Posts filed under Yellowstone

Through Active Ancient Land

Adventure Tuesday

Yellowstone National Park - Winter Edition

Mammoth Hot springs

Since we always enter from the northern entrance, by the small town of Gardiner, we get access to the most northern part of the park in the wintertime. Though you can’t get to Old Faithful with the car, you can get to Mammoth Hot Springs. If you can’t go to Yellowstone at all, you can always tune in to one of the many webcams that the national park service provide. There are several covering the northern part, and one of them can be found by the Mammoth Hot Springs. Precipitation (both rain and snow) that falls on the surrounding mountains slowly makes its way down through the soil and continues deep belowground. Eventually the water is heated up before it finally sees daylight again when it leaves the deeper soil and is forced upward and creates the Mammoth Hot Springs.

Colors, Art and Science

It’s pretty cool to see the art that constantly forms with the combination of hot steam and cold air. Snow and ice surrounding the hot springs makes for the perfect art formation. The hot springs at Mammoth are one of the most accessible hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. They are just a few miles from the entrance in Gardiner which makes for an easy excursion. The bedrock underlying Mammoth Hot Springs mainly consist of limestone. When the deep water slowly makes its way upwards it has formed carbonic acid (due to the carbon dioxide that the water has collected belowground) which dissolves the limestone and forms calcium carbonate. When the calcium carbonate finally reach the surface it is deposited and forms travertine which is the rock that forms all the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Freezing Temperatures and Changing Colors

The hot springs constantly change and that is one of the greatest things about them. Either the flow of the water changes dues to freezing temperatures, or tectonic changes belowground triggers the water to change its route and sometimes even its temperature and other characteristics. Some of the hot springs even dry out for several decades, before they start to flow again. There have also been times when the hot springs flow has increased so much that the boardwalk gets under water. If you can time your excursion through the hot springs with some sunset or sunrise you should. The colors of the sky will reflect in the hot springs, and that is always amazing to see. It will be a completely different experience compared to the daytime excursion. The color of the hot springs themselves, blue, orange and green are caused by differences in temperatures and pH which allow for different bacteria to thrive and live there. Another good thing about freezing temperatures, other than all the art that is created, is that a lot fewer people will venture out at all. If its 10 or 20 below no one will be here.

The Terraces

Mammoth hot springs consist of two levels, the lower and upper terrace. Small parts of the area is wheelchair accessible, but to get to the upper terrace you either have to walk up some stairs, or access it from a different road, which I think is closed in the wintertime. Either way, if you are able to walk around you definitely should check out all the different springs at both the lower and upper terrace. You might see less of the different hot springs after a big dump of snow, so that might not be super fun. The photos below are all from the upper terrace level. All the photos above is sort of a mixture of all the different springs on both the upper and lower level.

Have you ever seen Mammoth Hot Springs in the wintertime?

Christmas Skiing on Open Plains and through Herds of Bison

Adventure Tuesday

Yellowstone National Park - Winter Edition

Skiing Blacktail Plateau

When we ski, we usually go to Blacktail Plateau. It’s only a one way, so out and back or if you carpool you can go just one way, but it is really beautiful. You have large views of the landscape from here and you can also spot herds of bison or elk along this route. In the summertime this road (Blacktail Plateau Drive) is also really pretty to drive, it’s one of many side roads you can drive in the park to get out of the tourist jam. The first time we skied there, W and I were deep in conversation and came around a corner to a herd of bison. We got so scared, and so did them. They ran off down the slope. A baby bison started to bluff charge us, luckily the older bison had no interest in us. Bison sometimes move fast across the landscape, browsing on what they can find underneath the snow, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out in what direction they are moving.


Through Valleys and over Hills

If you are lucky enough fresh snow and newly groomed trails will meet you when you arrive. But either way I love skiing here. You will get such a different view of the park if you go by skis. Not only of the wild animals, but also all the mountains and the deep forests in the distance. We almost never run into any people. Finding a parking spot can be hard depending on what end of the Blacktail Plateau Drive you start at. We have been pretty lucky so far and always managed to squeeze in somewhere. I love being able to ski in Yellowstone, you’ll get such an amazing feeling of freedom. And to top that off you will always see a bison or two munching away in the distance.

Northeast Yellowstone - A Place to Ski?

The exit at the northeast part of Yellowstone National Park is called the Silver Gate. It is right on the border between Montana and Wyoming. When you leave Yellowstone through this exit you’ll first drive through the mountains, and once you leave the park you can embark on the trip up in elevation, towards the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and the Beartooth Highway. The little town right outside the Silver Gate, Cook City, reminds me about the small towns you’ll see in the narrow valley along the Seward Highway towards Homer and all other places down in southeast Alaska. Obviously the Beartooth Highway is closed during the wintertime, because it sits high in elevation (10,947 ft). I have not explored the ski trails in northeast Yellowstone, and I would love to do that in the future. Northeast Yellowstone has these beautiful and large coniferous trees and draped by the mountains right next to the road, and just imagine skiing in there! That would be a dreamlike winter wonderland.

Have you been skiing in any of the National Parks in the world?

Take a Swim in the Boiling River

Adventure Tuesday

Yellowstone National Park - Winter Edition

Hot Springs in the Wintertime

If you are adventurous enough, especially in the wintertime, you can take a swim in the Boiling River. Another benefit of soaking in the wintertime is the lack of people. Try going here in the summertime and you’ll be in for a surprise. It is also the ONLY place you can soak in a hotspring in the park. The Boiling River is a hotspring that flows into the Gardner River. The park has established, with the use of larger stones and boulders, small pools in the intersection between the river and the hotspring. Like other parts of Yellowstone, the tectonic plates constantly shift. Not long ago those tectonic plates right under the boiling river shifted again, and an even warmer temperature arose. Last time I swam in the boiling river I was way too hot and had to lean over to the ice cold river to cool off my arms, W on the other hand seemed perfectly fine in the Boiling River.

Primitive Chic

If you drive from Gardiner the Boiling River is only about a quarter mile from the entrance. There is a limited number of parking spots by the Boiling River (to the left), and this is mostly a problem in the summertime. There is another parking lot on the other side of the road too, you just have to cross the road then to get to the trail that takes you to the hot spring. We have never had any problems finding parking in the wintertime. We usually go to the Boiling River in the morning, so that might also be why we usually don’t see that many other people here. After you find your parking you will have to walk for about 10 minutes before you get to the actual boiling river. There is a bathroom by the parking lot, but no changing rooms available by the river and the hot spring. We always bring our towels and such in a backpack on the short hike down to the hot spring. Don’t forget to bring a pair of Chaco’s or Tevas, you will be walking a short distance on snowy and cold stones to get down to the hot spring pools, and the stream bed is rocky so we always bring our Tevas. You gonna have to trust the other people using the area, or just don’t bring any valuables. One thing worth noting when swimming in hot springs that contain sulphur is that sulfur and silver react. If you are wearing any silver jewelry it might get stained. It’s just a chemical reaction and it’s reversible so just soak the jewelry in water with aluminum foil on the bottom and add some baking soda.

Have you ever taken a swim in any hot springs?