Mammoth Hot Springs, A Rare Wonder

We came through the northern entrance near Gardiner, Montana. At this point we had traveled 888 miles (not including the first leg) from our home to the entrance of one of our country’s best ideas: Yellowstone National Park. We had about 75 miles yet to go before we reached our campground in the southeastern section of the park. The wild expanse is hard to contemplate if you haven’t seen anything like it before.

Almost All The Truth - Arriving at Mammoth Hot Springs

Since we were going to be so far away from this area, I knew it wouldn’t be likely we would make the drive back up to see the famous Mammoth Hot Springs. Even if we did come back next year, or in a few years, it could very well be different. The product of an ever-changing landscape.

Mammoth was the site of the first park headquarters. The army was in charge of overseeing the park and evidence abounds from their time here in the late 19th century. The general store, administrative buildings, Fort Yellowstone, and Officer’s Row are still in use today, although they may have a slightly different purpose.

Almost All The Truth - Officer's Row in Mammoth

If you wanted to see lots and lots of elk, then Mammoth was the place to be when we arrived. We were walking along Officer’s Row when we heard the strangest sound. I was looking in the trees for what kind of bird must be making that noise when we saw a ranger anxiously herding people away. One baby went off exploring and what we were hearing was that mama looking for her little one. Never get in the way of a mama and her baby.

Almost All The Truth - Mama and Baby Elk

After navigating the various elk detours, we managed to catch up to a ranger talk about the history and formation of Mammoth Hot Springs. There are seven ingredients needed to form these hot springs: heat, water, limestone, and a way for the hot water to reach the surface. To create the fantastic travertine terracing, we need calcium carbonate. All must work together and when one piece is missing (or harmed in some way, usually through human intervention), the entire ecosystem changes.

We know that the wilderness is not a constant and many visitors to Yellowstone are disappointed when a feature they remember has disappeared, dried up, or otherwise changed. I suppose this is where we get a passion for saving the wild, when we really ought to leave it well enough alone. The wild must be saved from us in most cases. It takes care of itself just fine.

Almost All The Truth - Liberty Cap
Liberty Cap is a 37-foot hot spring cone created by a hot spring which remained open for a long time allowing mineral deposits to build continuously for hundreds of years.
Almost All The Truth - Minerva Terrace
Minerva Terrace is what many people think of when they think of Mammoth. Fantastic travertine terraces, bright colors, and boardwalks that almost feel as if you were one of the lucky few to visit in the late 1800s.
Almost All The Truth - Travertine Terraces
When hot water ascends through the limestone deposits in Mammoth it acts as artist, sculpting beautiful travertine and is not found many other places in the world.

I am really excited that my children have now had the chance to see this wonder of the world, even if it really is just a tiny part of it. This is something we will always remember and I hope will continue to spur their curiosity for our natural world. I had a couple of proud moments when my eight-year-old asked a ranger a question or two that certainly took him aback. That is what I wanted from this Great Eco-friendly Summer Road Trip: a sense of adventure, a love of learning more, and finding new experiences together.

Almost All The Truth - Brothers in Yellowstone

We found that all at Yellowstone. Come back next week when we talk wildlife!


Lopez Island, First Stop on the Great Eco-friendly Summer Road Trip

The first stop on the Great Eco-friendly Summer Road Trip was Lopez Island in the San Juans. The pace is slower, the people are friendlier (be sure to learn the local way to wave – at every car and bicycle that passes), there is low-income housing which uses solar energy, and it is simply drop dead gorgeous.

This is the place that has me longing to move every time we visit. This is the place that has my sensitive boy in tears when we leave and all of us leave a little of ourselves there…

Almost All The Truth - Lopez Island

How To Get There: Most people go by ferry from Anacortes. Check with Washington State Ferries for schedules.(800) 84-FERRY or (206)464-6400

Another option, especially for those arriving in Washington by plane, is a small plane. There are two options: chartered and scheduled. Check with Airporter Shuttle for schedules and reservations.

Where To Stay: Anywhere you stay on Lopez is sure to be well worth it, but Lopez Farm Cottages are a perfect match for the feel of the island. Tent camping is also available on the 30 acres of woodland and meadow. Plus, no bears!

What To Do: Biking, walking, beach combing – see if you can find sea glass, kayaking, whale watching, shopping, wine tasting, Saturday Farmers Market, and relaxing.

Where will we stop next? Idaho.