Our last two days have been spent in Yellowstone National Park. The drive up the Yellowstone River valley from the interstate to the park was quite interesting with plenty of snowy mountains to look at on the edge of a wide valley floor with still more irrigation. As the valley narrowed closer to the park there were some interesting, sheer rock faces. We got our annual park pass, which is a steal at $80 when one considers how many parks we are going to visit in the next three months.
With the weather forecasters warning of a lot of snow to fall (about a foot), we were pleased with just a little light drizzle in Mammoth Hot Springs (near the northern entrance). There was a little geothermal activity here, so we pottered around the boardwalks for an hour. Having spent so much time in Rotorua (NZ), I wasn’t overly impressed by most of it – but there were some pretty cool little features.
After noon we took the drive east towards the northeast entrance, as that was supposed to be the best route to take for spotting wildlife. Bison (buffalo – same thing, with bison being the more scientific name apparently) were exceedingly easy to find. With their big shaggy coats & rather small horns, Valerie seems to have decided that they look cuddly. I’m not so sure about that – they can run pretty fast, jump higher than you’d expect & have been known to gore humans that aggravate them.
We took a different route to the park today, this time driving up the Gallatin River valley to West Yellowstone. This valley was a lot closer in than yesterday’s, with more traffic coming from somewhere. It was a beautiful drive, despite (or perhaps, because of) the cloud & drizzle. Entering the park, we headed straight for Old Faithful. About halfway there, the rain started to turn to snain (snow-rain) & then it was puking snow on us – big, wet heavy flakes. This continued as we went in to the comprehensive & grand new Visitor Center & then quickly went back outside to the wet as Old Faithful was due to go off again in ten minutes. We waited patiently, getting snowed on more & more, & finally the geyser blew.
Heading east & then south we made for Yellowstone Lake. As we climbed & went through various meadows beside the river, it was astonishing how much snow there still was. I though it was pretty bad around the Canadian Rockies, but this was something else. It’ll be well in to the summer before this all melts. The highlight of this little bit was seeing two otters playing in the river & then in the snow on the bank – they were frolicking around & having a great time. The lake is much bigger than I expected – one big white blanket.
Distance traveled: 1100 km (two days – 419 + 681)
Best road sign (caution): ROUGH SPOT AHEAD (now road signs give life prophecies?)
6 hours ago