Out West 2013

Hi! Long time no see (virtually). I am actually sitting in the car right now posting from my Verizon Hotspot. Woot. This feature on my phone has been an absolute gem during the 16 hour drive to and fro Yellowstone. Blake was able to work on schoolwork and I am able to do some blog work!

[“Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Health and Fitness Voices program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.” ]

Overall I couldn’t be happier with my experience out West. It was so great to get away for a week and be surrounded by some of America’s most beautiful wildlife and spend it with people I love. Here is a breakdown of some of the things we did in Yellowstone by category. Also- if you missed Part 1 of my journey out west…click HERE.

Yellowstone National Park-Area

From Missoula, Blake and I headed about 3-4 hours south to West Yellowstone, Montana, where we parked ship for the remainder of the week.

Yellowstone Lake: Kayaking

The first night we arrived in West Yellowstone we met up with Blake’s family and headed into Yellowstone for a 3-hour guided kayaking tour on Yellowstone Lake. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the lake (45 miles away) because the park was pretty crowded with tourists and you never know when a buffalo is going to cross the road! The 5 miles of kayaking was much needed after lots of driving.

Yellowstone Lake was beautiful. It’s the 4th deepest lake in the U.S. reaching depths of 400+ feet. What’s really amazing, are the underwater geysers that line the shore of the lake. We kayaked right over one and it looked like a 10-foot round black hole. Sort of creepy, but energizing!

Here are some photos from our kayak trip. Dawn, Blake’s step mom, gets the photo cred for these! I was too wimpy to bring my camera in the kayak.

kayaking

Big Sky: Zip Lining and Rafting

On Friday morning, we drove north of West Yellowstone to Big Sky, where we spent the entire day Zip Lining and Rafting (Montana Rafting Company). The girls (Blake’s sisters Lexi and Kylee) absolutely loved it. Those girls are little daredevils and I love it.

Zip lining was really fun. That was the first time I had ever done something like that. You just have to trust the gear and jump! It felt like I was flying. We did 6 different zips and 6 obstacles. It took about 3.5 hours and was really enjoyable.

After zipping, we headed back for a quick bite to eat and then it was time for rafting! The first 6 days of our trip were really warm (Upper 90’s) and by Friday, the temperature had dropped to about 70…a little chilly without the sun, so I was apprehensive to get into my suit and jump in a boat with 40 degree water beneath us.

I did it and I’m glad I did! We went on the easier of the two courses, but it was still really fun. We rafted about 8 miles of the Gallatin River with Jim, our guide. Blake and I took Captain and Co-Pilot and I regret that a little bit…because it was also the wettest part of the boat J I refused to put on a wetsuit, and half way though I was really wishing I had put one on.

The girls took turns riding jockey in the front. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I was way more of a wimp than the 7 and 8 year old! Check out some action shots from both Zip Lining and White Water Rafting below.

raft

Geysers/Hydrothermal Structures

Thursday we spent the entire day driving through the park, sight-seeing, and hiking. We went to many different geysers and Hydrothermal Structures. It was really fascinating to be able to see these beautiful (but smelly) ponds of water come to life. Knowing that you are on top of a super volcano, which is the source heating the geysers, is a bit overwhelming, but worth the risk! No one seemed too concerned that she was going to blow. The last eruption was over 70,000ish years ago, which is the blast that created Yellowstone.

More than half of the world’s geysers are located in Yellowstone, including Old Faithful, which goes off about every 90 minutes. We arrived at Old Faithful, but didn’t get to see any action out of her. It was still really cool to see, plus the people watching at Yellowstone was a hoot. Check out my collection of hydrothermal structures below (I am obsessed with all of the colors).

To read about what a geyser is…click HERE.

geyser

Wildlife and Terrain

If I were a plant, an animal, or a rock…Id’ want to live in a national park. Yellowstone had some of the most amazing animals and terrain I have ever seen. To name a few of the animals we saw: buffalo, elk, deer, eagles, muskrat, pronghorns, and mountain goats. I was really hoping to see a wolf or a bear…but they were both a no show.

One of the most interesting things that I learned was the fact that the land takes years and years to rebuild itself after a fire happens. About 25 years ago (this summer), a terrible wildfire hit Yellowstone and took hundreds of thousands of trees down. Those trees are still standing, but limbless and gray. To put the Earth’s life cycle into perspective is incredible. Here are a few wildlife shots from the trip…

wildlife

Mount Rushmore

Blake and I left Yellowstone Saturday Morning and drove about 8 hours west to Rapid City, South Dakota, which is about 30 miles north of Mount Rushmore. We got in town at about 5:15 and had a quick bite to eat and headed south to see the monument. A storm was just rolling in so we only stayed for about 45 minutes, just in time for the sunset among the storm clouds.

The cost to get in the park was $11.00 and I definitely think it was worth it (even though we only stayed for 45 minutes!).

mtrushmore

 

Here’s one more giant photo collage. It’s hard not to share all of the 1,000+ photos I took!

more-photos

I have mixed feelings about getting back to “real life.” On the one hand I like structure and normal food/exercise patterns, but on the other, I like adventure and the feeling of no stress. Trips like this make me double think what life is really about. It got me thinking about what my purpose is.

So fill me in- how was your 4th of July?

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