Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Exploring Yellowstone, Part One: Mammoth Hot Springs and the Canyon

We arrived at Bozeman airport in the early afternoon on Saturday, and made the roughly 2-hour drive to the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana. We were immediately greeted by this critter:
On previous trips to Yellowstone, I have seen groups of several pronghorns grazing together in northern Yellowstone; right by the entrance, as a matter of fact, where we saw this one. This time he (she??) was alone.

Once we arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs, we had time to explore the village and were greeted by quite a few more animals:I've never seen a magpie, as far as I know. They seemed to feel right at home at Mammoth.
A mother elk and her calf

These prairie dogs made their home on the lawn of the hotel.

We even had time to attend Saturday evening Mass at the Mammoth chapel. My oldest son got to be an altar server (in shorts and a T-shirt!) and my younger two served as ushers.

The next morning, we took a ranger-led walk through the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces. I had heard rumors that the springs at Mammoth were drying up, and I was curious to see if this were true. We did find that the most famous terrace in the Park, Minerva Terrace, was indeed dried up, and it had been since the mid-1990's. The ranger told us that the amount of water in the springs at Mammoth have stayed constant for many decades; so when one spring dries up, another one pops up somewhere else.
Minerva Terrace as it used to look...

...and now this is how we found it.

This is a year-old spring that's so new they haven't named it yet.

There is plenty of water at Mammoth Hot Springs!

The view of the terraces from the hotel

Folks say this looks like a scary Halloween ghost mask.

Later we piled into our rental truck and took a drive around the northern part of the Park, visiting Tower Fall, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Norris Geyser Basin. The highlight of the day was a stop along the North Rim Drive of the canyon, and a half-mile hike downhill--with many switchbacks--to the brink of Lower Falls. Staring down at the powerful waterfall from above was amazing!
The Yellowstone River just before it plunges over Lower Falls

This view made me dizzy!

the view of the canyon from the top of Lower Falls

Lower Falls from a safer distance.

Of course, the hike back up the trail was a little bit more challenging than the walk down, and we definitely were breathing a little harder because of the higher altitude. It was well worth it!

We saw lots of evidence of the forest re-establishing itself after the devastating fires of 1988.

The next day we began our four-day adventure into the backcountry on horses. I'll tell you all about THAT in a later post!

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures Sharon, looks like a wonderful vacation!


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