Day 31 – Yellowstone – Canyon & Mammoth Hot Springs

We were up early and on our way back into Yellowstone by 8am. Not only did our room not have a fridge, it also had no coffee maker so we had to get coffee from the concession stand the motel owners are running. I’ve become so used to even the cheap motels having fridges and coffee machines that it has come as quite a shock to stay in a place with none of those. The owner kept telling me it is because they are out in the middle of nowhere, but I don’t see how that keeps them from putting fridges in the rooms, considering there are next to zero dining opportunities in the area!
Anyway, back to Yellowstone! We spent an amazing day in the park and my expectations were well and truly met! I suppose as it is still quite early in the season it isn’t crazy busy just yet so we could drive and park fairly easily everywhere. We did a loop covering the Canyon area and Mammoth Springs. Mud Volcano between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village was our first stop, before we visited both Upper and Lower Falls at Canyon. The canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and it is massive! The canyon was formed during some of the volcanic activities hundreds of thousands of years ago and there are a number of waterfalls in the canyon (you can read more about it here). We did the South Rim Drive to Artists Point and got out for some pictures of the incredible canyon – the colours are amazing! We then went to an area where you can access Uncle Tom’s Trail, that I insisted on going down. Uncle Tom’s Trail is a 328 step climb down the canyon and as Brian was the only person I saw all day wearing sandals he decided to stop halfway and just enjoy the view. I carried on and made my way down and then back up again much slower! It was worth the climb though and I enjoyed getting my heart rate going a bit, cardio junkie that I am!
We carried on to Mammoth Springs and came across loads of cars stopping in the middle of the road and parking everywhere they could; apparently there was a bear somewhere in the area with two cubs, but there was nowhere to stop and nobody had actually seen them for a while so we decided to not hang about. The road to Mammoth Springs is completely different from the earlier part of the day and we drove through a mountain pass that only recently opened, with snow or ice still lining the edges of the road. Further on the road opened up a bit and we were driving with lovely meadows and mountains all around us, springtime very much in evidence!
Mammoth Springs is quite a big area with a large area of housing and some shops. I’ve been very impressed with Yellowstone and how low key they’ve managed to keep the park; there are no chain stores or fast food places and no ads or boards advertising anything, in fact they’ve kept it as close to natural as you can with millions of people visiting each year! Park rangers are also very competent and in our three days there we’ve seen them clearing trees from the road, helping a broken down RV, overseeing an accident scene and guiding visitors around the park. On the topic of RVs, I’ve never seen so many RVs, caravans and camper vans in one place as I have in Yellowstone! It was astonishing, I could not believe how many people come to the park in them. I’m very glad we are travelling by car though as a lot of the smaller roads are closed to RVs and it would have been a nightmare driving some of the smaller roads in such a large vehicle.
Mammoth Springs is the main area for seeing travertine terraces, which basically occurs when you have limestone and acidic water in combination, that then deposits in the form of travertine – this is clearly a very oversimplified explanation but I can’t be bothered to go and read up on it anymore, but here is a link if you are curious and want to know more! We were blown away by some of the terraces; the colours are unbelievable and the formations just astonishing – I could probably have spent hours staring at it but it was hot and there were more things to see. We walked around the Lower Terraces and drove around the Upper Terraces and even saw a snake!
Driving back to our motel for the night we stopped at Bill Cody Ranch for a beer, and I spotted a place called Mountain View (I think – can’t find it on the Internet!) that our motel’s owner neglected to mention when I asked him about dinner options, just a little way up the road from where we were staying. We popped in and they were very friendly, dishing up some steak, veg and rice for me, and some pork rinds for Brian. This is where I finally tried Moose Drool Ale, and I blame that for my headache the next day! Mountain view also sells frozen elk and bison burgers and mince, and it is a shame we had no way to cook them as I would have quite liked to try it!
We had a long and exhausting day and fell into bed when we got to the motel.
Things I learned today: Keep your eyes open for restaurants not mentioned by your ‘friendly’ landlord when asking about dining options, or not coming up on Google searches as not EVERYTHING ever is on Google, despite what you may think!

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