Day 25: Road Trip in the Time of Covid
Yellowstone National Park (Blacktail Plateau, Mammoth Hot Springs, Artist Paint Pot)
The laundry/shower facility in Gardiner, MT, was perfect. While the laundry was running, I de-scummed myself and reorganized my car. I can’t express enough, how much pleasure I get from organizing.
Since I was entering through the north side of the park, I decided to explore a dirt road called Blackfoot Plateau Trail. It was only six miles long, but I was creeping at about 20 miles an hour and making frequent stops. This is bear country, so I was keeping an eye out. Fortunately, I found a perfect spot to pull over so I could soak up the atmosphere while I made lunch. No bears were seen, but it was still fun.
The scenery was just so epic, I ended up doing the trail twice. I felt like a little kid at an amusement park: Let’s go, again!
Hiking for the day was Mammoth Hot Springs. In this region, as the spring waters flow, they deposit calcium carbonate, creating beautiful travertine terraces. The terraces are constantly changing which makes me think of it as a giant, living art sculpture.
The Liberty Cap is an extinct hot spring which left this wacky cone.
This section of the park was once a US Army installation: Fort Yellowstone. Today, it has a hotel and living quarters for park employees.
I was a little worried about getting caught in a storm, but I got lucky and it rolled on to the north.
My final stop for the day was at Artist Paint Pots. Mudpots (also known as paint pots) are one of the park’s chemistry-in-action geologic features. Micro-organisms in the hot spring digest the hydrogen sulfide gas and generate sulfuric acid. The acid then dissolves the surrounding rock to make a thick, soupy mix of clay and silica which bubbles up, making funny plop, plop, plop noises.
I decided to spend the night in the Canyon Village area since I was going to be hiking there in the morning. Quite a few of the amenities were closed due to Covid, but the hotel was open, so I just parked with the other cars and stealth camped.