The crew headed back into West Yellowstone which sits right in the edge of Yellowstone National Park. Once there we went into the Grizzly and Bear Center. The center houses rehabilitated, abandoned, or dangerous animals of all kind that are native to the National Park. Students had the chance to see wolves in an enrichment exercise where urine from other animals not in their "pack" was introduced to their habitat as well as some Elk carcasses. We then moved over to the grizzly habitat where five bears were spending time searching for food that had been hidden by the keepers, fishing for trout in the pond, or playing with one another. While we watched, our guide told us the story of each bear and how he or she had ended up in captivity. Most were due to becoming dangerous to humans after discovering unsecured human or dog food. One bear had even been bold enough to steal a loaf of bread out of the bed of a truck while the owners were carrying groceries inside. The center also has ground squirrel and bird habitats the group was able to explore. An IMAX movie about the founding and explorations of Yellowstone followed.
When we returned to the ranch we had a hearty lunch of bratwursts and hamburgers with the best cookies outside of my mama's house. After lunch the group had time to get their team outfits together for the volleyball tournament. The kids were split into 8 teams which they named and created costumes for on their own. The round robin tournament allowed each team to play 3 games within their bracket and the winners of each bracket played best out of three to win. The winning team was the Big Ballers which consisted of James, Ana, Nancy Walker, Cole, Hayes, Kate, and Haven.
(The champion team-Big Ballers)
(The Crazy Cats)
(Team Get Weird)
It is safe to say the crew was well worn out as we got cleaned up and headed to dinner. We congregated to take the Grand Western Tour 2016 group picture before dinner. All tour members will receive a copy of the group picture in the mail shortly after the tour returns home. Dinner was held down by the river on red checked table cloth clad picnic tables. We had salad, corn, potato salad, cornbread, steak, chicken, and s'mores for dessert. Many of the crew members declared it the best meal they had eaten so far. After dinner the group was given free time. Many members played volleyball or horseshoes. Some enjoyed sitting by the fire or playing pool or basketball.
We have had many compliments on the group in the last few days. Adults of all ages, park rangers, and workers at various shops and restaurants have mentioned how polite and well behaved the group has been. As a staff we are delighted to receive these compliments but know it is the parents at home who deserve the credit. We look forward to the next 21 days with them.