Odds and Ends on a Rainy Day
[Yellowstone National Park]
Today’s plan was to sleep in, then go for a horseback ride at 1 pm. We’d been getting up early all throughout this trip, so it was about time we didn’t wake up to an alarm – we are on vacation, after all! We had a late breakfast at our hotel, where I had the best pancakes ever – huckleberry pancakes. They were crispy on the outside, nice and fluffy but not too doughy on the inside. Just perfect.
After breakfast, we spent about an hour in the Lake Lodge using the wifi. During that time, I got a call from the stables that our horseback ride had been cancelled. It turns out that the rain storm the night before had left standing water on the horse trails, and the entire day’s rides had been cancelled. We had nothing to do all day, so we went to see some more geothermal activity at the Artists’ Paint pots, named after the bubbly gray mud pots found in this area. We also saw more small geysers, fumaroles and light blue pools.
On the way to the Artists’ Paint Pots, we drove through Hayden Valley – a prime spot to watch bison, elk and other wildlife. The Yellowstone river meanders through it.
Afterwards, we drove out of the park into West Yellowstone, which is actually in Montana (the park is mostly in Wyoming but its northernmost and westernmost parts are in Montana). The town felt like a tourist trap. We saw gift shops and restaurants with a few gas stations sprinkled in. Everything had an Old West feel to it. I was not impressed, and I was glad we are staying in the park to avoid all this touristy stuff.
Back on the park grounds, we had dinner at Canyon Lodge, then toured the geothermal area of Mud Volcano. Here, we saw some interesting hydrothermal features. Dragon’s Mouth Spring was a cave with water surging out of it, causing steam and other gases to crash against the walls of the cave and make surging sounds. It really did sound like a dragon was going to come out of there any minute.
Nearby, we saw the 17-foot deep pool of watery clay called Mud Volcano.
We also saw a 200-foot lake of dark bubbling water called Black Dragon’s Cauldron. It formed in 1948 out of nowhere on this hillside, blowing trees out by the roots. It erupted in explosive 10-20 foot bursts of black mud, but over time it has become quiet.
Other geothermal features here were the Churning Cauldron and the Mud Geyser.
On our way back to the hotel, we saw a bunch of cars on the side of the road. We pulled over and admired a herd of elk grazing very close to the road. They were in a sea of green grass, but behind them towered tall mountains with snow still covering the slopes.
I am also happy to report that we added a handful more state license plates to our list, including both Carolinas, New Hampshire and a rare find, Alaska (a camper, of course). We also found a couple more Canadian provinces, Quebec and Ontario. We even spotted a District of Columbia plate (technically, not a state). Every time we saw a new plate, we screamed with excitement! It makes looking for a parking spot in congested areas so much more fun! We have only 4 states left to find – Rhode Island, Delaware, North Dakota and Hawaii.
It is hard to believe that we have traversed this park in all directions over the past few days. The weather forecast for tomorrow promises no rain and temperatures in the 60s (although the morning low will be in the 40s). We’re hoping it holds for our hike to Mt. Washburn, the most popular hike in the park.