Friday, June 6, 2008

Yellowstone: Day 2

Yellowstone is, as my mom observed at one point, a true American park. The reason is there are roads in the park going to all the "major" attractions, so it really seems like most tourists just drive around, waddle a few hundred yards to see said attraction, then go back and drive on. We obviously couldn't be typical Americans, so chose a nice, long hike on Thursday to enjoy a bit of the park most people never see.

And trust me, it was great. We did a trail called the Beaver Ponds Loop which was, obviously, a several-mile loop around old beaver ponds. Except since this is Yellowstone, we kept running into views like this-

Ah, so lovely! (That's the "town" in Yellowstone called Mammoth in the valley.) Soon enough the trail started winding through a bunch of aspen groves, which were framed by the background views quite beautifully-
Another pretty shot, towards Mammoth Terraces-
Overall, I'd say that what was most surprising about the trail to me was how, well, Swiss the whole thing felt. I went to Switzerland once, when I was about eight years old, and what little I remember of hiking around there was strikingly similar to this corner of Yellowstone. No cows like there are everywhere in Switzerland, of course, but these comparisons only go so far...
Another pretty shot of the trail...
A shot of the old Gardiner trail, which is the old wagon trail used over a century ago when the park was first founded. It still winds all over the park, and it's frankly amazing to see some of the steep slopes the old wagons went over because they're so incredibly steep.
An obligatory beaver pond picture, as I said this was a trail to go past them at some point.
An obligatory wildflower picture. Why do I say obligatory? Because my mom loves flowers, so we stopped at every single new type of flower on the trail we saw to admire it. By my guesses there were ~15 types of wildflower (pretty impressive seeing as it was the equivalent of early spring at this altitude) including some lovely ones like lupines, columbines, and shooting stars... These ones here are balsamroots, pictured here because they are by far the most common wildflowers in Wyoming at this time of year and are quite lovely.
As a final bonus of the trek, after our hike we detoured to see the Mammoth Terraces in Yellowstone, formed by limestone deposits from the hotsprings. Apparently these change very rapidly in nature, meaning if you visit in a few years you will not find anything that looks like this picture, and I think that's kind of neat.

After this, of course, we were all sufficiently dead tired from all the walking. We had our best wildlife sightings of the entire trip afterwards, though, which I will detail later...