Yellowstone Day 2

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good news! Steffie and I woke up on our air mattress which was still inflated! You wouldn't believe how good that feels even though it is still second rate sleep. We got up and reregistered our campsite so that we wouldn’t have to find another one and left just after 8am. We drove east of Mammoth Hot Springs to do a clockwise loop of the top figure 8 and stopped briefly at Undine Falls. I was keen to do a hike, but wanted to keep it short before the heat started so we stopped at the Hellroaring Creek trailhead to hike a mile down the hill to a suspension bridge crossing over the Yellowstone River. It was a nice open meadow hike with plenty of mozzies and butterflies and it didn’t take us long to reach the bridge down the bottom. Coming back up we could feel the heat of the day starting to take hold so we were happy to reach the car after passing some horses tethered at the car park for a multiday ride.

Passing the Tower-Roosevelt Warden Station, we continued east down the Lamar Valley. The valley is a known hotspot for wildlife activity and it wasn’t long before we spotted a pronghorn antelope grazing in the grassland. Just around the corner there were a few telescopes setup on a hill apparently aimed towards a wolf far across the valley out of eyesight. Not long afterwards and we were stopped abruptly by a herd of bison who were intent on crossing the road. Thankfully all the cars were stopped although one calf got stranded on the other side. We also saw a black bear far away in the distance and continued until we got to road works and turned around. To our surprise and delight the bear had wandered closer to the road and there were 20 cars parked around taking photos. In fact the bear was so curious it came closer and closer until it found a gap in the traffic and crossed the road right in front of our car! Lamar Valley was very good to us indeed!

Turning south back at the Warden Station, we stopped at Tower Falls where there was a gift shop and plenty of tourists about. The falls themselves weren’t so spectacular, but the valley revealed the yellow coloured canyon which was a sign of things to come.  Winding through Dunraven Pass, we descended to Canyon Village where the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is located. First we stopped in the information centre where we watched a small video and had a look at the exhibits. Then we drove to Uncle Tom’s point on the South Rim of the canyon to have lunch. From there we walked past a solitary bison lying in the dirt behind the toilets to see the Upper Falls. They weren’t so great so we continued walking along the South Rim Trail to Artist’s Point. On the way we found another trail called Uncle Tom’s trail which descended 328 steps to near the bottom of the falls. The stairs were quite steep, bolted to the cliff face and there were plenty of human traffic which made it interesting. The view from the bottom was worth it and the climb back up required some effort!

We continued walking east to Artist’s Point, but to be honest we should have driven. It was quite warm by then and the trail was terrible. Once we got there we were only interested and taking a picture, avoiding the tourists and hiking 25 minutes back to the car park. We were exhausted from all the walking by then and it started to rain on the drive west towards Norris Geyser Basin. When we got there the weather was really starting to change so we made a quick loop and drove back to camp. Because of the heat, we hadn’t put the fly on the tent so we were keen to get it on before the rain really kicked in. Thankfully apart from a few lightning flashes, there wasn’t much of it. It was an interesting drive through Golden Gate to get back to the camp though.

It was still early in the evening, so instead of cooking dinner we drove 2 miles north to a spot on the Gardner River where the campground ranger had told us about. It is called Boiling River and is a natural hot spring that pours into the cold river creating water warm enough to sit in! We had to hike a mile from the car park to get there and found a small thermal stream pouring into the river creating a natural hot pool. There were plenty of people about taking advantage of the natural warm water and we soon walked into the hot pool and found a nice spot that wasn’t too warm. It was hard to get a good balance between hot and cold water, but once we did we stayed for at least an hour. It was fantastic, it was pure, it was heaven on earth!

Once we managed to drag ourselves away, we had a baked bean dinner before a ranger talk on wolves which was fascinating and eye opening at the same time.
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