from.

One evening we enjoyed a wonderful barbeque at our friend's place. Fresh Wyoming beef burgers – yum! There were Cliff Swallows building nests along an overhang on their house. This one has a big mud ball in it's mouth. Looks like a fun job. Yuck.

We ended the evening with a campfire. Our friends are keeping our dog for us right now, since we still haven't been able to find a place to live that allows pets. Here she is - SuperLab – carrying the firewood for us (photo credit Grandma & Grandpa H). Good girl.

The boys fashioned a marshmallow stick out of a long piece of re-bar and a bent clothes hanger in true redneck fashion, and we watched the sun set while we toasted marshmallows and were serenaded by a Western Meadowlark. What a gorgeous evening spent with family and great friends.

We rounded out the week by celebrating our son's fourth birthday. We took elk burgers and hot dogs (and all the fixin's) to a park in our neighborhood, which the city has so thoughtfully provided with a pavilion complete with picnic tables and charcoal grills. We invited some friends, and the kids played together while we cooked supper. Afterward we headed back to the apartment for cake and to open gifts. I think everybody had a lot of fun!

The next day Grandma & Grandpa had to fly back home. It is always hard to see our family leave, but we look forward to their next visit! They hadn't even made it halfway home before they booked tickets for their return trip in December. I guess they're anxious to see us again, too! :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wildflowers of Yellowstone

I'm working on a post about my in-laws coming to visit, and our trip to Yellowstone together, but it is going to be a long one and it is taking me forever to put it together.  We were in Yellowstone in the beginning of June and the wildflowers were amazing.  So until my other post is finished, go ahead and enjoy the wildflowers of Yellowstone!  (I tried to identify them as best as I could.)

 Hood's Phlox -or- Many-Flowered Phlox

Wax Currant

Moss on Tree Trunk, Wax Currant in Background

Prairie Smoke

Unknown Variety of Arnica, with Phlox

Showy Green Gentian (my favorite because it is so unique)

Lupine (bud)

Bastard Toadflax (yeah, really...)

 Possibly Rabbitfoot Crazyweed

Unknown Variety of Larkspur

Unknown (tiny yellow flower found in the thermal area at Mammoth Hot Springs)

Slimpod Shooting Star

Lodgepole Pine

Yellow Monkey Flower (found in what I believe is an old steam vent in the area around Old Faithful)

Fringed Gentian


Isn't God such an amazing and creative creator?

"Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"
 Psalm 8:1