Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs

Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
Trip End Oct 01, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This morning we ate breakfast at the Lake Lodge hotel. They had a cafeteria on site so we ate there. We had scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and juice. The food was o.k. typically cafeteria type food.

We drove out to Pelican Valley near the hotel. The area is supposed to be very good for wildlife sightings. As we drove out the morning was very foggy and there was little to be seen save one single buffalo walking along the roadside. We decided that since we weren't seeing much that we would head north as there was plenty to see elsewhere. We drove back through the Fishing Bridge area and headed north.

We made a quick stop at Artist Point to take a few more pictures. The early morning and cold light really affected the quality of the pictures. There were less tourists there but the pictures weren't as good. I preferred the light quality that we found at mid-afternoon it gave a nice warm glow to the photos.

As we entered the Mt. Washburn area of the park we could see that the fire was still slowly burning and smoke was still rising. The valley was covered in some beautiful but eerie combination of fog and smoke.

We bypassed the rest of the scenic stops that we did the day before and drove up beyond Tower Roosevelt after making a quick stop at the general store. While we were there two bison came down the road from the Tower Roosevelt campground and wandered over into the parking lot where we were. I got out and took pictures and maybe got a little too close because one buffalo started to snort at me!

We made a stop at Calcite Springs. It was a really pretty outlook over the Yellowstone River but the smoke from the fire was blowing in this direction and made taking pictures in the area quite difficult.

Continuing on our way we made the turnoff for the Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley is the premiere destination within Yellowstone to see wildlife. We hoped the fire wouldn't keep the animals away or make pictures too bad in this area but it didn't look too promising because the wind was blowing in that direction. At first the smog and smoke was still pretty bad but as we rounded a bend in the road it cleared out.

Lamar Valley is really beautiful and diverse habitat for many animals. There are wide open valleys, several streams and creek, high craggy mountains, meadows, tall grasses, sage brush. As we drove on we came to a herd of buffalo nearby the road. It seems some members of the group were having an argument because two were charging at each other and ramming their heads together. It really startled the others in the group because they took off in one large dusty stampede.

Continuing further into Lamar Valley we came across two young big horn sheep grazing in a field right near the road. We were able to park the car get out and take some pictures of them. As always happens in Yellowstone once one or two cars are parked in the same place more cars pull in to see what it there. As soon as a crowd gathered both sheep took off in a leaping bound across the field and out of sight. 

Going further east into Lamar Valley lead us to a beautiful wide open meadow where the Aspen trees were in full bright yellow color against the blue sky. There were several herds of buffalo on a ridge in the valley running down hill to get to the river that flowed through the meadow. We stopped here and took pictures as well.

As we drove on I could see something in the field moving in my peripheral vision but I couldn't tell what it was. We pulled in at a turn out and got out of the car. Slowly a male pronghorn and two females moved through the fields. Once they sensed us there they quickened their pace and made a mad dash across the road and up the hillside into the mountains above. We managed to get a few pictures of them before they took off.

We were feeling rather lucky. Some people don't get to see much wildlife while in the national parks. At this point we had seen a ton of bison, moose, elk, grizzly bears, coyotes, big horn sheep, and prong horns. All we were really missing was wolves and black bear. My dad was really happy that we were seeing as much as we did. He was really hoping to see wolves though.

We continued our drive further east into the valley when we spotted a major traffic jam and knew something big had to be out. We found a parking spot in the mass confusion and got out to find out that there was a wolf pack in the valley below. They were far enough out that you could only see them with binoculars and unfortunately you couldn't get pictures of them but it was magical watching them play. The wolves play and romp with each other just like my Siberian Huskies do. As far as we could see there were about 5 wolves in this pack, they varied from black to a gray color and were slightly different sizes. They stayed very close to the river and didn't come any closer to the road, I think they could sense us.

We decided it was time to leave Lamar Valley and head west into the park. On our way out we stopped at the Petrified Tree. The tree was buried in ash and petrified from a volcano eruption millions of years ago. Its slightly interesting to see but I wouldn't go out of my way just to see it.

Heading westward toward Mammoth Hot Springs we made another stop at Undine Falls. Undine Falls is a 60 ft multitiered waterfalls that is easily accessible from a parking lot on the side of the road. Its a nice place to take a quick stretch break. We made our way into Mammoth Hot Springs and encountered some road construction in the area.

We decided to drive out to the North Entrance of the park to see the Roosevelt Arch and get gas. Along the drive out we came across a beautiful creek called Rescue Creek. We made our stop in Gardiner, Montana. We went into the Yellowstone National Park Association Bookstore and took a look around. I got my passport stamped here and we took pictures of the arch. We also went into a local souvenir store and did some shopping before returning to Mammoth Hot Springs.

We checked into the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The hotel is refurbished victorian style hotel. It was nice and it had wi-fi on premises. After our luggage was settled we went on a hike to the Mammoth Hot Springs. The hot springs are right up the road from the hotel. We started at Liberty Cap and took pictures at Palette Spring. We walked up the road to the lower terrace section and walked around and took pictures. We then hiked up to the Upper Terrace and walked all around this section. I have to admit that I was rather disappointed.  I had seen pictures of the the Mammoth Hot Springs full of water and they look beautiful, while we were there everything was rather dried out and not worth the hike in the heat.

We made our way back to our hotel and decided to have dinner at the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room. It was a little fancy looking and a little pricey but no one felt like burgers or fast food so this was our option. I had a fantastic Goat Cheese Salad and Carmel ice cream for dessert. Before our dinner was served a bull elk and three females wandered over by the restaurant so we went outside and took pictures of them.

After dinner we went outside to find 30 female elk and one bull settled in on the lawn in front of the hotel. Ofcourse we took a ton on pictures. The Rangers set up roadblocks to keep you from getting too close to the elk. The bull bugled at all the females anytime one wandered too far away. We watched the show for quite sometime. I went into the visitor center and had my passport stamped before retiring to the room for the night.

Things Learned on Day 4:

1. Pelican Valley:

2. The time of day, light and fogginess will affect the quality of the photos you take in Yellowstone, especially at Artist Point. I found the light to be very nice at mid-afternoon.

3. Calcite Springs :

4. Lamar Valley:

5. Petrified Tree : 

6. Undine Falls: 
7. Roosevelt Arch:
8. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel :

9. Mammoth Hot Springs:

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