Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



Today was our final day, or more precisely, half-day in Yellowstone National Park.  We had to get to Bozeman (Montana) by evening time today to stay overnight because we are due to catch a flight from Bozeman Airport at just after 6 am tomorrow morning.  That meant we could explore some more of Yellowstone today before taking the drive of a couple of hours from Yellowstone’s northern boundary to Bozeman.  As things turned out, we had a thoroughly enjoyable day exploring parts of Yellowstone that we had to miss previously, and we were able to do so in a very relaxed manner.

We set out at a little after 9:15 am and after a brief stop to examine the regeneration of the forest after fire damage, we headed towards Artists Point.  Although we had been there late on Thursday afternoon, it was in the semi-darkness just before a thunderstorm began.  We loved the view of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and its Lower Falls and we were keen to see it again in bright sunshine.  Although most of the drive from West Yellowstone to Artists Point was done under heavy cloud cover, the sun came out as we arrived at our destination, and we were able to marvel at the grandeur and subtle colours of the canyon in all its glory.

Inspired by this experience, we decided to explore another of the significant sights of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, the Upper Falls.  The Upper Falls are not as high as the Lower Falls, but the perspective provided for visitors was awe-inspiring in quite a different way.  The viewpoint for the Upper Falls emphasises the power of the river as it overlooks the Falls from a point right beside the water as it powers its way in a curved path through the rocks, past the onlooker, and then downwards into a sea of mist and spray at the foot of the drop.

Our next stop was Norris Geyser Basin.  This was another place we had visited previously, but I had walked around only one of the two circuits (Porcelain Basin), and Di had not completed either.  The circuit we completed today was known as Back Basin, and in contrast to Porcelain Basin which was an open area, Back Basin was a forested area (much of it still regenerating after the 1988 fire) and its features were more scattered.  In general, I thought that the geysers, springs, vents, fumaroles and mudpots of Back Basin were far from the most spectacular we have seen in Yellowstone, but the 2 kilometre walk was pleasant and provided some very welcome if not particularly strenuous exercise.

Our final stop in Yellowstone was at the Mammoth Hot Springs, just eight kilometres from the park’s northern boundary.  Although we had experienced some heavy cloud cover at Norris, the skies had cleared by the time we reached Mammoth and we made the most of the bright conditions by completing the short Upper Terraces Drive and then taking a close look at an area of the Lower Terraces that had been inaccessible last time we visited (because of the shortage of parking spots).

This short Lower Terraces walk was perhaps my scenic highlight of the day.  After walking past Liberty Cap, an 11 metre high phallic-looking remnant of a former hot spring, I reached Palette Spring, a beautiful series of terraces and colourful criss-crossing flows of water where thermophiles create a fantastic pattern of orange and brown hues against the pure white travertine.

A special surprise awaited me as I reached the end of the boardwalk at Palette Spring – two elks were resting on the white travertine, licking the deposits of calcium carbonate.  Visually they looked as though they were licking pure white snow, but the temperatures were vastly different from a snowfield – a surrounding temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, made all the warmer for them by sitting in the sauna-like conditions of being in the clouds of steam that were blowing off the boiling water of the terraces.

A short drive northwards (and downhill) brought us to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park and the small service town of Gardiner.  A significant landmark in Gardiner is the Roosevelt Arch, constructed to mark a grand entrance to the park in 1903 when the railway reached Gardiner.  In the pre-automotive era, very few people ever went to Yellowstone prior to the construction of the railway, and the large stone arch is a reminder of the importance of the railway in making people aware of Yellowstone and its beauty.

Having left the park, we drove to Bozeman via Livingstone.  We made only two stops.  The first was when we saw a herd of elk crossing the highway; clearly this warranted some time to take a close look at these magnificent animals.  The second brief stop was at Devil’s Slide, a large treeless red and orange strip down the entire side of a small mountain that I thought at first was a spectacular rock slide, but which turned out to be a highly eroded tilted band of very soft shale between two resistant layers of sandstone.

We arrived in Bozeman at about 5 pm and checked into our hotel, located just a few kilometres from the airport in anticipation of tomorrow morning’s early start.  We took the time to drive through Bozeman, and we were deeply impressed.  Backed by a scenic range of mountains, Bozeman has an atmosphere that is at the same time vibrant and relaxed.  It is large enough to provide all the services that anyone could want, and yet has the friendliness of a small town.  The town centre is an eclectic mix of beautifully maintained art deco buildings, brightened by large hanging baskets of flowers in the main street.

Bozeman may be the most ‘liveable’ place we have yet seen in the US.  Apparently, Sheldon Cooper thought so too, as I learned in an excellent (aren’t they all?) episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’.  Sheldon had been robbed and wanted to move to a safer environment, so after a very thorough (and humorous) analysis of many alternatives, he chose Bozeman, Montana.

Having now visited Bozeman myself, I might well agree with him.

Day 8 - West Yellowstone to Bozeman


13 July 2013