My first stop of my last full day in the park was at Norris Geyser Basin once more. I had walked the Back Basin trail a couple of days before, but I wanted to see the Porcelain Basin:
Coming down the hill into Porcelain Basin
It's the most barren place in the park, I think. There are trees around it, but, unlike the other geyser basins, there's not any in between things. I'm not sure why that is, if it's the acidity, or the heat, or the shallowness of the soil, or what.
There are some growing things, though:
Including algae the colors of the Mexican flag. Sort of.
After my stroll through Porcelain Basin, where the very ground sounds like it's blowing a raspberry, I drove east towards, but not to, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, instead heading south at the junction into Hayden Valley, where I promptly ran into another buffalo jam on my way to the rather evocatively named Mud Volcano area. Mostly it's a lot of muddy-looking hot springs:
And, in my humble opinion, the stinkiest place in the park. The geyser basins do give off a faint smell of sulphur occasionally, but the Mud Volcano area reeks of it. Your classic stench of rotten eggs.
Heading back north, I went over Dunraven Pass, the highest elevation reached by road in the park at 8859 feet:
Those trees aren't dead -- they're aspens that have already lost their leaves.
And I got stuck in another animal jam. This one was caused by my first bear of the trip, though, and I managed to get pictures. Very exciting stuff.
North end of a southbound bear
When I reached Mammoth, I had the crazy idea to stop at the park library (which is open to the public, and was in the basement of the Albright Visitor Center, one of the old Fort Yellowstone buildings, at the time) and see what I could learn about park history after the brainstorm I'd had at Grand Geyser the day before. A very nice gentleman kept a perfectly straight face while he listened to me burble on about my idea for a time travel novel with a geyser as trigger, pointed me to a number of very useful historical sources, then handed me his business card and said to contact him if I needed any further help.
I looked at the business card, and discovered I had just been monopolizing the time of Lee Whittlesey, the park archivist and author of a number of books on Yellowstone history. I swear I will be forever grateful to him for not laughing at me...
Still blushing, I headed for my night's destination, Gardiner, Montana, where I was supposed to meet with an email pal and a friend of hers from Atlanta, who were on vacation and had just driven down from Glacier National Park that day. Gardiner is where the Roosevelt Arch is:
"For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"
We did manage to meet up, and have supper, and then my friend got the crazy idea to do Mammoth Hot Springs by moonlight. It was fun, but silly.
The bed and breakfast we stayed at in Gardiner had every room done up in a different theme, and the one we stayed in was the Teddy Roosevelt room. Bears everywhere. The lamps, the wallpaper border, the furniture...