We’ve been to Yellowstone a couple of times in the past but we thought it would be fun to visit a part of the park that we had not visited before. It helped that that part of the park was the part closest to our current campground.
The drive to the north entrance was a few minutes over an hour. We went east on I-90 to the town of Livingston and then south on U.S. 89 to the small town of Gardiner. Gardiner is the sight of the original entrance to the park when it became the first national park.
Our intent was to visit the Lamar Valley section of the park that lies about 25 miles to the east of the Gardiner entrance. Using that amazing Golden Passport that old folks get we entered the park and drove until we reached the visitor’s center at Mammoth. That area turned out to be a surprise.
There was an entire herd of elk grazing all over the area as we parked at the visitor’s center. We didn’t find much of interest (to us) in the center but were really taken by the site of the white and gold sides of the hot springs cliffs.
Although we had packed a tuna and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, we decided instead to stop for lunch at the Mammoth Hotel. It was a pleasant atmosphere and a nice lunch. After that we decided explore the springs.
Both Sue and I were still nursing injuries (her hip, my left leg) so we weren’t willing to walk the entire springs area that included several hundred stairs and some steep ups and downs. Instead we drove to the upper terrace of the springs and parked there. Most of the springs are accessible via boardwalks that have been built up and down the area. We took the opportunity to tour those boardwalks that traverse the upper terrace.
The views up there were really amazing. The springs themselves are remarkable plus there is a great view of the village below and the mountains in the background. We enjoyed that short hike, drove the rest of the upper terrace scenic road, and then drove down for a short hike on the lower terrace. We spent much more time at the springs than we had anticipated.
Finally, we headed east toward the Lamar Valley. The idea was to see some of the wild life that is abundant in that valley. As we neared the valley we encountered our first wild life road block. It turns out that people stopping to take photos of animals is a major delay factor on the roads. We decided to forego further exploration and turn around to head back toward Gardiner.
We didn’t get very far before we encountered a twenty-minute delay that turned out to be caused by a single big horn sheep grazing beside the road while numerous tourists were out of their cars with their cameras.
We did make it back to Gardiner where we stopped in for an ice cream cone before heading back to the Phaeton where Annie was waiting.