Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Roadtrip to Yellowstone - Part 3.....

We found it very difficult to wake early today in preparation for another day in Yellowstone - today on snow mobiles. It was still really cold outside and had not stopped snowing since lunch time the previous day - it looked like a dump of six or seven inches overnight.

Everyone, except Garry had a cough, sore throat and temperature - not a great way to start a huge day! We were both worried about how Yas and Max would handle a full day outside on the back of snow mobiles, and were hoping for a drastic improvement in the weather.

We arrived at the Three Bears Inn just after eight am to get dressed in the special suits and other protective clothing which included balaclavas under helmets and beanies and both hand and feet warmers for the kids. Garry and I were lucky as our snow mobiles had heated handles and seats. Looking fantastic in our incredibly flattering down jumpsuits we had a two minute lesson on how to operate our machines and off we went!

Poor Yas was finding the going tough, she was very cold and wanted to go home. On the other end of the spectrum Max had declared himself a Ninja and wanted me to go faster. The snow stopped and the sun was shining and we were riding through beautiful canyons.

We again saw Eagles, Bison, Elk a Coyote and even a very large Black Wolf on our way to the famous Geyser - Old Faithful.

We were only a couple of miles away when I noticed Max falling sideways off the back of our snow mobile in the rear vision mirror. I luckily grabbed him with one hand and stopped - he had fallen asleep! I tried to wake him but to no avail, Max rode the last mile asleep. How he didn't fall is a miracle.

We waited for the Geyser to erupt and were treated to the most amazing sight - a herd of Bison wandering past the eruption. A lady standing next to us exclaimed that she had been traveling to Old Faithful for the past forty years every winter and had never seen Bison near the Geyser, We felt lucky to see such an amazing sight.

On our way back to the park entrance we stopped at another famous site that included Hot Springs, Fumarole's and Mud pots.

The following three photographs show the beautiful colours that are created by light refraction, suspended mineral particles and heat-loving organisms.

A Hot Spring contains superheated water which cools and circulates as it reaches the top of the pool and is then replaced by hotter water from below. The water below was estimated to reach up to 200 degree's! Our guide told horror stories about people who fell in and all their skin peeling away from their bones....

The following images are of the famous Mud Pots. These wonders appear in places where microorganisms help convert hydrogen sulfide, which rises from deep within the earth, into sulfuric acid. The acid dissolves surrounding rock into clay, which mixes with rising steam and groundwater to form mud of varying colours and consistencies.

A Fumarole is a vent in the earth's crust, (a steam vent). The steam rushes up through a series of cracks and fissures and out of the vent, sometimes with enough force to create a large hiss or roar.

We were once again treated to the most amazing site of a heard of Bison as we were almost out of the park. We turned off the engines and sat quietly, watching as they trotted right past us, really only  metres away. It was wonderful, they stopped and looked right at us. I especially love the sound of their hooves in the snow and their snorting. I was glad Max agreed not to call or yell out, "Hello Buffalo" to each animal as he did on the first day out the window of the snowcat. On the snowcat, Max amused the other tourists with this call, to the point that they were encouraging him to make this call out if Max didn't see an animal.

Yellowstone Park was more amazing than any of us could have imagined! We hope to return in Summer to see this beautiful national park in a different season. Wow!!!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Roadtrip to Yellowstone - Part 2....

We spent the day driving, first through the state of Wyoming. Wyoming was full of vast open space with nothing between the spread towns. We stopped at the information center at Jackson Hole at around 2.30pm in the afternoon to double check on directions. We were expecting an hours drive to West Yellowstone - but we were very disappointed to discover that at least a three hour drive was still ahead.

So we continued to drive out of Wyoming and into Idaho. We thought that Wyoming was barren, but the big potato state was almost a blanket of white.

The Grand Tetons in the distance, driving in Wyoming


Arriving in the outskirts of West Yellowstone on dusk

We continued to drive into the state of Montana, arriving at the town of West Yellowstone at dark. We checked into our accommodation at the Kelly Inn and organised dinner and went to sleep in preparation for our big day touring Yellowstone Park the following day.

We woke early, and prepared to be collected at 8.00am, by our snow-cat. Along with four other couples and our tour guide Wayne we started our adventure, hoping for sightings of wildlife on a cold, snowy, minus ten degrees morning.

We drove for only a few minutes when we spotted the first Bison of the day, down by the river. It was truly a beautiful sight - the enormous animal in such an amazing setting. What a great start to our day!

This solo Bison was the fist of possibly one hundred or more we saw throughout the day. At times as I was leaning out the window of the snow cat photographing these amazing animals we were so close I could have actually touched them. They were strangely calm, often wandering along the groomed trails in small herds. It sounds silly, but we felt sorry for them  being out in the cold and the snow, their eyes looked sad.

A really amazing moment was when we had stopped to photograph a waterfall on the side of the road and we were a distance from the safety of our vehicle, when a herd came racing down the trail. We were within two meters from the Bison and Yas and Max were a little further up the trail. I was worried about Yas and Max's safety but they were just standing watching these animals in awe - particularly when two large males stopped and butted each other. Even though these are wild animals and can be very dangerous it was a strangely calm and beautiful moment, listening to their hooves in the snow.

We stopped for lunch in our snow cat in a very cold and remote part of the park. As you can see from the images almost a pure blanket of white. It was bitterly cold, but Yas was still happy to have a quick run around outside wearing next to nothing.

We arrived back at our hotel at close to six pm. We had an amazing day and saw Bison, Antelope, Eagles, Coyotes, Ducks and Swans. Yas and Max were fantastic, considering this was the third day straight in a vehicle. We traveled forty miles in and then back out of the park and were overwhelmed with the beauty and diversity. This surely is going to be a highlight of our trip,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Roadtrip to Yellowstone - Part 1....

We left on our massive road trip to Yellowstone, immediately after school on Thursday afternoon – a massive 750 miles drive ahead of us. Our aim was to drive a four hour estimated drive to the town of Rawlins in Wyoming and stay overnight. We started well, missing most of the afternoon traffic in Denver and well on track.
We were warned by friends to be well prepared for the journey, with plenty of blankets, food and water in the car in case of unexpected storms with high winds and snow. The high winds and wild weather are famous in Wyoming, as the countryside is wide open with no protection.
About 200 miles into our drive we found out exactly why we were warned. The winds were excessive, not only blowing the car but also blowing snow both across our path and making visibility poor. Just to spice things up the roads were also covered in ice. The worst was driving through the Medicine Bow National Park.  Our trusty Subi performed well under the frightful conditions, in a temperature of minus 15 not taking into account the wind chill factor. We drove past no less than six semi -trailer accidents in the short space of ten miles.

Our estimated four hour journey, developed into a five and a three quarter hour challenge. We were so glad to finally at the Ferris Mansion Bed and Breakfast.  Garry and I carried sleeping children to their beds in the maid’s room. Their room was very close to our room – the Rose room. The three storey mansion was warm and inviting with soft beds and lots of pillows.

In the morning we woke and appreciated the beautiful guesthouse. We were served a fantastic breakfast consisting of homemade granola, fresh fruit, egg and bacon casserole and the house specialty – caramel apple French toast. Along with fresh orange juice, tea and coffee it was a great way to start the day. The kids enjoyed playing with Flapjack the cat and later the two dogs outside. We set off on a very cold and icy morning with a 480 mile drive through wild Wyoming ahead.

American Choclate Chip Cookies...

Susan is my buddy or support person at McKinley-Thatcher. Well, that’s how our friendship started. Susan has fast become a dear friend of mine and Garry’s.  Yasemin and Max adore Aunty Susan and were treated to a cooking lesson a couple of weeks ago.

Susan spends her days teaching little people PE and I would have thought the last way she would choose to spend an evening after school would be teaching my two her famous American chocolate chip cookie recipe! But Susan wanted to do something special with the kids for Max’s birthday – so cookies it was!

As you can see from the photos the kids had a fantastic time – I am envious of Susan’s patience in the kitchen.

The cookies lived up to their reputation – Yum! Thanks Susan, for making the night lovely for Max and Yasemin. We all enjoy spending time with you – especially with a margarita, or two!