May 24, 2010 Day 34 Heading North to Mammoth

We were so cold last night. It was 47 degrees inside the RV and 33 outside when we got up this morning. PTCC jumped in bed with us and snuggled until 7 am. We got up and ate breakfast in the cold with the gas heat going until 8 am when we turned on the generator for 30 minutes before we left to head north. We had to brush the snow off the car because it had 1.5 inches on it. The road to the south entrance was closed today because of too much snow.

We head out towards Canyon Village and of course see bison grazing in the valleys, we also see another headed up the side of the road again. I wonder if it is the same one from yesterday? We stop in Canyon for a second to use restrooms and take a quick look in the visitor center but we don’t stay long because we will stop on the way back. Our idea is to go to the north entrance and turn around and come back and do do most of our stops then. We continue on to Norris and take a right to go north. We do stop at a pull out to take a picture of Roaring Mountain which is covered in snow. Good thing I put snow boots in the car for PTCC and me. We then drive until we come to Sheepeater Cliff where the Shoshone Indians lived. It is all basalt lava that looks stacked in columns and marmots are said to live in the joints. We weren’t lucky enough to see any of them. We continue on past Golden Gate where we ended up driving through the clouds where it was very hard to see anything. We finally get it to Mammoth Hot Springs. PTCC spied some mule deer on the side of the mountain so we once again stopped to take pictures and where we pulled off was the horse ranch near Mammoth. Good thing we saw it because we were going to try to ride horses here too but the ranch is closed to rides right now. The Yellowstone newspaper said it was open so that saves a drive back up here later. Then we looked around and saw part of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. It was the upper part and very beautiful with all the different colors mixed together.

We drive through Mammoth and see the Mammoth Hotel and one of the Yellow Tour buses in the parking lot. On the road outside of town we pass a wooden sign that said entering Montana. We come to the exit of the park and go through the entrance arch and are now in the town of Gardiner, MT. We park and walk back to the arch to take our pictures. Then get back in the car and go back into the park through the north entrance. The entrance station is not as nice as the one in West Yellowstone even though it is the only one open all year long. We come to another sign that advertises the 45th parallel. This is the halfway point between the north pole and the equator. We then see the sign that says entering Wyoming, which is on the back side of the entering Montana sign. We make it back to Mammoth and stop at the visitors center and look around. It seems really small compared to the others in the park but it is in an original building from 1909. Most of Mammoth is part of Fort Yellowstone when the army ran the park until the National Park service was formed. There are lots of historic buildings in the town. We then head over to the lower terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs to look at the geysers there. This area is one of the world’s best examples of travertine -depositing hot springs. The features here are changing constantly so every time you see them they will look different from the last time. The Minerva Terrace looked like huge blocks of ice stacked on top of each other in a staggered array. No water was running down them at the time. The Palette Spring looked active and we also took pictures of the Liberty Cap with looks like a large African anthill. We then walked on another boardwalk to get to the front of the Palette Spring to see the water cascading down it creating awesome colors. The travertine pools in the Main Terrace looked as smooth as glass with steps coming down.

We ate lunch and warmed up then drove up to the Upper Terrace area. This is on a one way road that is very narrow so no RVs or buses can drive on it because of the way it twists back and forth. We stopped and took photos of the Orange Spring Mound, which was as the names implies bright orange. It actually had water seeping down it. Then we went to see White Elephant Back Terrace which did look like the back end of an elephant lying down. Then on to Angel Terrace which wasn’t as impressive since the water wasn’t flowing down it.

Then we get back on the road and drive until we see a side road that leads into a miniature canyon across from the Hoodoos. They are huge boulders made from travertine that look kind of spooky to people. The fog has become so thick it is very hard to see beyond the road. We have 3 NP rangers pass us with their lights and sirens on in this area so it’s possible there was an accident in the fog. We head back to the Golden Gate, so called because of the color of the rocks. It is a bridge that pretty much hangs suspended from the cliff. You do not realize it unless you are traveling northbound since you can’t see the structure from the southbound road. Here is also where we found Rustic Falls. They are about 40 feet high and if you don’t look for them you will miss them because they are not marked by any signs.

As we come to Norris we decide we are still good on time so we will stop at the Geyser Basin here for a walk around. They seem to be pretty active with some beautiful blue pools of water. There are also some bacteria pools which make the water green. So we walk the boardwalk area through the Porcelain Basin to view all the geysers. We were able to see 2 actually in action. The colors come from chlorophyll(green), sulfur(yellow), iron(dark brown and red), and algae(dark blackish green). Some of these get up to 200 degrees F.

Then we headed up the road to the Canyon Visitors Center to look more in depth at their displays. We hammed around with the bison display acting like PTCC was petting and kissing the baby bison, and I was kissing the back end of the adult bison. It looks really funny in the picture. CC didn’t want a picture of him with the bison, I don’t know why? We looked at their volcano and caldera information and then want to the bookstore. We were stopping by the sporting goods store there as well because on my hike around the Lower Geyser Basin at Mammoth I discovered my hiking shoes soles were peeling apart so I was looking for new shoes. As it turned out they had 2 types that fit and were a good price so I was able to replace the old ones today. It was not so fun walking everywhere in my snow boots but I was lucky I had them in the car with me. At the store CC was able to get a photo of a tiny chipmunk that was hanging around the trash can area. It looked like it could fit in your hand. Hopefully PTCC doesn’t see the pictures or she will want one as a pet. The last thing we did today was stop at the Fishing Bridge visitor center. It isn’t open yet but the view of the mountains and lake behind it were beautiful at the end of the day so we had to get a photo of them. Then back to the RV to charge the batteries and warm it up for tonight. Early dinner and another early night. Tomorrow we will try to see Grand Tetons if the road is open. PS It is starting to snow again. When will it ever end?

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