A mention is long overdue for the number of brilliant visitors centres around the Park, they are free and a perfect place to drop in for well presented history and geology, also advice from experienced rangers about safety and the best hikes. Arriving in Mammoth today we found it’s centre had a dedicated Moran and Jackson room. It recreates the atmosphere of the Hayden expedition very successfully, with genuine artefacts, like Moran’s hip flask and Jacksons camera, as well as a comprehensive display of the wildlife in the Park.
A short walk from Main Street are the Mammoth Hot Springs, a number of intricate mineral terraces, again with walkways. We viewed a number of features but my favourite was definitely the ‘Palette Terrace’. A steaming hot fountain of minerals pours down bubbles of stone to create a pristine white ‘kingdom’ of irregular ledges, like frozen waves of lace, tinged in places with other subtle fresh colours(orange and pink).
The formations seem to share a common, cellular like structure. Even as I write the description it sounds ridiculous, there’s a strange contradiction which presents itself at many of these sites, everything looks unnatural and surreal but only in this setting. If it was a picture of magnified sugar crystals they would be a prefect example of repetitive structures in nature.
We ventured up to the main terrace just as an amazing cloud front which loomed large over the mountain range to the south and echoed the bulbous appearance of the Palette terrace.
Moran made numerous watercolour sketches of this terracing. I believe some of his watercolours to be some of the best work he produced and the technical mastery he achieved in the medium is sometimes over shadowed by his grand oils. When the working stage of the project begins I will try my hand at watercolour for the first time in over twenty years. My hope is that, inspired by Moran and having been painting for so long, I can revisit the medium with a renewed sense of purpose. Hitherto I have always been put off by what I see as the pre planning necessary which flies in the face off how I use oils, it will be interesting to see what happens.
A final day in Yellowstone tomorrow, Tower Falls and Lamar Valley.