Again leaving at 7:30AM we all head for the upper (northern) loop in the park heading clockwise to miss the construction traffic later in the day. We first want to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area, then work our way back south. As we pass the major road construction project the wait was a little longer today and there was more of a line in front of us and behind us.
Is Mammoth Hot Springs drying up? No according to the National Park Service, it is in a constant state of change as the movement of water and fissures constantly changes underground. The Park Service estimates the amount of water emanating from this area has not changed, only where it issues forth.
Arriving at Mammoth Hot Springs we decide to explore the Upper Terraces, this 2-mile (3.2km) loop road is a very pleasant scenic drive through the features in this area. There are about 11 parking areas or pullouts along the drive so you may stop and explore the area and sites. Features include the main overlook (offering views of the Lower Terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs Village and Fort Yellowstone), Prospect Spring, New Highland Terrace (a landscape created in the 1950’s – 1980’s), Orange Spring Mound, Bath Lake, White Elephant Back Terrace, and Angel Terrace.
After exploring this area it was almost time for lunch so we continued the short distance to the village to find a place to eat. Walking through the small village we decided to eat at the Mammoth Terrace Grill a quick serve restaurant in the hotel that offers good grill food and hand dipped ice cream. The food was quickly served and very good, I had the smoked bison bratwurst and it was tasty and filling with the helping of fries I stole from my son’s plate. All of us passed on the ice cream but what I saw it sure looked good.
After eating my son wanted to see what goodies they had at the small gift – grocery store across the side street while the rest went over to the forts parade grounds to let the little one run around a bit. I found a large homemade double chocolate chip muffin for my breakfast the next morning. AHHH, a breakfast of champions.
Leaving here in the early afternoon we decided to just stop at overlooks along the eastern portion of the main loop and our next major stop would be Yellowstone Canyon and falls. The 10,000 to 14,000 year old canyon is 800 to 1,200 feet (244-366 m) deep and 1,500 to 4,000 feet (457-1,219 m) wide, carved by the 600 mile (965 km) long Yellowstone River.
We stop at the parking area for the 308 feet (94m) high lower fall and start exploring. Right at the first parking area (full at the time) you can have a very nice close-up view. We continue to walk along the rim of the canyon to get to another viewpoint, Inspiration Point. Along the path my son slipped on the downhill hard loose dirt surface and fell. Protecting his camera he left his rib cage wide open to some rocks in the path. Landing on them he heard a pop and had a severe pain in his side. OH NO a bruised or broken rib. He was in a lot of pain so we helped him up and he and some of the family went back to the cars for him to get some pain meds and rest.
My daughter-in- law and I continued the short distance to the lookout point, admired the view, took some photos and headed quickly back to the car. My son was in a lot of pain and had a long drive home for 2 days starting tomorrow so we skipped visiting our last scheduled stop for the day, Norris Geyser Basin, and went back to the cabin to rest, pack and cleanup the cabin before leaving in the morning.
We still had a full day as we arrived at the cabin at 4PM. Cleaning, packing and resting I was to leave at 5:30 the next morning to start my 2 day trip back home, so I had a few things to do before bedtime. The next morning I headed north through the park as I wanted to drive the Beartooth Highway, said to be one of the most scenic drives in the United States.