After a hot afternoon of driving, we finally arrived at Gardiner, a town at the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It was very touristy.
The park had a suitably grand entrance, the Roosevelt Arch:
We had to drive all the way (30 miles each way!) to our campground first, to make sure we had one for the night. On the way, there was a huge traffic jam on the narrow, two-lane road. Everyone was stopping to look at something we couldn't see. The guy in front stopped, and refused to move even when Brendan got out of the car to ask him. Finally the ranger came and told him off, which was nice.
After securing our campsite, we went down to Tower Falls. Tower Falls is 132-137 feet high (height is debatable with waterfalls, it seems), and is named for the pinnacles around it.
Unfortunately the trail is now closed to get to the base of the falls, but we still walked down to the river which Tower Creek joins.
We stopped at the overlook - the canyon is sometimes called 'The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone'. The hexagonal-shaped rocks in some layers are from lava flows.
Then we returned to Mammoth Hot Springs near the entrance to the park. On the way back, we noticed the traffic jam was still there, two hours later! I asked one of the rangers what everyone was still looking at - apparently a black bear was sitting under a tree. We decided not to add to the fray.
The white calcite deposits of Mammoth Springs have created a huge, squat mound over thousands of years. The hot springs move every so often, so new springs appear and others stop working.
The blue colour means the water is close to boiling temperature! The calcite slowly seeps into the trees and smothers them as it solidifies inside the tree.
Here is part of the sign warning visitors not to step off the boardwalks. Every year, people die or are seriously injured when they step off the trails and fall through the thin crust.