Yellowstone National Park - Mammoth Hot Springs

Trip Start May 25, 2009
Trip End Jun 23, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Saturday, June 13, 2009

 After our late check in last night, we fell into bed tired and (I was) a bit disoriented from all the sudden changes in itinerary. But in the morning we noticed that the party next door to us brought a cat tree on their trip (and assumably a cat or two too!) and at the other end of the park someone has a Country Coach just like ours but slightly newer.   The river view sure is nice too if we have any time to sit here and enjoy it!

We left our RV behind on the River's Edge and took the toad into Yellowstone hoping to drive the Beartooth Highway from Cooke City to Red Lodge and back, but as usual we were off to a late start and almost as soon as we got inside the park we realized that the weather probably wasn’t going to hold for long.  Dark clouds were everywhere, and we had been warned that Beartooth was at such high elevation that we wouldn’t get too see much through the clouds if it wasn’t a nice day in the first place!    So we decided to scrap that idea and spend today covering the upper loop of the park instead, with the intention of getting up earlier tomorrow to try again with the highway.

There were several highlights today, including two large geothermal wonders and two exciting animal sightings!  Mammoth Hot Springs (use link for online tour) lies just inside the park boundaries and next door to a large hotel, visitor’s center, employee housing, and a variety of other old buildings that make up a "city" the size of which you would never expect to see inside a national park.  Many people also confuse this place with Mammoth Lakes in California and don’t believe us when we tell them they have entirely the wrong state!

 I was also really impressed with the Norris Geyser Basin which is located on the west side of the park squarely between the two loops.  This valley is a well-hidden collection of almost every kind of hot pot, spring, steam vent, etc. that you can see separately in other areas of the park.  We turned into the parking lot by accident the first day we were in the park and didn’t even realize how much was there to see!  A 1.5-mile trail links the features together and the panoramic meadow views were really stunning with all the steam rising up out of the forest.

As for animal “tails”, we spent time looking at those of bison and bear.  About 10 male bison had caused a traffic jam on our way to Canyon Village, and at first we couldn’t figure out why the cars ahead of us were moving so slowly; perhaps road construction???  When we caught up we got a REALLY close view – don’t miss the video!!!!  Right after we got out of this mess the clouds opened up and really started pouring rain for the better part of the afternoon.  Even got some hail early on!

 Then in the evening on the east side of the upper loop, much higher in elevation, we “bearly” caught a glimpse of another park resident right before he disappeared up over the ridge out of sight.  I did manage to squeak in one decent picture though – of his bottom!  :P

On the way home we decided to stop in at the RV park we had originally wanted to stay in in Gardiner, right outside the Yellowstone entrance but this was the park that wouldn’t let us check in late.  We figured it would be good info for next time…  Until an employee banged on the side of our truck and (rather rudely) told us that we should have checked in at the office because they “don’t like people on the property”!  Well!  I was only too happy to leave that crummy property immediately to get back to our nice one!

On the way home Jim stopped near a field where there were several baby horses ranging from a month or two old to a few months.  I played with those for a little while but didn’t take any pictures because we were in a bit of a hurry to get back to River’s Edge by 9:00 PM for the infamous and elusive huckleberry ice cream!  Unfortunately we missed another campfire, but it was staff member Wendy’s birthday so the park owners had baked cake and even saved us each a piece!  The ice cream was on the house too and it was delicious – imagine being treated like family here after the first park kicked us out!  We kept saying how lucky we were to have happened upon this place by accident; I guess things have a way of working out for the best after all.  :)

Tomorrow should be another relatively slow news day as we are planning to relocate the RV back to West Yellowstone.  Hopefully we will have some time to grocery shop or hike in the afternoon, and then we'll finish up the lower part of the lower loop on Monday.  Stay tuned!
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