We have two overarching goals today: travertine formations and critter-viewing. A great day awaits, we figure.
I am up earlier than the rest of the group. The campground looks positively weird as all possible bear attractants are in vehicles or tough bear-boxes that are scattered among the camp-spots, leaving the usual assortment of coolers and miscellany absent from tabletops.
We get our morning elk fix, a short walk from our tents. We also discover that a small group of Canada geese relocate morning and evening (can you see them?) I love the steam rising from “our” river; I didn’t anticipate it, what a great find!
A haze has set in, from fires in eastern Idaho, we hear. I am disappointed by the loss of the long-view, and begin to focus closer, and thereby learn things I would have missed by looking at the far hills and peaks.
Heading out, we soon have to wait out a construction zone where we have been told to expect the wait to be 30 mins. We figure: perfect for snack time! Instead we get 15 mins, which is perfect for our snacking, and the wait never becomes a slog. Especially with the view!
The travertine is eye-popping. The hot, mineral-laden water reaches the surface and spreads or pools, and then cools, and the minerals deposit on existing crusts, above or below standing or flowing water.
Sometimes bacteria give it dramatic color.
And the water can be tinted, with steam rising from near the water-sources. This is the top of the formation that the other two photos record pieces of.
We lunch next to a noshing, napping, and cud-chewing herd of elk, mostly unconcerned by the many humans that tromp up to look and photograph and create person-elk selfies.
Not enough large critters…, so we cruise on…and find Bison Valley*! So many bison! Most of the dark dots you see here are bison. A few are bushes and rocks, but most are Pleistocene megafauna.
We walk down to the river to see a small herd on the other bank and meadow. We see a lone bull get sent packing by the herd-meister, solo-walking across the river, by another herd-let to…not sure where.
We also saw a trio of bighorn sheep. Close! Two does and a kid.
And pronghorns. They’re usually too far from the road/paths for “close” photos like this….
And elk by the campsite. Again. After all, it’s Elk Valley*. The haze has thickened in late-day, but does not obscure the moon.
* Not its real name.