Friday, October 19, 2012

Mammoth Hot Springs

You would think if you chose to go to Mammoth Hot Springs, you'd be going to see- well, hot springs, right?  You would, unless, you'd traveled through the town the night before.  And as you crept through the winding streets, bright beady eyes began freezing in your headlights.  We stopped and pulled over expecting to find deer.  But no, the piercing and glowing eyes, were those of a herd of elk- walking along the main street.  Yep, right on the boulevard, next to the Hotel.  The elk were everywhere.

I had to go back to see what our headlights hinted at the night before.


The town of Mammoth Hot Springs, is very picturesque, and yet deceiving in some ways.


These little red signs were everywhere, and if you look closely, so were mounds of elk droppings.


The historic hotel.  Rick had tried to get a room but it was booked.


The "park" across from the hotel that on first glance looks empty.


But then, as I switch to my long lens, I spot them.  And they have spotted us.  A crowd is beginning to gather across the street.  



And then we see him.  A bull elk.  And the female cows are in rut.  They are loudly calling out.  And he is whipping them into a frenzy.  


And that is when the park ranger comes screaming down the street with lights flashing on his car.  And he hollers at the crowd gathering.  "If the bull comes across the street, run for the store! Or get in your cars, but remember their feet and antlers pierce right through the metal of the car, you aren't safe in your car. Stay back!"  I am only a few feet away from where he stands and he graciously answers our questions.  The bull elk is 5 or 6 years old which is old in elk years.  He has 7 splits on his antlers.  The cows are just as feisty as the bull is.  The elk spend several days in the city at times, but go off to the mountains for days in a row too.  He said they have had 44 incidents to date this year, with elk damaging cars and injuring people.

It takes me awhile to realize, his job isn't to protect us from the elk, as much as it is to protect the habitat of the elk from us.  The elk are in charge, not the people.  When you live in a National Park like Yellowstone, every piece of nature is protected.  As a human, you certainly learn your place.

I was smitten with the whole show unfolding before our eyes.  I found myself so engrossed, fear played no factor.  I respectfully kept my distance, but was delighted with how close my camera could get me.




Back and forth across the path goes the bull elk.






And then he begins to chase and we prepare to take cover...


But then...  the cows decide enough already, and begin to cross the street right by where I am standing.  


She calmly turns her head calling...


And baby steps clumsily off the curb and follows along...


Momma number two stops to call out as well, and soon...  (the entire town just sort of comes to a standstill.) 


baby number two approaches ever so timidly...


And the bull is still chasing...


He gets right to the curb as the park ranger tells us to get ready to head inside... 


He gives one big call...


Stands there in his majesty... 


And then heads back into the park.  


The babies hurry off the opposite way to catch up with their moms.




We took that as our sign to head back to the lodge.  Through the car window we got a quick glimpse of the hot springs.  What you don't see are all the steps going up to the viewing area.  Another trip, another day perhaps.  There is so much more to the park to explore, but we are leaving early the next morning.  


We collapse in bed early, skipping dinner altogether and sleep with the sounds of Old Faithful spouting off throughout the night.  

Rascal Flatts, Stand


"Everytime you get up
And get back in the race
One more small piece of you
Starts to fall into place"


Slowly I am getting back to me... I just don't know it yet... but the pieces are starting to fall.  

24 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, I cannot believe you were that close to those animals! That has never happened to us in Yellowstone....SCARY! You got some great shots. I am glad you guys stayed safe! What an adventure!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jen, we've never seen that many herds of animals before either! We've driven through portions of the park and not seen a single animal before. We felt pretty lucky to see so much!

      Delete
  2. I am reading this from Ireland. I've never seen anything like this before in real life so Thank you for sharing such a wonderful sight. You have a great way with words that makes me feel that I am right there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you justminimad :) Its the first time I've been so close as well- usually we sight herds when they are tiny specks in the distance. Thanks for visiting my blog!

      Delete
  3. In the words of another person that commented, I think yes, "what an adventure." Captured perfectly in photos and narrated so well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Cheyenne- it really was like an adventure :) So fun to have you showing up here!

      Delete
  4. Vicky, wow! This is truly awe-inspiring; that you got all those photos, so crisply, that you can share the story with us in the order it happened. I love that you chatted with the park ranger. I true blogger-journalist, wanting to know the facts. I love the shot of him, too! This was a real treasure this morning! Thanks for bringing us along on your amazing trip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Roxane! I love being able to document the moments that we want to hang onto and remember. We felt really fortunate to have a couple of extra days to see everything. Thanks for coming along friend!

      Delete
  5. Well, if it wasn't so cool, it would be comical!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly :) Its a little of both, with a side of danger mixed in :)

      Delete
  6. What a great post !! So much excitement in that town and area.
    You almost expect to see Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.lol
    Can you imagine them not chasing the elk away from the people?
    They are probably not even afraid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, the Ranger said the elk mostly tolerate the people, but they are in no way tame. Afraid no, it didn't seem they were really afraid at all.

      Delete
  7. Wow! You and your pictures never seize to amaze me! Fabulous photos! When you replaced your camera what did you get? Those pictures are simply awesome! Glad I could take this journey with you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for taking us on the trip with you, Vicky. What a spectacular show and thanks for getting back to me yesterday with your words of encouragement. All will be well!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Vicky, what an awesome trip you are on. your photos are stunning. All the wildlife there is amazing. Are your lungs doing any better. I read how you were having trouble with the altitude. sending prayers and best wishes your way.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jealous of such am awe-mazing trip! Looks wonderful. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  11. so much Vicky - you bring so much --- not enough words!

    so very thankful for you!

    xoTiffany

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wonderful pictures Vicky. You are really catching the moment with each photo. I'm so glad you could take this trip.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Incredible pictures and story...wow. My son in law has an elk 'head' with a rack of 5x7 or larger ... it was amazing although I am not one who likes 'kiling' animals. This was a really neat story to read.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh Vicky you gave much such a feel for this park with your photographs and the how you bring us in the action, step by step. Sending you loving energy and soft hugs xo

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow! Great photos! When in Maine on vacation once, I saw the warning signs and pictures of the damage that moose can do. Elk are just slightly smaller so I can imagine why everyone must run for cover! It is both exciting and scary at the same time!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I agree with everyone else your photos are truly something else. And it has nothing to do with the camera it's the talent behind it and the way you tell a story. Very special indeed and so very interesting to me sitting on the other side of the world too. I would be terrified to come face to face with an Elk I have to say - kind of incredible really that they come into town like that. We do not have them here. Although we have kangaroos which can be dangerous as well. Now what are you going to do with all these wonderful images - seriously. You could be a travel photo journalist.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to grace me with your thoughts and words!

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

Popular Posts

Minnesota.com

Minnesota.com - MN Weather, Map, Businesses and Blogs