Homeschooling on the Road-Yellowstone National ParkJun 29th, 2009 | By Jessica Parnell | Category: Featured Articles, General Homeschool Posts, Homeschooling Road Trip 2009
We pulled out of our campground early on day ten to head for Yellowstone Park. In my mind’s eye, we were heading for a large forest with Old Faithful somewhere inside. Was I wrong! Not only was Yellowstone enormous, but it had such a variety of terrain that we could have easily spent a full week and left feeling like we had only scratched the surface. The park touches three states (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) and includes beautiful mountains, a huge lake-Yellowstone (as well as a number of smaller lakes), breathtaking canyons, vast plains, forests, geysers and hot springs.
We spent the first day driving the eastern edge of the park, scoping out what we wanted to do and hiking the many short trails to the touristy sites. Thus, on day one we stopped to see rushing rapids, sprawling plains where we saw several bison and elk, powerful waterfalls, and mountainous scenic drives. We hiked through the mud volcano area where we learned that much of Yellowstone is positioned on top of a volcano and the gasses escaping the ground cause the hot churning water and bubbling mud pits. And we stopped in at the visitor’s center to register for the Junior Ranger program and sign up for what we call “real hiking.”
We started on our “real hikes” the next morning when we joined a park ranger for a 3 hour hike up the Elephant’s Back trail which took us to the top of a ridge that overlooked the park with a panoramic view of Yellowstone Lake, the mountains that border it, the Yellowstone River and Lodge and the forest below us.
Our guide was a forester so we had the opportunity to learn about the many varieties of flora and fauna in the forest as well as the impact of fire on the park. The girls were fascinated to learn that the park recognizes the value of forest fires and will allow them to burn until or unless they begin to become a threat to people or the infrastructure of the park. They were equally amazed at the reality of how overcrowding in a forest leads to the survival of some trees while others fall to the ground. We hiked through a Lodgepole pine forest notorious for overcrowding and saw almost as many trees on the ground as we did standing. This really helped them to understand the importance of sunlight (which many trees could not gain access to) and the survival of the fittest (as the trees that are stronger outlast the smaller, weaker trees). We were also introduced to a variety of wild flowers and to some of the history of the park.
Later we headed out on a six-mile hike from Artist’s Point into the backcountry of Yellowstone to Ribbon Lake. The first mile paralleled the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and was absolutely gorgeous (and scary as we watched our kids get too close to the edge time and time again on the slippery rain soaked muddy trail)! Once we veered off towards Ribbon Lake we found ourselves on a beautiful trail through dense forest that passed by Lily Pad Lake and continued on to Ribbon Lake. It was enjoyable to get away from the crowds and out into the quiet of God’s creation.
After returning to our vehicle, we headed further north, stopping to hike Mount Washburn (in the snow as we neared the top) as well as some small scenic trails. The drive from Mount Washburn to the Northeastern edge of the park wound through the mountains and included gorgeous views and the highlight of the day for the kids-a stop to watch a black bear meandering along a stream snacking as he went.
Just beyond Tower Falls we enjoyed another short trail overlooking the canyon and the river below before turning back to our campground for the night.
On our last day, we headed over to Geyser Basin to see Old Faithful and a number of other geysers. As these were more touristy areas, we found ourselves a little less enthusiastic but knew we couldn’t leave the park without seeing Old Faithful erupt. The kids did enjoy the other smaller geysers and did learn a good deal more about what is going on beneath the surface.
Once again (as it has every day of our trip so far) a storm rolled in and we were soon drenched and ready to get on our way. So we headed out a bit earlier than intended and are now on our way to the Grand Tetons.
Additional homeschooling posts:
Let the Real World into Your Homeschool Classroom
Parents can struggle with protecting their kids from the world outside their doorstep When it comes to discussing and sharing current events or “real world” situations with homeschooled children, parents often end up with a bit of nail biting in the process.
Homeschooling on the Road-Rocky Mountain National Park
Days Four and Five