On day two in Yellowstone, we began with breakfast in Canyon Village’s cafeteria, and then headed north toward the Mammoth Springs area via Roosevelt. At about 10:00 AM we spotted an audience along the roadside, most armed with tripods and giant zoom lens cameras, looking out onto the hill. There they were – grizzlies, two of them! We parked, grabbed the zoom lens, ran up the hill to where the other photographers, one of which was a park ranger, had positioned themselves. From what I could gather by listening to the park ranger, these two grizzlies were a mating pair that have been spotted many times over the past months.
What’s better than spotting a mating pair of grizzlies in yellowstone? Probably nothing, but it’s pretty amazing to watch a newborn baby deer and its mother interacting just after birth.
Later, on the way to Mammoth, we pulled aside to snap photos of a large elk grazing near the road. Just after that, upon arriving in Mammoth, I caught a female elk grazing in someone’s front yard. We saw grizzlies, newborn deer, and elk all within two hours of each other!
Finally we arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs for a tour of its thermal features. The strange minerals and chemicals in the waters of Mammoth change the rock over time to form a beautiful rainbow of colored stone. What I discovered is that Mammoth Hot Springs is basically a giant mound of travertine, or limestone deposited by springs. For thousands of years, hot spring water makes its way up, cools, and leaves calcium carbonate.
Liberty Cap. From the National Park Service website: This 37-foot hot spring cone marks the northern portion of Mammoth Hot Springs. Liberty Cap was named in 1871 by the Hayden Survey party because of its marked resemblance to the peaked caps worn during the French Revolution. Its unusual formation was created by a hot spring whose plumbing remained open and in one location for a long time. Its internal pressure was sufficient to raise the water to a great height, allowing mineral deposits to build continuously for perhaps hundreds of years.
Minerva Terrace. From the National Park Service website: Minerva Spring is a favorite not only because of its wide range of bright colors but also for its ornate travertine formations. Since the 1890s, when records were first kept on the activity of Mammoth Hot Springs, Minerva has gone through both active and inactive periods. For several years in the early 1900s, it was completely dry, but by 1951 reports state that Minerva was again active.
During some cycles of activity, water discharge and mineral deposition have been so great that boardwalks have been buried beneath mounds of newly deposited travertine. Consequently, an elevated and movable boardwalk now spans the hill in the vicinity of Minerva. In recent years, hot spring activity has shifted dramatically from Minerva to other features on the Lower Terraces, and back again.
Out last event of the day was a five mile back-country hike to Beaver Ponds. On the trail Angela identified tons of wildflowers and we even saw beaver dams at the ponds. That afternoon, on the way back to camp, we spotted more elk alongside the road.