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Day 6 :: September 25, 2004: 12:46 PM

Thursday, September 23rd
Day Six
We bought breakfast as today was going to be major sightseeing in Yellowstone Park. This tiny town (Gardiner) has two espresso places so Mike was happy. The morning was cool (42 f) and drizzly but we could hardly begrudge it – the locals talked of a five year drought and that they were under again for this year.
We started at Mammoth Springs as that was the entrance we stayed near and clambered up and over the terraces. As usual, there was a road closed so the loop, which I believe is over a hundred miles long, was not possible and we had to make choices….

We decided against Tower Falls much as I love waterfalls this one was out of the way with the construction on the road, and we decided if we could find the glooping mud somewhere else we would also miss Mud Volcano and that area.

We went to the Norris glacial basin, back via the Fountain Paint Pots and passed the upper and lower basins. This took us several hours.

General observations other than the size of the place:

General observations other than the size of the place:

In the morning especially while the air was cool we could feel the warm air as we approached the hot springs and pools. The day dried out and improved as it went on. The smells varied from boiling pea soup to hard- boiled eggs.

There is geothermal activity everywhere…there are lots of named spots but the streams will occasionally have steam coming off them and by the road bubbling pools and steam vents.

The sounds are interesting! At Norris there was just a general noise – it was rushing steam and bubbling and spurting, hissing and spraying. With so many holes, geysers and pools it sounded like we were at a thruway rest stop. Some of the water is only tepid by the time it reaches the walkways but some is visibly boiling.

Yellowstone has many ways to kill you it seems! Visitors are warned not to walk near the geysers and pools – not only were several people scalded to death last year alone – the crust formed by the salts in the water are very thin – the acid in the pools can eat through boot soles! On top of this are the warnings about the danger of getting near bear and moose, elk and bison – posters remind you of visitors mauled – then there are the late night speeders damaging themselves as well as the large animals, and today the ice and snow on walkways messages were still posted from the previous 24 hours.

On the warm Yellowstone ground the snow had mostly disappeared but near the Continental Divide sign (one of – you cross it three times while exiting the park) there was snow as we climbed out of the caldera which is where the geysers and hot springs are.

I loved it all. The glooping, boiling mud of the paint pots were hard to photograph as the mud looks like plaster of paris for the most part mostly a dirty white with one area tinged pink by the same mineral/ fossil layer that makes so much of the soil here a deep red.

Physical geography as it was known in our schooldays was a favorite of us both, but especially me. My favorite subjects within it were firstly volcanic, then glacial then desert so this trip is perfect! I get some of each!
As we were leaving we saw a coyote in a field.

By that time, too, the temperature had crawled up to just below 50 degrees and we drove straight on into the Grand Tetons Park – spectacular scenery. We took a slight detour to get to the bottom of the mountains. We had intended stopping there a little while and making coffee but roadworks between the 2 parks slowed us down a bit.

We left the park and headed for Jackson. I saw Jackson recently on a Travel Channel show and thought there was no way I wanted to go there. But we needed to eat. Well, Jackson was nothing like the show! It was a yuppy town – Eddie Bauer and Coldwater Creek and the like. We ate – I had local brook trout – and got espresso as Mike decided we would press on, having really traveled no distance today.

We hit the most ridiculous roadworks in the world..okay..maybe not..as we left Jackson. We were driving along and there was some comment about the road having an uneven surface…well, suddenly there was bare earth beneath the wheels, the whole surface, all the way across with orange and white sticks to help us fnd the way through…like a slalom race. After a few hundred yards of this we had blacktop and of we went , only to be stopped again by more of the same but this time we had to wait to be led through! Long delay. We drove a little further. The communities were tiny but there were motels fairly frequently. We eventually decided to stop around 10 pm at Afton. The weather channel was congratulating an Afton Olympian for getting a silver medal, we presume it was the same one. Quite an achievement for such a small place. The motel was pleasant, we watched Letterman and went to bed.

(I am writing this in an internet café and do not have my notebook with me – I will add our mileage later in the day!)

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