Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, Geysers Hill, Overlook, Firehole Canyon Drive

7/30/19 – Tuesday

We were on the road by 8 am, no easy task for 7 people, but worth it because we saw some animals and made it to the Grand Prismatic Spring (and Midway Geiser Basin which includes the Excelsior Geyser) before the crowds. John and I had never managed to see this part of Yellowstone because it was usually overflowing with parked cars and lines of people. The only bad element this time was how foggy it was, so our views were more limited. When we got to the Grand Prismatic Spring we did manage to notice that there were people looking down on us from a spot above. We could certainly see how that would be a way better view. Later that day I asked a ranger how people got there: you can park at the Fairy Falls trail parking or Biscuit Basin parking (the latter is larger), then walk across the bridge on the path to Fairy Falls and the Overlook (overlooking Grand Prismatic Spring). Here is what we saw that morning, before we knew about the Overlook:

Midway Geiser Basin
Excelsior Geyser Crater
Excelsior Geyser
Excelsior Geyser
Excelsior Geyser

From the poster about Grand Prismatic Spring: It’s the largest and one of the most brilliant of Yellowstone’s hot springs. It stretches 200 feet (61 meters) across. The high temperature (160 degrees F, 70 degrees C) ensures that the hot spring is often cloaked in steam.

“Deep beneath us magma from an active volcano heats water that rises to the surface through fissures in the rocks. The result is a hot spring that pours almost 500 gallons of hot water each minute into the Firehole River. Minerals dissolved in the hot water are deposited and gradually build the gracefully terraced shoulders of this feature. … The blue color is created by sunlight scattered by fine particles suspended in the water….the yellow, orange and brown colors encircling the spring …are caused by thermophiles-heat loving microorganisms. These microbes contain colorful pigments that allow them to make energy from sunlight and thrive in the harsh conditions of the hot springs.”

Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring

Along path back to car
Justin and Jamie at Excelsior Geyser

As soon as we arrived at Old Faithful we found out it would blow within the next 20-30 minutes so we stationed ourselves to watch. Later we had lunch at a picnic table nearby, then saw it go off even higher.

Old Faithful
Old Faithful
Joe before our second view of Old Faithful blowing.

Next we hiked the Geyser Hill:

Goggle Spring
Beach Spring
Heart Spring
John and Lily getting photos of the microbes.
Microbes in hot spring

Then we drove to the Biscuit Basin parking lot and walked the Fairy Falls Trail to the sign for Overlook, then saw much better views of the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Hot Spring on Fairy Falls Trail to Overlook
At Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook: Trish, Joe, John
Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook
Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook
Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

Tacos for dinner thanks to Justin and Jamie. Lily and I had “traveling tacos” that she learned about in Girl Scouts: Start with a small bag of Fritos, add chili, then your toppings. Yum!

Posted in Montana, National Parks (NPS), Wyoming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grizzly and Wolf Center, Diamond P Ranch and Happy Birthday to Trish

7/29/19 – Monday

Since Justin had spent the day before driving, we figured a day in town would be good. Thus we all went to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Center. Since we never saw any grizzlies, coyotes or wolves during the rest of our Yellowstone visit, I’m really glad we did.

They are a non-profit rehab and educational center. They had different grizzlies on view throughout the day, plus wolves, raptors, coyotes and ground squirrels.

Rough – legged Hawk
Golden Eagle
Bald Eagles
Great Gray Owls – can you find both of them?
Red – tailed Hawk
Grandkids with Grandma on Big Bear couch.

We drove to the Diamond P Ranch around 4:30 pm, after resting at our condos. John and I had made reservations for us all (except Joe who wasn’t interested) to go on a horse ride. Gabe was not happy with the thought, so we went there to let both kids give it a try. Us four adults had ridden at least once before. Gabe was not even about to go near that horse, much less touch a horse, so that made the decision to cancel his ride easy. Lily was excited, loved petting the horse, then got on. She was sure grinning at the end of her 5 minutes. Our rides were reserved for Wednesday but this was our last chance to cancel anyone without penalty. Fortunately, because Joe didn’t want to ride a horse either, it befell him to babysit Gabe when the rest of us had our ride.

Lily riding “Spirit” as Joe watches.

After all that excitement, we went to the Branch Restaurant to celebrate my birthday and Justin/Jamie’s Anniversary, (yes, where the Oregon Short Line rail car rests – thus the rest of our family could walk through it too).

We finished the day with pool time for the kids, hot tub for John and I.

Posted in Montana | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Firehole Canyon Drive

7/28/19 – Sunday

Since the rest of our family (Joe, our other son, rode with Justin’s group) wouldn’t arrive until late in the day we decided to scope out Yellowstone National Park and places to see in West Yellowstone. We’ve been to Yellowstone twice before (the latest was in a prior blog for 9/8/16), but we’ve never stopped in the town of West Yellowstone. In the morning we planned to drive to Old Faithful, partly to see how long it would take, after collecting our map and newsletter at the entrance gate. Note: if you have a Senior Pass (you can get it for $80 at any National Park once you’ve reached 62 years of age) you have “free” access to all the parks and more as long as you’re alive. Here at Yellowstone you can use the lane on the far right for those who’ve “paid” already. It moves very fast. On our way to Old Faithful we saw Firehole Canyon Drive and thought it would be fun since we’d never done that and we’d just enjoyed that lovely meal at Firehole BBQ the night before. Well, we mustn’t have been paying attention when we needed to and missed the sign. As we neared Old Faithful we saw a huge line of cars. Well, that was enough for us to turn around. We’d gotten a good idea of the time it would take to get to Old Faithful from the West Yellowstone entrance by then, about an hour. On the way back we peeled our eyes to the road for that sign and saw it, this time at the back end (it’s a one way road). Thus we enjoyed a fun drive to a waterfall and a spot for actually swimming in the Madison River below. There was quite the little hike down so we just watched the swimmers as we drove by. There were not many people on the road or parked for the sites, maybe because it was Sunday. Later when we drove this way with the family it was packed with people!

Firehole Canyon waterfall

We scoped out the Museum of the Yellowstone, then walked along their “West Yellowstone Historic Walking Tour” (brochures available at the Museum and WorldMark condos). Along the way we saw the original Oregon Short Line 1903 rail car, specifically built for the Vice President of the Union Pacific. They actually built a Holiday Inn and the Branch Restaurant around it!

Oregon Short Line
Oregon Short Line
Oregon Short Line
Oregon Short Line

Finally we checked out the Grizzly & Wolf Center that was very close to our condos.

Joe, Justin and his family arrived. We provided a spaghetti dinner for everyone. Before leaving we’d planned to share cooking meals for the gang, which worked out very well. Because Justin/Jamie had the 2 bedroom condo, they had the chairs and settings for a larger group, so we always ate at their place, thus John and I got to carry our food items to their condo.

Because we had a Murphy bed (pulls out of the wall), we could take someone from Justin’s group. Thus Lily volunteered to stay at our place. Mostly to get away from her “annoying” brother, I think. It worked out well: she could be with us where it was quiet yet go over to their place where all the action was when she wanted. I was really glad that we had that separate condo, because it provided us time for peace and quiet and a chance to get to bed earlier as we prefer.

Posted in Montana, National Parks (NPS), Wyoming | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone, here we come

7/27/19 – Saturday

We’d reserved 2 condos through WorldMark for our family gathering at Yellowstone this year. John was on the Internet the instant we were permitted to reserve our week -13 months before our arrival date. We’d wanted a 3 bedroom but those were already reserved. We put ourselves on a waiting list for that 3 bedroom, but no one ever canceled. I’m mentioning all this so you have a clue how difficult it can be to get reservations for a famous National Park stay. The best thing about our WorldMark condos for Yellowstone is that they are in the town West Yellowstone which is right at one of the borders of this park. Our 1 bedroom started on Saturday and the 2 bedroom for Justin and his family started on Sunday. So after driving 8 hours, stopping in Missoula for lunch and fuel at Costco, then more fuel at Ennis, we arrived and got settled in time for dinner. We asked when we checked in for suggestions for a good place to eat quickly, but not actually a fast food place. She recommended “Firehole BBQ”. Because the town is so small, we easily walked to our restaurant. I absolutely loved it. It was super fast. We perused the menu as we stood in the short line, then were handed our food and paid for it. Wonderful brisket for me (½ lb) with a side of coleslaw and a pulled pork sandwich with a side of beans for John. We kept half for another day. Great prices (for the area) and great food. I highly recommend them.

Posted in Montana, National Parks (NPS) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Getting Home

We’d purchased the transfer package from HAL (Holland America Line), so felt confident there’d be no issues, nothing to worry about getting onto our plane for Seattle, then Spokane. HA!

It all started with when we could get off the ship. We were supposed to leave at 8 am, but didn’t get our “call” until 8:40 am. Getting nervous, because our plane was leaving at 11:15 am. Once off we were directed into very long lines and waited again. Getting more nervous. Finally got on a bus after 9 am. The driver, as we gets going, explains that it takes a couple hours to get to the airport. He liked to joke a lot so I was hoping that was a joke. He even had to stop the bus in a nearby parking lot so a lady could come on to let us know the airport protocol. Finally, we are at the airport, running to our kiosk. We’d been told prior to our trip that we would have to use a kiosk to get our boarding passes. We finally got to what looked like our kiosk, but it didn’t work. Went to the desk (where people check in their luggage), waiting in a line. We found out that this was the wrong place. Our plane was “Westjet” using Delta Connection. We’d stopped at Westjet, had to go on to Delta. At the desk there the young man spent a lot of time struggling to get our boarding passes. Oh, he started with, did we have any luggage to check, because if so we were too late. Wow, was I glad we didn’t. We were desperate to get to a toilet, so we found a moment shortly before he got our passes. I think it was 10:20 am when he did. Now we had 2 sets of Customs (Canadian and US) to get through and their airport security.

They have kiosks where we can scan our passports and smile for a photo (Canadian), the US just looked at our passports. In the line for airport security we noted our concerns and a couple people let us get ahead of them and even helped us with what the Canadian security needed (shoes off but not separate electronics). Wouldn’t you know the gate for our plane was really far away from security, but at least no trains. We got to our gate after 11 am (remember the plane was leaving at 11:15. They called our “number” just as we arrived. Whew!!! Apparently another plane had to wait on the taxi lane before it could use this gate to disembark its passengers, so our plane was forced to wait. You can imagine our relief when we got into our seats! We even got to sit together. Interestingly, no food or beverages, because, I’m sure, it was a short flight to Seattle. Thank heavens we’d brought snacks with us.

We didn’t have too far to get to our gate in Seattle and made that flight fine. Also, no food or beverages on our way to Spokane. Ah, we got off the plane and Justin soon picked us up.

So nice to be home at 3:00 pm, with time to get things plunked down at home and shop for some food. Home Sweet Home.

Posted in Washington | Leave a comment

Five Days At Sea

5/7/19 – Tuesday until 5/11/19 – Saturday

Not only am I going to condense our activities during this time, as I did before, I’d like to note that much of our sea days were spent as they were the last time. In fact, several of Judson Croft’s talks happened during this set of sea days.

Our table mate status changed during this time. I’d met David at my exercise classes. He even went to more than I did. We talked a bit, finding out that he not only lived in Walla Walla, WA (not so far from Spokane) but regularly had to come to our Eye Clinic for checkups. John and I got together with David and Lisa at the buffet lunch once and found out we had a whole lot in common: She has a degree in Digital Art (don’t remember the proper name) and loves to watercolor. Her mom was famous for her detailed watercolor paintings. David worked with supercomputers in Los Alamos, NM. The same sort of thing that our son Justin does for Oregon State University. They have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren, we have 2 sons and 2 grandchildren. They love snorkeling (have done it at every port on this trip I think) which we love as well. We’ve just slowed down a bit and didn’t bring our gear so we could pack light (one carry on and one backpack each on this trip). They love their RV but haven’t had the experience we’ve had, so lots to share there. They love homes and are extensively remodeling their Victorian house in Walla Walla. They also told us that they have a late dinner setting but would prefer to eat early. We mentioned that our table of 4 (set for 5 pm) has room for 2 more. We asked Shirley and Larry if they’d mind, they were fine with it. They’re very easy going. So we had even more fun times at our table with 6 people until Vancouver. (Update: David and Lisa visited us in Spokane in June)

Soon after this (May 8) John and I began to seriously consider buying a camera. For a couple weeks we’d been intrigued with the talks on the Go Pro, but we realized eventually that we really didn’t take videos (that option is on our current camera), we’re not into physical adventures we wanted to show off and we really couldn’t see ourselves sharing our videos through social media which seems to be the goal.

Then John noticed the photography department on the ship had a camera similar to mine for sale. Hmm. Mine is 7 years old with certain issues. The new bridge camera is just like mine. These are a bridge between a “point and shoot” camera and a “professional” camera. The lens on mine goes from wide angle (28mm) to telephoto (500mm), which was important to me. The new one didn’t seem much heavier yet it’s lens went from 28mm to 2,000mm. Wow! Bridge cameras have their lens permanently attached to the camera, you can’t change into a different lens. Long ago I realized that when a telephoto opportunity arose (wildlife usually) there wasn’t time for me to change lenses and still get the moment I was after. Plus it was a pain to lug those lenses around.

I asked tons of questions, got excellent answers. Some of my issues were solved. One major headache was that my camera was inconsistent with focusing. I did everything I could to give the laser beam time and steadiness to get the focus. Still, many important photos just had to be deleted because they weren’t in focus. I learned that is a common thing that happens when a digital camera ages. Apparently 4-5 years is an average for how long these cameras last. The shutter mechanism is another part that stops working. I’d had issues with the telescoping of my lens but that had seemed to improve over time.

John and I spent an evening (right after dinner) in the hot tub discussing our camera options.

The new camera (Nikon Coolpix P900) was on our minds the next day. I asked David who had lots of Internet access (we had none-expensive), if he would mind checking on Google for reviews and prices of this camera. He was most generous, giving us the information: price around $500 (just what the ship was asking yet we’d also not have taxes or customs to pay). Reviews were excellent (4.6 out of 5). This camera was great for travelers, wildlife and nature. Just my thing! We bought the camera and proceeded to take lots of pictures to figure it out before our trip ended.

Albatross pictures (taken of the large screen at the theater) from Judson Croft’s talk on Albotross

Ganet picture from Judson Croft’s talk on Albotross. These birds nose dive in a large group into the ocean to catch fish. The water looks like it’s getting hit with lots of bullets.

Saw the movie “The Girl In The Spider’s Web” and loved it. We’ve really enjoyed the books/movies of Steigg Larsson (Swedish) who, most unfortunately, died after writing three books about this “girl”. This movie is based on a book by Larry Lagercrantz who based it on the main characters in Larrson’s books, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. They are mystery/thriller stories.

We attended “Coffee With Our Environmental Officer” and found it fascinating. Here are some of the facts he shared in answering guest questions: 53% of the ship’s garbage is recycled. Leftover food is ground into a pulp then sent overboard (where allowed). Toilet waste; the liquid is treated and sent overboard, the solids are off loaded on shore. Gray water (sink) waste is treated and sent overboard. Fresh water is made from salt water from the ocean. Some countries (places) don’t allow this so they buy water then. Diesel fuel has to be at 0.?% sulfur by 2020 so HAL/Carnival are installing scrubers to get it to that. Others (ie. Norwegian) are buying expensive fuel. They use anti-fouling paint so critters don’t stick to the ship and thus giving the ship less friction surface.

We were told that at 8:30, on deck 3, there would be a “Chocolate Surprise”. It was not a buffet as we’d anticipated, but servers walking around with different chocolate goods. Mmm. We tried as many as we could “run down.”

Nikon photo of chocolate tarts. Yum!

Nikon photo of chocolate macaroons. I thought the “scene/food” selection would put them in a white light, but it didn’t. Later I learned that the “Manual” choice will do that.

Nikon photo of a couple proud servers with chocolate mini cones. Also Yum!
Posted in Hawaii | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Nawiliwili, Kuaui, Hawaii

5/6/19 – Monday

By 8:30 am we were meeting with our tour guide for Holland America’s “Wailua River Cruise and Fern Grotto” Tour.

As we waited to get onto our boat, some others left in kayaks

On our way, you can see that most of our sights along the river were mostly of thick mangrove, no creatures visible.

On our way, you can see that most of our sights along the river were mostly of thick mangrove, no creatures visible.

e did see some of those kayakers

Walking the Wailua River State Park Fern Grotto Trail

We saw gorgeous flowers. This is a Red Torch Ginger

Pink Ginger

Ginger bud?
Ginger bud?

Sights at the Grotto – according to Judy many ferns have died because of Hurricanes: Iwa in 1982 and Iniki in 1992. This is considered a great romantic place where many have had their weddings.

Fern Grotto
Fern Grotto
Fern Grotto
Fern Grotto
Fern Grotto

Hawaiians danced and sang for us on the boat ride as well as at the grotto. They even encouraged us to join in the hula. Naturally I did, feeling confident with all my experience from our cruise lessons. These really helped make the tour special.

Back to our dock. Our bus driver then proceeded to take us to some more sites! Bonus!

Opaekaa Falls Lookout (we’d been here previously, yet it’s still a lovely experience.

A fascinating tree (palm?) I saw there.
Wonder what that fruit is.

Across from these falls (you get to take your life in your hands crossing a road) is a far more beautiful place, a landscape that includes a river,

water boarders,

and best of all a number of Long Tailed Tropic Birds! I’d never seen them in real life before. I learned about them in the guide books by Andrew Doughty, with blue covers and titles like “The Ultimate Kuaui Guidebook” or “Maui Revealed”. We highly recommend them. Wizard Publications.

Back on the ship I took pictures of the bay where we were “parked” at Nawiliwili.

Something special happened at our dinner. One of the crew members, Louise, from the United Kingdom, who works in the “Shops” was hosting our meal. That meant we all got free wine and learned lots about her as well as her job with selling jewelry and perfume. We had a great time visiting and dinner was superb. I don’t THINK it was because of that lovely wine.

The theater show was by the group “ABBA FAB”. John’s not a big lover of Abba music so was not that happy, but I enjoyed it. Early to bed because we’ll lose an hour tonight.

Posted in Hawaii | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment