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:
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.
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.”
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.
Next we hiked the Geyser Hill:
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.
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!
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.
are a non-profit rehab and educational center. They had different
grizzlies on view throughout the day, plus wolves, raptors, coyotes
and ground squirrels.
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.
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).
finished the day with pool time for the kids, hot tub for John and I.
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!
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!
we checked out the Grizzly & Wolf Center that was very close to
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
and I spent an evening (right after dinner) in the hot tub discussing
our camera options.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
8:30 am we were meeting with our tour guide for Holland America’s
“Wailua River Cruise and Fern Grotto” Tour.
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.
on the ship I took pictures of the bay where we were “parked” at
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.
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.