Idaho 2011, Day 9—Yellowstone NP, No. 2

We drove eastward to West Yellowstone, through the west entrance to Yellowstone NP and Madison Junction, then northward to Mammoth Hot Springs. 
IMG_1300Mammoth Hot Springs.  Crowds this year are far more than we have experienced in the past, and parking spaces at places of interest and exhibits are hard to find.  After finally finding a space perhaps a quarter of a mile away, near the Mammoth Hot Springs horse corral, we made our way to the Lower Terrace Trail.  My, how these thermal features have changed, even since the early 2000’s when Kay and I were last here.  This is my 5th time to visit Yellowstone NP, the first being in the early 1990s, and many of the terraces are gone; just dried up and crumbled away.  It was quite disappointing to look forward to a particular thermal feature, then find it no longer existed.  Perhaps because of the crowds, there seemed to be more debris in the features as well, such as caps, paper, and coins.  IMG_1313Nevertheless, there were many “pretty” features, with rich hues of blue, gold, green, and white.  After walking the Lower Terrace Trail, we drove the short distance to the Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor’s Center for a bathroom break and lunch, finding an unoccupied picnic table behind the building in the shade of a large tree.  In our visit here a few days ago, we had wondered where the elk had gone which always seemed to be grazing on the grass at the Visitor’s Center.  IMG_1997As we left the picnic table, we were pleasantly surprised to see some cow elk grazing in the adjoining lawn area.  We drove to the turn around, and saw a young bull elk making his way to join the cows.  We hope the National Park Service continues to allow the elk to graze near the Visitor’s Center.  The Upper Terrace Trail can be driven, or hiked, and we chose to hike it, giving us access to all the thermal features.  The number of thermal features in this part of Mammoth Hot Springs has actually increased, and is now the better part of the two terrace trails.  Again, there were many colored pools, and several new features with hot, steamy, particulate-laded water in the process of growing.
Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NPNorris Geyser Basin.  To complete a thorough tour of the northwestern part of Yellowstone NP, we hiked the long trails of Norris Geyser Basin after Mammoth Hot Springs—we found one of the few remaining parking spaces.  We did not see any active geysers, but saw lots of steam vents and pools.  Again, some of the thermal features we had seen in previous visits no longer existed, but not as many as at Mammoth Hot Springs.  The good Lord has blessed us with being able to visit here several times, and witness, firsthand, the many changes that are occurring.  Kay in Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NPFor me on this particular trip, this was the most interesting area visited thus far (except for animal sightings).  As the afternoon wore on, there seemed to be less visitors, making the area a bit more pleasing as well.  Despite the warm temperatures (low 70s), team was visible throughout the area, and even clouding camera lenses several times.
On our drive back to the RV park, we got caught in a traffic jam for about 30 minutes—a huge, bull elk was grazing on the side of the road.  By the time we got there, a ranger was waving traffic by, and we did not get a good photo.
We walked so much today that our bodies were stiff, and I managed to get a blister.  Tired from all the activity, dinner was leftovers made into fajitas—not too bad.

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