Monday, September 17, 2012

Yellowstone Road Trip - Day 19

John Muir wrote the following about the Yellowstone River and its falls in 1898:
“For the first twenty miles its course is in a level, sunny valley lightly fringed with trees, through which it flows in silvery reaches stirred into spangles here and there by ducks and leaping trout, making no sound save a low whispering among the pebbles and the dipping willows and the sedges of its banks. Then suddenly, as if preparing for hard work, it rushes eagerly, impetuously forward rejoicing in its strength, breaks into foam-bloom, and goes thundering down into the Grand Canyon (that is, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone) in two magnificent falls, one hundred and three hundred feet high.”

Since this was to be the Two Old Buzzard's last day in Yellowstone Park, John set the alarm to go off at 6:00am (in truth, he set it for 6:30am). “Be tough” he told Linda. Fannie Mae woke up at 5:50 so Linda went ahead and got up and took her outside for a walk. At 6:10 she noticed that John wasn't up yet (duh, because the alarm hadn't gone off!) so she woke him up and turned on the light. He was SO tough. He finally rolled out of bed at 6:20 (NOTE: That was before the alarm was set to go off). We had breakfast in our room and then Linda did laundry while John worked on photos and videos.

We hit the road into the west entrance of the park by 10:30 and had even more fun than the three of us expected. The day started out misty which was comfortable and added some foggy appearance to our earliest photos of the day (as if there aren't enough thermal features to have enough smoke-filled shots!). John photographed Mount Hanes with a large area of mist on its face. Oh, the temperature when we started was in the mid-30's.

As we followed along the Madison River there were some geese swimming upstream or rather they were sort of treading water and staying in the same place as they waited for insects to come downstream to their waiting bills. Very tenacious!

We rounded a curve and came upon a large meadow with a meandering river and the most bison we had seen in one place during our whole trip (or ever in our lives). There were well over one hundred. Soon two different pairs of bulls started fighting. Meanwhile, other bulls and the females and young calves were milling around grazing in and out of the water.

There were some drives off the main road that we were able to go on that buses and RVs aren't allowed to travel. But we are still glad that we went on the bus tours because we did get to see and learn a lot.

Right before we got to Norris Junction we stopped at the Terrace Spring Thermal Area. There is a nice boardwalk. You come to Terrace Spring on your left (actually a large hot lake) then on your right are several pools. The highest and coolest one is called Bath Spring.  On the night of the 1959 earthquake near Hebgen Lake, a couple was bathing in Bath Spring in the nude – until the earthquake resulted in the spring being drained completely! Orange and brown bacterial mats line the edges of the springs and their runoff channels. Wildflowers grow in the steamy places.

By 1:00 we had gone past Madison Junction, Norris Junction, Canyon Village (on the south loop) and reached the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Caldron. The fascinating and mysterious mud features of mudpots are some of the most acidic in the park. Not only are they hot (above 190 degrees) but they are as strong as battery acid. Stick your pinky in one of those and it's like heating the battery acid, the putting your finger in it. They make sounds like a pot of thick tomato sauce or stew simmering on a stove, only much louder.

Dragon's Mouth Spring is in the same area and has captured imaginations for centuries. There are deep rumbles coming from within a cavernous area and smoke belches out. It would make a great set as a part of a knights in armor movie. We took still photos and video there.

At Sulphur Cauldron we saw two hot lakes and one very deep steaming and bubbling round hole. Both sulphur and the microorganisms that live on sulphur contribute to the yellow-green color. At both the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Cauldron, the smell of sulphur is very intense. This part of the park is very close to the earth's molten rock. It lies as close as 2-3 miles beneath the surface.

In the back country, less than a mile from this spot, microbiologists have found a very hot poo with a diversity of life forms hitherto unimagined. Conducting studies in Yellowstone, scientists continue to learn about some of the oldest forms of life on earth. (See, Linda's affinity for poo shows itself once more).

It was past time for lunch but the smells at the Sulphur Cauldron and the Mud Volcano were not too appetizing, so we left and drove far enough towards Fishing Bridge to find a picnic area. There were beautiful pine trees and about 10 shaded picnic tables. We had the whole place to ourselves so it was a very relaxing lunch of turkey and ham sandwiches, fruit, chips and granola bars.

We then turned around, went along the same route and made it back to The Pony Express by 4:00. On our way back to the west entrance we actually saw a friend from Morgan Hill coming into the park. We didn't see her in time to honk or wave but it was just funny to see her arriving as we were leaving. We knew she was arriving today so we had been on the lookout for her vehicle. She is the founder and president of the Morgan Hill Photo Club (and a fellow adventurer on our road trips), so it will be fun to compare notes and photos of Yellowstone later. She is going to be here for a whole week. Happy shooting Susan!

Well, travelers, in today's photo gallery there are 91 photos awaiting you. The first three are quite interesting and point to a strange interest that Linda has for animal dung. We'll suggest you look at the first three images by clicking here. Then return here and listen to a very fitting R-rated song that goes so well with those three photos. You can listen to the song by clicking here. Then enjoy the rest of the photo gallery.

There is a three minute video that you might find interesting. It is below for your entertainment.

Our four and a half days in the park have been great. It is a trip we have been looking forward to for several months. John had never been to Yellowstone. Linda was here exactly 50 years ago with a youth choir. They stayed in Old Faithful Inn so she especially enjoyed roaming around inside that amazing place. She remembered the huge fireplace and the rest was so beautiful to see again – so much beautiful woodwork and gorgeous furnishings. The youth choir did a performance in the grand lobby and saw Old Faithful and a few nearby geysers but not much else. They were only there one night.

Yellowstone National Park is an amazing place and we would encourage you to put it on your bucket list if you have not already been to the park.

Back in West Yellowstone we worked on photos and on getting ready to head for Idaho tomorrow. We ate dinner at the Geyser Grill for the third time. It's a busy place and we ended up sharing a table with five other people (from Arizona, Colorado and Indiana). John had the special which was Montana meatloaf. Linda had red trout. Both were good and it was fun to compare notes about the park with fellow tourists from other areas.

We leave you tonight with the words to a song by Ray Doyle, 2007:

The Jewel
There's a place upon this good green earth
Like nowhere else you've ever seen,
Where misty mountains soar above, majestic and serene,
Clear and gentle waters flow, past grazing elk and buffalo
Like a picture from the past, inside a dream.

But sleeping restless deep below the summer sun and winter snow
There lies a secret waiting to be told,
And with a shudder and a rumble wakes,
As pulses race and timber shakes,
Like it did as mighty ages rolled . . .

Happy trails!

Oh, one more thing – Linda's favorite overheard family dialog after an eruption of Old Faithful (which only occur every 90 minutes):
“Where's Joyce?”
“Oh, I think she must still be in the gift shop.”

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