Friday was definitely one of the group favorites on our trip so far. After waking up to a gorgeous mountain view at Mammoth campsite, Marie and Eli cooked us delicious French toast to start off the long day ahead of us. We head out Gardener, Montana as soon as we had cleaned up our meal, ready to zipline and hit the rapids. Our first adventure was on a zipline course, where Marie quickly became the Cannonball Queen, as she curled her body into a ball to fly over the trees to the next platform. After four ziplines (the longest measuring over a thousand feet!) we ate a quick lunch, all of us itching to jump into a raft. As soon as we hit the water we were all soaked head to toe as we paddled along the Yellowstone River. Caden even got to steer at one point while our guide told us stories and folk tales about the surrounding mountains and hot springs. Ashlynn was the first person to jump in the water at a calm spot where we were told we could swim. She outlasted all of us as she stood the longest on the front of the raft with the rest of us spinning the boat in a circle. Everyone was exhausted after our jam-packed day but we couldn’t wait to clean off with a hot shower near our campsite.
After having been to the Grizzly and Wolf Center two days before, Saturday arrived with much anticipation as we were to spend the day in Lamar Valley, known for its large wolf population. We drove from lookout to lookout, enjoying the spectacular view. For lunch we headed to a beautiful picnic spot where we sat in the shade and enjoyed the woods around us. We then found a small trail head nearby which we wandered down taking in the scenery, playing word games, and hoping we would see a wolf. While we sadly didn’t see any wolves while we were in the valley, we saw what felt like hundreds of Gray’s favorite, the ground squirrel, as well as a few bald eagles. By the time we finished our hike it was time to head to Roosevelt Lodge for our well-awaited Chuckwagon Dinner. Eli couldn’t wait for all you could eat steak and peach cobbler. We climbed on board an old-fashioned style covered wagon and made our way through Pleasant Valley, a guide narrated the area’s history as horses pulled us to our dinner destination. Once we arrived to a small cookout area we found a table and joked about how much steak we’d be able to eat. The dinner was absolutely incredible and once we had all eaten our fill we sat around a fire listening to Western music and Cowboy poetry. It was definitely time for bed once the Chuckwagon brought us back to the parking lot, and Marie, Eli, Ashlynn, Gray, and Caden all fell asleep on the ride to the campsite.
Sunday was another early start as we hoped to summit Mt. Washburn before having to trek down to our Grant Village campsite. After some deliberation, the group felt ready and excited to hike Dunraven Pass, the more challenging route to the top. It took two hours on a mostly uphill trail, and the group loved it. Gray couldn’t believe the amount of snow that was still on the mountain even though it was easily eighty degrees while we were hiking. As we reached the top of the mountain, we were greeted by a number of long-horned sheep, which added that much more to the already incredible experience of seeing such a beautiful landscape from that elevation. We snapped group pictures and soaked up the sun for a while before deciding to head back down for lunch. It was a rewarding hike and everyone in the group was proud to have taken on the challenge of a more difficult hike as well as having succeeded at summiting.
On Monday we were able to take our time getting our tents taken down and enjoying our breakfast. Once we had broken down camp and cleaned up, we left Yellowstone after a great week of exploration and adventure and made our way back to Grand Teton National Park where we are to spend the rest of our trip. We found a beautiful but short hike near our campsite that took us part of the way around the nearby lake. After spending some time on the shore we head to the campground to shower, wash our clothes, and set up camp where we would spend the next two nights. The group wrote their letters to self, scattered around our campsite, reflecting on their time spent with Wilderness Ventures so far.
Today we enjoyed a lazy scenic float down the Snake River which we will be white-water rafting down tomorrow. It was nice to be able to enjoy nature and see some wildlife while relaxing a beautiful river. Tomorrow we will celebrate Caden and Marie’s birthdays with a bike ride around Grand Teton National Park. Although the trip is coming to a close, the group is having just as much fun as ever and can’t wait to complete some of our last activities.