Mammoth Hot Springs 1
Mammoth Hot Springs 2
Grand Canyon Of The Yellowstone River - Artist Point
Grand Canyon Of The Yellowstone River -
Uncle Tom's Trail
Artists' Paint Pots
moving day today after one night in Gardiner, Montana we spend the
nights in West Yellowstone, Montana. It was an interesting
start of the day and I can preface it by writing never jump to conclusions. After an evening of drinking $1 Old Milwaukee Lights
all night in celebration of the
Washington Wizards winning the NBA Draft
Lottery last night at
Goose Saloon we woke up this morning and Scott couldn't find his
jacket. Through my super detective work (going back through my
digital pictures from the evening) I concluded he did have the
jacket when we left.
Scott was certain he had left it in the Town Cafe so we went back before heading to the park to see if he could find it. The jacket is a very nice all weather jacket and it's also the jacket he wore on his walk up Mount Kilamanjaro so it was a special jacket to him. When he came out of the Town Cafe he wasn't very happy and got in the car telling me the bartender stole his jacket. I wasn't in with him but from the night before the guy didn't seem very friendly (the only unfriendly person we met on this trip) and I could see how Scott's came to the conclusion.
Well we had only been in 2 other places and they were less than 50 yards away so I said let's go check them just in case. Scott was certain he didn't have it when we returned to Red's Blue Goose Saloon so we check K-Bar first. The weren't open (the Town Cafe had a restaurant and gift shop also so they were open early) but there was some construction going on next door and being a small town they had access to the K-Bar. The Kilamanjaro jacket though wasn't inside the K-Bar either.
Red's Blue Goose Saloon was the last chance and on the road out of town. They also were closed but when Scott knocked on the door someone was inside and let him in and moments later he came walking out with a big smile while putting on his special jacket. I just kind of laughed, called us both drunks for not remembering (him more than me since it was his jacket) where the jacket was and gave him a hard time for accusing the Town Cafe bartender of stealing the said special jacket.
We left Gardiner and entered Yellowstone National Park again this time through the famous Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance. The 50 foot tall arch was built in 1903 and is the original symbol of Yellowstone. It was dedicated toTheodore Roosevelt who was actually in Yellowstone when the arch was constructed and he actually laid the cornerstone. During the dedication speech he said "The Yellowstone Park is something absolutely unique in the world....This Park was created and is now adminisitered for the benefit and enjoyment of the people...it is the property of Uncle Same and therefore all of us."
My parents took my brother and I across the county 3 times on family vacations when we were kids in the 70's and I fell in love with the National Parks at an early age. They are one of our countries greatest ideas and I'm so grateful to President Grant for having the foresight to create the first national park anywhere, Yellowstone National Park in 1872, for President Roosevelt who truly was at the heart of the conservation movement and for my parents who took us on all those wonderful trips in our youth.
Our first stop today was just down the the road from Gardiner, Montana at Mammoth Hot Springs which we had driven through the Upper Terraces yesterday. I can't emphasize enough how much I really like this time of year. There is snow around sure (there was snow on the ground when I was here in July of 1978 also) but the weather is still nice enough to walk around in shorts and the crowds are sparse making is easy to get around and to park. Mammoth Hot Springs is really a town along with having the thermal features. It's neat to drive through town and there are elk lying around in front of the buildings. I remember bison walking around here in the 90's. We parked in the front row of the parking lot right in front of the Liberty Cap.
The little kid inside me just laughs looking at Liberty Cap since it just looks like a giant phallus. What it really is though is a 37 foot tall hot spring cone that is inactive. On the other side of Liberty Cap is Palette Spring with it's spring water running down it's colorful terraces that resemble a painter's palette.
From the Liberty Cap/Palette Spring area we made our way up to the main terraces and Canary Spring. This was another time I was glad I worked out for 6 months before coming to Yellowstone. I'm sure the altitude was to blame but I was exhausted walking up the stairs to the Main Terrace.
The main features up on the Main Terrace were the Blue Spring and the Canary Spring. The whole are is start and steamy. It looks like a bomb had gone off and just wiped everything out but over the barren landscape there are these incredibly colorful springs everywhere. The other strange thing is to see where these springs had flowed around trees and killed them so all that is left now is the bare trees in the middle of the spring. No leaves on all these trees in the middle of the springs makes for a creepy looking setting.
We finished up at Mammoth Hot Springs and started heading south again and made our next stop the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone that we passed on due to the weather yesterday. Like I wrote about yesterday we were surprised that Artist Point was only about 100 yards from the parking lot on the south rim but what are you going to do. We made a command decision yesterday and like usual we chose poorly.
The Artist Point has a great view of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and is named appropriately. To the east you have a wonderful view of the 308 foot tall Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River which is the largest waterfall in the Rocky Mountains. To the west is a great view down the Yellowstone Canyon is a beautiful mixture of yellow and red colored rhyolite rock.
After Artist Point we went back towards the Lower Falls to Uncle Tom's Trail. Uncle Tom's trail was closed still but once we saw someone ahead of us on the trail past the closed sign we decided if they can do it we can do it. It wasn't quite as bad as Jenny Lake snow wise but there were a lot more downed trees to step over and climb under. Also Jenny Lake didn't have a stairwell that drops 500 feet down into the canyon on 300 steel steps that still had lots of snow on them.
Going down obviously was a breeze. I'm still not really comfortable with heights (ironic for someone 6'8" tall) and walking straight down 300 steel mesh stairs was a little nerve wracking. It's well worth the anxiety though once you get to see the view from the bottom which is very close to the Lower Falls. Scott went all the way to the bottom. I got down pretty close to the bottom but noticed the snow getting worse and got to a point where I thought was a great vista for photos before turning around.
Although it's obviously a tougher climb up Uncle Tom's Trail and stairwell I took my time and didn't mind it as much as walking down the stairs. Walking down the stairs I always had the feeling I was going to plummet down the icy stairs to a horrible death. I didn't feel that way climbing up. Scott obviously cruised down and back much faster than I did so when he got to the top he followed the trail all the way back down to Artist Point and back. It worked out perfectly as we almost reached the car at the exact same time.
It was time to head back west towards West Yellowstone our destination for the next 2 nights. We made a last stop though at Artist Paint Pots. It's a short walk of about 1/3 mile to get to the thermal features but you walk through an area that was burned by fires during the summer of 1998. It's really amazing to see the different stages of forest regrowth from different fires.
Artist Paint Pots was one of our shorter walks of the trip but it was still beautiful and well worth it. Bubbling mud pits, incredible rich red mud, deep blue springs with yellow bacteria and green algae pretty much runs the spectrum of colors in the area. I can't tell you how impressive it is to see how the earth is truly alive beneath the surface making all of these thermal features possible.
We got really lucky on the drive from Artist Paint Pots to West Yellowstone. There was major construction going on near Gibbon Falls and we came up on the stopped line right at the end of the south bound 's turn to be stopped. We probably had to wait about 5 minutes before getting waived through where we could have been there for 30 minutes plus if we had got there just as the changed the traffic flow.
The drive down the Madison - West Yellowstone road was full of wildlife. We saw our first coyotes, hundreds of bison with their newborns and plenty of elk all grazing near the Madison River.
We reached West Yellowstone which I had stayed at in the 90's and really liked. It has grown some since then it seems. We stayed at the Club House Inn which was nice. It was our 3rd hotel with an indoor pool but once again we didn't get a chance to use this pool. I really love these small towns where you can walk everywhere.
We made quite a few stops through town this evening. We started at the Wolf Pack Brewing Company which seemed out of place here. It was trying to be a higher class establishment and was a little pricy. I'm not sure this is the area for that type of place. It only had microbrews.
Our next stops were Bullwinkle's West and Bullwinkle's. We really like Bullwinkle's West. They had a great bartender. This girl worked a fairly good sized bar all by herself and never had anyone in need of service. She really worked hard. Bullwinkle's was the sister property around the corner. The funniest thing about this bar was the guy we had by himself sitting next to us who seemed like he was a food/wine critic. He was way to serious about everything that came out and pretty annoying and condescending to the bartender.
Next was our favorite stop. The Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon. I've eaten lots of pizza in my life and know a good pie when I have one. The Wild West Pizzeria has the best pizza I've ever had. The have a red and white sauce and a combined sauce they called a pink sauce. Our bartendress for the next 2 evenings was Ashley from Chicago. What a great girl. She told us she was from Chicago and knew good pie too and told us to get the pink sauce. Was she right. It was outstanding. Ashley also had a new girl she was breaking in Octavia. They were both great. I really like The Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon. On one of the walls they have a giant poster of Johnny Cash flipping the bird. How can you not like that in your bar. Well we ended up getting 2 pizzas this evening before telling Ashley & Octavia they were great and we'd see them again tomorrow.
On the way back we stopped at one last bar The Stage Coach Inn's Coachman Bar & Casino. Here we had a 3rd great bartendress. The girl working here was 8.5 months pregnant and this was her last night before maternity leave. Once again she was on her own and took care of a fairly full bar all by herself. Well sort of by herself, she did have a little passenger on board ready to pop out.
It's great to have fun and hard working bartenders. Scott and I both raved about them and how great it would be to have a bartender back home that worked half as hard and the 4 girls we met tonight did. We called it an evening after the The Stage Coach Inn's Coachman Bar & Casino went back to the Club House Inn to get some sleep before tomorrow's run to Old Faithful.
Return to May 18
Jackson, Wyoming; Grand Teton National Park
West Thumb Geyser Basin; Mud Volcano;
Norris Geyser Basin & Gardiner, Montana
Forward To May
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center; Firehole Falls;
Old Faithful; Midway Geyser Basin & West