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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back from a road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park - Day 8, 9 &10

Roaring Mountain
Driving South From Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful.Parking on the side of the road, next to Roaring Mountain. The mountain makes a rumbling noise and steams abundantly. It is a striking view in the morning light, a good time to be there: the air is almost still and the sun goes though the steam. Sometimes the steam almost disappear, depending on the light and the wind.

On the other side of the road, a reminder about the 1988 wildfire. Amazing how resilient nature is.

A short walk (0.5 m and back) to go see Artists Paint Pots site, on a small hill hidden behind the forest.

This is a detail of a large mud pot. The mud pots produce thick bubbles which make noise when they explode. It never stops, the spectacle is fascinating.

Fountain Paint Pot area - White Dome Geyser erupting - View from Great Fountain Geyser, on Firehole Lake Drive . We were waiting for Great Fountain to erupt - there was a post saying we were still in the "window". In fact it already erupted but the people present on the site were not aware of it, although everybody was making predictions and observations (the geyser was filling up and bubbling). 
When it erupts, usually it takes it twelve hours to built back the pressure and to erupt again. So we never got the chance to see its eruption.

Because White Dome Geyser is usually erupting every hour or so we came closer to it and waited a little less than an hour to see another eruption. Watching some of the geysers requires some time and patience. It is a game we were happy to play. Despite the sun, the heat. It was amazing to wait and to witness the changes, the noises, the little signs that tell (or not) that the eruption will happen. For the kids it was also a way to rest between walks.

Fountain Paint Pot Trail. Walking the boardwalk surrounded by a tempting and toxic palette of colors.

Arriving by chance just in time to see Fountain Geyser erupting. It usually erupts every 9 or 15 hours, the eruption lasts 30mn. On the left, Clepsydra Geyser.

Clepsydra Geyser, its eruption is nearly continuous. 

Just a few miles south, the site of Grand Prismatic Spring (Midway Geyser Basin).

The trail crosses a river and a short walk take us to an unbelievable sight. I stood there in disbelief.
The extremely vivid colors come from the growth of pigmented bacteria, and the blue of the water in the pool is particularly intense because of its the depth - that's for the explanation.

We played with our shadows.

At the end of the afternoon, we drove back North a few miles to enjoy a cool breeze at the river, along Fountain Flat Drive. Very peaceful place.

Old Faithful Inn
Old Faithful, its Inn, its visitors and its famous geyser. Yes, there are lots of people at Old Faithful, right at the site of the "Old Faithful" geyser and around (shops, lodge, visitor center). But that's about it, and I do not know exactly why.

The Old Faithful Inn in the thermal area
Old Faithful geyser
The Old Faithful geyser is showing off every hour and a half, with an amazing predictability (more or less 10mn).
prediction for Old Faithful eruption posted at the visitor center - actualized after each eruption!
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And it has lots of fans!

And one can even watch the Old Faithful geyser from the Inn's deck.

But then one wakes up in the morning and walks the boardwalk on the hills close to Old Faithful, and there is almost nobody there.

This is along the loop, it took the whole day with all the stops, between 6 and 7 miles: Old Faithful, Geyser Hill, up to Biscuit Basin and back through the meadow and the forest. A succession of the most diverse and abundant thermal features in the whole park. And a collection of names very often referring to the shape of the thermal structure, to the way the geyser erupts or to its color: Anemone Geyser, Lion group, Turban Geyser, Grotto Geyser, Beehive Geyser, Plume Geyser, Spasmodic Geyser, Sawmill Geyser, Sapphire Pool, Mirror pool, Gem pool...

Castle Geyser

Artemisia Geyser
Gem Pool

Biscuit Basin

Coming back South - to Old Faithful site - through a beautiful and quiet meadow. Absolutely nobody there. A grizzly and her cubs were spotted in the area recently. We clapped our hands a little - and we had our pepper spray!

Back to Grand Geyser. We waited two hours and a half to see this one erupting. The interval between eruptions is from 8 to 12 hours, so we came at the beginning of the predicted window (posted) and waited. Did not seem too long. A coyote passed by. Some people came and went. We just stayed there. I took a nap in the shade, under a bench.
It is the tallest geyser in the park. Pretty impressive.

One of the many insects we saw on the trail. 

Last view of the hills at Old Faithful. Very difficult to leave such a gripping landscape. We visited many National Parks and I am definitely more attracted by deserts than forested lands. But Yellowstone has that breathing/alive/changing dimension which is quite arrowing to experiment.

Road trip back...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back from a road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park - Day 7

Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Spring area (elevation 6200 feet). Beautiful morning Hike to Bunsen Peak (8564 feet), just 5 miles South of Mammoth Hot Springs, 2 miles ascent and 1330 feet elevation. We started at 9:00 am and enjoyed some shade in the forest before the trail gets exposed. Very peaceful view at the top.

From the trail, view of Mammoth Hot Springs Headquarters (Fort Yellowstone) and Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.

We've heard quite a lot of these large Mormon's Crickets. They make a strong rattling noise when they jump-fly in the meadow.

Orange Spring Mound, Mammoth Hot Springs Upper Terraces trail. We spent the afternoon on another planet: unbelievable structures, combination of colors, materials and shapes. The scientific explanations are very interesting (there are some panels along the trail), but the sight of these landscapes is quite mind blowing.
After a while, I was not reading anything anymore, I was just watching and not trying to make sense of what I was seeing.

On the lawn in front of the Albright visitor center, listening to park ranger Leigh Dunworth  for a short and animated talk, "Wonders of Wildlife", about how the wildlife in Yellowstone adapts to the harsh weather and conditions.

Mammoth Hot Springs Lower Terrace trail. Liberty Cap on the left.

White Minerva Terrace is dry for now, due to the constant changes in the way the springs flow in the area.

An evening at Boiling River. A 10mn trail to get to the spot where the boiling hot spring water coming down from Mammoth Hot Springs mixes with cold Gardner River. The current is a little bit strong but the river is rather shallow.
We saw an elk herd passing by and crossing the river.