Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ellie's First Trip to Yellowstone

We've really not traveled far from home this summer primarily because I've been afraid of Ellie's response to being cooped up for hours on end. With summer waning in Bozeman and my wanderlust waxing, I decided something had to be done. Saturday was National Public Lands Day, a pseudo-holiday unworthy of note, except that national parks wave admission fees. With the cost of getting into Yellowstone up to $25, that's become a significant value. We decided we were going to do it.

As Saturday neared, the forecast was clearly nasty: snowy and cold. We delayed and dawdled and finally decided not to go. However, the forecast for Sunday was, appropriately enough, sunny and relatively warm. We decided to go.

It was a beautiful drive to West Yellowstone; Gallatin Canyon was dressed up in fall finery. Ellie started to get cranky around the 20 minute mark. We broke out our secret weapon. We had brought along our notebook computer and borrowed Baby Einstein DVDs. She was enthralled. I was pretty happy, too, on the basis of the blissful silence in the backseat. Yes, I felt dirty about using a movie as a baby sitter, but we were going to have a trip without screaming! Ellie happily reclined as best she could restrained by her five point harness and lazily ate crackers and sipped milk.

The park was surprisingly busy for nearly being October, but much quieter than mid-summer. We saw an elk reposing on an island in the Madison River.

We headed to the Fairy Falls trail head. I'd seen pictures taken of Grand Prismatic Spring from a vantage point overlooking it and deduced from satellite maps that that trail provided access to the vista. I'd also seen mention that Fairy Falls was a 200 foot back country waterfall. I was hooked.

We walked along the Firehole river for a ways.

We noticed a stroller abandoned beside the trail. A little while later we saw a group carrying an infant. Jokingly they asked if we could borrow our kid carrier backpack, as their stroller wasn't much use on the trail. They were disappointed because their guide book had said the trail was a road, but their stroller wouldn't roll well in its gravel. We tried explaining to them that in Montana it was a pretty nice road. They looked at us like we were crazy.

As we passed Grand Prismatic, we could see its color reflected in the stream which rose from it, but we couldn't see the Spring directly.

We turned and headed into the forest. That area had burned in the last decade or two and is still fairly desolate. A few of the towering lodgepole pines still stand above the youngsters.

We saw chipmunks, but thankfully no bears.

Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me that in late September a back country waterfall would be nearly dried up. Fairy Falls would've been better called Barely Falls that day.

I was still happy to be there, but Elizabeth was significantly underwhelmed. I think a return visit in spring is warranted.
We headed back. Ellie and I climbed up the hill overlooking Grand Prismatic Spring. It was grand.

I expected that when we returned to the car, Ellie would want to jump out of the backpack and run around after having been strapped in for hours. Nope. She dove face first into Elizabeth's lap and snuggled for a good long while. She'd had enough time with dad.

We headed to Tower Falls, which neither Elizabeth nor I could remember having been to. We made a few stops along the way.

We got to Tower Falls just before sunset. It's pretty, but it's no Lower Falls.

Ellie walked the 150 yards back from the falls to the parking lot.

She stopped by the gift shop to do some window shopping.

Then with darkness falling, she returned to the car where she happily plopped down to watch the video yet again and to promptly fall asleep. It had been a long, good day.


Jenn said...

What a fun trip! You take amazing pictures, too. If the weather will hold off a little bit longer, we may venture over there in a few weeks.

Dave said...

Nice shots.

Anonymous said...

great recap of the day... love the adventures you take with ellie! and there's NOTHING to be ashamed about regarding using the laptop and some baby einstein videos to keep your car journey quiet and happy! i plan to use every trick in the book to keep my kids happy (or at least quiet) in the car! - tam