Weather: Mostly sunny and upper 50's
Steps: Shaun - 20,442; Shan - 20,899
Varmints: Snake (point for Shaun), bison (duh), elk, osprey (no point, unconfirmed, but I saw one flying and then we got a picture of one minding an old abandoned eagle's nest where at least I got a point for largest nest), trumpeter swans, golden-mantled ground squirrel, mule deer, and a rainbow over the mountains - not technically a varmint, but Shannon got a point for that one!
Point totals: Shaun - 18; Shan - 17
The grand fireplace at Old Faithful Inn Kepler Cascade
This turned out to be the day that we almost broke, and especially Shaun. If I thought the smashed thumb was bad, I hadn't seen anything yet!
The day started out wonderfully as we gathered at the Old Faithful Inn at 5:45 a.m. for our five-hour photo safari. We met our fellow travelers and found out that we would be using one of the eight beautifully restored 1930's touring vehicles that the park service bought back from a park in Alaska several years ago. They have wooden frames and a canvas roof, and they were super cool. Aren't we cute in front of it in the top picture? Anyway, we also met our wonderful tour guide, Betty (I want to be just like her when I grow up!), who led us through our day, teaching us all kinds of wonderful photography techniques, as well as ways to use our cameras that we would have never thought of. More importantly, though, she taught us to see our surroundings in new and different ways. Below find some of the cool pictures we took of places we would have driven right by without her insight:
Macro close up of the droplets on the lodgepole pine
Once we finished the tour, we checked out of Old Faithful and were greeted by another mountain bluebird. We also got a pic of the female this time too. It's a nice close to our time at Old Faithful, since a mountain bluebird greeted us when we were checking in too.
Our next stop began my fall from grace, literally. Our biggest priority in the entire geyser basin was the Grand Prismatic Spring which is the largest and far and away the most colorful feature in the park. Instead of just seeing it from the boardwalk, however, we decided to hike up a trail that would give us a bird's eye view of the spring, as well as throwing in a lovely waterfall as a bonus. The only problem was that there really wasn't a trail to follow for the bird's eye view...it was more a scramble up a mountain, over trees and loose rocks where it would have been better if we were mountain goats. The climb was totally worth it, but the descent proved to be too much for me and I took a tumble...not a horrible one mind you...but it looked pretty bad from behind, which is where Shannon was. It also tore a hole in my pants and tweeked my knee a bit, but all in all, it was okay. It could have been A LOT worse.
Shannon here, picking up the rest of Mom's harrowing adventures on the trail to Fairy Falls. Continuing down the trail after the trip down the mountain, we went through a forest, crossed a stream, avoided giant mud puddles, and climbed over some rocks to get to the base of the falls. They were well worth the hike and gave us a chance to stop, catch our breath, and practice some of our new photography techniques.
The road from Old Faithful to West Thumb was closed, so to get out of Yellowstone and into Grand Teton National Park, we had to go north, cross to the east side of the park using the center road, then go south again. Not very efficient, but our only option. We took the opportunity to go down a side road and check out Firehole Falls. This is a waterfall on the Firehole River, and it was moving very fast, due to the spring melt. North of the falls is a swimming hole where the Firehole combines with warm runoff from the hot springs, making the temperature very nice, but swimming isn't allowed at this time of year because of the swift currents.
We passed by Lake Yellowstone again, but this time we got to see the other end of it, and it really is something special. It's the biggest lake in the park at 14 by 20 miles and one of the highest lakes in the country at 7,733 feet. The lake is famous for cutthroat trout fishing, so Grandpa Dan, you need to come here during the summer. We were lucky enough to see it when it was sunny again, so here are a few more pics.
After this little detour, we continued on our way, stopping only to view the pretty rainbow that formed over the mountains (my point for spotting it first). We arrived at Colter Bay Village just before sunset, checked in, and collapsed for the night. Tomorrow will be a day to gather ourselves, figure out the plans for the rest of the trip, and basically recover from today!