The next morning we whisked our sore bones out of those tents, grabbed granola bars, and drove north all the way to Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is where the north entrance to Yellowstone is, and it’s where the raft company is located. We had to be there at 9am. I had my doubts if we were going to make it. Especially when our car didn’t start that morning. Battery, folks. “Oh good! It’s only the battery! Shew!” I said. Matt just looked at me. Then I remembered we were in the wilderness where there are no batteries. Well, maybe flashlight batteries. No worries, we are handy. We got a jump from our peeps, and hit the road thankful we would be going to a town to start the river trip where there are batteries.
Then we drove north. Bison don’t have schedules or raft trip time slots apparently.
But, what else can you do? Pack what you need, leave early, go potty before you leave, hope for the best, and most of all: Enjoy the view! Hey that’s good overall life advice. Yes! That’s for free, y’all.
We made it to Gardiner right at 9 on the dot. I was impressed with the Montana Whitewater people. They must move heaps of people through there. We signed away our rights, and then we got our gear. First you get a helmet which is very lovely, and then you are issued a rubber jacket that makes you feel like a professional fisherman. You know the ones they show with waves crashing over their heads. Oh, and the jackets came complete with B. O. so it was a package deal. I’m sure we added our own special touch to the fragrance.
Then we boarded a bus. Lydia (5 at the time) was so excited that I thought her smile might fall off. You have to be 4 years old to ride these, so our youngest stayed at the park with the other little ones. After a quick bus ride, we helped carry our raft down to the riverbank. The water was flowing pretty fast, and we were ready to get wet! We had to divide up into two rafts. Lydia whispered to me, “When is the big waterfall that we go over?” I looked at her in surprise, but I didn’t have time to answer because the guide handed me a paddle and showed me where to sit. I put Lydia in the middle and positioned my leg so my foot could dig into the fold of the raft for leverage. And we were off!
The water was cold, but the sun was warm. I was glad to have my stinky rubber jacket. We immediately got wet, and everyone on the outside of the seats had to paddle. It was great fun, and the best part was watching the children help paddle while laughing, dripping, and sparkling eyes. When we came to a slower part of the river, our guide said we could take turns jumping in the water. The guide had the person jumping in stand on the front of the raft and try to balance. The guys jumped at the chance, but fell in immediately. My sister-in-law and I just sat there. I was trying to decide if I wanted to experience how cold the water was. Beth decided she didn’t want to. Finally, my curiosity got me, and I stood on the edge of the raft and jumped in. Every muscle in my body griped about the cold, but it was exhilarating. We then proceeded to shame Beth into it, and she finally went. It was a great raft trip, and there were Class 2 rapids but nothing over. Lydia loved it, but she cried when she realized we would not be falling over a water fall like in cartoons.
After the raft trip, we ate lunch in Gardiner, got a new battery installed in our van, and went back into the park. We met up with the little ones and my mother-in-law, and we went to the Mammoth Hot Springs area. This is a geothermal area that is unique because of the way the water rises up through the limestone. What forms is truly beautiful.
We walked the boardwalk all over Mammoth Hot Springs. The children were still happy, but they were a little tired. Finally we got back in the car, and drove a few miles north to an established swimming area in the Boiling River.
Now doesn’t that sound like the place you have always wanted to take a swim in….the Boiling River?!! Let me tell you, it is. You won’t regret it. However, there are park warnings that thermal waters could give you amoebic meningitis so you should read that warning. Then you should go swim. Parking is a little tight, but we found a spot. Then you hike down a short trail to where you can easily reach a part of the river that isn’t raging fast and not too close to the thermal part. I cannot describe to you how good it felt to our bodies. It was like the ultimate nature spa with the temperature, the relaxation and the beauty all around us. I had to pay close attention to the children so they would not get too far into the current. If we were feeling too hot, we could inch out toward the river current a little more and get a cold shot. These are strange sensations. There were hot spots that I couldn’t stand as we waded a little in river. Finally, we decided to dry off and head back to camp because it was still a long ways. Oh, by the way, there are a lot of people in this river photo that I don’t know. It is weird how you sit awfully close to people you don’t know in hot thermal waters and everyone is smiling fun times and no one cares about personal space.
Our group split up a bit to do whatever, and we ended up with just one brother and sister-in-law and their boys travelling with us. We stopped at the Tower Falls, and we had some ice cream. I know I wrote about this in the Grand Canyon story, but National Parks have the best ice cream! After we ate every bite and licked our lips, we realized we were at a trail head for the Tower Falls. Invigorated by our water day (Spa!) or maybe just on a sugar rush, we started running down the trail. We were losing daylight, but the kids kept trekking. The bottom of the hike is right next to the river bank which is steep, and the waterfall view is breathtaking. The hike back up we were vigilant about looking around for wildlife, and we saw some deer.
On the drive back to camp, we saw a black bear by the road. Cars had slowed down terribly to watch the poor bear. We didn’t get out, and I don’t have a picture. But it was a lot of commotion around a bear just trying to eat some berries. He looked soft.
We stopped and ate somewhere (I think Canyon Village), and I think it was good but fatigue had set in by then. We could see the sleeping bags in the distance. The kids fell asleep on the way to the campsite, and I couldn’t remember a better day.