Tag Archive | Yellowstone

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Mammoth Hot Springs

Day 6, Saturday, July 29, 2017

After spending quite a bit of time at the Lamar Valley watching all of the wildlife, coffee was in order, so we headed over to the Tower area to see Tower Falls.  There is a small Ranger Station there too that has its own stamp!  It also had a nice visual of the wolf packs in the park, so you can tell which pack you are watching.  Outside there was a beautiful deer just begging to be photographed!

Mule Deer in the Tower Area

Tower Fall has a 132 foot drop, where it then joins with the confluence of the Yellowstone River.  It was named in 1928 for the large rock formations at the top of the fall that look like towers.  There is an overlook, or you can hike down a half mile to the base of the falls.  We didn’t hike down to it, but it is certainly on the to-do list; the view looks like it is fantastic!  Tower Fall has a General Store too, perfect for a coffee pick-me-up after an early morning!

Tower Fall

Did you know that Yellowstone National Park has petrified wood?  It even has a petrified tree – still standing!  We stopped for a look; it is just a short walk from the parking area.  While there we also saw a Uinta Ground Squirrel!  These little guys are so cute!  We also saw a group trail riding on horseback – that would be a fun way to see the park sometime.

 

Petrified Wood at Yellowstone

 

Uinta Ground Squirrel

 

Trail Riders

 

We were ready for lunch by the time we hit the Fort Yellowstone picnic area.  More Uinta Ground Squirrels were popping up out of their burrows on the lawn!

Uinta Ground Squirrel

A visit to Mammoth Hot Springs and a walk on the raised boardwalk was next – I was glad to give this area a bit more attention since my mom and I hadn’t stopped here on our previous trip the year before.  I loved the travertine terraces – they are stunning!  They have been formed over thousands of years, as heated spring water carries calcium carbonate and deposits it as it cools.  The travertine is white, but the algae in the thermal water creates brown, orange, red and green features.

The kids enjoyed wandering on the boardwalks, but I think they got a little bored by the terraces; I didn’t though – the view was gorgeous!  My one niece was a little grumpy, so we started pointing out poop piles to her – because there are few more effective ways to annoy a pre-teen girl…  The kids were troopers though and we went all the way to the top of the lower terraces, despite the heat.

 

Violet-Green Swallows at Mammoth Hot Springs

 

Our drive back to camp took us south, where we stopped at Sheepeater Cliff – a columnar formation. It is really cool to see!

Sheepeater Cliff

 

Ground Squirrel at Sheepeater Cliff

We wandered a little bit along the river there too.  We saw people swimming in the Firehole River on the drive back too; this is one of the few river areas where you are permitted to swim.

We got back to camp and I took a nap in my tent during yet another rainstorm.  There is something very peaceful about the patter of raindrops on the rain fly as you sleep…  It didn’t last all night though, and we had a campfire after dinner – the family hung out and roasted marshmallows.  Perfect!

Distance for the Day: Driving within park
Canyon Campground, Yellowstone National Park: $30 per night for a tent site

 

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Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Old Faithful and West Thumb

Day 5, Friday, July 28, 2017

We planned to meet up with my aunt and uncle, who spent last summer working at the bookstore over at Old Faithful’s Visitor’s Center.   If you haven’t been to Yellowstone before, you may not realize that it is a huge park, so the driving distances can be long.  Heading over to that area of the park – we planned a whole day trip to hang out in that section.

On the way, we stopped at the Kepler Cascades; it is a waterfall on the Firehole River that drops approximately 150 feet over multiple drops – the longest one is 50 feet tall.  Kepler Cascades was first discovered on the 1870 expedition, but it wasn’t named until 1881.  It is named for the son, Kepler, of the Wyoming Territorial Governor, John Wesley Hoyt.  Kepler Cascades are just a short walk from the parking lot, so it is a popular waterfall in the park – plus it is beautiful!

Kepler Cascades

 

Me at Kepler Cascades

Once we got to Old Faithful, we found Donna and Greg and saw the eruption of Old Faithful.  It never gets old!

Old Faithful erupting

After that, we did the Ranger Talk with the kids on Growing Up In Yellowstone.  One of the rangers spent her childhood in Yellowstone, as the daughter of a Ranger, so she talked about what it was like to spend winters there, traveling on snowmobile, having to have all your supplies stocked for weeks at a time, and doing things like cross country skiing for fun.  She also talked about the school system that existing for the approximately 20 children that lived there with their Ranger parents.

We did a walk around the Upper Geyser Basin Loop and saw geysers and hot springs.  We waited a bit for Grand Geyser to erupt, mostly because there were a lot of people sitting there looking like something was going to happen.  We waited about 15 minutes and then got bored, so we left.  Of course it erupted when we got over to Castle Geyser, so I got some photos of Castle Geyser, with Grand Geyser erupting in the distance.

After our geyser tour, we went to the Old Faithful Lodge to look around, and I got some mango sorbet – others got ice cream!

 

Old Faithful Inn

We checked out the Visitor’s Center, which had a fantastic exhibit on geysers and how they work.  While we were looking, they announced that Beehive Geyser was going to erupt shortly, so Greg, my niece and I ran over there to catch it.  It is a cool geyser!

Beehive Geyser erupting

 

Beehive Geyser with another in the distance

We planned to head over to Donna and Greg’s campsite for dinner – so I biked over with Greg, while Donna took my seat in the van to show my brother where to go.  We worked on our Junior Ranger books and my niece did some whittling, until it was time for dinner.  It was a full spread of brats, corn dogs, potato salad, chips, and pickles and olives.  Yummy!  There’s just something about camping food that really hits the spot!

We were talking about where to see elk, and Greg mentioned that there were always elk in the evenings in the West Thumb area, near the thermals there.  After dinner, we drove over there and checked it out.  There was an impending thunder and lightning storm – because we just couldn’t get away from it!  But the recent (and current) rain made for a gorgeous rainbow over Lake Yellowstone!  There were, however, no elk to be found.  Not a one.

We said our goodbyes and drove home to our campsite in the rain and a hail storm.  On the way, we did see three elk, but it was too dark for photos and one was tucked in the trees too.

Thankfully the storm had cleared when we made it back to camp – it was another cold night though!

Distance for the Day: Driving within park
Canyon Campground, Yellowstone National Park: $30 per night for a tent site

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Yellowstone Arrival

Day 3, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I woke up to a breeze at our campground in Arco, Idaho, and knew that it would start raining soon.  And it did – pretty much immediately after I had that first thought about it.  I got up and got going quickly, tearing down my tent and getting it all packed up and ready to go before the rain got too heavy.  I went and showered, since the kids were not as motivated to get moving!  After that, I took them for waffles at the breakfast bar at the campground, while Michael and Susanna packed up their stuff.  YUM!

We finally got everything and everyone in the van and hit the road; we decided to stop at Cabela’s for rain jackets for the kids.  Note: some kids HATE rain jackets – they feel “funny,” so you can imagine how this trip went!  We also got a pop-up rain/shade tent thing for any rainy days along the way.  Then we were all set!  Today was the day we were getting to Yellowstone!

There is a lot of driving on the way to Wyoming, by the way, but soon we made it!  We got into the park through the West Entrance and fairly soon we saw our first wildlife – a couple of elk!  The kids were fascinated.  We also saw a few bison and some pelicans and geese.

Elk Butt!

 

White Pelicans and Canada Geese

 

We didn’t want to do too much sightseeing though, because we needed to get our campsite set up and ready for our five nights there!  We checked in, got firewood, got our campsite number, and headed over to see where we would be!  Our site was in the trees and on a small slope, so we really had to scope out our spots for two tents.  We got tents up, got our shade/rain tent up and got settled in.  My tent was only about 20 feet from my brother’s, but at night, was I far enough away that I would get eaten by bears!?

Our tents at camp

 

We had a fire, and turned in relatively early, and of course it rained… Hard!  But my little tent stayed dry!

Distance for the Day: 2 hours, 53 minutes; 167 miles
Yellowstone Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle for 7 days, free with a National Parks Pass
Canyon Campground, Yellowstone National Park: $30 per night for a tent site

West 2016: Yellowstone Mud Pots

Day 8, 9 & 10, August 12, 13 & 14, 2016

Yellowstone’s most famous mud pots are probably the Fountain Paint Pots in the Lower Geyser Basin.  They are colored by the state of oxidation of the iron in the mud. When the weather is wetter and cooler the mud pot has a more soupy mud, which dries out over the summer as the weather gets hotter.

When I visited, the mud just seemed gray.  I don’t know that I noticed reds, browns and yellows in the mud there.  I did like watching the bubbling of the mud…

Fountain Paint Pots

 

Nearby though there is another mud pot with some red color.  Later in the summer as the water table goes down, Red Spouter becomes a fumarole, hissing steam.  In this picture, you can see that there is steam coming from it.

Red Spouter – another mud pot

When I went, Mom hung out in the car for this one, so I went to go see the mud pots by myself.  They were popular, and there were a ton of people there!

 

West 2016: Yellowstone Geysers

Day 8, 9 & 10, August 12, 13 & 14, 2016

Yellowstone has at least 1,283 geysers that have erupted in the park and approximately 465 of them are active in any given year. Geysers are characterized by the intermittent eruptions of super-heated water that ejects from them, with some of the water turning into steam as it hits the cooler air. They only occur where there is magma close to the surface of the earth, which is required to heat the water to the necessary temperature.

There are two types of geysers, a fountain geyser and a cone geyser. The fountain type is a geyser that erupts from a pool of water – Grand Geyser, the tallest predictable geyser on earth is a fountain geyser. A cone geyser erupts from cones or mounds of siliceous sinter – Old Faithful is a cone geyser.

Sponge Geyser – no excitement here.

 

Some of the geysers we saw were just bubbling quietly, not erupting.  Not nearly as exciting as an erupting geyser, but mesmerizing in their own right…

Aurum Geyser Bubbling

 

The Lion Geyser Group – with a mini-eruption…

 

Young Hopeful Geyser – doesn’t it look hopeful!?

 

Beehive Geyser – when erupting it sprays 200 feet in the air!

 

We also saw White Dome Geyser erupting. We were in the car driving toward it, and by the time we got there it was done. It erupts every 15 minutes to 3 hours, most commonly every 20 – 30 minutes, but we didn’t stick around to see the next one. There is only so much time in a day at such a big park!

White Dome Geyser, erupting!

 

White Dome Geyser, not erupting

We did see Old Faithful erupt twice while we were in Yellowstone. Old Faithful is located in the Upper Geyser Basin of the park and is one of the most predictable geysers there. It erupts approximately once every 65 and 91 minutes – the interval between eruptions depends on the length of the last eruption. It shoots high into the air, between 106 and 185 feet, and each eruption lasts between 90 seconds and five minutes.  What a sight to see!

Old Faithful Geyser

Interestingly, Old Faithful was once used as a laundry. In 1882, General Philip Sheridan’s men were stationed in Yellowstone and they used to throw their dirty clothes into the geyser, to be ejected clean with the next eruption (I am not sure what happened if you didn’t catch them before they fell to the ground though). Apparently linen and cotton clothes came out just fine, but wool clothing got ripped to shreds. Don’t try this when you go folks…  I have a feeling this type of behavior is frowned upon…

Next up – Mud Pots!

 

Yellowstone NP History

Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park – it was established on March 1, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant.  Yellowstone is a unique environment, with features that are really rare in other areas of the United States.  Early advocates knew that it should be protected for generations to come.

Yellowstone is 2,219,789 acres, and about 96 percent of the land area of the park is within the state of Wyoming.  Three percent is within Montana and about one percent is in Idaho. The park is 63 miles from north to south, and 54 miles from west to east, as the crow flies.  In 2016, 4,257,177 people visited Yellowstone.  That’s a lot of people!  It is also designated as a Unesco World Heritage site, a designation by the United Nations for sites which have cultural, historical or scientific significance.

The park contains the Yellowstone Caldera, which is the largest volcanic system in America – it has been termed a “super-volcano” due to its size.  The current caldera was created by an eruption 640,000 years ago, and was 1,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State.  Which, if you were around for it, you know Mount St. Helens felt like a pretty big eruption.  That wasn’t the only eruption though, and each of the several that have occurred over millions of years at Yellowstone have created the rock formations, the depressions where the lakes sit and have coated large portions of the Americas with ash.  Thousands of small earthquakes occur each year within the park, most of which are unnoticed by human visitors.

Yellowstone is know for it’s thermals and geysers – hot springs of liquid that often contain brilliant colors due to the bacteria that make their home there, and erupting fountains of water.  The park contains over 10,000 geothermal features – and 1,283 of those are geysers that have erupted.  About 465 are active geysers on average in a given year.  Yellowstone is named for the Yellowstone River; the headwaters of the river are within the park, and the Continental Divide runs diagonally through the southwest section of the park.

Human habitation has existed in the park for approximately 11,000 years; evidence has shown that Native Americans began to hunt and fish in the area then.  Clovis points have been discovered in the area, and obsidian found in the park was used to make cutting tools and weapons.  Arrowheads from Yellowstone obsidian has been found as far away as the Mississippi Valley, indicating there was a rich trade among the Native Americans in this area with other tribes.

About 60 species of mammals make their home in the park, including bison, elk, moose, deer, mountain goats, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, gray wolf, coyote, lynx, and grizzly bears.  About 3,000 bison are in the park; their numbers fluctuate depending on how harsh the winter is.  Wolves thrive there now, after being hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s and eliminated from the park.  However, since the next largest predator, the coyote, cannot bring down large mammals, there was a big increase in the number of lame bison and elk, as well as an overall increase in their numbers, which throws the ecosystem out of balance.  A healthy ecosystem needs the apex predator.  Wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, and are estimated to number at slightly more than 100 animals within the park.

Me – Sign posing – As usual!

I visited Yellowstone as a child, but it had been a long, long time and I was so excited to go back!  Next up will be Yellowstone posts!