Friday, November 9, 2012

Yellowstone In November - Part 4

By this point in our trip we were traveling all new territory.
Gary had never been to the park before, and although LC and I had visited a number of times we had never been to Mammoth Hot Springs.
I sarcastically but good naturedly told someone once that "research is your friend".
I had never done any research on Mammoth Hot Springs and knew absolutely nothing about it.
Part way through our trip the three of us had decided that we would enter through the East Gate and travel through the park to exit through the North East Gate close to Cooke City.
That was a LONG way, but since we had committed to a long day I was taking the day strictly as it came - whatever we saw, we saw. 
It was all good.  And even though research and I were not friends on this day, I was looking forward to learning more about this new place..............
30 minutes after leaving Artists Point, and after traveling beyond beautiful, small and crystal clear lakes, and then traveling through endless miles of calm pastures surrounded by snow-touched hills and mountains, we suddenly came to this place.............
We had just left endless pastures a few minutes before, and suddenly we were completely surrounded by rock.
Not just rock - endless boulders piled high on both sides of the roads.
I had never seen a place such as this before.
It looked as though a giant child had lifted a huge boulder over his head and dropped it to the ground, and then laughed with glee as he watched it smash into a thousand small pieces................
There was rock piled along both sides of the two lane highway for at least a mile.
Behind the rock was more pasture and rolling hills and rocky mountains even further back.
The line of rock looked strange and out of place, causing all of us to why?
I had no idea, but the curiosity of it was appealing and the cause of much speculation and bemusement as we continued on our journey..............
As abruptly as the rock had started, the rock ended.............
On the outskirts of Mammoth Springs LC pulled the truck over to the side of the road so that I could take a picture of this rock.
It was located on the opposite side of the road and I snapped a couple of quick pictures of it before lowering my camera and really taking a close look at this.........thing.
It was rock.  There was no doubt.  But it was alive.
Its' surface was multiple subtle shades of brown and black and grey and white.
Smoke was billowing from the rock and into the atmosphere.
Smoke and a white substance was slowly rolling down the hill.
There was a barely heard "noise" coming from the rock.
I read far too many Stephen King novels during my younger years.  As I continued to watch this rock I could almost sense the life force that it contained.
Mesmerizing.  Truly fascinating.................
After finally (and reluctantly) climbing back into the truck we drove only a couple of minutes before pulling off the highway again.
We all saw them at the same time - a small herd of elk sitting on a very large flat rock that was adjacent to a residential area on the outskirts of town.
Click on the pictures to enlarge them.............
It wasn't until we pulled the truck into a gravel parking lot and climbed out, that we realized that the "elk on the rock" were not the only elk in the area.
As we looked further down the quiet residential street we were close to, we realized that there were literally elk covering the entire area - grazing along both sides of the road, grazing in home owners yards, sitting and standing and sleeping on the grass in yards.
I always thought that it was very cool to have deer living and wandering and grazing throughout downtown Cody.
But this was incredible.................
We wandered slowly and quietly around one small area close to the truck for a long time, all the while watching these beautiful animals who were obviously very used to people.
They barely gave us any attention at all.
Eventually we quietly climbed back into the truck and turned down a back road, so that we could slowly work our way over to this residential road. 
Slowly we drove down this road (stopping often to take pictures), and at the end of the road turned the truck around to repeat the process once more.
They did not even glance up at us.................
I had never seen such a large herd of domestic elk and as we finally drove away from them all three of us talked excitedly about the wonder of such an unexpected and extraordinary encounter.
While LC and Gary walked into a convenience store to pick up additional supplies (translation - coffee and junk food) I walked with Jamie towards this rock.
It was only a minute away from the elk herd and was one more of those living, breathing, powerful rocks that sent my Stephen King-Twilight Zone brain into overdrive.
Same deal.  Smoke.  Oozing white substance.  Multi colored rock.
We walked as close as a ditch about 50 yards from the rock, and as Jamie tried to drink from the ditch I pulled her away.
I had no idea what was in that water but I knew that I did not want my dog to drink it.
I had given her water at some point during our trip, but as James single-mindedly and continually wandered towards the ditch I realized that I could not remember how long it had been since my dog had drunk any water.
Guiltily I walked her back to the truck, reached into the back and grabbed her bowl and a bottle of water.
Yup.  My dog was very thirsty............
Standing right in front of the roiling, smoking, oozing, bubbling rock................
The buildings in this small community of Mammoth Springs are all monochromatic and blend seamlessly with the terrain.
Many buildings are park offices and employee living quarters.  Many are hotels and motels and general stores.
It feels like a different world in this place.
A beautiful, isolated, quiet world............
The only bear that we saw on this trip through Yellowstone.
We pulled out of Mammoth Hot Springs and headed towards the North East Gate.
We had a long drive to get there and another long drive from Cooke City back to Cody.
We were on the hunt for bison..................

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