Today we got to Gardiner, right by the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The Park is in Wyoming, with a couple edges in Montana and a little slice in Idaho.
We planned to see Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Geyser Basin today before dark, and the rest of Yellowstone tomorrow, but like most of the things we've done on our trip so far, Mammoth took longer than we expected.
On the drive into the park, the road follows the Gardner River (not spelled the same as the town):
Then we got to the hot springs, where they had a sign announcing "Mammoth Restrooms." I didn't get a photo, but I understand the restrooms are really big.
The Hot Springs aren't just springs of hot water that come out of the ground. They have minerals and microorganisms that love the heat, and these additions to the water leave deposits that build over time. I had a field day with my camera.
Where the springs are still flowing, the deposits color the mineralized hillside.
And where the springs have stopped (I imagine because the calcifications block the water flow), the deposits become gray, and over time the vegetation starts to grow again.
This is a closeup of the mineral water, and even the twigs that have fallen in are becoming calcified.
My mom can't do a lot of walking, because her ankles were damaged in a car accident over twenty years ago. So she looked at the lower springs and then waited in the car while I took my camera for all the heavy climbing. As I walked around, I listened to accents and foreign languages. Southerners. Australians, maybe--they didn't say enough for me to be sure. A family speaking German. A French mom whose two teenagers were bickering en français--too cute. Asian parents with American-speaking kids. And a French couple I talked to for a while in English. Places like Yellowstone attract people from everywhere, and it's a joy for me to listen and talk to them.
One of the pools on top of the terraces, at Canary Spring, where I talked to the French couple:
This last section of pools, Canary Spring, looked worth the walk for my mom, so I went back down to the car and we drove around to the parking lot I had spotted near the spring.
We started walking out along the boardwalk (no walking on the thermal deposits is allowed), and it started to rain a little. I tucked my camera under the hem of my shirt for protection. Then it started raining harder, but we were halfway there, so we kept going, even though everyone else was clearing out in a hurry.
In the rain, the pools lost their mirror effect and took on an unworldliness that I loved.
Finally for some wildlife we saw on our way up to see the Canary Spring. These are elk, and they were grazing along the road.
At Moiese, the video we watched said that the Native American name for elk is "wapiti," which means something like, "light-colored rump." That made me really glad that, unlike elk, I'm not known for my butt.
We'll be back at Yellowstone tomorrow.