Friday, August 28, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - YNP Part II

After sleeping past the sunrise and preparing what my dad used to call "a fat boy" breakfast, we spent the rest of Friday in one river or another.  We had reservations for a rafting trip at 10 o'clock that we were late for due to the paving project on the two lane highway right in front of our cabin.  The highway that is the sole route to anywhere we needed or wanted to be, and it seemed to coincide with our 72 hour stay.  Nonetheless, the pilot car was prompt, and the good people of Montana patient.

She chose to sleep on the couch outside our room instead of the room next door.  And it was a comfy couch.

Ellie and Alice everywhere, always and forever.

We arrived at Montana Whitewater Rafting, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and signed every disclaimer under the sun before getting geared up (life vests, helmets, booties).  I was a little nerved up.  I only needed to hear, "The worst thing that can happen to you is you can die," once to feel nervous, and I'm pretty sure it was said at least 3 times.  The rest of my family showed only signs of excitement.

I felt much more at ease after meeting Theron (The-ron) who was our river guide.  I'm of the belief that he could navigate that Yellowstone River in his sleep.  Which is to say that I felt like we were in good, capable hands.  He also made the trip tons of fun with his stories, stunts and jokes.  After 8 miles and 2 1/2 hours, each one of us was soaked, but all 8 of us managed to stay in the raft.  I most enjoyed the bald eagle and the herd of elk we saw, while the kids raved about surfing the Giant twice, riding bull and playing rodeo. Hands down it was the most popular part of the trip for all 4 of us.

The flotilla sets out down the river.

Forward 2.  Forward 2 more.  Forward 3. 

Theron at the stern. 

Teddy riding bull at the bow.

 Our first taste of rapids.

 Big water.

Big, refreshing water!

 Dig! Dig!

Cartwheeling off a large boulder.

 Now Miss Bit is at the bow.

 And fearlessly loving it I might add.

  I think we have an eddy here otherwise known as THE Giant!

I love the joy on Lily's face in this one.

 Lean in!  The Giant is not going to win.

 Hydraulics are killer!

 We're all wet, happy and in the boat after surfing The Giant not once, but twice.

 Heading below.

All paddle salute!

After rafting, we decided to check out nearby Chico Hot Springs.  Nearby out there means 30 miles or so.  We weren't really sure what we were getting ourselves into, but it turned out to be a resort that has hot spring fed swimming pools.  Given the commercial feel of it and the fact that it was hovering near 90 degrees, we visited the saloon for drinks and appetizers and then made our way back to YNP to swim in the Boiling River.  That was a wise choice.  Do not leave the park without swimming here preferably during the golden hour.  It's magic.  I promise.

Happy hour!

Here I am happy for air conditioning and an icy margarita.  He is happy for chicken wings.

It is here where the very chilly mountain fed Gardner River is warmed by the steamy run-off from Mammoth Hot Springs.  It is one of the only places to swim in YNP and another one of the highlights of our trip.  We arrived just before 7 o'clock and passed the ranger on the trek out who came to close the swim hole at 9 o'clock.  It was the perfect place to watch day turn into night, to cool off or warm up depending on your position, and to spend more time in YNP.

Next to this placard was a sign suggesting we refrain from all sorts of activities such as submerging our heads in the river.  Of course, we didn't read it until we were leaving.  Too late!

Racing to the rock.  Everything is a competition.

Looks like Miss Bit won this time.

Up river.  

A picture of Mammoth Hot Springs where the water reaches temperatures of 163 degrees.  The run-off is what creates the hot, sometimes near boiling pockets in the river, hence The Boiling River.

More cumbersome than the variations of hot and cold are the many sharp and slippery rocks in the river bed.

Not for the tender footed.

Lily had such fun allowing herself to be carried down the cold river by the very strong current and then beating her way back up sometimes with her dad's help.

Ted preferred to float in the warm pockets.

Over time, swimmers build ledges to lounge on (or to keep from being carried away) with the bigger rocks.

It was so peaceful despite the fact we were not alone.  There were probably 50 people along the river any given time.  The next day as we passed, we saw a small herd of elk standing in the river much closer than 100 yards from the swimmers.  No thank you.

The gloaming at The Boiling River.

We made a quick stop at the Gardiner Market for dinner: snacks and ice cream.  One thing I want to add is that everything (groceries, sandwiches in the park, restaurants, activities) is fairly priced.  We expected to spend much more than we did, and we didn't want for anything.  The entertainment for the rest of the evening was Ted's Barack Obama impersonation, and that folks was free.  After the rest of my family was finally dry and tucked in, I stepped outside in the cool mountain air to hear the elk bugling a little longer and to gaze at the bright, starry sky from the bench overlooking The Paradise Valley. Before long, Lily joined me.  My girl was also too jazzed and awed to sleep so we spent some time in silence taking in the dreamy moonlight valley, sitting with the wild vastness around us, and counting our many blessings. I'm convinced that those 20 minutes extended my life by 2 years.