Day 7: The virtues of being flexible

On our second full day in Yellowstone, we had intentions to head down to the southern end of the park, to catch the 8:30 a.m. ranger talk at Old Faithful. Our friend Ginger had told us that the talk was well worth an early morning, and furthermore, we’d have the famous geysers nearly to ourselves at that hour. So we woke up around 6:30, rustled together our day packs, and headed out of the campground.

Where we ran into a traffic jam.

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Turned out there was a herd of bison trooping down the road, verrry slooowly. We sat at a virtual standstill for 30 minutes, and by the time we were on our way again, there was no chance we would catch the ranger talk.

It was time for Plan B. We decided then to make a day of visiting the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, as well as the Norris geyser basin. Both areas are on the north end of the park, so they would be relatively close, just in case we hit more wildlife traffic jams.

With a quick stop at the Canyon visitor center, we discovered that we could catch a kids’ ranger talk near the Lower Falls. The falls themselves are magnificent:

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The girls seemed to enjoy the ranger talk:

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Thus informed about the Canyon, we were free to hike around looking at it.

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There was a big elk on the lawn near one of the trailheads. We had learned by this point that whenever we saw a group of people milling around on a roadside with cameras, we should stop and have a look:

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We stopped back at the car to fix some lunch, and the kids took an opportunity to decorate our poor minivan, which was becoming seriously dusty and dirty from the trip:

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Next up was Uncle Tom’s Trail, which descends 528 steps to a lower observation area next to the falls. The steps are made out of this material:

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And they have been battered and abused over the years by both tourists and falling rocks. So that was fun for your intrepid correspondent and his fear of heights.

Blessedly, the view was worth the effort:

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While in the Canyon area, we took advantage of the showers and laundry service at the campground there.

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They still had snow on the ground all over the place – the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet (2,650 m), and was reliably 10F/5C cooler during the day than our campground.

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Tomorrow: Day 7 continues with the Norris geysers.