I drop the key into the box as I check out early from the cabin and get on the road towards Lamar Valley before sunrise, (I stop to view a bull elk bugling) with the hope of spotting some wolves. There were no wolves in Yellowstone National Park in 1994, they were reintroduced in 1995-96 and at the end of 2012, at least 83 wolves in 10 packs (6 breeding pairs) occupied YNP.
Not far out of the Mammoth Hot Springs area I catch sight of a majestic bull elk calling in the morning air. Then I head to Lamar Valley and the orange sky of the rising sun. Lamar Valley is very busy with people with binoculars & cameras on the lookout for wolves. I have no luck in spotting any wolves but I do catch sight of a lone pronghorn, the fastest North American land mammal, able to reach speeds of up to 60mph!
The Lamar Valley is a beautiful sight in the morning light and with slight disappointment at not seeing any wolves I head back through Mammoth Hot Springs, stopping to view a bull elk (probably the same one I saw bugling earlier) with his harem of cows.
I stop at Roaring Mountain – this hissing mountain of steam is the only thing like it in the park, Roaring Mountain is a barren hillside of thermal features called fumaroles. It got its name from the loud hissing and roaring that it makes due to thermal activity and could be heard miles away in the days of its discovery. Nowadays the roaring has quieted a bit but can still be heard if you listen carefully.
Artisits Paintpots is full of vibrant colours, comparable to an artist’s palette. The best time to view is late May/June when snow melt has given the mud pots plenty of water.
At Midway Geyser Basin, despite its small size, it possesses two of the largest hot springs in the world. Grand Prismatic Spring, nearly 370 feet in diameter, sits upon a large mound surrounded by small step-like terraces. The other feature, Excelsior Geyser, erupted nearly 300 feet high before the 1900s. It is now a dormant geyser and is considered a hot spring, discharging more than 4050 gallons of boiling water per minute.
From Midway Geyser Basin I head to the Upper Geyser Basin at Old Faithful where, as it’s my birthday, I’ve splashed out on the Old Faithful Snow Lodge ($258, 1nght).
The amount of thermal activity is really amazing to view, from beautiful coloured pools, such as chromatic pool and morning glory pool, to the many steam vents along the riverside this is a spectacular and unique place on Earth and I view another eruption of Old Faithful before retiring to my lovely wood-panelled room.