Note: When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.

Day 9. Thursday Sep 17, 2009. Mammoth Hot Springs and Northwest Yellowstone

Only three more days of Yellowstone touring, counting today. Dangit.

The other day, we noticed a diner in the back corner of the visitors center, and last night we decided to have a big breakfast there this morning. They don't open till 9, so we'll get a delayed start out of camp. I have bacon and eggs over easy, hash browns, toast and orange juice. I've had better, but all in all it was fun. {Our server was from Turkey and I had fun surprising him with my Turkish greeting. "merhaba" I say ("hello"). He IS surprised but my Turkish runs out pretty quickly. We learn that he is here for the summer on an exchange program of some sort. Practicing his English to better his chances of a job in Turkey.} We hit the grocery store on the way out, go back to the trailer and put away the purchases, then Sharon and Shirley make lunches, and about 11 am, we are off.

Here's our path for today.

As usual, click on the map to see a larger versionl

In Hayden Valley, we get these two buffalo.

The fellow on the left is saying, "Did I have a bath yesterday? I can't remember." The other one is saying, "Mmmm. Graaaaassssss."

This fellow is laughing because he ran up to those buffalo, took a couple of pictures, then ran back to his bus. Without getting killed, and THAT'S always funny.

We leave Hayden Valley, then turn left at Canyon Village, arriving at Norris Geyser Basin. My immediate objective is to show them the way bubbles pop out of the mud at Artists Paintpots, but a sign says road closed in 4 miles. Now I knew about this road being closed to allow them to replace a bridge, but I thought we could get to the Paintpots. I head down the four miles anyway, hoping to talk them into letting us get through just to that point.

Sure enough at four miles is the road block, but just before that a road takes off to the left, and guess what, it's labeled "To Artists Paintpots." Woohoo.

I think I like this type of geyser feature the best. The material is medium-thick mud, and the bubbles just rise out, pop and the mud plops back down. I get this one fantastic picture of the bubble JUST bursting, and curved pieces of the bubble have not yet broken up.


Artists Paintpots

This bubble has risen partly out of the muck, then exploded, or shattered. Awesome stop action, don't you think? The arrow rarely occurs in nature, and it didn't in this photo. I used it as a pointer in the photo this closeup was lifted out of.

We get our fill of the mud, then turn around, head back to the junction at Norris Geyser Basin, and turn north, towards Mammoth Hot Springs.

The next interesting feature we come to is the Obsidian Cliffs. The big rocks and boulders are dull, but Sharon says obsidian itself is extremely shiny. I argue that if you broke open one of the dull-colored rocks, you'd find the obsidian, but Sharon disagrees, thinking there are pieces of shiny obsidian if we just take the time to look. But being fearful that she might be right, I hurry us into the car to head out. I still don't know exactly what the delio was there. {Bob was driving so he couldn't see that just as you get to the Obsidian cliffs, they have made sure there are no turnouts and no room to stop. You can see from the car as you go by that there are many rocks "broken " as Bob said, in which you can see the shiny black obsidian. Then the turn off where the information kiosk is, is 2-3 miles beyond that. I'm guessing people used to take pieces of the rock (even though it tells you not to) and they have made it now that you would have to walk back 2-3 miles to steal some rock (Dang)} {{Bob here. You may not know that Sharon is both a hunter AND a gatherer. She hunts for rocks and gathers good ones. S she wanted a piece of obsidian.}}


Next we come to a turnoff to Sheepeater Cliff. It's a most awesome thing. Not the turnoff. The cliff.

Sheepeater Cliff

The Shoshone Indians ate sheep, and when Buffalo Bill learned that the cliff was in the Shoshone Territory, he called it Sheepeater Cliff. OK, OK, I made up that it was Buffalo Bill. It was really Buffalo Bob from the Howdy Doody Show. OK, I don't know who it was. Somebody with Buffalo in their name. Maybe. OK, probably not.

A German couple who moved to Canada years ago still have strong accents, and since all the picnic tables are taken, they offer to share theirs with us. They ask if we know what the capital of Canada is. "Washington D.C.?" I ask. Well it's Ottawa, and I did not know that. They accuse us Americans of not knowing geography outside of the good old U.S.A. "Yes, but what about bee-eaters?" I ask. "We know about them. Oh, you said geography. What about Tierra del Fuego? We know about that."

We talked with a couple at another table, who are finishing off a fish lunch. The man had walked downstream on a path that went to a set of cascades, where he caught them. Jerry isn't going to walk down there that far, because I think he doesn't want to delay us, but he is going to try right here (No luck and sorry, video but no photos).

I click off some more photos

and then it's time to head for the next highlight.

We return to the main road and resume our trek northward, stopping at one place to see a waterfall right next to the road, and just before a rapid drop in altitude. {This was an amazing waterfall as the creek was the quietest, tiny creek until it came to the dropoff and then it turned into this beautiful waterfall. What a change in appearances. I can just imagine the creek saying, "you think I'm small and gentle, just watch this!"}

This is right next to a rapidly descending, doubling-back type road.

We shed altitude rapidly, then come to a lookout over Fort Yellowstone.


Fort Yellowstone overlook {The army used to be responsible for the safety of the Park, before they formed the National Park Service and the soldiers were housed here.}

Continuing on only a sdhort distance, we then arrive at the Upper Terraces driving loop, which we take. It's filled with incredible white calcium carbonate (or something like it) circular pool shapes, but there is water in only a small percentage. Is this place drying up? We don't know.

Here are some shots taken as we travel around the loop.

This is called Elephant Back

We exit this loop and continue down the hill, to the Lower Terraces area, just before town. These formations are just spectacular.

Liberty Cap, a dormant hot spring cone.

I am constantly saying, "Oh! Oh!" As I click off photo after photo, then video. What a stark beautiful scene. Jerry is taking photos too, and we combine our best shots to produce what you're looking at here.

We finally drag ourselves away and go into town, stopping at a gas station for a) a bathroom, b) gas, c) gummy bears, d) water, in that approximate order of importance.


Then we head on through Fort Yellowstone, and initiate Jerry and Shirley into the new state for them of Montana. Jerry says, "Don't these skies seem extra large?" Or was it Sharon who said that?

Immediately we come to a group of one stag and about ten or so female elk, in and around a stream. Fabulous.

And here is the captain of all he sees.


We take some video, then head off for Gardiner, to see what's there. The river is the Gardner but the town is Gardiner. We drive through a wonderful arch (see, a couple of pictures below), which was dedicated by Theodore Roosevelt shortly after it was completed. {When we get home, we watch the Ken Burn's documentary on the National Parks and see this arch many times. We are so glad we were here before we saw the show and get a thrill when we remember being here.}

{There are female elk around the town on the grass. They remind me of Jasper, Alberta where the females come into to town because they know that predators are less likely to follow.}

Sharon gets a huge kick out of this sign, that says, "PLEASE PICK UP AFTER YOUR PET." Heh Heh.

We double back, taking a couple of last photos.

You exit the park to get to Gardiner, so we get to re-enter, showing the Park entry people our pass.

We then drive back to Fort Yellowstone, then take the main road east, towards Tower. After a bit, we turn off the main road, and after only a short drive, we park below an old tree. It may not sound too interesting, but the tree is billions of years old. Well, OK, maybe it's millions. Anyway, it's a still-standing piece of a tree that is petrified, and I've never seen anything like this with the tree still standing up. There were three of them here, but over a period of time, souvenir takers chipped away at the other two until they fell down. Rastardo's.


Climbing the path to the petrified tree.

We run into our German-Canadian friends again and learn that she has been here twice already, but never with her husband. This is his first time.

We take the short road back to the main highway, and turn east again, coming to the Tower Falls area, where we see several amazing sights.


These columns remind us of those at Sheepeater Cliff. And of course, Wyoming's Devil's Tower.

We hurry on, hoping to get to an area perfectly suited for, and pretty much dedicated to grizzly bears. We stop at just about every pullout and all scan the huge areea, but get no movement at all in the grizzly group.


We continue on south, and come to Dunraven Pass. Coming around a corner, on a bluff, I jam on the brakes and duck into a pullout, right behind a pickup with a campershell, and two people with top quality scopes aiming at something across a little valley. "What do you have?" I ask, with crossed fingers. "A black bear," the fellow says, in what sounds like an Arkansas drawl. "Have a look," he says, and I'm on it before he gets the 'look' out of his mouth.

Fantastic. I watch a bear hurry across the slope, then get onto a tree. He disappears (she?) into leaves hiding the tree, then suddenly reappears at the very top of the tree. He's after pine nuts, and they are best at the top of these white pine trees. I try to line my camera up and shoot a picture through his scope, but I think you have to agree, the results are not perfect. Plus it looks like an eyeball.

But I assure you, senors and senoras, senioritas and caballeros, that is a black bear, and our first of the trip. We each got an excellent bare-eye look through the scope and we are chuffed. The video-thru-the-scope turns out much better (This is lifted from a video frame).

Black bear on his way to the top of a white-bark pine, at the top of which are tasty new pine cone seeds.

We have another trip which will go past this spot twice and we will try for grizzlies then. The scope-owner says that in the last day or so, people DID see a couple of grizzlies cross this area at different times. Hot Dang!

I request my compadres to point to the location of the bear. The scope fella gets a kick out of us.

THAT'S where the bear is.

We continue on home, arriving about 8 pm, and we are ever so slightly pooped.

In the remaining two days here, we want to have one big tour day, and one small day. The big day gives us a shot at wolves, grizzlies and high mountain birds. We're not sure which day to do which tour. We'll decide that tomorrow. After a light dinner, and looking at the photos and video of the day, we hit the hay. This review of the day's photos and video has become a nightly ritual, when I can get them loaded and ready.

Good day. Good night.

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