Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Coussoules' Great Western Adventure: Day 9, last day in Yellowstone

As they say, all good things must come to an end, and so Friday the 18th dawned our last day to enjoy the beauty of Yellowstone. With another full day in front of us, I skipped the run and we took our time getting out the door, writing out postcards to friends and family:
The van was already packed with all of our stuff to head to our next destination after the fun of the day in the park had ended, and the only scheduled event was a boat tour on Yellowstone Lake in the afternoon. We had seen a good portion of the main areas of the park the last couple of days, but there were a few more that we wanted to make sure we spent some time enjoying before heading east. After a leisurely breakfast and relaxed morning, we headed for the west entrance, along with approximately a bazillion additional tourists for the day:
Summer at Yellowstone!
First up was the Artists Paintpots, another of the beautiful hot spot areas in the park:
My vocabulary isn't big enough to keep coming up with new words to describe the wonders of the park, but a lack of new words in no way implies that each day didn't bring its own sense of awe. It certainly didn't get old in just three days, but my heart tells me that it wouldn't get old in all the days one could spend there. As we drove east along the main loop in the park, we stopped at the Virginia Cascades, marveling at the water rushing over the rocks.
As we headed east, we continued to keep an eye out for the famous wildlife in the park; when we came upon an animal jam, it was quickly obvious just what was the cause for the delay. A huge bull elk was less than ten feet off of the road!
Of all of the animals in the park, I think the most recent of the superstars is the grey wolf. Controversially reintroduced into the park in the mid-1990's, it is today considered one of the great success stories of endangered species conservation. Most commonly seen in the Lamar Valley in the northeast part of the park (the only part of the park we wouldn't see any of on our trip), we didn't think we'd have the opportunity to see one of these elusive animals. As we drove through the Hayden Valley, though, we came across a very large gathering at one of the turnouts along the way - a wolf sighting! The alpha female and her cub were so far away, they couldn't be seen without the aid of the high powered scopes shared by the park personnel, but what a thrill! We spent a few minutes scanning the valley with our own binoculars, seeing a herd of elk not far from the wolf, and then later spying a group of bison. Simply amazing.
The Coussoules in the Hayden Valley
We arrived at the Mud Volcano area midday, and as it turns out, this is an area that delights the heart of a little boy. With a sign like this, how can you go wrong?
Once again, truth in advertising:
Truly fascinating - we could've stood and watched for a while, the randomness of the mud and the interesting patterns it created in and around the hole.
Time for our last lunch in Yellowstone, stopping at the Fishing Bridge Visitors Center and enjoying a picnic lunch in the shade. It's amazing how low humidity can make even the most committed indoorsman willing to dine al fresco!! Across the famous Fishing Bridge itself (which these days is, ironically, a No Fishing Bridge) to the marina at Lake Yellowstone.
A beautiful day for a tour, a little windy which made the lake choppy, but we were ready to go.
What we didn't realize was that in addition to the wind, there was smoke from forest fires that had drifted into the area, obscuring some of the views across the lake. Still, it was beautiful as well as educational, learning about the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and some of the history of the park, both geologic and human.
We all really enjoyed the cruise - well, almost all of us. A week into the vacation, I guess John really needed a break.
Asleep before we left the No Wake zone!
Back from the tour, it was time to bring our Yellowstone adventure to a close.
As much as we had loved Yellowstone and Grand Teton, we were excited to see what else was in store on our Great Western Adventure. Time for the second half of our Adventure to begin!

1 comment:

  1. This is only 1/2 of it? Enjoying every minute! Love, Mom