Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Yellowstone, take three!

The time had arrived yet again to brave Yellowstone.  As in past years, we were trying another route.  My first year we stayed at the original cabin where the family had gone for years.  It was quickly realized the family had outgrown this cabin.  The next year, Mama Deb and Papa Hill rented a cabin large enough to house the whole family.  Again, it may have been too close of quarters.  So this year we ventured into Yellowstone Park and stayed at Madison Campground.  Dave and Amanda had a trailer, along with Jon and Julie.  The parents rented a trailer for the week.  Becky and her girls stayed with in their trailer seeing Ben was still in Mongolia for work.  The rest of us set up camp in tents.

Madison proved to be a good selection.  It was shaded with lots of trees, bison roamed through the camp, and the river was within walking distance.  The river proved to be one of the favorite play areas of the trip.  The river was warm in places due to the runoff from the Firehole.  The kids put on their life jackets and we had a huge swimming pool to play in.  One area of the river had a little rapid section, where you could float down.  If you weren't careful, you could go further down river than anticipated.  Mark lost a shoe and I, myself, went further than I was comfortable with.  Thankfully, I have Mike who knows and understands rivers.  After playing in the river for a time, Big John, Mark, Danny, and Mike all went on an adventure.  We don't really know exactly what they were doing, however, when they came back they were covered in war paint, aka mud.  All of them had decorated their bodies to their liking, one had a superman sign, another a smiley face, and so on.  They truly are a wild bunch.

As expected, we did the traditional Yellowstone activities.  We did the upper and lower loops.  We stopped at the traditional sights.  We ate at the Wild West Pizzeria.  We got shakes at Eagle's.  We went wolf watching.  Only this time, it was as if we were on national geographic.  Typically you wait for a while until one of the regulars spots a wolf.  They then describe where it is to the others.  Upon looking through the binoculars, you can see way out there a wolf.  It will stay for a little while and then usually reverts to the trees.  But not this time.  We were able to see a pack of wolves.  They were closer than normal and you could spot them up on the hillside without any binoculars.  Small, yes, but visible. They were also on the move.  They were hunting a herd of elk.  We followed them for a few miles and watched them in their element.  They would circle around the elk and appeared to be just watching and waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack.  Though they didn't attack while we were there, it was amazing to see their strategic approach.  As if that wasn't enough, on the hillside you could also see a grizzly bear.  It was really neat.

One of my favorite activities, was sitting around the campfire each night and talking with the group.  One of the nights, Danny introduced a question that would forevermore stick with the family.  The dreaded life jacket question.  Danny had felt there was some favoritism going on with the larger families.  It became a joke that all families needed to have at least five kids before they received special treatment.  As the discussion progressed, many tried to ask who was the favorite child.  Of course, Mama Deb refused to answer.  They then pursued a different course.  A course to see who the least favorite child was.  Danny posed a scenario to Mama Deb.  She was to answer if she had one too few life jackets, which of her children would not receive a life jacket and hence not survive.  She refused many times to answer the question.  However, after much pestering, she finally decided Mike would not receive the life jacket.  Her reasoning being he could swim better than the other children. Poor mike had been singled out.  One could take it as a compliment as she thought he was the most competent of her children. Or one could take it at face value.  Either way, we have made sure to stock ourselves with plenty of life jackets, just in case.

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