I made & ate breakfast this morning beside a beautiful river between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village while watching a small herd of buffalo graze in a field on the other side. Now that’s my idea of how to start the day….
So before I get started, here are a couple of maps of Yellowstone so you can familiarize yourself (if you haven’t been) and follow along as I describe the different areas….
After breakfast I drove north toward the Canyon Village area. After 10 minutes or so I came to my first (of many) Yellowstone geysers and hot springs for this trip at Mud Volcano. Now, I will admit that geysers and hot springs are not my favorite thing and I have seen some of them in Yellowstone before, but since most of Yellowstone is over a giant super-volcano (Wiki) and thermos are such a huge part of the park, it is something you should take time to experience while you are here. So I pulled over and took a quick tour around the Mud Volcano geysers…
The Canyon area of Yellowstone is so named because of a large canyon named the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”. This canyon contains two large and very beautiful waterfalls called Upper and Lower falls….very creative huh :-). So my first stop in the Canyon area was Upper falls. While it was much more crowded than I prefer, the falls and the canyon were very beautiful….
My next stop after Upper falls was, of course, Lower falls. Unlike the Upper falls which was only a 200 yard walk from the car the Lower falls required a 1/2 mile hike (I think) with a drop of 600′. Of course this also required a climb to return. And while there were more people on it than I expected it was not nearly as crowded as the Upper falls. Unfortunately there was no way to view the actual falls from this location as you stood at the top of the drop but the canyon was beautiful……
After my hike back to the parking area I made it back to the main road and continued north. In the very little bit of reading I had done on hikes in Yellowstone I decided I would do the hike to Mt. Washburn (AllTrails). It was a very nice hike. Only 1500′ over 7 miles with an old style western fire tower at the summit. While I was standing at the top looking out and taking pictures I noticed two fat chipmunks (seriously, they looked like small ground hogs! ha ha) getting closer and closer to my bag. The next thing I knew one of them was trying to get into my bag! Obviously these fat little guys had learned to make a living being fed by people at the top. I do not feed wild animals for this exact reason.
So every time I would chase them away they would go down and “harass” a couple sitting at the other end of the log. These little guys went back and forth about 5 times (they were not feeding them either) before I struck up a conversation with them (the couple at the end of the log not the chipmunks, ha ha). When I asked them where they were from they told me Ft. Washington PA, which is like 30 minutes from my house. Are you starting to see why I named my web site bigplanetsmallworld? The more you travel the more you realize how very small this world really is.
We talked for about 20 minutes about our lives and what led us to be here at the time. After she walked away her husband told me that she is a two time cancer survivor and this trip was a celebration of her last victory! Unfortunately, she was involved in an auto accident about a month before they left so she was dealing with that as well (the patch over her eye). And she just hiked to the top of this mountain…awesome! Before I left to head down I gave them my contact information and they said they would contact me when they returned to Philly. I hope to get together with them when I get back and continue our conversation. What neat people.
During the hike up I briefly met another couple from Minnesota who had been to Yellowstone many times. On my trip down I saw them again and decided to slow down and get to know them a little better. We ended up hiking, and talking, together for about 30 minutes. They had hiked all over Yellowstone numerous times and she really knew it well. Turns out her father had worked in Yellowstone for many years (before he retired) so she basically grew up here. They also had friends who had volunteered in Yellowstone for over 30 years. So I took advantage of the opportunity to get their thoughts on the best hikes around Yellowstone. As we walked they kept thinking of different hikes, many more than I could possibly remember, but I did remember one, Avalanche Peak (more on this in two days). When we reached the parking area I thanked them, they wished me luck and we headed our separate ways.
As I continued to drive north I was on my way to the Lamar Valley (click the images button at the top to see great images of the Lamar Valley) as I had been told by a few that was a good area to see wildlife late in the day. About a mile from the turn to Lamar I came across some stopped cars. This is usually an indication of wildlife. As I got closer I could see the source of traffic jam was a pretty good sized black bear.
After I made it through the traffic jam I drove a ways out through the valley and saw some pronghorn sheep.
I didn’t spend as much time in the Lamar valley as I would have liked because I wanted to get to the north entrance to the park and a place someone I met at the Devil’s tower (see “Devils Tower, Bighorn NF, Cloud Peak – Days 11, 12, 13” blog) had told me about. So once again I headed north.
When I arrived a Mammoth Hot Springs there was quite a bit of commotion in the center of town. When I got to where I could see I saw a small herd of elk grazing on the green grass in the middle of town. So of course I stopped and took some pictures like all the other tourists :-).
After a few pictures I headed on about 12 miles to the north entrance to the park. Just outside of the north entrance is a cool little town called Gardiner, MT . I drove around a little and it looked like it would be a cool place to stay with easy access to the north side of Yellowstone. I got some gas and grabbed a quick bite and headed back into the park to my final destination for the day (the one I had been told about)…a place called Boiling River.
Boiling River is basically a natural hotspring with a kind of twist. The river water is cool (not too cold) but at this specific location there are hotsprings on one side of the river, and these babies are WAY HOT! So you wade into the river and find your perfect distance from the hotsprings (ie, how hot do you want to be) and then sit or lay in the water. If you get too cold you move closer to the hotsprings and if you get too hot you move a little further away. Bottom line, it was an awesome way to end the day!
My original plans were to stay in the Mammoth area tonight and get a back country permit early in the morning and backpack into either Electric Peak (AllTrails) or Mt. Holmes (AllTrails) for the next 2 days. Unfortunately however, I didn’t know (until today) that the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris (see Yellowstone map above) was scheduled to be closed at 10 PM tonight and remain closed through Oct. for maintenance! This road closing made the trailheads for both hikes inaccessible (technically you could get to Electric Peak but it would require an 80 mile back-track to get to my next destination). When I heard this I stopped at the back country office just to confirm and they confirmed it. No way around it and no other options. Needless to say I was bummed!!! So after quite a bit of deliberation I decided to drive on, tonight before 10 PM, to the Norris area and move on with my trip.
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