On our first day visiting Yellowstone National Park, we entered from the North Entrance just outside Gardner, MT. One of the stops on our list of “must sees” was Mammoth Hot Springs. We stopped at the Albright Visitor Center upon arrival into the area. Great restrooms, but pretty much standing room only in the entire building. We didn’t stay to see all the history that this beautiful landmark had to offer. Next time, I would love to tour the historic Fort Yellowstone where the US Army kept order from poachers, offered medical care, fought fires & managed wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, there were at least 80 elk entwined between the buildings once known as the barracks. We were on a tight schedule and just wanted to be outside. Will have to save the history for another trip.
We drove over to the hot springs area where we found more people. Frank dropped me off to go find a parking space. I began to explore. I was in awe of the beauty. It’s easy to understand why so many of the geothermal sites in the park are so crowded. It’s not just the beauty, but the uniqueness and raw power that is so mesmerizing. The Liberty Cap was one of the features that caught my eye, standing 40 feet in height. Not sure why, but it had me frozen there for a while enthralled. How did it get there & how long had it been in that spot? Click on the link to find out a little history about this amazing limestone tower.
I fought the crowds to get up to the end of this boardwalk (above) where the elk were lying on the warm ground in the sulfur ash and salt (below). It looks like they’re relaxing in the snow but they aren’t. Just another example of the diversity of this volcanic landscape. This area is known as Palette Springs.
The sun was shining brightly and the temperature rose into the low 80’s. This was the warmest spot we explored in Yellowstone. It got so warm, the elk decided to take refuge behind Liberty Cap and the small amount of shade it provided. See the video below. They are so accustomed to people being in the area, they walk around as if they are oblivious to the interlopers all around them. In fact, the crowds bothered us more than they did these gentle animals. We found all of the geyser basins and geothermal areas in the park to be like going to an amusement park & fighting to get in line for a roller coaster.
Apparently, I couldn’t get enough of the cone. I just had to take a selfie in honor of it. We walked around and took in some other views throughout the boardwalks on our way back to the van, intrigued to see the environment we’d only experienced in pictures and on TV. One of the aspects of Yellowstone that can’t be overstated is how much more impressive the park is in person. The beauty speaks for itself, but the power of all your senses come to life with all the sounds and smells. It’s a true primordial landscape everyone should experience at least once.
On our long walk back to our vehicle, we met up with this elk cow relaxing in the shade, happy to be out of the sun and to poise for a picture. Near the cow, we observed two American Robins & a Cedar Waxwing feeding on berries and traveling through the trees together. An appropriate end to our first hike in America’s first National Park. Next stop….the wilderness!