Hot Damn! Really. Hot Damn.
This was - I feel like I am using the words spectacular, fantastic, majestic over and over again but all of these adjectives fit all of these sites.
One of the main draws of Mammoth are the elks. It is the elk rut season. What does rut mean? It means horny, territorial, loud male elks. The seem to gather an many females and young around them that they can find and spend all their time bugleing (screaming, which made me giggle every time I heard it all night and I mean all night) and trying to get lucky. We did see him get very close one time, but mostly the females seem uninterested.
The big guy and some of his girls.
Today we also met up with Mare's brother Fred and his lovely wife Christine (my sister by another mother). I had spent the last two days fretting over the fact that I believed that I had done something really stupid, that I had made reservations and was expecting Fred & Christine to share Mare's room. Well two days before I realized the rooms in Mammoth and Old Faithful Inn only had one bed. Oh dear. Cheryl and Mare stopped along the way and purchased a blow up bed and we were just going to make the best of it. So we get to Mammoth and rearrange furniture and blow up the bed and get the room all ready.
Fred and Christine show up and we stop them before they get to the reception desk and saying oh no, mistake made, blah, blah, blah. Christine looks at me like I am out of my mind and says: We have our own room here and at Old Faithful, what are you talking about. I felt like the weight of an elk had been lifted off my shoulders. Whew! Uncomfortable room situation avoided.
We had had dinner the night before at the Mammoth Dining Room and were not impressed, so we thought lets go into Gardiner for dinner. 5 miles down the road - what a waste of time and money and taste buds. Worst food I had ever had in my life! Yuck.
Next day we head over to Lamar Valley - supposed to be THE place to see wild life (other than elk) in the park. We did see this:
A mama long horn and her babies. So cute.
I read somewhere that somebody thinks people treat Yellowstone as a petting zoo. They forget that these are wild animals - you hear the rangers all day and night - get back from the animals - stay away from the animals - and having them be so close you forget sometimes that they are wild. You want to touch them, but don't. Because if they hurt you, they get destroyed. Killed because you could not obey the rules. Bears get killed because you feed them. Bison get killed because you get in their face. Stay away from them, they get close enough to get pictures, keep it that way.
When you see people pulled over you know they are looking at something and you want to see it!!!
But man, you do not even have to get out of your car to see things like this:
This big guy was just at the side of the road. We were pretty much stopped, because people were stopped to look at the bison. Right after I took this picture he looked up at me and took a step or two closer and I got scared and rolled up my window. Not that the flimsy glass and metal between me and him would have stopped him from head butting me into the next world, but it did make me feel a bit safer.
After two nights at Mammoth we headed down to another fucking fantastic place - Old Faithful Inn.
This place is crazy! The lobby is 76 feet high. Four stories. A four sided fireplace (damaged in the 1959 earthquake, so only one chimney still functions, the wood harvested within 5 miles of where I am standing, the rock from Black Sand Basin down the road, that Old Faith Geyser is right outside and and has been blasting water and steam into the air around every two hours for who knows how long, it is like Disneyland, but real.
We took a tour one morning, our tour guide Mary was great. Now Mary told us that she was from Kansas and truthfully just looking at her, you would have known that. She gave us a great tour of the Inn, built in 1904 by a 29 year old architect. People would pay $50 to spend 5 days in Yellowstone, they would spend one night in each of the great lodges. Old Yellowstone Inn and Mammoth are the only ones left from the "olden" days. The doors of the Inn are 3-4 inches thick, they were made very sturdy to give the guests a feeling of security from - Indian attacks. Really? Yes, really.
Anyway, back to the tour. Again I could go on about the 500 tons of rock it took to build the fireplace or they crew of five men sent out to find all those little "branches" at each post - or the fact that there is a widows walk on the very top - that is closed to the public - but if you are lucky enough to be standing around when a bellman is going up there you might just get invited to a private moment up there - we were not lucky. I will tell you that if you go - ask for rooms in the original part of the lodge, you might have to share a bathroom, but might just be worth it. Next time I am requesting room 248 and will build my time around the availability of that room.
At the end of the tour people asked questions. The most important one was this:
How did they pick this spot? With all the thermal activity around how did they know this was a good spot.
The answer was:
Luck. They saw grass growing and thought this must be a good spot.
This did not leave me with warm fuzzy feelings.
In 1988 the worst fire ever started in Yellowstone. It burned and burned. It came up the ridge behind this hotel. Flames 200 feet high. Luckily in 1987 the park had gotten 30 million dollars to do renovations and one of the renovations was an outdoor water system. That's right, sprinklers on the outside of the building that continually poured water on the building and sparks could not catch. Good use of money I would say.
I'll tell you about the thermal basin of Yellowstone next time.