Tuesday, July 31, 2007 ;
10:56 AM
Just wanted to blog about this before I forget. Regarding the trip, the photos are still not organised yet. Been really busy with normal life, and also with the new car, and other stuff.

The kids sometimes say really funny things and I always wanted to record them but somehow forget, and then when I try to recall later on, I can't remember!

So now that I can, better jot it down.

Since learning to count to 20, he has a funny quirk of saying "one one" for eleven, besides other amusing mispronunciations. So he will count: "1,2,3...9, 10, one-one, twelve, ter-teen, for-teen, five-teen, six-teen, say-teen, ay-teen, nine-teen, ten-teen".
1. He says "say" for "seven". He's still not good at pronouncing such words with 2 syllables. Words that have "v", "l", "r"...
2. For all the numerals, he can recognise them in symbol form, so 11, to him, may seem like 1 and 1 placed together. Maybe that's why he says it as "one-one".
3. For the rest of the numbers between 13 and 19, he just says the single digit name and puts the "teen" behind, so we get things like "five-teen".

He is in the transition stage of not needing a nap in the afternoon. Or maybe, just not wanting a nap. So I do allow him to be awake on days we need not stay out late. But I told him he cannot choose on Wed or Sun, because there are evening services at church.

Recently though, he seems to have a lot of energy. And simply refuses to nap on Wed and Sun. I told him sternly that he didn't keep his promise. He promised to nap on Wed and Sun.

He said: I did keep my promise. I kept it so well, now I can't find it, so it's not my fault.

Me: Arrrghhh!!!

(seriously, napping for him is really a problem. i wonder if i should just let him be. when he doesn't nap, he does get through the whole day and still goes for the Wed Kids Bible Class as per normal. And though I half expected him to be cranky and misbehave in class, the teachers told me he did very well. They said they couldn't tell he didn't have a nap. On Sun though, sometimes he will end up sleeping on the pew in church.)

The previous Sunday before this one, we told him he couldn't fuss at all during evening service since he himself refused to nap.

Halfway through the service, I could tell he was very tired already. So I passed him some paper and markers and told him to do drawing. We also recently forbade him to draw superheroes during worship. Cos he loves drawing his superheroes and then once drawn, will make up his own stories, while making a lot of sound effect to go with it.

You know lah, the flying swishing noises, the fighting noises, etc etc. Too noisy and distracting for worship. So we told him he could only draw things related to worship, during sermon.

So from the corner of my eye, I saw him draw pews with him and dh on it, and some music notes in the air (following Little Einstein). Satisfied, I concentrated on the sermon and forgot about him. Awhile later, dh nudged me to look at him. I glanced over, and there he was! Sleeping so soundly, leaning against the back of the pew, still in sitting position, still holding the uncapped purple Crayola marker and paper! Some drool was already coming out from the side of the mouth. Aiyoh.

Today also marked ds1's 1st swim lesson. This being summer, I thought I'd let him try. There is an aquatics center nearby, and residents of this city could have discounts off the lessons and admission. It is something like Jurong East or CCK Swim complex, with the kids' play areas and normal pools, slides and so on. Maybe slightly smaller.

But because it is indoors, it costs much more for admission. Fortunately we could get in free if he has lessons. Else it is $5.25 per adult. ds2 gets in free (kids under 4). Swim complexes around here tend to be indoors else they can only operate half a year, not viable. The good thing is, no need to put sun block, and it is not so cold compared to if it were outdoors and there was a breeze.

The admission also covers the other facilities in the center, which includes a gym (dh was so excited), and childcare center (can drop kids off for just few bucks an hour so moms can get some exercise)... Yoga and aerobics also. I guess that's why it's a bit steep.

Some things I like about it: (didn't take pictures cos all of us were in the water)
1. An outdoor fountain for kids who don't want to get in the water and just want to run around with jets and spurts of water shooting at them.

2. The way the showers are designed. I always had this problem at public pools in Spore. I don't usually bring a very nice bag to pools, and hang my stuff at the hook on the door, then shower. Right? The shower always shoots jets of water so far and so powerful that my towel and bag will get wet.

Here, the shower is inside, there is a shower curtain, then an area for you to hook your stuff. Even a bench for other stuff or your kids who are done. Then outside of that, another curtain that shuts the whole cubicle out from the main locker room.

Also, if there are too many people and all the cubicles are occupied, There are main areas for showering (without curtains or partitions). So I just shower with my tankini on. There is a body foam dispenser there too. Which everyone uses to lather ourselves.

3. Better still, I like the family locker rooms. You know how sometimes a family has boys and girls, and then both parents share the same pool bag? So they can all get into the family locker room together and shower their mixed gender kids together. Much more convenient. Sometimes dh and I use that, although today only I showered both boys, so we used the female's. Easier and faster, cos both of us can shower the kids at the same time. Then one gets done first and take the kids out first, then the last adult can shower then come out.

I went into the family locker room today just to check it out, and sure enough, I saw this family with 4 young kids. The mom was showering all kids in the shower, the dad was holding all the towels, clothes and bathing stuff right outside the shower and could pass the mom things or catch each kid that was ready to come out. Convenient, instead of the mom and dad being separated in different rooms.

4. They let you bring your own floats. Unlike JE (i dunno abt now, but when i was there, they certainly didn't allow. everyone had to rent theirs). So there were all kinds. Big dinosaurs, small rafts, all inflatable toys you can imagine. A few very small infants (looked to me maybe just 2-4 months old?) were placed in inflatable toy cars or boats that their moms or dads pushed around in the water. The babies lay there, seemingly enjoying the splashes of water and the floating, drifting feeling! So cute. I got this urge to have another baby again.

These few weeks, I have also been very busy cooking all sorts of local stuff with the spice and paste mixes my mom brought over when she came. The trip to NYC and Boston let us have a chance at trying some really good Chinese food, so we missed it all over again. Didn't take any pictures, but we did Hainanese Chicken rice, nasi goreng, lemon chicken, laksa, tom yam again. For yesterday's church potluck, I made laksa fried rice, which is rice fried with laksa paste, so it is fragrant (with coconut milk and some spices). I cooked more rice than required by the packet mix, so it was not too spicy. The Americans seemed to take it well. Came home with an empty pot.

Last update:
on our car. Well, as expected from a 2nd hand car bought from a not-so-reputable car dealer, that is also dirt cheap, we found it was lacking a lot of stuff and the engine was not running so well.

With church friends' help, and with a lot of crash course learning, dh tinkered with the car a whole week, putting in all his spare time in making the car better.
The air con wasn't working well even after the car dealer "charged it up". Think they must have anyhow done it, cos it was no different. Dh was so fed up with them, he went to buy freon himself and charged it. Still not too good, found out the cooler system got problem, so got it repaired.

Then, we wanted a remote control central locking system. So dh went out to get the materials and fixed it up himself. These things seem to come as standard features of cars in Spore, but not so much here. So a lot of people sound like they are honking their cars when they activate their remote controlled locking device. Cos they hook it up to the horns. Always scare me when they lock or open their cars, cos it is really a loud honking noise!

So dh did a quiet one for our car, one beep for opening and2 for locking. Then he fixed up a silent mode too, for locking and opening silently. Then, he also wanted a light to indicate that it was really locked, so he connected the light too. This might seem standard, but then when he did it all himself, I was very appreciative. COs he was there, drenched in sweat in the garage, surrounded with a thousand tools (borrowed from others) and covered with wiring of all sorts, for hours.

And I had to come out a couple of times to help with the colours of the wires cos he's colour-blind. So I'd come out when he called, and say "oh this is brown and this is green, and this here is orange". :-) Cos red-green colour-blindness affects red and green and shades of such colours, so brown and orange are affected too. He can guess and estimate colours pretty well in normal life, but these are important connections and he doesn't want to get them wrong, so I had to confirm the colours for him. :-)

He also found a very nice car salesman who helped him obtain car parts at a very cheap price. He found loose connections in several areas of the engine, and some burnt out parts. Some were just missing a correctly-sized bolt. If dh brought the car to a mechanic, straightaway there'd be service charge and the parts charge would be much more expensive. But this salesman was so nice, he helped to obtain the parts cheaply, and dh paid $3.50 only. So nice of him to help. He wasn't even the one who we bought the car from.

Now, the church elder is going to do an engine overhaul on the old Dodge we own. Dh is keen to learn. Good, cos service is very expensive here, and the more you can DIY, the more you save. Seems like, if you DIY, you can just buy a 2nd hand engine for $400 and then put it in yourself. If you bring it in to the mechanic, it would costs thousands.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 ;
2:33 PM
ok, must update on this, since they replied me!

After my post on the blog, I felt that I should not just sit and do nothing. So I emailed them yet again, this time being less polite and I did not mince my words at all. I even listed the example of the movie "The Terminal" starring Tom Hanks, about how the "Lost-and-Found" items were treated.

For those who didn't watch it, the terminal staff collected all the lost and found items and played cards using those items. So the winner gets to keep the items.

We received a prompt reply to this complaint. Funny how the earlier complaints were ignored or forgotten when they had more pertinent info and not so drama.

We were given profuse apologies and informed that the whole team and staff informed were briefed and they're trying to improve their service. To regain our trust, they are offering us 4x $300 electronic travel vouchers so that we will fly with them again and have a more pleasant experience.

Wow. SPeechless. I didn't expect that. Of course I thanked them, being the gracious person that I am (haha). But I still asked about the PDA and if they had any news, to inform me at once. It seems there is very little hope, cos they didn't mention about the PDA at all.

Law, I dunno if it could be stolen. Maybe? But that person must be very quick and smooth to do that, cos dh heard the thud, felt something drop out of his pocket, then checked his pocket, found his PDA missing, then started searching already. Maybe the person beside him? It was a youth. And this youth was travelling with his 3 other friends. Throughout the flight they were in super high spirits, talking loudly and making jokes. (though most of the others were sleeping and it was dim in the plane, being 1+am). hmmm.

The flight attendants were still ok. If it was stolen then it wasn't their fault. But then they should have let us look for it, and also the counter staff should not have brushed us off and refused to take our particulars. And then their Lost and Found hotline should be cleared regularly, how can there be a full mailbox and no person to really talk to? How come no reply for so long.

Sigh... I think maybe guys must chain and hook their HP and PDAs and wallets to their pants liao. Seems like things can drop out of pockets easily.

Dh is very sad about his files and software and contacts inside. Me, sad about the 2 days worth of photos, cos there is this 1GB SD card inside that i used. But I didn't imagine ds1 to be sad. He says he missed playing "Skyforce" and "bejewelled" on the PDA!!!!! aiyoh. so funny. that can easily be downloaded again, but not what we adults lost!

Ok, next, a piece of good news.

We bought our new car liao. And it has so far caused pple to drool. Ok, 1st let me qualify it is an old car, 1998 Chevrolet Malibu. Green in colour. 3.1L but quite fuel efficient actually. It is Auto transmission. The 1st Auto car we owned actually. And now I have to get used to driving in auto for my driving test!

Drumroll please, for the most impt fact, the price. Costs $3900. Well, for the Americans they already find it very reasonable, a good deal. For us, we could not even dream of paying this price for such a nice car in Spore.

It is the biggest car we owned before too. Will post a pic soon. Dh got a church friend with automotive know-how to give it the look over, and he found a brake wire dangling and so dh brought it back to the shop (only 2 blocks away from our hse) 1st thing this morning to ask them to take care of it. Also the air con is not very cold, so it is being recharged with freon now.

The rear right brake light wasn't working too, but dh fixed that himself. And then he went to buy a keyless remote for central locking and is trying to fix that up himself so we will have that too. It is more convenient, esp with our kids, to have central locking. However, a lot of wiring is involved (at least to me), and for us Sporeans not used to DIY, it is taking some time. hee. Something was wrong with the radio too, but dh managed to fix it as well.

Yay, so now we finally have a car again. Hopefully it will serve us well too, before it gives us any problems. Dh is learning preventive maintenance now, from the church elder who sold us the first car.

And another thing, we bought fireworks! Tmr is Pioneer Day, a state holiday here. And there were a lot of fireworks left over from Fourth of July in the supermarts. So we bought some that were heavily discounted, cos we never tried these before. FO course lah, being from Spore. Though I often see them in Malaysia during CNY and played with them with cousins before, they were never as fancy as those we saw in the supermart. These are those that really fly upwards and burst into showers.

But state laws require that we only use them 3 days before, on the day itself and 3 days after these holidays:
1st Jan, 4th July and 24th July.

So we were thinking, last chance this yr liao, must try. :-) Hope weather is fine tmr!

Will def post abt it.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Saturday, July 21, 2007 ;
10:41 PM
It's good to be back! Yay!

First of all, I must apologise for not updating regularly. The house is in a mess, the kids need looking after and I need to prepare 3 meals a day again. (Enjoyed the vacation when I didn't need to cook, haha).

Also, we took more than a thousand pictures, and those need sorting out. I am doing it slowly, bit by bit everyday, after the kids sleep.

Finally, so many unfortunate things happened to us that we need to settle also. Here's the list, and hope you can understand why I am kept from blogging (my fav activity). :-(

1. On the way back from Boston, we took US Airways, which stopped at Las Vegas and we changed planes to a smaller one from LV back tp SLC. We arrived at SLC at 2am and of course both kids were sleeping.

We had 4 carry-on bags and so I carried ds2 and 1 backpack, dh carried the 3 other bags and carried ds1. We were already the last to leave the plane. Whilst we struggled with the bags and sleeping kids, the staff were quite oblivious to our presence.

As we made our way to the exit, dh's PDA dropped out of his pocket onto the plane's floor. He put ds1 down on one of the chairs and started searching for the PDA, which had miraculously disappeared. Maybe the US airways planes had Black Hole floors which sucked things up. He searched around the area for 10 min. A lady flight attendant assisted him briefly.

Finally, the staff asked us to leave the plane because they had to "get ready for the next flight". It was only maybe 15min, and hello? It is a PDA which contained a lot of impt info and an SD card with 2 days' worth of pictures inside. But they didn't assist us in locating the PDA and were just very insistent in getting us off the plane.

They told us to approach the counter to leave our particulars.

So we did, but the counter girl refused to take our particulars, asking us to call a number instead, which is a Lost and Found number. Dh called it and it says "mailbox full". Dh told the counter girl. I mean, the plane's just there, if they don't want us on it, at least search that area for us. It couldn't have dropped very far away from where we were!

We were loathe to leave because of how impt the PDA is, and how easily it might've been found had they just helped us. They know the plane well and can easily see if there're crevices the PDA could've fallen into, right?

The counter girl refused to assist further and we weren't allowed back in the plane. What can we do or say? I guess, never to take US Airways in future.

So now, I have 2 days' worth of pictures I cannot blog about or have memories about. It includes the Children's Day Harborfest 4th of July celebrations and the Harvard and MIT unis pictures.

Dh? He lost all his contacts, impt info, Bible software, other programmes... you name it.

After that, we called the number many times and finally got to leave a voicemail. They have no direct officer to speak to us, we can only leave a message. We also emailed them online. But guess what? We didn't receive any reply at all! If anyone knows how we can complain or request them to take notice, let me know! Just can't believe they take such a matter so lightly.

2. Our trusty reliable and fuel-efficient car broke down and cannot be fixed unless we do an engine overhaul. It actually broke down while we were on the way to the Teton camp. When the whole car was packed to the brim with camping stuff!

But fortunately we were only 1 hr away from home (about 50 miles). We called for help, and a church friend kindly came to pick me and kids and the stuff up. He has a big car. Dh called the tow truck already and he waited for the tow truck, which came around the same time as our friend.

The 1-2 hr delay was excruciating. It was summer and extremely hot, and I couldn't let the kids roam, cos we were along I-15, a busy interstate freeway. Yet in the car it was like an oven, and we had to wait so long. Kids being restless, it was a long long wait. A kind soul (stranger) actually stopped and asked if we needed help. He said he saw the 2 young kids and thought it was too hot to have a car breakdown, and was concerned the kids might have heatstroke. Utah really has very friendly and helpful people! So nice.

So now, we are looking for a new car. We are in a hurry to get one because my driving skills test in coming and cannot be postponed further due to limited time validity of my theory test.

Later we are going to a dealer to look at cars.

K, will update about trip once the pictures are sorted! Thanks for being patient!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 ;
2:26 AM
15 July
Last day of trip

Our motel in Pocatello, Idaho is very nice. Maybe because it is a smaller town, at the same rate, we get a nicer room/ beds and better facilities. Our room had a glass sliding door, which, when opened, led directly to the hot tubs and pool (below left).

Below right: ds2 inspecting the mosquito and horse fly bites sustained from Teton, on the motel bed. I opened the curtains then, so a crack of light seeped in. dh took this pic and he likes it very much, so i have to post lor. hee.

After breakfast, we checked out early and set off on a little detour before home. There are a lot of hot springs in this area, generally. (Wyoming, Idaho and northern Utah). So we went to Lava Hot Springs, just about 45min away, for a soak in the mineral waters. haha.

Well, hot springs have a long history and people from all cultures believe they have healing properties. Maybe due to the heat, or the minerals, I don't know. But I remember seeing the hot springs in Hualien, Taiwan when I was young, and there were so many people soaking there too, seeking to alleviate some pains or illnesses.

This town is famous for hot springs. They channel the water from the springs into the pools or jacuzzi. (Unlike those in Yellowstone, these don't have sulphur.) In winter it is especially enjoyable to soak in the hot water, but it's summer now. And we felt it was really hot! It felt very soothing for the feet though.

However, it certainly took some getting used to, because at first touch, it felt so hot. It's actually around 40-50deg I think. Good thing the whole thing is cheap and the kids go in free, cos we didn't want to stay very long. Dh kept saying he still wants more children, haha.

Above left: At the uncovered pool. We all tried but ds1 was especially jumpy. He kept hopping on alternate foot, shouting "Ahh!! Hot!! Too hot!" ds2 was much more interested in why the water was so hot.

Above right: dh at the covered pool, where it's like a jacuzzi cos the hot water is bubbled in jets.

After mainly soaking our legs, we bathed and left for the next place on our route, Soda Springs.
We saw many people renting or bringing their own floats or rings to float along the river or the pools. Seems like everyone comes here for water-related activities.

Soda Springs is also a small town (1.5hrs away from Lava Hot Springs). It's called Soda Springs because the geyser here is carbonated. Naturally of course. They've managed to pool the water, pipe it, and contain it such that they can release it hour on the hour. So every hour, there'll be people gathering around to wait for it to erupt. And this geyser is not hot, but cool water. All the same, it is full of mineral deposits, so you have all these terraces (below) there too.

They also have a railway track right beside the geyser, so we watched a couple pass by. Kids just somehow love trains. They love to watch the trains go chug chugging.

By the way, while I was practising my driving, I realised that over here, we really have to watch out for trains, cos they're so frequent and pass through everywhere. In Spore, it isn't important at all, but here, you really got to look out for the train crossing signals, cos in the highway code book, they say sometimes there are no barriers, if the lights are flashing, you just stop and wait for the train to pass by.

Then in SLC, there is the Trax tram also. When I am making a left turn, and have to wait while the oncoming traffic clears, and I am on or beside the Trax lines, I always wonder if the trax is going to come right now and knock me off. Not used to it yet, still adapting to driving together with all these trains and trams. And bicycles and motorbike riders without helmets (not a law here for those above 18 to wear helmets, so no one does) all sharing the same busy roads.

We had lunch at A&W (haven't eaten in A&W for ages although when I was young in Spore, we did, and I rem the root beer float v well).

Next stop: Bear Lake. All along the way now, we are travelling on scenic highways. Scenery is very beautiful, with lots of plant diversity, birds, animals (farmed or wild), lakes and rivers or mountains.

And we also noticed many people building their summer vacation houses here. And I mean literally building it themselves. Saw so many that I had to take a pic.
Our church friends also build their own house or when they buy their house, and they want to add a room, they just build it. Wish we can do that in Spore! Like, have our own land and then build what we want. It's like taking our Lego game into real life. haha.

Below right: a 2 storey house being built.

Above left: Brigham City

We also drove through Logan canyon, very very beautiful. Will be even more so in Fall, cos of all the Aspen-lined roads. Aspen trees are very beautiful in autumn.

Then we reached Brigham City and made a rest stop, then it's Ogden for dinner and then home sweet home late at night.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, July 16, 2007 ;
10:39 AM
14 July
Last day in Yellowstone

Woke very early, checked out, then set off northwards. Stopped at Tower Fall first. Great panoramic view of surroundings. Antelope Creek below is supposed to be prime bear country. We used binos and tried to find some, but no success.

But the bleached cliff formations all ard, the plateau and canyon below, with the falls and the river, was still worth the stop.
Below left: high altitude, plus early morn, very cold...
Below right: the berries growing all ard.. what bears love to eat? :-)

Then we headed northeast towards Lamar Valley where wildlife was also abundant. Took a dirt road towards Slough Creek. Kind of really bumpy and narrow with a lot of rocks. Sometimes there's be a steep slope to get up, and we worried for the laden van, but we made it, and there were lots of colourful wildflowers. Beautiful. It was not exactly secluded though, cos we met several pple who were fishing. Fishing seems very good ard here.

Went through Lamar Valley, and got our first reward. For rising early and taking this out of the way route. We were so happy and excited to see pronghorn! Pronghorn can run at very high speeds and they're beautiful because of their body markings and their antlers are so unique (curvy). We were careful not to get too close for their discomfort. So this picture has to be big, else you won't see them. Hope you can spot them. 4 of them, sitting amongst the grass.

After that, we saw more bison. And continued on to Pebble Creek, then decided to backtrack since it was getting late and we need to actually get out of Yellowstone via the West entrance, and so far we'd been travelling eastward. Didn't want to get too far off, incase we reach our Idaho motel too late at night.

By the time we reached the Roosevelt Junction, it was around 10.30am, and we stopped for a toilet break, for ice cream and to see the horses and wagons. Some tourists were taking horse-drawn wagon rides.

Then we continued east, and stopped to view the "Petrified Tree". It is the fossil of an ancient redwood, which gives a glimpse of Yellowstone's past. Then, the climate was different, and different species of plants (and animals) flourished here. Now, they are just remains, but at least they are still present to tell a story.

The stump was petrified because it was buried by sediments long ago. Due to lack of oxygen, the wood is preserved, and mineral-rich water replaced the organic materials, turning the components into a stone mould. The original wood structure with all the details (like tree rings) are all preserved. There are whole forests of petrified trees elsewhere too, like in Utah and in Arizona.

Below: you can see the petrified tree stump to the upper right section of the photo.

Now comes one of the highlights of the day. We took the one-way narrow Blacktail Plateau Drive. It is kind of winding, and cuts into the forest. Because of the sharp turns, trailers and long vehicles are prohibited.

Along the way, we see a lot of wildflowers too.

Then, we hit jackpot. We saw 2 cars that stopped in front of us, so we stopped and got down too. Usually that means someone has spotted something. Anyway the path was so narrow, no other car could pass. Dh asked what is it they saw, and they said bears!

Dh just had to mouth the word to me, and I immediately got the videocam, digicam and binos and hopped out of the van in a flash. The moment has come! ds2 was napping, but ds1 was hauled off his car seat too.

We saw it after scanning where the 2 other families were looking at. There it was. A black bear. I didn't see any other, but obviously there are more. This one was just ambling about, then stopping to pick up something, maybe a seed or fruit, then put it in its mouth. Then it'd move towards the bush and check it out too. It was like rummaging about the bush, found something again, then put it in the mouth too. Then it pranced about the grass, and did the same things above again. We watched for a long time, mesmerised, intrigued and just very interested in how the bear went about its daily life. It didn't see us at all.

After about 25min, it went behind some trees and perhaps farther off into the forested area, cos we waited but didn't see any bears anymore. The 1st 2 cars continued off, and so we did. This was definitely a highlight.

We didn't want to meet any bear up close, like while on a secluded trail at night... But we did relish this kind of encounter, from a safe distance, without it knowing... Being among other humans also gave us some sense of security, so we could all observe the bear together. It was the ideal situation.

We took many pics of the bear, but they all kind of looked like the one below. Due to the distance, and the type of camera lens we had, this was the best we could manage. The black bear is the small black speck you see in the center of the photo. :-) With the binos though, it was very clear and more magnified.

After this, we stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs for lunch. Was about 1.30pm then.
Mammoth Hot Springs is very different from the rest of the park. It seemed very built up and commercial/ touristy. There were lots of houses, hotels/ motels/ lodges, like a small city by itself in the middle of wilderness.

Below left: the mini-town of Mammoth Hot Springs, framed by the mountains.
Below right: after lunch, we viewed the upper and lower terraces, formed by the run off from hot springs.
Looks like another world, with the white and orange colours.

Above: more terraces... and to show how the trees were killed due to the deposits.

After that, we continued south towards the west entrance of YNP. We stopped at the Willow Park, cos that's the fav food/ habitat of moose. But it was in the afternoon, and there wasn't any moose ard. After about 20min, we set off again. Below: the willows and creek of Willow Park.

Stopped again at Obsidian Cliff and Beaver Lake. Obsidian is a type of volcanic glass. It is produced when felsic lava erupted from a volcano cools rapidly through the glass transition temp and freezes without sufficient time for crystal growth. (Got this from Wiki, and you can see the picture of the black obsidian there.)

There were signs placed ard there saying that no one should collect the obsidian. I guess maybe many wanted a pretty souvenir huh? :-)

We continued on, hit Norris Geyser Basin, then procceeded to Madison. Even though we are almost reaching the exit of YNP, we had more wildlife sightings!

This was another highlight. Seeing a bull elk with its antlers in full glory. I watched Bambi before, and Bambi's father always looked very graceful and majestic at the same time, with the beautiful antlers. Now, I finally saw one in the flesh.

This one is very dramatic, because it was by the main road, not like Blacktail Drive, just a off-shoot dirt road. So, there were so many cars that pulled over to gawk. Quite amusing. Picture below: the effect may not be great from the picture, but trust me, the bull elk looked magnificent.

Now wonder it needed it for mating... it is impressive-looking. Other than that, it is quite a nuisance, for moving ard, for fleeing from enemies... It is a "cost" and "energy/ resource-waste" in biological terms.

Somewhere father along the same road, we saw many female elk and mule deer grazing beside the Madison River. It helped that it rained in the afternoon, that made the weather cooler, and it was cloudy (not hot), so many animals were out in the open.

Then it was bye bye Yellowstone, hopefully "see you again"! We still had many areas we want to explore more.

It was a 4-5 hour journey after that, and we reached Idaho Falls at dinnertime, saw Outback and couldn't resist dining there. It was super child-friendly, which helped a lot, since we were all tired and just wanted to have a good meal. I had the most delicious lamb chops. Yum yum. Dh had ribs. Kids shared macaroni and cheese. And they had toys and beads and colouring sheets, all courtesy of our server, who was very family-service-oriented.

Then it was another 45min before we reached Pocatello, Idaho, where our motel was. We liked hiking and nature a lot; but I think, being brought up in the city, somehow, being back in "civilisation", with the TV and heater, we felt very comfortable and slept very well that night.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Sunday, July 15, 2007 ;
7:11 AM
13 July

Woke up really early again, to catch wildlife when they are active. By 7am, was out at Hayden Valley with binos and all. Saw bison, mule deer and elk. There are more moose and bison in Teton NP it seems.

But it was fun to see the bison kind of "frolicking". (Although being a large and fierce-looking animal, I don't suppose you can use that adjective?) They were having fun, kicking up soil, drinking water, rolling about in the mud.

Some were grazing beside the road.

Then we moved down to Le Hardys Rapids, where there are leaping cutthroat trout from the river. But besides the fast-moving river rapids, there are a lot of flora and fauna worth checking out too. The trail is also very pleasant, always right at the side of the river. Of course, the crisp morning air, the birds chirping and the sound of flowing water made it all very enchanting.

Found many cat's parsnips full of flies, don't know why. But it is interesting, so we took a pic.

Above: the rapids. No cutthroat trout pictured though.

Then we headed further south to Fishing Bridge, where we there was a great view of the Yellowstone River (below).

As there were many birds, we stopped to admire them.

Below left: Pelican flying above the river. Right: Pelican swimming and fishing in the river.

Many other birds too, but we are unable to ID them very well. Got a good bird guide though, so when I am free, I'll look at all those pics we took and slowly try to ID them.

After that, it was about 10am and we stopped at Fishing Village (near Fishing Bridge) for a nice hot breakfast of blueberry pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, ham with milk and orange juice. Very hearty indeed. The blueberries were really fresh, and the pancakes were homemade, very thick kind. Yum yum. Furthermore we were really hungry from all the morning activities.

After that, we travelled south, and stopped at the Natural Bridge. ds2 was napping by then cos he woke super early. So I stayed with kids in the van while dh went on the hike. It was a 3mi hike, but dh ran, cos he didn't want to waste time. Hee, we were like doing the Amazing Race, trying to squeeze in as many of the natural wonders into our 3 days in Yellowstone.

He was back within an hour, sweating profusely and panting away. :-) Got this beautiful pic though. It's named natural bridge because it was formed from the erosion of rock. There are more such beautiful natural bridges in Utah actually. We will visit the Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon NPs (in Utah) sometime next year for sure.

Further south was the West Thumb Geyser Basin, meaning there was a concentration of geysers and geothermal features there. By this time, ds2 woke already, so we all walked the boardwalks. It was a loop, so we enjoyed ourselves and took our time.

Above left: Amazing, the geyser hole was in the middle of the Yellowstone lake water.

Below: deposits from the geysers caused the trees to die.

Above left: hot spring pools. Above right: the run off from hot spring pools to the Yellowstone Lake. The lake's water is very cold while the spring's is hot. So along the way, there'd be transition of temperatures, which supports different species of thermophiles, hence the different colours and hues of orange and green.

Dear students, remember your PCR? And the Taq DNA Polymerase used that's so crucial to the PCR process? It came from the chemotrophic bacterium Thermophilus aquaticus, and was discovered in 1969 (not too long ago!). Where was it first found? Yes, it was first discovered at the Great Fountain region of Yellowstone National Park! That's why, I'd always wanted to explore YNP. When I was young, it was more because of the wildlife, the large mammals. But along the way, I realised how much more you can discover there!

Below: the clouds were so beautiful we stopped to take a pic of them.Below: some of the hot spring pools were very deep. This one is called the Abyss pool, cos it's just so deep?

After the amazing biology and geology lessons, we continued northwest to the Old Faithful region. The Old Faithful geyser got its name because it is the only "quite predictable" geyser that erupts at approximately 90 min intervals.

There are other geysers that erupt more forcefully, reach a greater height, or are more majestic, but they may be difficult to observe because you may not know when they will erupt. There are 4 geysers that the NP rangers try to give approximate times of eruptions. So we did check that out at the Old Faithful Visitor Center.

The other timings were not suitable, either at night or just not according to our packed schedule, so we decided to watch only the Old Faithful.

The timing was just nice for us to have lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge, and even an ice cream cone dessert, while waiting for the dear old geyser to display itself. :-)

In the Lodge cafeteria, while waiting for dh to get the food, I fell in love with the pretty framed windows and took a few pics of the view of the Old Faithful geyser from inside.

After that, we sat on the balcony, because there was a crowd around the geyser barricade already, so the view would be better from the Lodge balcony.

The time given came by and went, keeping all of us in suspense. Some guys beside us joked loudly and said, "Hey everyone, that's was great, that's it, let's go!" Because the geyser would continuously spurt some water out anyway, so everyone pretended that was it. The whole show was over.

ds1 and ds2 were just roaming ard the place. But when the geyser finally erupted, it was magnificent, and ds1 halted in his tracks to witness the glory of the water jet. ds2? oh man, he was oblivious to it, continuing to examine the soil creatures he was fingering. Arrrggh.

Below: the Old Faithful in action and the crowds.

Below left: see ds2 squatting down there? And see how everyone beside me were capturing the geyser in action? Only ds2, so blur. Aiyoh.

Below right: after the geyser eruption, we gathered to take a pic, still eating our ice cream.

And then we walked ard the Old Faithful geyser area, which is also known as the Upper Geyser Basin. ds2 was so happy running ard the boardwalks that seemed to stretch to no end.

Rest of the geysers were not erupting, just hissing and spitting some water. So they are not pictured.

We continued northwards. Then a very strange phenomenon occured. It suddenly started to rain, without warning. You know in Singapore, or other parts of the USA, there would be grey clouds and dark skies, then some thunder rumbling? And then a drizzle first? But no, the rain just started with a heavy downpour, despite the blue skies overhead and bright sun.

Then we felt that the rain drops seemed heavier and bigger than normal. Many cars and of course, bikes pulled to the side. So we did also, since visibility from the windscreen was poor. When we stopped, we realised it's not a normal downpour! It's a HAILSTORM!

That's so weird, cos the sun was still shining. Yet, the hailstones were pelting the van non stop. It created a huge din, so we had to shout to be heard. We didn't see any bikers ard us, but we thought of them and wonder if they are ok! We did see many of them earlier.

We were also thankful we were not in the middle of a hike!

After maybe 30-40min, it stopped suddenly too. So we carried on. However, it transformed the landscape into that of winter. Very odd, but also very amusing. It seemed just like winter, with the roads all slippery and everything so white.

Below left: the pellets on our windscreen. Below right: the "winter" scene that was created.

We went north again, to the Midway Geyser Basin. Altitude-wise, we were heading down. At our cabin, it was at 7734ft (2357m), while at the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful was, it was at 7365ft. By the time we reach the Lower Geyser Basin, it would be ard 6800ft.

There are 4 types of hydro- or geothermal features: 1. hot springs 2. fumaroles 3. geysers and 4. mud pots. At some of the basins or the Fountain Paint Pot, you can see all 4.

Below: A small geyser spurting some spray. Geysers differ from hot springs in that there is some constriction near the top where the hot fluid is supposed to bubble out. Due to that constriction, the fluid is forced out, causing a expanding, towering jet of boiling water to erupt out of the hole, like an explosion. The largest geyser in the world, Steamboat Geyser, is here in YNP and there are the most geysers concentrated here in YNP too, more than anywhere in the world.

Below: These are fumaroles. Fumaroles are steam vents, so instead of boiling water, it is steam and gases that hiss out of the vents. They are hot springs actually, but with very little water, such that, before the water reaches the surface, it has already evaporated.

Below left: amazing how some hardy plants can still survive. Although they have changed color, possibly from contamination by the mineral deposits.

Below right: A beautiful azure blue hot spring. How hot springs work is so interesting. Too long to describe here, but you can check Wikipedia or the YNP website. In brief, the magma heats up water beneath ground, till it is superheated, but it remains a liquid due to great pressure from the rocks above. The water is highly energized and returns back to the surface as a hot spring.

The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is really the grandest, very big and beautiful.

But the Excelsior Spring is the most colourful. With many hues and is simply beautiful. The blue is such a pretty blue. The orange, green, yellow are all caused by the thermophiles living in the hot springs.

Both springs discharge into the Firehole River. All these were seen at the Midway Geyser Basin.

The last one is the mud pot.
Where hot water is limited and hydrogen sulfide gas is present (emitting the "rotten egg" smell common to thermal areas), sulfuric acid is generated. The acid dissolves the surrounding rock into fine particles of silica and clay that mix with what little water there is to form the seething and bubbling mudpots.

We saw mud pots at both Fountain Paintpot and Mud Volcano, but I didn't post the picture here. Just some mud with bubbles in them.

ABove: the ancient old tour bus of Yellowstone. Still used as a tour vehicle now!

We also toured the Norris Geyser Basin, and stopped by Gibbon Falls just to take the following pix. After that, we headed back cos it was ard 8pm by then.

Here at Gibbon Falls, dh asked ds1 to pose for a picture. He did the following (below left).
So dh said, not nice, pls pose again. ds1 gave a really weird laugh (below right).

Dh next said: be natural leh. again! (see next pic) aiyoh! not nice! not so fierce pls!

(see next pic) dh: arrrggh, no smile, not nice!

(see last pic) dh: ok lah ok lah. better than nothing. (although the smile was once again, so fake.)

Below would be my most fav pic for the whole of Yellowstone. I love this shot of the Snake River, cos you can see it meandering. And it is so calm, so blue, so serene. And the graceful old couple also added a lot of meaning to the pic. We don't know them of course. Just thought they were being very romantic, taking an evening sunset stroll beside the river.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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