Day four begins slow. Being worn out from the previous days, and with the beginnings of a head cold, we sleep in a bit and get a bit of a later start. As usual, we meet the elk in Mammoth as we enter the park, but today there is a twist. Apparently one of them has made friends with a magpie. We watch as they seemingly “play” for several minutes. It occasionally looks like the magpie is whispering in the elk’s ear. It was amusing, but we move on.
Since we got a late start, and being a little disappointed with the wildlife turnout over the first three days, we decide that today we would do the “tourist” thing and check out the features of the park, and if we happen to see wildlife, so much the better. As we head south from Mammoth, the features begin to show themselves in very dramatic ways. The steam coming from this river, combined with the smell of sulfur lets us know that this is not your normal river. In fact, when you pull over and look, there are areas where the water is bubbling. I never got a straight answer if the water was actually boiling or if the bubbles was just gas escaping, but I wasn’t going to stick my hand in to find out.
Our first stop was at the Norris Geyser Basin. There is a boardwalk there where you can walk out over the basin and smell the sulfur first hand. What a treat (note sarcasm)! It really is pretty cool to be this close to the exit ports of a live super-volcano when you really think about it though. Like I told my friends back home before we came, if it goes off while we’re there, don’t worry about us cause we won’t have time to care.
After leaving Norris, we come across this beautiful elk displaying his rack which begged me for a picture. I know I have some relatives who are hunters who are wishing they had THEIR equipment right about now. These truly are magnificent beasts!
A little further down the road we catch this small, multi-colored geyser. Again, note the steam coming from the water. Very hot. Do not touch! Very pretty though.
Next stop is a place called “Artist Paint Pots” which are essentially “boiling” mud pits and holes with colorful deposits around them. The surprising thing to me was how much plant life there is that actually survives around these things. I would have expected the toxicity of the ground to be prohibitive to such growth. Guess that explains why I am not a botanist.
And no trip to the Artist Paint Pots would be complete without the requisite “boiling mud” photo. Karen caught this one at just the right time!
After making the climb to the top of the paint pot area, we were admiring the view when a kind passer-by offered to take our picture. So we handed him one of Karen’s cameras and I must say, it turned out pretty good! Thank you kind stranger!
Down the road from the paint pots we came upon Gibbon Falls. This is yet another of the Yellowstone waterfalls which are literally right off the roadway. But as each of them have their own character, more pictures must be taken. Something about the roar of the water just puts me in a mood, a very good mood.
From there, we continued along the Grand Loop road, around the southern part of the park, and then turning north, we passed by the West Thumb of Lake Yellowstone. There Karen caught this photo of the small island with the single tree. It looks so lonely out there, but also very peaceful. Of course, the mountains in the background don’t hurt either.
A little further up on the West Thumb, we spotted this elk, just standing out in the water. Not really sure what she was doing, but it gave me another chance to pull out the 600mm lens so I stopped. I carried that thing all the way up here and I’m going to use it! At one point she looked over her shoulder at me and I snapped…the picture that is.
We continued on and crossed over the Fishing Bridge area and out to Mary Bay. By now the sun was beginning to get low in the sky and clouds were building. Kare caught this magnificent shot of the cloudy reflections in the water.
And as the geese begin flying home, we also headed back to Gardiner for the evening.
Since my main goal for this trip was wildlife, I was beginning to feel a tad disappointed, but at the same time, I truly enjoyed being here nonetheless. This is a beautiful place, with or without wildlife. Once more, we are thankful for the things we saw. Time to rest up for day 5. It will prove to be a very exciting day!