Yellowstone National Park: Mammoth Hot Springs Area

Today’s Mileage:  120     Total Mileage:3,355

Well, probably the worst day of weather we’ve had since we arrived 3 weeks ago. It scarcely got above 8C today, heavily overcast, and from about 1pm till 5pm pretty heavy rain.
We had to make the most of it. We checked out of Canyon Lodge and headed north and then west to our overnight stop at Mammoth Springs Hotel, a journey of about 40 miles. We stopped at a lot of the lookouts. The mountain ones we visited yesterday weren’t much good this morning as the cloud was so far down.
The drive west from Tower Junction was very scenic despite the cloud. The autumn is showing itself in the golden grasses that are adorning the valleys and lower plains. The trees are mostly conifer so staying dark green but all the undergrowth is turning yellow. We saw on the map that there was a backcountry circle road we could take – BlackTail Canyon – so we decided to try that. It was billed as 6 miles of rough road but not needing 4 x 4. It was certainly all of that. Very rutted in parts. A pretty route, one way traffic and funnily enough it had more cars on it than the main road!!! We didn’t see so much as a rabbit all the way for our trouble. In fact, this north west quadrant of the park seems very empty compared to the other areas.
We got to Mammoth Springs abut lunch time and it was pandemonium. Soooo much traffic and difficult to park. There was a small herd of elk grazing on the hotel grass so I got a picture in case it was all I saw today!!!! They are really big creatures. Good eating too as we know. Went to the visitors centre to get maps. Very, very good wifi in there. Shame on Xanterra the park hotel concessionaires for their utterly rubbish provision. I know I go on about this, but when you know how easy it is to provide good coverage (given that the fibre is already in, which it is) then it is just infuriating when an organisation chooses to take your top dollar and not give you the service that would cost them peanuts.
Anyway, we had lunch watching the elk and then went to see the Mammoth Springs thermal terraces. The volcanic upwellings here have created travertine basins and shapes of various colours, filled with boiling waters. Quite spectacular although absolutely nothing compared with the ones we saw in New Zealand North Island. I think the ones around Old Faithful will be more spectacular, and of course geysers too. No geysers here.
It started to rain heavily at this point and walking round the terraces was unappealing so we got back in the car and drove back the 30 miles to the Lamar Valley and parked up to see what might come wandering by. We were rewarded with plenty of deer (or antelope I cant tell the difference), a few lonely buffalo but most were in hiding.
Checked in at Mammoth Springs and got our cabin. We are economising tonight and have a queen bedded cabin with NO BATHROOM. We had some trepidation but honestly It’s really nice. Bigger than the room at Canyon and very nicely furnished with a sink and a very comfy bed. There are two Adirondack chairs outside that won’t be getting any use I fear. The shower block and ice dispensing room (Americans MUST have ice) Is only 4 cabins away. I had a shower and it was great, plenty of hot water.
Have rearranged the suitcases a bit tonight to take some warm clothes out of the case we haven’t been opening much and decanting into the main case. And we’ve taken some of the really lightweight clothes out of the main case and put them in the other ie strappy camisole t shirts and sleeveless blouses which I’m not sure will come out again. We just don’t know if this is IT in terms of the end of warm weather or whether its just a blip and compounded by the fact that we are so high up. Not that this is going to change much.