Yellowstone, Day 1

This morning, when I started the Atom, both the water and oil temperatures read 38 degrees (Fahrenheit; that’s 3 degrees Celsius for you non-US folks).

After bundling up, I headed for the west entrance of Yellowstone. Since I have an annual pass, I chose the “pass holders – no cash accepted” lane. As I prepared to hand the gate officer my annual pass, he said “I’m sorry, I can’t let you in”. I laughed and assumed he was joking – he wasn’t. He told me to turn around and take it up with the office if I wanted to.

I parked in a side parking area and walked to the office. Someone said “Can I help you?” and I responded that they wouldn’t let me in. She said “That’s right” and that I could take it up with a ranger if I wanted to. I said I did, so she radioed for a ranger.

After some time, a ranger pulled up and re-iterated that they couldn’t let me in because “there were a bunch of you here last week and they broke a number of rules, like driving off-road”. I tried to explain that a) the Atom doesn’t have the ground clearance for off-road use, b) that my Atom was legally licensed and registered as a road vehicle, and c) that there were only a little more than a hundred of these cars, I knew most of the owners via the forum, and we weren’t here last week. I suggested that she might be confusing my Atom with some sort of ATV. I also said that I’d visited Yellowstone in this car in 2007, and that last year I did Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Death Valley, and that just last week I was at Crater Lake.

She was very apologetic, but said she couldn’t let me in. I asked her to look at my registration, and she radioed it in and had a long conversation with her base station. When she came back, she said “I’ll let you in, but I need to take some pictures of your vehicle”. She also said that she’d made the decision to treat the Atom as a motorcycle, which is allowed in the park. I asked if there was some sort of reference I could use, as I was staying here for four days to explore the park. She said that the people at the gate would probably remember me, but that each day would be on a day-to-day basis.

After about an hour’s delay, I was finally granted admission to the park, and started my drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs at the north end of the park. My plan was to drive up there and then explore on my way back, so I’d be getting closer to where I was staying at each stop, due to the “20% chance of rain” in the forecast.

First up is Mammoth Hot Springs. It seems that the springs trailed off earlier in the season, as all the water I could spot was in a few small pools. Some people told me that there was more water further up the terrace, but I decided to not walk up the 300-odd steps to get there.

You can see where the water had been running in this picture.

Dry Springs

Here, you can see how the minerals are deposited in patterns.

Dry Pool

Here’s the obligatory shot of a bison (sometimes called buffalo). I also spotted some mule deer and a solitary elk (at least I think it was an elk, it might have been a moose).


Next is Roaring Mountain, which has a number of steam vents on the side of the mountain.

Roaring Mountain

While I was parked at Roaring Mountain, a number of people came up to me to talk about the car. Here’s a few of them:

Atom Crowd

Last was Norris Geyser Basin, which has a large number of geothermal features – steam vents, geysers, boiling pools, and so on. You can also see the clouds that were threatening all day:

Norris Clouds

This is Black Growler, one of the largest steam vents in the basin. Vents are found on the side walls of the basin, as water drains away too rapidly to form geysers or boiling pools. What little water is available is continually converted to steam. The Black Growler name comes from a time in the past where the steam had a darker color due to minerals carried up with the water vapor.

Black Growler

After Norris, I drove back to the cabin where I’m staying. The combination of the cold weather when starting out, the alternating cold / hot of driving and then getting out and walking around took a lot out of me. I think I’m coming down with a cold, as I have a bad case of the sniffles and alternating hot / chilled feelings in my room.

Once I got back to my cabin, the rain that had been threatening all day finally started coming down. I abandoned my plans to drive into town and eat, and instead settled for having some Italian food delivered to my cabin.

Depending on how I feel tomorrow, the temperature, and whether or not I can get into the park at all, I’ll try to visit Old Faithful and the other southern attractions. Stay tuned…

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