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Yellowstone 3

UNITED KINGDOM | Thursday, 15 October 2015 | Views [193]


Up early today, we are going to visit Old Faithful. No breakfast so we could get away before light in the hope of seeing wildlife. Stepped outside and it was sooo cold, the car outside temperature showed 31F, just below freezing. We headed south towards Norris and once clear of the Mammoth Hot Springs area we were in open forest and dawn was breaking, very pretty but no wildlife. The road was being widened and resurfaced so we were held for about 15 minutes before we were allowed to proceed, behind a truck with a notice saying Follow Me. It was a beautiful drive, but we could not stop in the roadwork area which was about 7 miles long.

Clearing the roadworks we soon came upon Norris Geyser Basin, a large area of hot springs, geysers and thermal vents, the hottest and most dynamic geyser basin in Yellowstone. We could see steam rising from a way off. We followed a boardwalk around what is called the Porcelain Basin with many pools, some a beautiful blue, springs and geysers and lots of steam. Lots more steam than usual as it was so cold (39F) the whole area was ethereal and other worldly. We were warned to be careful in the steam which did drift across the boardwalk as it is so acidic and could damage cameras.

On to what was called the Back Basin and here was the Steamboat Geyser, spouting steam ten to fifteen meters high in a constant stream. It is know to erupt, infrequently, and unpredictably, over 90 metres high. Just as we were walking down the boardwalk we spotted a rabbit, it was in its winter coat, white with black markings and it looked beautiful, all soft and cuddly! Echinus Geyser, further down the valley, used to erupt but now just bubbles and steams away. It is famed for the red colours surrounding it; it is as acidic as vinegar. There were many other geysers, all different, some with beautiful orange or red coloration and some with vivid green, all depending on which micro-organisms lived there.

Just down the road was a side road leading to the Artist's Paintpot, another area of hot springs and coloured flows and a fascinating mud volcano, with gases building up a spitting mud into the air, slowly building up it's crater.

On down the Gibbon River valley to its waterfalls, where the river drops 25 metres into the ancient caldera, a very pretty sight. There was an exhibit here about the men who built the road. Continuing down the road we drove through an area that had been destroyed by the great fires of 1988, and given the poor nature of the volcanic soils only very slow re growth had happened. It looked odd, with old burnt branchless trees standing out above the fresh young growth.

We had noticed many bear poos along the road in our travels this morning but despite the early hour of starting we saw no bears.

Just past Madison a side road took us through Firehole Canyon, which the Firehole River has cut between two lave flows, the Nez Perce flow and the newer West Yellowstone flow. Great cliffs of grey volcanic materials soar above the river - including some hexagonal columns. Fascinating stuff! A very pretty drive nonetheless. We followed the river to Fountain Flat where the river meandered through open meadows. It was very popular fishing spot.

The next thermal area, Lower Geyser Basin contains Fountain Paint Pot, very pretty, plus several other hot springs and geysers.

Yet more thermal activity at Midway Geyser Basin. There were two large springs set up above the road and one, Excelsior Geyser produces over 4,000 gallons of boiling water per hour which flows straight into the Firehole River and produced huge amounts of steam. It enveloped the boardwalk and walking through it felt like being in a Turkish Bath. Above this was the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest in the Park, quietly bubbling and steaming away it had long streaks of beautiful orange and red running away from the crater.

So, enough of all this volcanic activity, it was time for lunch, we had left our room at 7 in the morning and it was now 3 in the afternoon, ok so we had a snack breakfast on the road but boy, were we hungry. So, into The Old Faithful Inn, a large log and stone building built in the 1900s, the dining room was closed but the Bear Pit served burgers and sandwiches. The Inn has a huge galleried atrium, five storeys high, all built of logs with a massive stone fireplace and chimney in the centre. It had been fully booked when I was setting up this trip so we couldn't stay, but great to see it. We discovered it cost $250 per night, room only, so perhaps it was just as well.

'Old Faithful' the geyser had erupted while we were eating so we had to wait another half an hour before the next one (it erupts roughly every 92 minutes). Not to worry, there was a gift shop at the Inn and an ice cream parlour. Undaunted by our experience yesterday we ordered double scoops! So, we walked across to join the crowd waiting for the eruption and sure enough,, about 90 minutes after the last one, Old Faithful performed, a boiling water jet and a great steam cloud rose about 50 metres high and lasting about 4 minutes.

So it was now about 4 o'clock, and ever hopeful of seeing bears we headed back a different way, towards another area 'noted' for seeing bears. So we headed east to West Thumb via the Craig Pass at 8,262 feet, on the way, purely by chance I looked into a large grassy glade and saw a wolf, I turned the car around to get another look,and he was still there so Ruth saw him as well. We stopped a few yards further on and I walked back to try and get a photograph, but he'd gone. On around western side of Yellowstone Lake and up into the Hayden Valley, a wide open grassland. We stopped by some cars, where people were staring intently into the distance; it was a bear! A grizzly bear! It was a fair way away, but possible to identify. Whoa, our first bear, and a grizzly too.

By now the light was fading so we drove back to the hotel, up the Dunraven Pass at 8,859feet around the side of Mount Washburn (which looked as if it might be interesting).


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