Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 6-9 Yellowstone and Montana!

We took advantage of some ranger led activities on July 7. We learned all about the Hayden expedition of 1871 that surveyed this region, the trials of the photographer (Jackson) who carried 400 huge glass negatives on a mule, and the artist hired by Scribners and the railroads to paint portraits of the area. The kids loved the ranger because he assigned roles to people in the group. Apparently, the hardest working person in the expedition was the cook, who took a lot of teasing during the tour.

In the afternoon we took a boat ride around Yellowstone Lake and learned more about the geological origins of the Caldera (basically, the old crater from the volcano that created this area and the geysers) and the role of humans in changing the ecology of the area. Ian thought it more interesting to train the binoculars on the sleeping boy behind us than to look at the coast.

Our last night camping was July 7-8 and it was a gorgeous morning for breaking camp and a game of pickle. We all hated (OK, Julie was just mildly wistful) to say bye to the tents for the last few days of our trip.

Last night we stayed at Yellowstone Inn, which had a John Wayne theme. The sign above the toilet in Sue and Craig's room read: Our toilet paper is just like John Wayne: rough, tough, and it won't take crap from anyone. (We'll forgive the jokester for the lack of parallel structure.)

Today we drove through southern Montana and then the northeast corner of Wyoming. Words fail to capture the profound beauty of Montana. There are wide, lush valleys cut through by meandering streams, and surrounded by mountain ranges. Herds of cattle, horses, and occasionally sheep roam the area. It is such a large, lush vista that Jim dubbed it the "anti-Nevada." (We traveled through southern Nevada on the way out to CA and northern Nevada on the way up to Yellowstone and decided it was the "Place we'd least like to break down in." Imagine a stark, desert dotted here and there with neon casino signs and a few bedraggled bushes in the "oasis" areas.) As we traveled east, the trees gave way to grasslands that shimmered in the sun and the wind. The mountains became these gradual hillocks, like the place had frozen while bubbling.

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