Day 6: Mammoth Hot Springs area

Our campground, Indian Creek, was only a few miles down the road from Mammoth Hot Springs, which is in the northwest quadrant of Yellowstone National Park. Mammoth is at a relatively low altitude – 6,200 feet (2067 m) – and serves as the headquarters for the Park Service at Yellowstone. After our adventure finding a site the previous day, we had started to appreciate just how big the park is. So for our first full day of adventuring we figured we’d start in our own backyard.

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There are tons of elk around Mammoth, and they like to hang out on the lawns of the buildings there:

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Our first order of business that day was to tromp around the hot springs themselves. They were a bit of a disappointment, truth be told – the mineral formations are interesting but not showstoppers.

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Plus they came with a lot of hoofing up and down stairs, and we flatlanders were not yet acclimated to the altitude. So it was a slow process of going up some stairs, sitting down, going a few more. We’re not the first ones to have this problem – the Park Service has thoughtfully put in benches about every ten steps or so.

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We decided to go hiking up in the hills around Mammoth. It was around this time that Nick started feeling sick to his stomach, but he agreed to stay back at the van and take a nap while the rest of us went hiking. We climbed up a long ravine to reach a hillside that took us meandering along the Beaver Ponds Loop Trail.

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There was some threatening weather as we reached the trail, and lots of people were heading for the trailhead to escape the rain. Our intrepid group has rain gear, so we kept on marching.

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The clouds soon cleared, leaving us with a beautiful and nearly deserted trail.

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We had our second exciting moment with nature on this hike. As we tromped along the hillside trail, we noticed two young black bears about 100 feet (33 m) below us on the hill. We slowed down, got our bear repellent spray ready, and walked slowly along until we were well clear of them. For their part, the bears paid us no mind whatsoever.

The hike was long – longer than we expected – and at length we reached the far side of the loop. At that point our next move was obvious. We got ice cream.

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By evening, young Nicholas was feeling better, and we were back at the campsite, cooking dinner and building a fire. This was the start of a beautiful vacation.

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Tomorrow: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.