My goal is to raise $9,490 for breast cancer research - a dollar for every day my mother, Lorraine Raimondo, battled breast cancer. I'm driving across the country raising funds for every mile I drive.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Yellowstone and Teton National Parks


For the past 5 days I’ve been on a camping trip in Yellowstone and Teton National Parks. The trip was set up through a company named OARS ( It was an incredible kayaking trip through gorgeous scenery. Back in 1872 Yellowstone was the first place in the world to have ever been declared a national park. The park is actually the result of volcanic eruptions dating back 1.3 million years ago and again 640,000 years ago. The same heat that powered those volcanoes currently fuels the geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots that are scattered throughout the park.

There were 7 of us on the trip plus a trip leader and 3 guides. There’s Doug, a 27 year old in the airforce, and his wife Rosabelle who is 22. Then the Scott clan made up of 3 sisters, Sharon, Elizabeth, Pat and her daughter Shannon. Well, nothing makes a trip more than the people you are with. And I’ll give you a tip, next time you are planning a vacation figure out where the Scott family is going and book the same trip! These ladies are a laugh a minute. There’s Sharon a police officer in Jacksonville, FL who’s fire side stories about life on the job kept us all in stitches. Then there’s Pat who’s quick witted and tells it like it is and her daughter Shannon. And lastly Elizabeth is a therapist in Salt Lake City who’s in tip top shape! Brian from OARS let us know the logistics of the next few days and introduced us to Sam, one of our river guides. Sam’s a laid back sort of guy who’s chock full of information about the river, its wildlife and history. Our trip leader, Gordo, would be joining us the next day.
Sharon, Shannon, Pat and Elizabeth
We spent the first day kayaking the West Thumb Geyser Basin section of Yellowstone Lake. The water is pretty high due to some excessive run off, so some of the geysers were under water and we could kayak right up to them! We were greeted by Jen and Nick, our 2 other guides, at Flagg Ranch campsite where we’d be spending the night. It would also be our last chance to take a shower for the next 4 days. Now what I’ve learned is that there are 2 types of camping. There’s the sleeping in an RV at a campsite that has all the necessities you’d have in a hotel: hot showers, store, and restaurant. That’s what you saw in Flagg Ranch. Some of these RV’s would put a rock star’s tour bus to shame. And in the ladies room I found a row of women lined up in front of the mirrors with hair dryers, curlers and can’s of hairspray bigger than my head! That wasn’t the kind of trip I was on. Here’s what my home sweet home was for the next 5 days:

And it was cold at night! It can drop from 70’s in the day to 30’s at night. But I’d picked me up a down jacket at an outlet store in Montana along with plenty of long underwear, so I was set.
In Yellowstone there are signs all over the place warning you about bears and what you need to do. Each night you needed to remove from your area anything that would attract bears. This included not only any food items but also anything scented like toothpaste, shampoo, and sunscreen. Who knew bears even used these products! These items would need to be stored in a bear proof container. Needless to say, I was very sure to follow this rule.
I awoke pretty early the next morning and quickly learned that we’d already lost 2 of our campers. Poor Rosabelle was up all night puking in her tent, outside her tent, in the restroom. Eventually they took her to the hospital. Seems she was dehydrated even though our guide told us a hundred times to keep drinking water. Now Rosabelle is a pretty delicate type of lady. She and Doug were in a double kayak and if you looked close enough you’d notice that Rosabelle’s paddles never really went into the water. Doug was doing all the rowing. I later found out that Doug had told her she only had to dip the oars in an inch and that’s what she did. She held the oars and dipped the left side into the water an inch then the right side and inch and so on and so on. cute.
Anyway, I headed over to the ladies room for my last shower. I’m scrubbing away and I begin to hear some low pitched grunts and heaves, like someone grumpily starting their day. The only thing that concerned me was that the pitch was so low. Hmmm. Did I go into the wrong bathroom? Is this the men’s room? Well, turns out I was in the right bathroom but the man that looked like an old prospector was in the ladies room showering next to me. Ew.
We packed up our stuff and headed over to the Snake River for a 6 mile kayak to Jackson Lake which would be followed by another 6 miles of kayaking to camp. We were supposed to dock for a bit and have lunch on shore. However, we were a bit behind schedule due to the Rosabelle incident and decided to do lunch flotilla style. This turned out to be great! They tossed us out some fruit and then a salami and cream cheese sandwich on a bagel. Well, I don’t know if I was just so hungry from rowing what was probably 8 miles by then, but that was the best sandwich I’ve ever had. I rowed my kayak off to the side and scarfed that bagel down like a starving dog that’d just found a steak bone.
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Sam serves up lunch

We then kayaked another 4 miles to set up camp in Colter. Now this was camping! We were truly out in the wilderness. Not even a trace of humans would be found. This was our first opportunity to get acquainted with the Groover. What’s the Groover you ask? Well, it’s a portable toilet.
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The Groover

The rule is that if you are relieving yourself of water then a nearby bush is the way to go. But if it’s something else, well then you’re off to the groover. Now Elizabeth Scott is a sharp lady but maybe not so good with names. She immediately confused Gordo our trip leader, with Groover the toilet much to the amusement of the other guides. So Gordo became Groover, and the groover became a thousand different names throughout the trip. The groover was set up a bit away from the camp in the woods. Frankly, it was a scary walk to the groover what with just a bag of toilet paper to defend you.
That night we feasted on steak and salmon, yum! Around the campfire Sharon cracked us up with cop stories.
We were lucky enough to have Nick as a guide because this fuzzy young man entertained us each night playing the guitar and singing. Nick reminded me of a current day Spigoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Doing his own thing and every once in a while blurting out quite the profound statement.

After sitting around the campfire for a bit listening to Nick strum I cleaned up for the night by the wash bucket with ice cold water! I made a point to brushed my teeth for about 30 minutes. I wanted that salmon – a bear’s favorite dish – off my breath before I headed to my tent. I also hung around the fire a bit more to mask any lingering food aromas that might have absorbed into my clothes.

The next morning would be my first official visit with the groover. I grabbed the toilet paper bag and headed into the woods. Now, to keep bears away you are supposed to make noise so you don’t surprise them. I stomped my way over to the groover and grabbed a seat so to speak. Well, as soon as I sat down I heard a low to the ground yet heavy animal run past. It sounded like it had hooves?? I quickly surmised that it was too short to be a bear. But then I thought, well what the heck is it running from?! I immediately began clapping my hands to scare anything away. To give you the full picture, it’s me in the woods sitting on a green box with my pants around my ankles, clapping my hands while darting my eyes around in every direction. This worked on scaring away the nearby squirrels and apparently also my poop because after that nothing was coming out of anywhere. I returned to camp without accomplishing much over at the groover.
We spent the rest of the day paddling over to Grassy Island. That’s it below – the lighter green patch in the distance.

I can’t express enough the beauty of what surrounded us. It truly is an amazing place to kayak around.
Once on grassy island the Scott ladies and I attempt to bath in the lake. This water is COLD!! I’m not sure I get the shampoo out of my hair but I do feel cleaner!
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We dry off in the sun while the guides fix us up some lasagna. Doug and Rosabelle have rejoined the group however, unfortunately now Shannon is throwing up. She’s holed up in her tent leaving only for some sprints to the groover. I decide maybe our trip motto should be “we ain’t leaving ‘til we’re heaving.” Meanwhile, Sharon, Elizabeth and I decide to sing every song we’ve ever heard of by the campfire. What we lack in singing ability – which is everything including tone, pitch and the right lyrics– we make up for with passion and volume.
Sharon, me and Elizabeth sing by the fire

We wake up the next day to the smell of blueberry pancakes mmmm and coffee. We then kayak over to Moran Canyon to hike along the waterfall. Again, in order to not surprise a bear we need to make noise. Well, we continued our passionate singing which I believe resulted in scaring away anything living for miles.
Our guide, Jen, on the hike
Back at the camp we sunned on the snout boat and then played charades by the campfire. It was easy to guess Sharon’s clues since she always mouthed the words.
The last day we floated on a raft down the Snake River at the base of the Grand Teton. We saw bald eagles, blue herons, pronghorn and marmot. A magnificent end to a wonderful trip. 
Sam takes us down the river


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