Gardiner and Yellowstone – Day 7

The mile high club – Mr and Mrs L are now residents of said club!  Gardiner is situated at 5,285 feet above sea level – that’s 1 mile – and today we reached the dizzy heights of over 7,300 feet when we arrived in Cooke City which is 4 miles outside the NE entrance to Yellowstone.

Our residence, Yellowstone Basin Inn, is about 5 miles outside of Gardiner and has great views.  The photo below was taken this morning looking out from our balcony.

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Gardiner is still in Montana and is the northern gateway into Yellowstone National Park, it is the original entrance and is the only entrance open all year round. The other entrances close because of the weather.  We spent the first part of the morning walking around Gardiner to get our bearings.  Gardiner is a small frontier town which has the Yellowstone River running through it together with bison, deer and elk wandering by.  Red’s Blue Goose is a great bar where we had a drink last night whilst waiting for a table in a nearby restarurant.  The restaurant rings through to the Goose when your table is ready!  Mr L enquired of our waitress what the drink drive laws are here as he was wondering whether he could have one or zero drinks……..her reply was that as long as you don’t swerve all over the place or hit anything you can drink what you like! Mrs L informed Mr L that he would be abiding by UK drink drive rules, to which he of course agreed.

Once in Yellowstone you cross into Wyoming and we drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs and then walked up through the terraces.  It was bitterly cold with strong winds, summer has left Yellowstone.  Mammoth Hot Springs are a large complex of hot springs on  a hill of travertine with the delightful aroma of hydrogen sulphide pervading the air.  They are an amazing sight, the springs apparently change frequently, becoming active or inactive and changing the landscape of this area.  Organisms called thermopiles live in the sulphur springs/calcium carbonate deposits.  They are a type of bacteria which thrive at high temperatures in sulphur rich environments i.e. Mammoth Hot Springs.  

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Leaving Mammoth we then headed ever upwards and across the northern part of Yellowstone to Tower and then onto Cooke City.  This journey took us through the Lamar Valley which was absolutely stunning with lush vegetation along the flood plains of the Lamar River with the backdrop of the more stony and rugged hills and the snow capped Rockies in the distance.  The Lamar Valley is the best place to see wildlife.  Wildlife viewed today consisted of bison, bison and more bison – some in close up as they crossed the road by the car, elk, deer, pronghorn (looks like a fawn coloured deer with a big white spot on it), and a black bear that was so far away you could only just make it out with the binoculars!

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Lunch today was a rapid affair in a so called bistro in Cooke City, the waitress of which had clearly never been to waitress school!  When asked by Mr L for something to stir his coffee she gave him a knife and fork and asked whether the knife would do – novel to say the least!  The food was also decidedly mediocre and so we would suggest that the Cooke City bistro be best avoided if ever travelling that way again!  Time was of the essence to head back down to our 5,000 feet as it had begun to snow and after 4.30pm it is recommended to have snow tyres which we don’t……..but as we got back down to the Lamar Valley the temperature warmed up to a high of 50F (they don’t do centigrade in US unfortunately). 

Tomorrow we are off on the Beaver Trail, apparently buying (at great expense, $40) and carrying bear pepper spray is essential.  We do want to see some bears but not too close!!

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