Monday, August 27, 2007

Yellowstone 2007 - A Photo Diary - Day 3

Aug 27, 2007
From the Archives

Current mood:impressed

DAY 3 - Friday

We wake up bright and early and head to the Wolf And Grizzly Center. Which is basically a zoo dedicated to these animals. It is better than a zoo as there are just 2 very large outdoor habitats for the animals. Wolves on the right, Bears on the left. It costs 10 dollars, but it is worth it to see the animals up-close, without fear of being mauled. At first the wolves were sleeping so we watched the Bears. Really cool, very large Bears rummaging for food, and bathing in the river. The wolves then became active so I watched them, and I got prime location for picture taking without a fence in the way. Landis had to remind me to be polite and let other people have the good spot. I am glad he did, because I always get so mad when I want a good shot and someone is manipulating the good spot. After we got bored of watching the animals we headed back to meet my parents to go back into the park.






As soon as we hit the entrance to the park it starts raining buckets again. We decide to keep going in hopes the storm stays south as we head north to hit the upper loop for Mammoth Hot Springs. My parents HATE Mammoth, but Landis had never been so I demanded we go. 49 miles ahead. We are about 5 miles short when the rain lets up, and we get stuck in a traffic jam. Its a huge jam, and people are getting out of their cars (thankfully leaving the drivers to move forward) to take pictures of whatever animal is causing it. We think it HAS to be a bear or a moose for this size jam, nope. a Buffalo. a darn Buffalo has caused 30-45 minute delay jam. You want to see buffalo? Head to the southern loop. They are everywhere. So we arrive at Mammoth and start with the drive through tour of the upper terrace.


The view just before mammoth


This is one of the few examples of a new hotspot opening up in the road. A better one is near Mud Volcano, where a large 3 foot opening has opened up in the middle of the road, but I didn't get a picture so we have this. Still cool though.





My Parents are actually impressed. Because of the rain, its a cool 70 degrees, rather than the 100-110 that Mammoth normally is. And its wet so the springs are more active, and more colorful. We stop at the over look for the Lower terraces get a nice picture of the town below, and I see a bus YAY. There is a spring named New Blue Spring... that is now Old Dried Up Extinct Hole In The Ground... yeah, its extinct. We head down to the lower terraces and my parents drop us off to hike the Terraces. Most of which is dried up at this point. There are a few wet, alive spots, but the rest is dried up, slumbering, if not extinct springs. After zigzagging through this maze, a map of which really didn't help distinguish anything, I remember where the cool part is. Back to where we were parked earlier, and all the way to the top, around the view of the top of the lower terrace, across, and back down the other side. We have time so we go for it.



Just as we start back down the other side towards Canary Springs, we pass what appears to be a brand new terrace being formed. A new hot spring has opened up, and little baby terraces are being formed with calcite into the grassy hillside. Disappearing into the old dried up terraces below. Terraces are formed as the spring wells up and deposits calcite which gets higher and higher and then drops to a pool below and starts the process again. The ending result is really spectacular. So we are going down and I stop for a picture when I hear this woman explaining to her child that the terraces used to be a couple of feet high each, rather than a few inches. I offered that I believe the larger terraces were further down. She then proceeds to complain that Minerva Terrace has dried up. Just the tone of her voice made me want to say whoa.. sorry the planets evolution didn't stop to consult you before changing its course.


A new born terrace? I Think so. Give it 30-50 years this will be the new impressive terrace at Mammoth hot springs. Of course they will need to build new board walks, but I wholly plan on watching this one grow up.


We arrive to Canary springs. I was right, it is still active and still impressive. The terraces are still large and flowing water. I notice a few tree's that have been over taken by the growing terraces. Very cool. Landis really liked this part of the park. We head back up and back towards my parents. All the way to Tower my parents cant stop gushing about how nice Mammoth was today, and how they hated this area of the park before (due to not much to see and it being extremely hot) but today it was just gorgeous and nice. :) Go me.




On the way to Tower (18 mils) we hit the petrified tree. which is a large stump, that doesn't look petrified to me. And its encased in a fence. Very lovely. We then hit tower fall which is a very pretty fall. Unfortunately the lookout has too many trees in the way and you don't get a perfect unobstructed view of the falls. There is a hike down, but if memory serves me right, its hard, and kind of scary so we opted to skip it and continue down the road. Through the very scary Dunraven Pass.This 19 mile stretch of road is very pretty, and honestly your best shot at seeing Bear or moose, but is an extremely scary drive, and there is not much to do. We did see a moose with a large rack chewing its cud on this route, which was cool, not to mention this skeleton.





Back to Canyon Village to grab a bite to eat we stopped for another animal jam. I got out to see what the hubbub was about, and determined it was an expective wait. Apparently a grizzle and her cubs have been seen in this area every night for the past few nights... yea not waiting for that. We continued on to Canyon to get dinner. Then the 40 mile journey back to the cabin. We did more shopping in West Yellowstone, and I picked up some beer.

Back at the cabin we stayed up with my dad to play poker. I drank my beer, but I was pouring it into a glass and hiding the cans from him. This was more out of respect. He knew I was drinking, and I knew he knew, but I was keeping the obvious signs out of sight out of respect. Thinking back, I hope he understood that and didn't think I was insulting his intelligence. Had a good time playing poker and reminiscing with my dad. I got the chance to ask if all the stories he used to tell us as kids were true. They are. My dad is an Indian blood brother. Worked as a Carney, was attacked by a mountain lion, and several other things. I think that all will have to wait for another blog.

Stay tuned for day 4 and a secret BONUS blog! w00t.  Comments are appreciated.


    • Erika You got some truly awesome pictures. My son especially likes the ones of the "cute puppies". LOL. Tried to explain, but he can't grasp the concept, yet. I'm glad you had fun. You should really investigate into writing documentaries. Very riveting. Can't wait for the next installment!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yellowstone - A Photo Diary 2007 - DAY 1 and 2

Aug 21, 2007
From The Archives

Current mood:peaceful

ahhh vacation.

If you were wondering whatever happened to Andrew this past week, I was on vacation. We went to Yellowstone National Park. Landis, my parents and I. It was AWESOME. we had a great time.

DAY 1 Wednesday

Thankfully my parents, due to where I live decided to take the shortest route to Yellowstone. (going through Idaho Falls) so we only had to deal with a 4.5 hour car ride to West Yellowstone where the cabin we had reserved was. Much to my surprise, the city of West Yellowstone is not in fact inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. Its just to the west of it. hehe. Mind you, as you leave the west gate of the park, you immediately end up in West Yellowstone.

Our cabin was well, small. It had a living room, kitchen, bath, 2 bedrooms, and a loft. With the stairs, if you can call them stairs, of DOOM. Landis and I were originally going to stay in the loft, until I went up there and heard how much the floor boards squeaked, right above the room my parents took. And then as I went to leave I smashed my head against a beam, on the way down this ladder stairs thingie, and almost went tumbling down a flight. As I planned on drinking I really didn't think me getting up several times at night to go potty with squeaky floor boards was good. And the idea of drunkenly stumbling out towards the ladder and me smashing my head on a beam was very safe. So we moved to the back bedroom that had the bunk bed of doom. The upper bunk had no safety rail, so if you rolled over, off the side you went. The lower bunk had exactly 2 feet from the mattress top, to the bottom of the upper bed. Since I move around in my sleep I thought the lower bunk would be best for me... then my Claustrophobia set in. I felt like I was sleeping in a coffin.




The stairs of doom, the creepy dead animals that stared at us, and the tiny bunks we slept in.

After checking in and unloading the car we went on the town in West Yellowstone. Too late to go into the park at this point. We did a lot of shopping, and I mean a lot. West Yellowstone has 2 grocery stores, 3 gas stations. 1 movie theater, 2 ice cream/coffee shops, and at least 50 gift shops.

DAY 2 - Thursday

Thursday morning we woke up and headed towards the lower loop of Yellowstone. Passed through the newly growing forest of Madison. In 1988 there was a huge fire that devastated much of Yellowstone. Last time I was there, there were solid hills, mountain sides, and fields of nothing but black earth. 5 years later all the new trees have started coming in, and yes, it is actually very fascinating to see the re-growth of the forest. Some places the trees are 2 feet tall, some they have gotten as high as 10 feet. I have no explanation for the difference of height.Yellowstone being the great experiment of determining how best to let nature do it's thing, while letting humans roam about as well, decided in 1970 to let fires put themselves out. Well, the great fire of 88 they had to step in because it was out of control. Anyway, long story short, it really is fascinating to see such a large portion of forests start from scratch. My mom is mad they let this fire go as long as it did, I feel they did the right thing of letting mother nature do what it does best. The fire was naturally caused, and actually one of the species of trees cannot reproduce without fire. (really cool useless fact) I think it is a perfectly natural process of a forest to burn, recycle the materials and start over.


After Madison we passed the Norris geyser basin, which holds the worlds tallest geyser: Steamboat Geyser. The last major eruption was in 95. It is an extremely unpredictable geyser. It is currently active again, but its a long shot if you are going to catch it. So we skipped Norris and went on to Canyon Village. Did a bit more shopping, and viewed the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. (originally just called the grand canyon, until an even larger canyon in Southern Utah took that name... cough) Really awesome waterfall. The Upper falls are more spectacular, but the road to the lookout was closed for maintenance.



We then headed down to the Mud Volcano basin. But not before running into a herd of buffalo. Grinding traffic to a halt as the 2 herds decided which side of the road they wanted to be on.



Mud Volcano Basin is really just a bunch of mud pots and hot springs. It does also have the awesome mud pot called Dragons Mouth. This is a cave in the side of the hill that a violent mud pot is just gushing out of. It has a very large pool with it that when there is a large burst large waves spew forth. Dragons Mouth also has a very distinct odor of smelly feet. Or I guess what a dragons breath might smell like. Mud Volcano itself has not erupted in a long time, but it was a lot more active today then I have ever seen it. Normally it just kind of bubbles a little, today it was splooshing and churning almost as violently as Dragons Mouth. The rest of this trail was pretty cool, a few springs, one fumaroles, and a few more mud pots. Oh wait, the giant lake at the end had 3 new fumaroles that weren't there the last time I came. One of the awesome things about Yellowstone is that it is constantly changing. All of the geothermal features change with each year. Old Faithful, Last time I was there went off approximately every 65 minutes, this year it is 96 minutes between eruptions. Not necessarily a sign of it going extinct, just the changing conditions.


Dragons's Mouth



Mud Volcano


A very large hot spring.. I know it's named, in fact a blew all the tree's in the area out... but i'll be damned if I knew what it is right now.


Another large hot spring and some fumorholes



A large mud pot (above 2)

After Mud Volcano we hit Fishing Bridge. Which after sometime in the 80's should've been renamed to "Was Once Fishing Bridge, Is Now Fish Here And We'll Fine Ya Bridge". This a really cool bridge made out of Lodge pole Pines. (and cement) but the major support structure is wood. And cars, and motor homes go across this very large bridge. People used to be aloud to fish on this bridge (hence the name) but no longer. I could not locate why, but I believe it has something to do with the whole protection of the Yellowstone Trout thing they do, either that or a small bridge crowded with a lot of fishers casting lines was kind of a dangerous situation... or both. So we are viewing the bridge and the fish under it when a Large buffalo ambles his way down the bridge. Grinding traffic to a halt, and startling tourists. The pedestrian sidewalks of the bridge are a good 3-4 feet lower than the road part so I felt confident that if it did decide to charge, it would either stop before the drop, or tumble over and break its legs. So I stayed put and snapped a few pictures, and it passed a good 8 feet in front of me. Of course, when it gets to the end, and traffic is blocking all other routes and it only has one way to go so it starts heading back towards the river, when a dumb tourist goes running up to it to snap a picture... so of course if charges. Luckily it was a warning charge, just a panicked stay away or I'll kill you charge, it then retraced it steps and headed the other way. Darn, my one chance to see a dumb tourist getting mauled by a wild animal.


Fishing Bridge


Buffallo on the bridge


View from the bridge

We then went on to Lake Hotel, a very old, and creepy, yet luxurious hotel built on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. We had lunch, and I FINALLY got some pictures of the newly restored, circa 1950's original Yellowstone buses. These special made buses were built in the 40's-50's for Yellowstone park. Sometime in the 60's they were no longer needed and were sold to other parks. Most of these have been dismantled and destroyed, but 8 were left in some park in Canada. They had no use for them, and decided they belonged back in Yellowstone, and they are really cool. Especially if you are a fan of classic cars. They are really cool looking. After drooling at the busses, we went down to the lake and caught a glimpse of the rather large fire on the opposite shores. This explained why the ranger informed us the east entrance was closed. Large fire. We did determine this one had gotten large enough they decided to try to control, and extinguish it. (which with the help of some rain they were able to do later on)




A quick stop at the western continental divide stop has Isa Lake. a very, very small lake (the road goes across it) and it is covered in lily pads. As I learned this year the continental divide is the whole watershed deal. The east side of Isa lake drains into the Mississippi delta, the Atlantic, the west side drains into the snake river, towards the pacific. Apparently the 2 main water drainages in the US, hence the continental divide. All rivers drain into one or the other, depending on where they sit on this divide. Another cool random fact.


We quickly went by west thumb, and Grants Village camp ground. (if you plan on camping in Yellowstone I highly recommend this camp ground. It is the prettiest, the cleanest, and has the best access to the lake.) Stopped by Kepler Cascades (very pretty, I don' know why it is called cascades and not a waterfall.. but oh well) Noticed apparently there is a geyser nearby called Lonestar, that I never heard of, neither had my mom. Who, by the way has worked in Yellowstone, and has been going 1-3 times a year in the past 40 years. Realized it was a 4 mile hike both ways and decided not to go. Especially with no information on it. So on we went to the Upper Geyser Basin.


The upper geyser basin is home to the most famous geyser in the world,Old Faithful. Also the historic Old Faithful Lodge, Castle Geyser, Grand Geyser and well heck, the most condensed area of geothermal features on the face of the planet. This area is currently undergoing a lot of change as they add new accommodations, build a new information stations, and add new toilets etc. Much needed, but disconcerting. I don't like change, Yellowstone is/was perfect don't mess with it. But I guess you have to accommodate larger and larger crowds. So we hit the Information Lodge with rangers to see when they predict it will go off. and we have like 45 minutes. Old Faithful is the most predictable geyser in the world, they can predict it to within 5 minutes. It is not the largest, the tallest, the most powerful, or even the longest (at between 3 and 10 minute eruptions) just the most predictable. I guess that is why it is so popular, you have a really good chance of seeing it without waiting around forever. It is a spectacular sight.

Also within the hour they have predicted Castle Geyser and Grand Geyser will go off. While I had a rangers ear I decided to inquire about Lone Star Geyser, asked if it was worth the hike. Apparently yes it is. It erupts every 3 hours, and is very large and goes off for 45 minutes or so. Cool. We decide since we have 45 minutes we will hit the trail around the Upper Geyser Basin to catch a few other geysers in the area. I thought I planned very well so that we would arrive at Castle Geyser just as it was erupting. hrm...


A pretty hot spring


Run off and slumbering Beehive Geyser (I think) (a cone Geyser)


Geysers in the Distance


Another pretty hot spring

We wandered out behind old faithful and up the trail. Passed a few hot springs, and a few geysers that currently were not erupting. Just dry cones. We then arrived at a fountain type geyser the name of which I forget that was just going and going. It shot up anywhere between 2 feet and 15 feet while we watched and as it was the tallest thing we'd seen all day we watched for a minute.


Sawmill Geyser (a fountain type)

There are a few types of geysers. The most common are cone type, i.e. they have a little mound much like a volcano that they spew out of. And there are fountain types that have pools they erupt out of. Then of course there are springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. (no water just gases spewing forth) anyway, back to the trail. We then watched spastic geyser which is a fountain type, and had 3 openings that were going as well, not very tall, 3-5 feet tops, but still cool. We then passed an intersection, to the left is Castle Geyser, to the right is Grand Geyser and more trail. We head right towards grand, and there are people lined up to watch it go.

Grand Geyser is a fountain type geyser, and is also the tallest predictable geyser at over 200 feet high. Now I use the word predictable lightly, as the sign indicated the geyser MAY go off sometime between 4 and 8 pm. This geyser has a 4 hour window of predictability. It is also connected to Turban geyser, another geyser that looked extinct to me, and a small unnamed geyser. It is currently 7, and I don't feel like waiting around for a MAY go off in the next hour. So we keep heading down the path and view a few hot springs and slumbering geysers. As we are going down I look over and notice Castle Geyser is currently erupting. I had never seen Castle erupt and I wanted to so we turned around and headed back. Just as we pass Grand geyser it starts erupting, or so I thought, so we turn around and head back towards that. (frustrating Landis to no end). Turns out it was just Turban Geyser going. SO I snapped a few pictures of Castle and sat down to wait for Grand.


Castle Geyser erupting


Turban Geyser erupting. Grand is the pool to the right of Turban

As I mentioned before Grand is connected with 3 other Geysers. The small one has started acting up and spewing about 2 feet up. Every 20 minutes or so, Turban was going off. I originally thought Turban Geyser was grand, as it is a large cone. Nope, Grand is a Fountain geyser right next to Turban. So the large pool next to turban is grand. It is slowly filling up. Meanwhile the geyser I originally thought to be extinct due to its dry nature started going off. This to me indicated we were close.



Daisy Geyser erupting


Turban Geyser on the right, runoff, and the little unamed pre-emptive geyser on the right. Grand is between the two.

I was correct in my summation that Grand was close to erupting. But, not that close. After reading the sign closer I learned that Grand will go off just as Turban goes off. If it doesn't, you have another 20 minutes at least. So we watched Turban go off a few times, Watched Castle from afar, then watched something just down the path go off (not sure which, I believe it was Grotto geyser though) then we watched Daisy go off from afar. All the while I am getting pissed off that I am missing all of these geysers while waiting for grand. Not to mention the crappy parents that let their children run around like wild goats. Despite the signs warning of thin crust, and severe scalding even death should you veer off the boardwalk. I honestly started hoping one would fall in just so the parents would realize how terrible they were... So Turban goes off a few times, and I am watching Grand's pool fill up. It also has slowly been getting hotter and hotter as I see the steam coming off of it. Around 8:20 I see the pool start to waver I guess is the best word. And I remember thinking, it hasn't done that yet, I think it's going to go. Then thinking it was a trick of the eyes with all the steam. Nope, I was right with my first thought, all the sudden it just erupts, very high, very powerful, and very loud. It was AMAZING. After a few minutes of eruption a nearby steam vent starts going, I imagine this exploded out sometime because of all the pressure. So it continues as high as 200 feet for 9-10 minutes then stops. (steam vent still steaming) most the crowd walks away and I about get up, when I see the pool filling again, still nothing and I just get up and say I think that's it, when it goes again, even higher. The 2nd eruption lasted about 2 minutes, and then the steam vent kept going after that. This was amazing. I have never witnessed grand go off before, and it was well worth the wait.



Grand in it's 1st eruption


Here you can see the steam vent next to the eruption


all the runoff from Grand


grand has stopped, but the steam vent is going still.


Grand's 2nd eruption


All done, more steam, and runoff

We continued down the path as it starts getting dark. We hit a few pools and a few slumbering geysers again, we reach Grotto Geyser which is still active after its eruption. Here we have a choice to head back or see Morning Glory Spring, which is large, and gorgeous and I really wanted Landis to see it. But it getting dark and a see a storm approaching, after a few moments of hesitation I decide we can make it. So on to Giant Geyser, which sounds like it might go, but it only went off 52 times the previous year, and had gone off within the past few weeks, so we keep going. Pass another spring, when I just stop and decide we need to head back. Landis gets a little mad because I have been going back and forth on whether we should keep going or head back, and he felt the past 5 minutes was a waste. I agreed but explained it is getting dark, and that storm is moving in fast and it is lightning, and I just have a feeling. So we head back. It gets very, very dark by the time we pass Castle Geyser it is too dark to take a picture, it was however, not dark enough to tell the steam vent for Grand was still going. We are just about to the hotel when the skies let loose and it starts pouring. That is twice now where my instincts have overridden my desire and saved me from being stuck in a nasty rainstorm. Meet my parents and head back to the cabin.


Beauty Pool


Giant Geyser


Grotto Geyser


Castle Geyser in the dark.... eh

On the way back it is raining buckets. We have a good 24 miles to go in the wilderness, at night in a nasty rainstorm. All the sudden the cars in front of us stop. We cant tell why, but we see them moving around something as we approach this point my parents can't see it, but I see a large buffalo in the road. We were just about on it when they did see it. If we were the first in this line of traffic we would have hit it at 40 MPH. That would no have been good for it, or the car, or us for that matter. But we do make it back without incident.

Stay Tuned for day 3 and day 4. I promise they aren't as long as this one.