Day four began at Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone. A chilly 34 degrees greeted my very early morning as I tried to get everyone up and going to meet our white water rafting guide Gardiner, Montana.
Having still not worked out all the kinks in RV life, I took at cold shower that actually made me scream out loud. The icy water hearkened back to my childhood spent surviving Ohio winters. If you have never felt this kind of cold on your nekkid body at 6am, count yourself blessed by the almighty hand of God.
The west and north entrances to Yellowstone are 54 miles apart, but the drive time can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 3 hours depending on what kind of wildlife traffic jam you encounter. We had seen gazillions of buffalo the day before, so I was hoping for a grizzly bear or mountain lion sighting.
We got Elk.

Elk Crossing
So sweet.

Elk mommas crossing a river with their elk babies first, then an antlered Elk who was happy to show off for the camera. Not a people-eater, but pretty cool to see in the misty morning light. The kids and I were able to get within 30 feet of the young bull, along with about 100 other people.
The animals at Yellowstone don’t seem bothered by cameras clicking away as long as their owners stay quiet while hunched in their creepy-stalker poses.
But one foreigner that decides to scream to several other foreigners hanging out of a car window?
Charging horned animal + a hundred people pinned in by trees = A clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Luckily, my cows had taught me the art of large-animal-avoidance before I went to the national park, so the kids and I were well out of the way when that 6-pointer decided he had had enough of the lurking paparazzi.
When the kids and I returned to the van and replayed our tale, all Andy could say was, “Elk have a bullseye on their butt.” This theme continued the entire trip… the kids and I appreciating the beauty of the wildlife and Andy appreciating how beautiful the wildlife would look over the mantel.

Hmm, it appears Andy was right about the bullseye.

Don’t worry, I was using a long-range lens.

 Two hours later, we found ourselves suited up in puffy life jackets while being instructed on how not to fall out of the giant raft waiting on the shore of the Yellowstone River.
Our first mishap showcased yours truly trying to get into the back of the boat from chest-high-water. The female guide hoisted me into the raft where I landed on my back after first going air-born. If you have ever been lying on the floor of a rocking raft, strapped into a life jacket, you can correctly imagine that this position left me looking like a snow-suited-toddler that had fallen into the snow.
When Andy was finally able to stop laughing at the sight of my arms and legs flailing in the air, he pulled me into my seat and handed me an oar.
Andy, Grant and I rowed along with the parents of another family sharing the trip. Our guide was a spunky 18-year-old girl who weighed all of 110 pounds but moved the boat, by herself, better than the other five adults combined. She maneuvered us around giant rocks hidden by the shadow of Electric Peak (aptly named because it’s iron ore composition attracts lightning during storms).
When the small sections of rapids gave way to deeper, smoother waters, our guide yelled out that we could jump in and swim if we wanted. Her only warning? The water was around 65 degrees. Two seconds later, I heard a splash and looked behind me to find Ian’s empty seat. I peered over the edge of the boat and found his smiling face staring up at me.
He kept a firm grasp on the safety line and let the current pull his body away from the raft. Ten minutes later, Ian was still in the water, his smile huge between purple lips. The guide called him back in the boat and we rowed through another few sets of class two and class three rapids.
The next call for swimming sent Ian back over the side, and this time two other people joined him.
For about 30 seconds.
The cold water was too much for everyone except the smallest person. I will never forget the pure joy on his face and the giggles interrupted only by the sound of his chattering teeth.
Grant and Sam took turns ‘riding the bull’ which means that they perched on the front of the raft while we rose and fell over the rapids…Sam, because he’s Sam, rode it backwards.
We used Wild West Rafting Company and recommend them highly if you are ever in their neck of the woods. The four-hour ride was one of great memories and we would do it again in a heartbeat.

North Yellowstone terrain.
Mountain goats.

We drove back through the northern entrance, under the Roosevelt Arch and made our way to Mammoth Hot Springs.

Liberty Cap at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs from village level.

Mammoth Hot Springs from above the village.

More Mammoth Hot Springs.

We spent some time at Roaring Mountain and tried to hide our snickers when Andy almost cause a rock slide at Sheepeater Cliff.

Roaring Mountain named for the sound it makes due to tons of small steam vents.

“See Amanda? Everyone else is walking on the rocks. It’s not dangerooooouusssss…”
Virginia Cascade

Water and road weary, we ended the evening with a stop at Virginia Cascade and then headed back to the RV park where Sam fell off the tire swing and bloodied his lip before chowing down on some juicy buffalo burgers hot off the grill.