Saturday, June 26, 2010 (Yellowstone Mammoth and Norris Areas)

Time for a change of pace.  Time to slow down and start planning our visit to Yellowstone.  So happy to be out of the car for a full day of driving!  Seriously, if you have never driven in a car for 5 straight days with kids, you likely can’t appreciate the mileage they can get out of a road map and the pronunciation of the word “butte.”  We are more than ready to move on and see something new!

Saturday started with some necessary errands.  We needed to exercise the dog and we needed groceries, so we hooked Buster to the bike harness and biked everyone over to the Food Farm (the only grocery in town).  I picked up some things while everyone else pedaled up and down the main street. After a lunch of hamburgers and tater tots, Buster took an afternoon nap while we drove over to the Mammoth Hot Springs area (about 5 miles from our campground but almost 15 minutes to drive).

Mammoth looked nothing like it did during our last visit! The towering hills of colorful pools facing the road and boardwalks are currently dry. The ranger explained that geothermal features go through changes in which active areas move around. Therefore, to us (and many others apparently) the area seems to be drying up. The current active areas were mostly along the upper terrace levels, and we eventually found those and were quite impressed. The girls enjoyed keeping track of the heat in the water based on the color of the pools (the hotter colors are blue and green).




The geothermal areas of Mammoth


A Bull Snake looking for some shade near the hot springs


Mike & Christine in front of Liberty Cap, a 37 foot hot spring cone

While driving through Mammoth, we had to keep our eyes open for the “Mammoth Restroom” sign. It is included in one of the girls’ Sign-Spotting books, so they knew it had to be there. As we rounded the hotel and restaurant area, we spotted our sign and probably looked ridiculous leaning out of the car windows to take a picture of the restrooms!


The restroom sign the kids rode in the car 5 days to see!

Driving south out of Mammoth, we followed the road down to the Norris Geysers. We took the half mile boardwalk around the Porcelain Basin where we took lots of pictures of the Black Growler Steam Vent and many other bubbly and colorful pools. Julia was a grossed out by the smell but toughed it out. We had the option of seeing the biggest geyser in the park, Steamboat Geyser, but it hasn’t erupted since 2005, so we skipped it and headed back to the car.

View from the boardwalk along the Porcelain Basin

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The geothermal feature above was slowly making its way into the road.


The view from the Artist Paintpots overlook

Our next stop was the Artists Paintpots. This was a half mile walk up a ton of stairs to an observation deck where you could hang out and watch puddles of mud bubble and spray. It was definitely very cool and got thumbs up all around as the best thing we’d seen all day. We were hoping the mud wasn’t too hot because some of the “burps” were pretty explosive and were spitting mud as far as the observation deck!

Watching the pools of bubbling mud: Artists Paintpots

On the way home we slowed for a wildlife traffic jam and Mike snapped a picture of an elk near the roadside. A few miles further we also saw a bison just standing next to the road. If he wanted, Mike could have reached out and touched it from the car window, but that didn’t seem like a great idea.




A bison just outside the car window

After a long afternoon of geysers and hot springs, everybody wanted ice cream. Mike made a trip back to the Food Farm to pick up supplies to get his ice cream ball started. We added the blueberries leftover from breakfast and the girls rolled the ball back and forth while I made a quick dinner of chicken fajitas.


Chips & Salsa from the Food Farm

We also had another task at dinner: The Food Farm made their own salsa, so we bought a small container and the girls did their taste test. Result = 3 out of 5 stars. They claim it was spicy but without a lot of flavor (?). They didn’t like how watery it was, but it was definitely pretty good. They ate almost the whole thing, though, so I think if it had just a little more cilantro it may have been bumped up to a 4.


The ice cream was a hit, though. Turned out great!

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