September 9, 2011 – We awoke to another beautiful but slightly cold morning. It’s usually near freezing when we wake up around 7:00, and then warms up to the mid-70s by 10 or 11am. So we were slightly chilly as we headed to breakfast at Canyon Cafeteria, but some coffee and warm food soon perked us up.
Today’s morning fun was our second mountain trip, a hike up Bunsen Peak. Yes, it’s named after the same Bunsen of Bunsen burner fame. The parking lot is small, so we recommend getting there early (at least before 10:00; we were there at 9:30, and had no problem getting a parking spot). The hike up the mountain isn’t too bad, the trail is nicely switchbacked and there are great views around every corner. We also spouted a sweet little grouse on the trail. Actually, Louisa kind of scared it off the trail, she didn’t notice it until it hustled up the mountainside. As we reached the top we paused to get some food and enjoy the views of the Mammoth area and surrounding snow-covered peaks.
Once off the mountain we continued a few minutes down the road to the ever-crowded Mammoth area. The best lunch bet was the cafeteria for chili topped with cheese, onions, crackers, and a side of fries. The food was especially good eaten outside in the shade, even if we did happen to be sitting on the benches in front of employee housing. In our defense the indoor area was quite crowded and stuffy, and it was very nice outside assuming you could find some shade.
In the afternoon we wanted to explore a short and little-traveled trail, Little Gibbon Falls. The trailhead is marked by an orange sign on a tree; you park on the side of the road, cross the street and follow a trail for about 5 yards and find the actual trail sign. Along the way to the nice little 25′ falls we were entertained by a very vocal and slightly curious grey jay.
We tried to go to back to the Norris geyser area, but it was so crowded we couldn’t find a spot. So went to Old Faithful instead, which was (proportionally) much calmer. First up was a vanilla and mountain berry ice cream from the cafe, made by a (relatively) local dairy. The ice cream was excellent, and we ate outside on a stand-alone porch swing under the awning. Post-snack we walked around the geysers by Old Faithful, and watched Old Faithful erupt from a distance.
Dinner was calling our names, and we still had a bit of driving to do so we headed back towards Canyon. We were discussing the lack of elk sightings so far, when we saw a herd of elk spread across a nearby meadow. 🙂 Dinner was enjoyed at the Canyon cafeteria – a (very good and very large) beef fajita wrap with sautéed onions and seasoned rice, mac ‘n cheese, veggie chili with cheese/onions/crackers. As a side note, the mac ‘n cheese made an excellent addition to the chili, even though that was not its original purpose. 😉 The evening ended with a nice view of the sunset as we exited the cafeteria and drove back to our lodging.