Monday, August 13: Yellowstone to Bozeman
The Springs are dry
I felt a little guilty last night. It probably dropped to 40-45 or so. I was the most comfortable that I’ve been sleeping and slept really well. On the other hand Amy and Mike were both cold and cramped and slept really poorly.
At one point during the night, we could hear rain on the tent. This didn’t bode well for morning pictures, but it was apparently an isolated shower and it was clear afterwards. Otherwise it was so quiet that I could hear the muted rumble of the falls, even though we were some distance away from them. Amy thought, however, that I was just hearing her stomach.
Amy got up to use the bathroom around 4 or 4:30. Mike was cold, so I gave him my heavy gray fleece shirt/sweater to wear (my down jacket was still in the car). A while later, he complained that his lower half was cold, so I got up, (visited the bathroom myself), and brought back his pajama bottoms from the car.
After that, I was a bit chilled and didn’t sleep as well as the first half of the night.
I got up around 7, and left for Artist Point. In the inverse of last night, I could see the big red meatball rising over the mouth of the valley. However, it was very frustrating. The sky was clear, the sun was low, and the lighting should have been awesome. But with the smoky haze (which turned the sun red), the sun cast no shadows, and everything was muted.
There was a guy there with a scope (40-60X) which he was using to view a nest of osprey in the valley floor.
I decided to drive to the north rim to check out those vantage points and return a bit later when the sun was higher in the sky. But as I drove towards the north rim, I saw that the sun was now brighter and beginning to cast shadows, so I returned to Artist Point.
I got a bunch more pictures. The lighting was better but not spectacular. I then drove to the north rim and checked out some of those view points. I found that they had more views of the canyon and less of the falls.
When I reached the end of the north rim, I returned to the campsite to find Amy and Mike still asleep. So I returned to Artist Point, got another boat load of photos, and then returned to camp. It was then just after 9, and Amy and Mike were getting up.
We had breakfast at the cafeteria, then we did a quick run up the North Rim trail, this time including Amy and Mike. We finished up around 10:45, and then we went back to the camp site to break camp (in theory by 11).
We got the camp packed up, then because Mike wanted to, we made a quick stop at Uncle Tom’s trail again, so that Mike (and I) could do another lap down and up. Once again we got a rainbow, and once again I took a number of pictures. Then it was time to say farewell to Canyon.
We drove west to Norris and then went north to Mammoth Hot Springs. Along the way, we ran across a small waterfall next to the road that was just begging for pictures.
We got to Mammoth around 1:30, where we went to the cafe for lunch. It was the place to be, where there was a bit of a line to place one’s order.
Interestingly, each of the major lodges have a different feel. Mammoth, which is the location of old Fort Yellowstone (where the cavalry, which ran the park before the National Park Service existed) was based, has the feel of a small town. There is a town square, surrounding buildings, and ... *lawns*! I’m not sure when the last time was that I saw an actual lawn!
The next stop was the visitor’s center, where Michael got his Junior Ranger patch. Interestingly, at Yellowstone they give patches and not badges. I then got a block of ice for the cooler. I used for the first time a self-service ice machine. It was like a very oversized vending machine. I put in my money and selected the size (10-pound block). There were a few odd noises for a few seconds, and then there was a loud “THUNK” and the block dropped into a bin. Then I could open the door and remove it.
Then it was time for the main event, visiting the mammoth springs. Unfortunately this past year was a very dry year, so many of the springs there were dry. But it was still totally awesome.
First of all, they are huge! (Mammoth?) They form their own hillside several hundred feet high. We drove to the top of the basin where we could drive a one-lane road around and stop and view things. This loop was not that impressive. But then I dropped Amy and Mike off to walk down the boardwalks through the lower basin. I drove the bottom and hiked quickly to the top. I caught up with them very near the top, and then we descended through the boardwalks at a more leisurely pace.
Even mostly dry, it was totally awesome. The scale of it was way beyond what I was expecting. The few wet springs gave a vague idea of what it would look like in a normal year. There were myriads of travertine walls forming imaginary pools. I can just imagine what it would look like with those pools full of water in different colors.
It was by then maybe around 6, and we were all hot, tired, and thirsty. We stopped at the general store for some ice cream and to refill water bottles. We’ve noticed that at many of the National Parks out west they have free water bottle refilling stations at many locations, and they don’t sell bottled water.
It was finally time to sadly leave Yellowstone. But we had one final adventure to go through. There is the normal road out, but there is an old dirt road (one way, out-bound) that you can also take. Our guess is that this is the original stage-coach route. We decided to take that instead of the main road.
We’re glad we did. It went up and over some hills rather than through the valley, and with the sun getting close to setting behind the mountains to the west, the views were spectacular.
We finally bid adieu to Yellowstone (after taking pictures at the Roosevelt Arch) around 7. Not entirely surprisingly, just feet almost from the north entrance (which was the original entrance to the park) there is a large commercial area, with gobs of hotels, restaurants, and other tourist stuff. That is only 5 miles from Mammoth, so one could reasonably stay outside the park and visit the Mammoth area.
It was then time to make tracks. Our goal was Bozeman MT, which was an hour and a half away. We saw a pretty sunset of the mountains west of us, but we didn’t stop for pictures. With a late lunch and then the ice-cream, we weren’t really hungry for dinner at that time.
We got to Bozeman around 9pm. We selected a hotel, where we found that they were nominally full, but they just had a cancelation. It only had one bed, but it had a fold-out sofa bed, so we took it. We then went to a Chinese Buffet place for (a rather late) dinner.
Then we brought in just what we needed, I backed up camera flashes, recharged batteries, and wrote this report. Then it was time for bed. It will be good to sleep in a real bed after being in a tent for the past week!
We had thought that camping and eating at the restaurants would give us the best of both worlds: We would have the convenience of eating out but the cheap rates of camping. Did it really matter whether you went to your room to sleep or a tent?
The answer is “yes”. It was rather on the cold side at night, and sleeping pads are more uncomfortable than beds. It is also more of a pain having your stuff in the car and sleeping in a cramped tent rather than a room. In theory we had showers, but when you have either a short drive or a long walk to get to them, and then the hassles of a public shower, rather than something in your room or just down the hall, showers take more effort and as a result become rarer.
Still, it wasn’t a bad way to enjoy Yellowstone. I’m looking forward to a bed and a convenient shower, however.