The land of contrasts that is Yellowstone also applies to the weather. The overnight temperature dipped to 34 degrees and we awoke Sunday to an overcast sky. This was a day we dedicated to the big things of Yellowstone.
Before heading into the park, we spent some time at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a not-for-profit wildlife park and educational facility in West Yellowstone, MT. There, I spent a lot of time photographing the giant hump-backed bears, and a couple of wolves that were dozing in the mid-morning warmth.
Here's the center's description:
The bears at the center were all what is known as nuisance bears, or orphaned cubs of a nuisance bear. Nuisance bears learn to obtain food from people, damage property in search of food or become aggressive toward people and are usually killed. Instead of being destroyed, the eight bears that reside at the center were rescued and are ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.
The center is also home of 8 wolves that live in two different packs. The wolves were born in captivity and are unable to live in the wild. The facilities where they were born did not have room to keep them and the center was able to provide them a home. Here, the wolves give visitors an up-close look at their normally secretive lives. The wolves eat, play, reinforce their dominance hierarchy and howl right in front of the viewing areas.
The nuisance bears lives were saved. But they got a life sentence.
There was a beautiful bald eagle. In a big cage. The sign said she was found as a chick along and may have suffered neurological damage from chemicals or a fall. So the animal perches on a piece of wood. Ravens and other birds fly overhead. It sits there. Caged. Unable to fly. And stared at all day by crowds of people just on the other side of the wire.
Still, the animals would not be alive were it not for the center. The staff clearly love the animals and care for them well. And it does research, based on their observations of the their behavior. The wolves could not survive in the wild. They were rescued from other places. They know no other life.
From there, we headed back into Yellowstone in search of the real thing.
Every time a wild animal is spotted in the park, a traffic jam forms. As we headed upon the park's upper loop, we were slowed by one of those traffic snarls. People literally stop right where they are, even though they are not supposed to. This picture is of one of the traffic jams that developed when someone stopped to take a photo of what they thought was a bear. There turned out to be no bear, but that didn't stop people from looking.
Again, our Type B Roadtrek took us places where no other RV could go. Some of the park's best drives have signs prohibiting Type A and C vehicles. Our Roadtrek navigated narrow, winding mountain roads and took us to secluded vistas too small for anything larger.
The day stayed overcast and the mountains were less distinct without the sun and blue skies.
But then we hit the Mammoth Hot Springs area and we encountered the most surreal landscape we have ever seen. It looked like snow and ice. What we were seeing was the effects of hot springs that bubbled up from deep beneath the earth's surface through buried limestone. The boiling water then deposits the mineral calcite above ground. As it cools, the calcite hardens and becomes a beautiful white rocklike substance called travertine. The colors are amazing. If you look close, you can see beautiful blues and aquamarine in the cooling calcite beneath the biggest hot spring, which cascades down as a superheated waterfall.
We've been based in West Yellowstone and the Grizzly RV Park, one of the nicest campgrounds we've seen. My spot backs up to the Galatin National Forest. each spot has full hookups, a patio, picnic table and landscaping. All but two of the 20 campgrounds in Yellowstone are without hookups. The two that do have hookuos are jam packed. Starting Monday, we're moving in and will try to find one of the more isolated campgrounds. Our Roadtrek has everything we need. So, we'll be offline for most of Monday and Tuesday, moving deep into the park where there is no cell coverage, and thus no Internet. We'll emerge sometime Wednesday with a new post as we begin roadtreking back east to Indianapolis at the Family Motor Coach Association annual reunion starting next week.
Here's some more of our favorite photos from Sunday.