Last evening, we were lulled off to sleep to the sound of heavy rain tapping on the roof of the RV. The rain turned to snow at some point, and we awoke to a cold, blustery day, with the ground covered in the white stuff. After a leisurely morning of checking our mail, having breakfast, and just hanging around, we put on multiple layers of clothing and met our tour guide, Laura Callaghan, owner of Yellowstone Scenic Tours. Sandy found this company on the web, and we booked them for our group of 10. I must say, there was a lot of nervousness that the snow would prove to be a hazard problem. Nevertheless, we departed at 9:00 sharp. We entered Yellowstone via the West Gate and went to the Firehole Canyon Drive. This road runs along the Firehole river, and the rim of the latest eruption 640,000 years ago, was directly off our right. This was the third eruption in this area, the first being 2.1 million years ago and the second being 1.3 million years ago. I’m hoping that the fourth one isn’t due this week.
We then headed south, to Fountain Pot Thermals and the Fountain Flat
Drive. Both were very interesting with magnificent thermal pools (small pools of extremely hot water), mudpots (Volcanic vents pushing up through mud pools), and fumalores (Volcanic steam emitting from the earth). Yellowstone Park has 50% of the worlds geysers and hot vents.
Because of road closures further south due to the snow, we headed north to Mammoth Hot Springs, making numerous stops to see either geological features or wildlife. Just outside of Madison, we saw a pair of cranes that stand almost 4 ft. high. We passed by Obsidian Cliff, which were formed by the lava being rapidly cooled, resulting in a volcanic glass used for projectiles and cutting tools. After passing Sheepeater Cliff, we entered the Town of Mammoth Hot Springs. We all took a needed break here and had sandwiches and drinks brought by Laura. Many Bison in the town proper, with their newborn calves in tow.
Next we headed east toward Tower-Roosevelt, passing thru the Blacktail Deer Plateau. Laura asked if we knew who signed Yellowstone as a National Park. The bunch of us thought it was Teddy Roosevelt, but learned is was Uylissis Grant. Also, it was designated as a National park only because
Wyoming was not a state at the time, therefore couldn’t be made a state park. Our route then took us further west to the Lamar Valley. Laura indicated that this was an area where we could likely see some wolves. She explained how the wolf population in Yellowstone had been completely killed off. As a result, the elk population exploded. Sometime in the 80’s, 14 wolves were brought in from Canada and have established a significant population once again. As a result, the balance of the eco system has once again been restored.
During this ride we observed and photographed significant Bison, prong horn antelope, elk, black bear, and the elusive wolves. Our initial trepidation about the snow fall turned out to be unfounded. In fact, because of the snow cover in the park, it took on an almost magical appearance. This tour was a huge highlight of our trip thus far.
Arriving back at the Grizzly RV camp ground, we bid goodbye to Laura, had a quick cocktail hour, and walked downtown with the entire gang to the Three Bears Restaurant for our first meal out. The Elk, Bison, Beef meatloaf was to die for.
said our goodbyes to our Cedar Hammock friends, as we will not see them again until maybe Denali or Homer, Alaska. All in all, a great day was had by all.
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