Tuesday: We began driving west from Canyon, and upon reaching the Norris Junction we turned north toward Mammoth Hot Springs.
8:30 a.m.: We stopped when we saw that other vehicles had pulled over. A bison appeared to be dozing in the field, but no one was paying attention to it, instead looking at one or more elk. Some people were perhaps within 50 yards of the elk, and Yigal also took off to get closer. But by the time I got my telephoto lens onto my camera, it seemed that the elk was beginning to move away. Therefore I satisfied myself with using the long lens to close the gap between us. I took this photo at 200mm, and then cropped the image so that the elk would fill the frame:
Before we left, the bison stood up, and I captured a photo of him, as well:
8:56 a.m.: Continuing our drive, We stopped briefly to admire and photograph the Gallatin Range of mountains, where unfortunately some other tourists walked into the field to disrupt my photographic efforts. The mountains seen in this photo, about 6 miles to the west, include Antler Peak and Quadrant Mountain:
9:12 a.m.: We continued on to Mammoth Hot Springs. Two tons of calcium carbonate in solution flow through the springs every day, creating travertine deposits and mounds. The parking lot gave us an overview of the springs:
We found the walkway and began exploring.
Some of the geyser basins and other areas had signs identifying each individual feature, but I didn’t see that here. Thus, I’ll just present many of the photos without commentary and without specific identification.
A huge mound of the travertine, a type of limestone:
11:26 a.m.: After touring Mammoth Hot Springs, we continued driving north for a few miles, past the hotel, stores, visitor center, and other buildings at Mammoth. A few miles to the north, we reached the border between Wyoming and Montana. There were parking lots on either side of the road, and we parked and walked east to the Gardner River, following an easy path about 1/2 mile south, where a hot spring called “The Boiling River” feeds into the Gardner. The scalding water of the Boiling River mixes with the cold water of the Gardner to produce a bathtub-warm area enjoyed by bathers:
The hot spring is not quite boiling, but it is close to it:
A lady at the Camper Services building at Canyon had suggested the Blacktail Plateau Drive as a place where we might see animals. This is a one-way dirt road that parallels the loop road between Mammoth and the Tower Junction. Thus, we drove south to Mammoth and then turned east toward Toward. Upon reaching the dirt road, we undertook the bone-jarring drive, which circled 7875′ Crescent Hill, but did not see any animals.
1:47 p.m.: After completing the dirt road drive and returning to the paved loop road, we drove a fraction of a mile to see a petrified tree. At one time there were two petrified trees there, but visitors to the park stole the second tree piece-by-piece. Now, a fence protects the remaining tree.
There was pretty scenery near the petrified tree, looking back toward the Blacktail Deer Plateau through which we had just driven:
2:14 p.m.: We drove west on the loop road, back toward Mammoth, stopping at Undine Falls, a waterfall adjacent to the road. The upper falls is 60′, the lower falls 38′:
“Alas, poor Yorick!” Someone pointed out a skeleton on the opposite side of Gardner Canyon atop which we were standing. Yigal thinks he can see horns on the skull and concludes it’s a bison, but I am not enough of a naturalist to say conclusively.
We then drove south, past the Norris Junction, past the Madison Junction, and on to the Upper Geyser Basin, where we claimed front-row seats on a bench and waited for Old Faithful.
4:50 p.m.: It was about 10 minutes early:
We returned to our Canyon campground and were planning on waking early to travel to Grand Teton on Wednesday. However, when we visited the Camper Services building for our showers, we saw a sign on the door that explained that as a result of fires in the park, the road we would have taken was blocked seven miles to our south. A very long detour was available by going west and south through Old Faithful and West Thumb, but that would have added a significant delay to our round trip drive. As we had some time constraints associated with the Grand Teton hike (we had to finish the hike by 6:00 p.m. to catch a boat shuttle), we didn’t want to deal with a long detour. We therefore decided to delay the Grand Teton tour until Thursday, at which time we hoped the road would be reopened.
Coming up: Wednesday we visit many more geyser basins.