Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yellowstone- Part 2

Yesterday, we basically did a loop of the southern part of Yellowstone, and today, we did the northern part.  Between the two, I definitely loved the northern part more- it was very picturesque- mountainous, full of creeks, rivers, and lakes.  For part of Grace’s Junior Ranger requirements, we decided to visit some key sites.

First up, we headed to Norris Geyser Basin, an area that Jason and I kept thinking would be a perfect movie set for a sci-fi movie.  The basin contains many thermal features because not only is it on the edge of Yellowstone’s caldera, two fault lines pass under the area.  The result is a basin full of hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumeroles.  We went on a long hike through the area and discovered many amazing sights.  The odor as you walk by some of these features is quite pungent- the kids were quick to move us along when we came across one that smelled like rotten eggs (sulfur).   

(Steamboat Geyser, the world's tallest geyser- unfortunately, it doesn't erupt often.  Last time was in May 2005 when its eruption was over 300 ft.  The rest of the time, all you see is steam and bubbling water)

From Norris Geyser Basin, we headed north towards Mammoth Hot Springs.  The layers of rocks, the color from the microscopic bacteria, and the flowing waters of the springs made for quite a sight. Jason and Grace took a longer hike through the area, while Jeremy and I took our time on a shorter hike.  Afterwards, we went to the town located there, got the kids some souvenirs, and treated ourselves to some cold treats. 

We continued on our way and soon stopped to do a less-known hike to Wraith Falls.  It was a fairly short hike, yet not only did we see beautiful falls (that Grace said she wished she could slide down), we also saw a pronghorn and a marmot. 
Back on the road, it wasn’t long before we were met with tons of cars pulled over on the side of the road.  It turns out that everyone had stopped to try and get a glimpse of a black bear cub.  We joined the crowds and sure enough, caught a quick glimpse before it went off.  It was very exciting!

Our last scheduled stop was at Tower Falls.  Once again, Jeremy and I took the quick route to see the falls, while Jason and Grace took the longer route and hiked down to the river.  They were both pretty tired by the time they got back! 

We decided that it’d be best to start heading back to the hotel since we were now pretty far into Yellowstone and it’d take at least an hour to get back.  On our way, we unexpectedly stopped 4 more times, all to catch glimpses of animals.  The first time was once again, due to the dozens of cars pulled off on the side of the road- there was supposedly a mother black bear with her cub.  There was no room for us to stop or pull over, so we continued on. Not long after that, we had to slow down because the car in front of us suddenly stopped.  Seconds later, we watched a mother black bear and a cub cross the road right in front of us.  It was soooooo thrilling! 
As we continued on, we saw crowds of people gathered up on the side of the road.  There was no shoulder to pull off on, so Jason opened up our sunroof and I stood up to see if I could snap a quick picture.  I wasn’t able to, but I did get to see a grizzly cub.  Wow!  Finally, our last stop was when we spotted a huge elk grazing in a meadow.  We immediately pulled over and got out of the car for a closer look.  The antlers on this animal are simply amazing! 

We didn’t intend on arriving back at the hotel around the same time we did last night.  We didn’t sit down to eat until 7:30pm! Tomorrow will be our last visit to Yellowstone.  We are going to go visit a park ranger so Grace can earn her Junior Ranger badge, and visit a few more sites before heading through Montana.   

Favorites of today-
Jason:  Norris Geyser Basin (there were so many unique things to see all in one area)
Jane: seeing the wild animals
Grace: seeing the mother black bear and her cub cross the road
Jeremy: seeing all the black bears

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