Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 11: Jackson Hole to 360 Guest Ranch

Day 11 of the Grand Western Tour began as the chilliest morning yet. The temperature was in the mid 40's but it was a refreshing break from the summer heat we have experienced so far! The crew had a wonderful time in beautiful Jackson Hole, and were sad to leave. But that is an incentive to plan a trip back! 

Not far outside of Jackson Hole, we entered the Grand Teton National Park. There's something special about these spectacular mountains. The crew is really starting to get a taste of how amazing the West can be!

The Grand Tetons led us straight to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the United States. Its 2.2 million acres spread over three states, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. There are over 10,000 thermal features, including the most consistent geyser in North America. The park is also known for its diverse wildlife. We were lucky enough to stumble upon deer, buffalo and elk. The bus even got into a buffalo traffic jam!

We made a quick rest stop on our way into Yellowstone at Yellowstone Lake. It was clear blue and beautiful!

Our first official stop inside the park was to see the famous mudpots. The students were not prepared for the strong sulfide gas smell that welcomed them as they stepped off the bus. Glen warned them by saying it smelled like fresh lavender. Much to their surprise, it smelled of rotten eggs! We also had our first up close animal encounter at the mudpots. There were several buffalo hanging out in the area, trying to keep warm. Don't worry, we took pictures from a safe distance!

The next two stops we made were to catch views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. While being smaller than the real Grand Canyon, its sights were no less awe-inspiring. A waterfall could be seen in the distance and the river below showed its path in how it has helped carve this spectacular canyon. The colors in the canyon alone were very diverse (reds, whites, tans, and browns layered). They call this view "Artist Point" for a reason!

(Upper falls)

(Lower falls view from Artist Point)

Before heading to see Old Faithful we stopped for a scenic picnic lunch by a river. After the groups energy was restored, we set off to see Old Faithful show off her magic. This well-known geyser gets its name for being the most predictable geyser in the park. 

Upon arriving at the Old Faithful visitor center, we realized there was about five minutes until its next estimated eruption. Talk about good timing! We saw the 3:00 eruption and also stayed around the lodge area to view another at 4:45. It was quite an impressive sight to see! During the break, students explored the trails around the geyser to see some boiling springs and other smaller geysers. Other students enjoyed time in the gift shops and indulging in some soft served ice cream. 

Once leaving Yellowstone, the crew made its way to the 360 Guest Ranch near Big Sky, Montana. The ranch is full of log cabins, a horse barn, dining hall, playground, basketball court and hiking trails. A river runs along the front of the property and our group is staying in the cabins parallel to it. They students were very excited when they saw the cabins and keep talking about how "cute" they are. 

After a delicious homecooked meal of salad, lasagna, garlic bread, and ice cream, everyone was eager for free time on the ranch. Tonight's activities included volleyball, a pick-up game of basketball, and playing pool. 

(A special shout out to Loflin on his 15th Birthday!)

Cell phone service is almost nonexistent here at the ranch, but wifi is available in certain areas. If you need to get in touch with your student during the next few days feel free to call the 360 Guest Ranch at the number found on your hotel list. 

The crew experienced some incredible things today at Yellowstone and can't wait for the new adventures ahead!

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