Monday, August 03, 2009

Grand Teton to Grand Canyon - Day Three

Day Three of the National Parks Tour - still no tribal art.

As the sun tumbled in our cabin window, we tumbled out of our beds - a little cramped in this small space - cleaned up and walked to the Dining Room for breakfast. The Dining room building is an interesting architectural example. Inside, Art Deco chandeliers hang from the ceilings. Tables are placed around the room.

We love breakfast buffets.

There is a breakfast buffet spread. Breakfast buffets make a lot of sense for us, since we tend to bulk up at breakfast and cut back at mid-day and evening meals. But one has to be willing to "eat up", or table service is a better deal.
Of course, that assumes a table service order will be served hot. In my case, the eggs, scrambled, were cold. Few things are ucky-er. I did not send them back at the time, out of concern for my breakfast companions and the need to get started on the day. I did complain when paying the check.

Overall architecture at Mammoth Hot Springs is interesting. Anyone who has spent any time in residence on a military base will get a sense of deja vu. Little wonder. Mammoth Hot Springs was an early Army base established in 1886 to protect the park from whatever lawlessness might threaten the park and its visitors.

Despite the fame of Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs is headquarters.

It remained an Army base until 1918. The outbuildings have the look of officer housing and larger buildings have the bland institutional appearance of barracks and recreation facilities. Today, these buildings are home to the administrative offices of the entire park.

The day's activity included a stroll through the fumaroles and hot springs that gave the location its name. The setting is stunning. We started at the top of the raised site and looked down on the tiers and terraces of travertine with cascades running to the bottom of the slope.

The Lodge at Mammoth Hot Springs, seen from above the upheaved terraces of travertine.

Streaming thermophiles flow downhill from a boiling fissure - Mammoth Hot Springs.

Terraces of travertine formed over thousands of years - Mammoth Hot Springs

A scene of desolation as a single tree withstands nature's flowing poisons - Mammoth Hot Springs

Terraces of ancient and recent travertine - Mammoth Hot Springs

A curious standing column of hot spring detritus - Mammoth Hot Springs.

As at West Thumb and the Grand Prismatic, walkways are constructed above the boiling grounds to protect both visitors and the integrity of the springs. In some places, there is the characteristic rainbow coloring caused by the thermophiles. In other places, the surface is blanched white, killing all the life beneath it. Stubs, branches and trunks of dead or dying trees remain standing in contrast to the stark white surface from which it emerges.

Eek! It's an elk!

Of a live nature, we were charmed by adult elks on the lawns surrounding the lodge and other buildings. They were feeding on the grass.

A sole female elk feeds by the Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge sign

Of a live nature, we were charmed by adult elks on the lawns surrounding the lodge and other buildings. They were feeding on the grass.

A single adult male with handsome rack feeds at the lodge - Mammoth Hot Springs

It is surprising to see them so close to people. They are not, after all, domesticated.

An elegant female joins teh banquet - Mammoth Hot Springs

The park rangers showed up quickly to maintain distance between the animals and the people who gather to see and photograph them. One had a shovel that we thought was intended for cleaning up the scat. Perhaps. But its more pronounced use was to dragged along the pavement to scare the beast to move on.

A male elk and his harem crossing the road

Elk are glorious, elegantly formed creatures.

We learned one way to tell them from deer is their white rumps. It doesn't hurt that they also stand a full foot taller than any stag deer I have seen. Every sighting of an elk or group of them attracts a crowd of on-lookers.

From the Grand to the Small.

Our other wildlife adventure was to sit on the porch of our cabin and watch a nest of ground squirrels gather food and stuff for their nest. One little squirrel would run over to the mulch border at the edge of our porch, jam its mouth with mulch, reject some and hold other, then scramble off to the nest with a mouthful of building material.

At first we thought it was eating. As we watched, however, we saw that it was a gathering activity.

Yellowstone by horseback

That afternoon, Susanne and Melissa went to the stable for an hour-and-half of horseback riding. The activity was enjoyed, with post-posterior aches, but enjoyed on docile and easy-riding horses. There were eight riders plus two guides on the trail ride, all on western saddles. One guide led the group while a second rode alongside. The latter guide pointed out unusual features along the trail.

"No wireless for you."

One disappointment for us was the absence of internet wireless service anywhere except in the staff quarters. Unfortunately, guests were not invited to use that facility. We rely on the internet for research and felt seriously deprived. If that sounds like you, be prepared. Or maybe the park authorities will find a way to extend staff privielges to the guests before you visit.

The Yellow Bus Tour

One of the events we learned about was an afternoon tour of the park in a yellow 1934 White Motor Company bus, the kind used by the park in the '30s through the 1950s. They have been refurbished, reupholstered and fitted with the latest in safety equipment.

We tried to sign up but were told they only had one open seat left. So we put our names on a waiting list. (We had to request it: it appears a waiting list was not a concept they had previously embraced.)

We stuck around the lodge, enjoyed a drink on the sunny patio, watching more ground squirrels and witnessing the arrival of another family of elk. At the last minute, the impending open seats were closed when a previous reservations showed up at the last minute.

If you might consider taking the Yellow Bus Tour, sign up before you leave home.

Dinner that night was in the Grill

This was a more casual and relaxed venue. We enjoyed standard grill meals such as burgers, hot dogs, chili and stuff. It was good to have that option, which alos is open on a more flexible schedule.
Another evening of early to bed as we are off to Salt Lake City en route to Bryce Canyon in the morning.

You will note that there is no mention of Native American art in this blog

Even though we theoretically are in American Indian country, it turns out that Indian tribes who migrated through the area did not generally settle there. The conditions were considered too hostile, from severe winter weather to an entry in William Clark's journal from the Lewis and Clark Expedition suggesting that the mystical character of springs were considered unwelcoming for humans.

To experience some examples of Native American art, check out our websites: , , and .

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