by Jim and Melanie
Our second full day in Yellowstone National Park was an active one. We arrived early at the north entrance at Gardiner and waited in line behind a few other vehicles. A mother elk came down a nearby hillside followed by her calf, young, wobbly legged and slow. She took her time and allowed it to stay close. Traffic stopped as they crossed. It was a wonderful start to the day.
We passed the Mammoth Hot Springs where we’d hiked to the beaver ponds two days before. A few miles south of the springs we came to the Sheepeater Cliff of basalt columns. Our greeter sat at a picnic table munching some pine nuts while we explored the cliff.
And then there were the awesome rocks. A short one-way side road detour took us through these big ones.
Norris Geyser Basin
Eventually we reached our first major hike of the day. The geyser basin trails are on solid ground or wooden walkways. It is dangerous to venture off the trail. A recent victim was never recovered after his sister watched him fall into a hot spring. We stayed safely on the trails enjoying the beautiful colors and steam vents under the clear blue sky.
Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River
From Norris we drove east to Canyon Village in time for lunch. The village near the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is indicated on this map. The falls drop 308 feet to the canyon below. To see the falls up close, we walked a trail and descended some 600 feet down near their brink. The trail had at least a dozen switchbacks with resting spots at the end of each traverse. The hike was well worth the effort.
We continued north from Canyon Village on the Grand Loop Road. The gain in altitude and continual curves in the road made a scenic viewpoint a welcome place to stop for a break. A large rock gave us a convenient place to show our appreciation for the beauty of the area.
The road looped west again toward Mammoth Hot Springs. We watched for more wildlife and were rewarded with two black bears and a coyote. We thought we saw a wolf at one spot but could not be certain.