Our past few days have flown by on Yellowstone’s pristine waters. Before heading out on the renowned Yellowstone Lake we had a day of logistics, planning, and the many hours of preparation that are involved in planning a back country trip. Hannah (our leader of the day) kept everything running smoothly even throughout the process of switching campsites. We spent the night in Grant Village campground within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park and met up with our kayak specialist (George) who briefed us on the activities over the following three days.
The next morning we had a very early start but were rewarded with watching the sun rise over Yellowstone lake as we reviewed how to pack kayaks, how to appropriately paddle and operate the rudders, the many safety precautions that we must follow, and the importance of weather on the lake. We put our boats in at the West Thumb of the lake and were able to pull up to a gravel island for lunch before the daily afternoon winds picked up that would make getting to our campsites much more difficult. We had what Ashlee referred to as the best half hour nap of our lives to recover from the mornings paddle before hopping back in the boats and cruising into camp. Rémi, our new leader of the day, did a fabulous job helping us pack up camp and make it to our new backcountry sites in time to cook a dinner that would keep us going through our next long day of paddling.
We started off our second full day on the lake by exploring further east from our campsite and playing numerous word games and solving riddles while paddling past bald eagles on the shores and mountain ranges in the distance. Ryan and Joseph were able to earn a prize from George by memorizing his favorite poem and creating a couple of impressive haikus, while Sam shared many of his favorite jokes making the hours of paddling fly by. We ended up back on our favorite gravel island for a reward of pancakes for lunch! All of us realized the difficulty and importance behind keeping sand out of our food and supplies after the first couple crunchy pancakes came off the griddle. Once we had enjoyed the afternoon break we made our way back to camp to fire up the preparations for dinner and plan for the next days return to the van. We spent the evening around the campfire watching the sun set on Yellowstone lake and the clouds above turn shades of purple before the night set in. Miles made friends with a mule deer who often wandered into our site and was able to take a couple of great pictures from a safe distance. We all crawled into our sleeping bags early in preparation for another long day on the water.
The next morning we packed up our camp into the kayak hatches as the sun rose from behind the mountains on the horizon. A few of us tried out some yoga sun salutations to work out all the sore kayaking muscles before hitting the water once again. Caroline was enthusiastic about incorporating yoga into our daily paddles and we all welcomed the sun and beauty of the back country as we headed off on the water back to the van.
Once we returned to the front country we were all excited to grab a hot shower before heading north through Yellowstone Park into Montana.
Yesterday was devoted to exploring the natural wonders of Yellowstone and the surrounding environment from a different perspective. Emma (our lovely leader of the day) helped us to pack up camp and get down into town in time to spend the morning zip lining over beautiful Montana forests. Everyone seemed to have an amazing time on the four zip lines that got over 1,000 feet in length! That afternoon we were back in a boat much different than the ones we had spent the last few days in. We spent a few hours white water rafting down the Yellowstone river, hitting big rapids and experiencing the temperamental mountain weather as strong rain set in by the end. Annie had a great time jumping in the water and swimming around in the designated swimming sections and was quickly joined by the rest of the group all jumping in and splashing around in the great river. Even through the rain, everyone seemed to love the whitewater experience and we are all really excited for another day of rafting at the end of our trip.
Today we are traveling around the rest of Yellowstone and seeing the most famous and inspiring sites of the first national park. We are all continuing to have a fabulous time exploring Wyoming and Montana and are looking forward to our next back country backpacking adventure in Grand Teton National Park!