Yellowstone: 90% closed. 10% magic.

While we happened to visit Yellowstone National Park in the one month of the year that it is 90% closed… we were still pleasantly impressed by the bits we saw.

We have both been to Iceland and therefore have seen some of the world’s most impressive geothermal wonders. That said, the Mammoth Hot Springs still held its own in terms of surreal geological phenomena. A series of bubbling hot pools lie upon hills of travertine terraces. These are not the type of hot springs you would bathe in, as the water in the pools reaches about 170 degrees (F) even after cooling a bit en route to the surface. The terraces appear white from the travertine, yet algae in the pools sometimes adds shades of brown, red, orange and green. Several trails lead around the hot spring areas, all of which we thoroughly explored. It was nothing less than remarkable. History states that when the first white man to discover the springs back in the 1800s returned to the east with stories of the phenomena, no one believed him and wrote them off as tall tales.

We drove the 53 mile stretch of road to Cooke City across the northern part of Yellowstone park and back. Cooke City is a tiny rustic town, which in the winter is only accessible through the park via snowmobile (aka ‘snow machines’ around there) The three roads leading up there all close down in the winter leaving the town practically abandoned. It was interesting, yet a bit eery walking around there.

Many aspects of the Yellowstone country felt very similar to back home around Tonasket, however what stood out was the wildlife. We passed numerous herds of buffalo grazing in the fields, herds of elk, “white butt deer,” hawks, eagles and a moose. We were driving back at sunset… a time when many animals were in transit for the evening, often crossing the road, and therefore providing us with up close and personal views. The lighting and movement wasn’t great for photos, but the sight was memorable to say the least.

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