Yellowstone National Park, Day 4 & 5

Sunday, May 31
This morning we traveled up to Mammoth Hot Springs, the northern most campground that is open right now. We decided to travel separately because of 8 miles of roadwork and all the recent rains we’ve had. The Rav would have been covered in mud and muck . Mary went ahead and we met at the campground. We had a large selection of pull-throughs to choose from. We picked a site on the higher part of this 2 level campground. It has commanding views of the valley leading toward Gardiner, Montana.

We needed to dump the tanks and shop, so after settling in, we went in to town. We dumped at the Yellowstone River RV Park for 8 bucks and shopped at the rather expensive Grocery store down the road. By now clouds had rolled in and it was beginning to rain. Later, when the hail started, we knew our day was done. We got back to camp and decided to hang out the rest of the day. Our next hike will wait to tomorrow.

Beaver Ponds Hike & Sulphur Terraces
Monday, June 148788-beaverPondWe first did this hike on a cold fall morning many years ago and it was lovely. I was anxious to see what it was like in spring. The trail begins very near the Main Terrace at Mammoth right behind a stone building. You could do this as a loop as we have done in the past, but after the ponds, the trail becomes much less interesting as it descends though the forest back to Mammoth. We plan on just an “out and back” hike. About the same distance (4 miles), and a chance to revisit favorite spots in different light.48789-beaverPondThe trail starts by passing by Hymen Terrace Hot Spring. Many years ago on our first hike on this trail, Hymen Terrace was active and very colorful. It stopped flowing some time after. What remnant is just a chalky white travertine formation. Happens all the time. So many of the features we first saw here are gone or diminished. Just the nature of the park.48793-beaverPondThe path rises steadily for a while after Hymen, through a nice forest that later becomes open meadow. All along the way we were greeted with a large array of wildflowers, and as usual we stopped a lot for views flower pictures.48811-beaverPondIt was a little cloudy from the start this morning and just as we came out of the forest, we heard a thunder clap from the dark clouds ahead. Soon another couple ahead of us came into view saying they had seen the lightning and wanted no part of it. But it was so far off, we didn’t see a big problem. We continued on.48794-beaverPond48802-beaverPondMuch of the trail from here to the Beaver Ponds is very open with huge views of the mountains and valley. It morphed  between sun and clouds all day and this really helped keep the temperatures down and walking much more pleasant.The actual Beaver Ponds are not much to comment on. This walk is about the journey, not the destination. There are 3 ponds that I know of, but I’ve never seen a beaver in one (though it’s true they are most active very easy and very late). The water is surrounded by cattails and reeds, and that can make for some interesting pictures. We enjoyed listening to the song birds while eating lunch, but soon headed back. Clouds again.48804-beaverPond48818-beaverPondAt one point on the trail, I began hearing a very low guttural sound. I had trouble locating where it was coming from, but eventually picked out a blob of some sort off by a tree. As I stared at it, it moved it’s head. A bird! Actually a Blue Grouse. The sound was made as it puffed out it’s throat to reveal a white and red feather covered sack. A mating call I guess.48829-beaverPondThere were plenty of breaks of sunlight, and it created some interesting light patterns on the trees and soft green grass growing below. Not sure which is most effective. I like the softer of these two below.48833-beaverPond 48845-beaverPondAlso, this one I like a lot.48847-beaverPond

The clouds were heavier now and drops were felt at several points. We were nearly back down when really large raindrops began falling. They went THWACK, THWACK, as they hit us. The reason of course was the pea sized hail falling on us, not rain. 48857-beaverPondWe ducked into some trees to wait it out. We’ve started always carrying rain gear on these hikes – now maybe we need helmets. At some point, the jackets come out everyday. None of these showers last very long except later in the afternoon they do. Still, it warms right up after they pass and we are left with a newly refreshed landscape.48852-beaverPond48859-beaverPondFinishing the hike, I stopped again before the main terrace at Mammoth. The light, while still overcast, was bright and even and it made the terrace absolutely glow.48871-Terrace148862-Terrace148864-Terrace1We are coming back later after cleaning up and dinner to walk and drive the upper terraces.48866-Terrace1It is staying light till well past 8:30 now, so early dinner and evening walks or drives when it is not raining is not to be passed by.48868-Terrace1

Upper Terraces at Mammoth48883-Terrace1After our dinner break, we went out again to Mammoth. The Upper Terrace Drive is a shortish loop that allows access to many of the hot spring features in the surrounding area.48879-Terrace1This is probably my favorite area of Yellowstone to photograph. You wind around a one way road, deciding where to stop and walk along the boardwalks. It is a little less traveled, so more personal feeling.48886-Terrace1 48889-Terrace1It was quite cloudy and windy, which means cold at 6500’. Still, it meant fewer people to contend with and great lighting.48891-Terrace1 48894-Terrace1 48899-Terrace1We stopped often, walked the walks, waited for just the right light, made photos.48901-Terrace1 48903-Terrace1We stopped at the Orange Mound area, another geothermal feature that boasts a glistening wall of travertine.48912-Terrace1 48920-Terrace1 48923-Terrace1 48936-Terrace1

Ultimately the clouds went against us again when it got too dark and misty to make it worthwhile to continue. We were tired anyway after a long day. We finished up around 8 PM and headed back to the sound of rain on our rooftop.48942-Terrace1Tomorrow we will do a drive from Mammoth to the Tower-Roosevelt area and probably up to Dunraven Pass again from this side.

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