Arriving at Yellowstone in the afternoon on the previous day meant I had to camp outside the park. After exploring Yellowstone's Geyser basin, I had to return to my campsite at Flagg Ranch Campground, a few minutes outside of Yellowstone's South Entrance.
The plan for the day was to explore the east side of of the Yellowstone Caldera. From Flagg Ranch, I drove north to West Thumb, then took the east side of the south loop along Lake Yellowstone.
I pulled off at Mud Volcano and checked out Dragon's Mouth Spring, a gurgling cave with billowing plumes of sulfur-smelling steam. It actually sounds like there's a grumpy dragon in the cave breathing fire.
From Mud Volcano, the road rises into Hayden Valley, a broad fertile valley full of grazing buffalo and intrepid tourist photographers. It's easy to see how people are injured trying to get the perfect wildlife photo. I took a few pictures and got back on the road.
I continued north over Dunraven Pass and onto the Mirror Plateau. I found a campsite at Canyon Village so I decided I'd drive as far Tower-Roosevelt before turning around and returning to my campsite.
The road rises out of the caldera along the west ridge of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon,. The huge chasm was carved by a thermally active stretch of the Yellowstone River flowing north toward Montana. Along this section of road there are several scenic overlooks with spectacular canyon vistas.
Just before Roosevelt Lodge is the Tower Falls area. The main attraction here is Tower Falls, but the village has a restaurant, gift shop, grocery store and restrooms between the parking lot and The Falls. Tower Falls is another beautiful spot where Tower Creek cascading off a cliff of towering stone buttresses on its way down to the Yellowstone River.
I arrived at Roosevelt Lodge at dusk and was surprised to see a Christmas celebration in full swing. Apparently park employees have a tradition of celebrating Christmas in the park August. 25th.
The Lodge itself is rustic and the roads are unpaved. The lodge and small cabins surrounding it are all log construction and give the area the appearance of a dude ranch. Compared to other facilities, Roosevelt Lodge feels like you've stepped back in time. I didn't get to stay there but it feels like a place where time passes slowly.