The day before Lisa and Mick were scheduled to leave and take a bus the rest of the way across to the west coast, we left the house early in the morning and drove to Yellowstone National Park.
The day was overcast (as much of their visit was), but the weather was beside the point, and all five of us eagerly headed to the park.
There was no way that tourists from Australia could come here and NOT go to the park.
As always, Yellowstone was magic.
A magical place filled with beauty and wonder.....................
Mick had a strong interest in geology and particularly wanted to see some of the hot springs that he had heard so much about, even on the other side of the world.
With that in mind, we decided to head for Mammoth Hot Springs.
The last time we had been to Mammoth LC and I were still living in Cody.
It was early November, LCs brother Gary was with us, the park was all but abandoned by tourists, it was freezing cold and threatening snow the entire visit, Mammoth Hot Springs was completely packed with elk contentedly grazing in front yards, and I loved it all.
The cold, the silence, the empty trees and empty roads and empty campgrounds, the buffalo and elk, the entire, wonderful, magical place....................
The drive to Mammoth went quickly, and as we pulled into this little community of park buildings and tourist havens, I began to see random elk scattered among the trees.
It was nothing like what we had seen on that freezing cold November day, but they were still here and I was still as excited as a small child to see them.
The humans in the Tahoe climbed out of the vehicle and stood looking around for a moment, trying to get the lay of the land.
As I looked around I snapped this quick picture of an elk grazing on the lawn.................
Mick and Lisa both wanted to head in to a tourist store, and while LC followed them I walked back to the Tahoe to spring my puppy from the bondage of the vehicle.
She needed to walk.
So did her momma.
As I walked closer to the Tahoe I again looked over at the elk.
She looked to be in poor shape, and maybe all elk looked like her at this time of year, but as I stood watching her for a few moments I wondered just how rough this past winter had been in the park.
Her new antlers were coming in.
Her coat looked ashen. Yellowish. Greyish. Completely unlike anything I had ever seen before from these animals, and as I continued to watch her I hoped that she was healthy...................
I don't believe that anyone actually lives in Mammoth Hot Springs that is not directly associated with the park operations.
It is an astonishingly beautiful place filled with buildings reaming with character.
It is surrounded by mountains and hot springs, and feels completely cut off from the rest of the world.
A silentl and isolated community that on this visit was slowly gearing up for the upcoming tourist season.
I was glad that we had visited on this day - only a few weeks before schools let out of the summer.
In a few weeks this place would be packed with people and although it would still be beautiful, it would be a completely different place from the one it was now.
And in November it would be completely different again.
Link to this place on that cold November day a few years ago:
I like November at Mammoth.......................
Kory and I happily wandered along the back roads that we had driven with Gary a few years prior.
We were off the beaten path a little bit, and for a few minutes (while the other three did whatever the other three wanted to do), I could spend some quiet time with my dog.
Kory had been great through these past few very busy days, but it was obvious that she was both upset and unsettled by all the changes that were happening in her life.
There were three other people in her house.
They were sitting in the Tahoe in places that were usually HER places.
Her tail had been down for days and while we had visitors at the house she slept in the corner of the kitchen behind the table.
In truth I was a little worried about her and so I was glad to have this quiet time with her.
Over the past 2 1/2 she and I had bonded over walks.
Communicating together in that special, unspoken way that dogs and their humans have with each other.
THIS she was used to.
I was used to it as well, and we quietly wandered together as we have done so many times in the past..................
20 minutes into our walk LC called me.
Telling him where I was, Kory and I headed for the end of the road, and just as we approached the corner I looked up to see the familiar white vehicle heading our way.
Climbing back into the Tahoe we drove only a couple of minutes before pulling into the parking lot of the..........mammoth Mammoth Hot Springs.
LC said he would stay with Kory.
Lisa, Mick and I headed for the first of the many wooden walking paths that meander through this huge, stinking, smoldering, series of cauldrons and mud pits...............
You can feel the power of this place.
As you wander in its territory, you can feel the churning, barely-contained life that throbs below the surface.
It is an unearthly place unlike anything I have ever seen before, and beautiful in a way that is impossible to describe.
You must see it to understand it................
Looking back the way we had come................
Lisa, Mick and I walked multiple boardwalks, and climbed ever higher, exploring one pit after another of smoldering life.
Eventually they veered to the right and I veered to the left.
Mick was obviously fascinated by this place and wanted to climb up to the next boardwalk to find out what was there.
It was hugely interesting but I had seen enough.
As Mick was pulled ever higher to explore the smoldering cauldrons of molten energy, I was always pulled to the mountains.
While I waited for my sister and my brother-in-law I stood at the edge of a high boardwalk and spent a few moments alone.
My fast beating heart slowed just a little.
My fast breathing slowed just a little.
There was no-one around me.
I was alone but not lonely.
And I stood in the cool and damp late morning in the middle of Yellowstone National Park and looked beyond the cauldrons and the boardwalks and the parking lot and the community of Mammoth Springs.
I looked beyond it all and saw the mountains................
The mountains are calling and I must go..............John Muir