Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

A Surprise Stop

Thursday August 18, 2011
Mammoth Hot Springs Campground Site 5
Yellowstone National Park


On Wednesday we were up and out the door by 6am to
make sure Carrie got to the Jackson Hole Airport by
8:15, an hour ahead of her flight.

It’s 100 miles from Bridge Bay to the airport inside
Grand Teton National Park and the speed limit for 95%
of the way is 45 mph.

We made it on time with no buffalo stops – thank goodness.
Guess it was too early for them to hit the road.

We were sad to see her go and glad to hear later that
both her flights to Minneapolis and then to Baltimore
were on time and went well.  No good bye photos, we
don’t like good byes.


After she left we went into Jackson to restock.
Gas and groceries.
We stopped at Bubba’s for breakfast where David
had the biggest biscuit he’d ever seen.
Left our cameras in the car so no picture of that either.

For most of the rest of the day, David shopped
and I stayed in the car using our wireless for
about the first time in a week to catch up
on email and blog postings.


But Thursday, was a very different
story.  We set out in the direction of
Glacier National Park which is, of course,
North.  So I says to myself, let’s just go
up the North side of the Figure 8 drive
instead of across the middle and out the
west side and then North.


Made perfect sense except for the
fact that I didn’t realize 10,000+ foot
Mount Washburn was on that route.

I think it is the scariest drive on the
narrowest roads we’ve ever taken.
David did a GREAT job but I
could hardly look let alone take any pictures.

The pull outs aren’t well designed
if they want a motor home to
pull over they drop off at an angle. 
But we did find one on the wayat a lovely falls
and took advantage to destress and have
lunch there.




I was counting down the miles to North Entrance.
Only 5 to go, when we came to the Mammoth Hot Springs area.


Mammoth is actually the old Fort Yellowstone
so it’s like a town which was built in the late 1800’s
to protect the park once it was created.


Here’s what we saw on the town square
as we drove into town.




Elk, elk and more elk.
Apparently there is a small herd that
likes to hang out in town every afternoon
and cause the park rangers to have to
keep the tourists at a safe distance.
Notice above the ranger approaching the couple
out of their cars.   $125 fine for being within 75 feet
of any wild animal and 300 feet of bears.




What a darling little town……we’re exhausted from
the drive so far……..let’s just stay here.
The boon docking campground is 1/4 mile outside of town
down and around a hairpin curve of course.


BUT there is a Verizon signal even if they don’t
have electric or water or a dump station.
The important things are covered. 
We’ve got cell phone and internet coverage.  :-)


We signed up for two nights. 
$14 a night/ $7 for seniors.  

The ambiance of the campground
is much more to my liking
than either of the other two campgrounds
we’d been in while in Yellowstone.


Mammoth Hot Springs 003


Mammoth Hot Springs 005


We got set up and took off up the sage covered
campground hillside path to check out the Visitors Center
and those elk.   I’m the white dot nearly dwarfed
by the tree like sage.  Can you see me back there??




Great views on the climb up.




And look who is up at the top of the trail.




Luckily the elk wandered off while we were
deciding exactly what to do and we continued on to the top.


And of course there she was stopping traffic
coming into town and looking at us like “who me”?




All of the former Fort’s buildings have been converted
to the Park’s Administrative Headquarters or
employee housing.  It is now a National Historic District.


For the decade after the establishment of Yellowstone
as the first national park in 1872, it was under serious threat
from those exploiting rather than protecting its resources.
Poachers killed animals, souvenir hunters broke large pieces
off the geysers and hot springs.  The Civilian superintendents
hired to protect the park from 1872 until 1886 were pretty much unfunded and couldn’t handle the problems.   Congress
passed the law, created the park but gave no money to pay for it.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it??


So the secretary of the interior called upon the secretary
of war for help and in 1886 the Army came to the rescue
with men from Company M, First United States Cavalry
Fort Custer Montana Territory.  They stayed for 30
years and literally brought law and order to the park.
In 1916, the National Park Service was created
and took over administration of the park.

The first buildings were constructed in 1891
mostly quarters for the men and stables for the horses.
There is a very nice self guided walking tour of the town
which we did after the visitor’s center.

In 1909 Scottish stone masons began erecting
sandstone buildings including a bachelor’s quarters
which is now the Albright Visitors Center.




where I did get my passport book stamped
and the event was recorded for posterity!




This visitors center has a another great film
with an interview with  Mardy Murie. She’s
one of my heroes.  Olaus and Mardy Murie,
two founders of the modern conservation movement,
used the Murie Ranch in the Grand Tetons
as their base of operations from 1946 until
Mardy’s death in 2003.
Mardy sold the ranch to the National Park Service in 1968.
In 2006, the Interior Department designated the ranch
as a national historic landmark.  We passed
the ranch entrance several times in Grand Teton
but never made the time to stop
It is one of the things I want to return there to see. 
It was wonderful to see her talking about the
importance of wild places in this film.


In addition to the theater, downstairs the center
has exhibits of the photography of
William Henry Jackson and the paintings of Thomas Moran
both of whom were part of the original survey team.
The photographs, paintings and sketches are wonderful.
It was their work, primarily, which convinced congress
to protect the Yellowstone and create the first national park.

I didn’t have my camera that day and the only
picture David took of the Jackson or Moran works
was not of the landscapes but of the
early camping.   It’s fun to see Pre Winnona!




Upstairs is the very best collection of taxidermy I have ever
seen.  I’m not much for stuffed animals.  The idea of killing
and stuffing them doesn’t appeal but these were exquisitely done.

There were also a number of Crowe beaded pipe bags



a set of beaded stirrups



a Buffalo Hunt painting on elk hide.




This is an excellent visitors center.  Don’t miss it!


We left the visitors center and took the old fort buildings
self guided tour.

These are the first 1891 buildings




This magpie was walking up the walk to the porch
of one as though he lived there.








1891 stables turned carpenter shop




Several of the sandstone structures from 1909
now used as residences




And the Park Superintendent’s Office




It’s a very interesting walking tour that takes under an hour
to do following the well designed brochure available.

We ended up at the post office where we sent
some postcards



and across the street






We walked up to see the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
And to check out the ice cream possibilities at the
Grille and Grocery.  Great potential for another day!


Time to start the walk down but then this
guy was in the way and we had to cross the street
and walk around in order to keep the required
distance away.  We’ve been warned that
the rangers here are serious
about protecting the public,
avoiding lawsuits and
about issuing citations to that end.


Eventually,  back down the path we went.
A really nice walk from the campground
to “town”.

I took the opportunity to fill my
nose with the wonderful scent of
sage which I love.




There’s a nice bench about half way
which is a great place to sit and contemplate
how lucky I am to be right here, right now.




As we walked back through the campground
this western bluebird of happiness flew up
on a branch in front of us.
Plenty of good luck already in this day.




It had been a long day and I
was too tired for campfire talks
but David, ever the one to do it all,
went to hear the talk and see the
slides on camping in Yellowstone in the late 1800’s.

I don’t think he took pictures of all the slides
but I’m not really sure of that given the number
he had.  I’ll leave you with a few I liked
the best.














What a fortunate mistake in
direction this turned out to be!


  1. So happy for you that Carrie was able to come visit with you. I don't like goodbyes either. In fact, that's one thing that I don't like about this lifestyle. We've been able to see a lot of friends, but that also means we've had to say a lot of goodbyes. :-(

    Are the elk tag-teaming the buffalo in the stalking department?

  2. We did not spend much time in Mammoth-need to make another visit.
    Get some huckleberry ice cream while you are there-good stuff.

  3. looks like you found a nice spot to enjoy the countryside from...

  4. You are truly in another world out there. Incredibly beautiful and definitely nothing like back east.

    You're going to have a hard time coming back! Or do you even plan to come back????

  5. So Carrie leaves and in no time you get yourselves in trouble driving over a 10,000 foot mountain road!

    I can understand you hanging off cliffs on your hikes, but doing it with Wannona?

    You guys need some serious adult supervision! ;c)

  6. Catherin & Jo Beth, We actually did a Huckleberry taste test trying the one at the General Store and one at the Grille. But I think it would take a couple more tries before we can say anything definitive. :-)

    Paul, You must come out right away to provide this "adult" supervision....well no actually probably Marti would need to supervise at least you and me.

    Gail, If you mean come back East, we will do that as the weather gets colder here and migrate our way to Florida. What a life!!

  7. I like that too. Right here, right now.

  8. Bill and I have really enjoyed watching the three of you have the time of your lives. It was so much fun watching you enjoy things as a family!! Hope to get to meet Carrie one of these day.

    Well, we've been there, we drove your mistake!! However, we drove it in the Van not the Motorhome!!! Can't imagine how you two did it. I am sure Sherry stopped looking after a while;o))

    But oh, what a great mistake. Now that we know you and Winnona are all OK. Keep having fun, but let's not take Winnona quiet so high;o))

  9. Closing my eyes would not have been enough. I think that I would have gotten out and started walking. Oh, me. Congrats on the driving, David. The pictures aren't too bad either. ;-)

    Guess y'all have heard about the earthquake here. The 5th floor was rockin', but it still wasn't as exciting as your adventures. Take care!

  10. So many Elk! I missed out! What great expressions they have. Great slides - especially the Yellowstone Lingo :) Great post!!


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