2009 North to Alaska – Day 25

YELLOWSTONE – visiting with old friends

Sunday – after the long drive yesterday we are going to take it easy today, well that’s the plan anyway.  ‘Well, your plans don’t go exactly to plan’ I hear you say.  Yes, you are right but we will see what today brings. First on the agenda is breakfast. Another little discovery is The Old Town Cafe.  A very rustic type of place which doesn’t look the best but on peering through the windows there are lots of people inside and that is always a good sign.  Entering we find lots of wooden chairs and tables and great old fashioned service.  We are shown to our table – coffee is offered immediately – no charge – we are impressed and order a cooked breakfast.

As most of yesterday was taken up with driving because of road closures and bushfires we decide that we will see only the bottom part of the park today including some of our favourites.  First up after breakfast though we will do some shopping and have a look around the town.  T-shirts, sweaters and scrapbook materials are the order of the day and then it’s onward into Yellowstone.

It is around 11am before we get into the park and not long after we spy our favourite elk family.  They are out enjoying the sun and seem to be even closer to the road than yesterday.

Some elk are lazing on a little island in the middle of the stream where some people are fishing and the elk do not seem to be interested in them at all, on the other hand they are keeping an eye on the WLP.  This would be great to come to a spot like this and cast a line.

The fishermen don’t seem to be so interested in the elk but then again I would imagine that they see them all the time and for them it is no big deal.  On the other hand for us city slickers it is amazing.

We stay for quite a while enjoying our new friends but also enjoying those idiot WLP who keep getting closer and closer.  The bull elk stands and lets them know his displeasure and with good reason.  The cow that he is beside is pregnant.  Even I know not to get too close but the WLP and now the YY’s are pushing their luck.  Where is Mr Ranger when you need him?  There is getting to be too many people here for us so we decide to say farewell to our friends and move on to the next adventure.

Firehole Canyon Drive is a wonderful little one-way side track of this place and again one of our favourite places.  The Firehole River winds its way through Yellowstone and is one of two major tributaries of the Madison Rive. It flows north approximately 21 miles (34 km) from its source in Madison Lake on the Continental Divide to join the Gibbon River at Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park. It flows through several significant geyser basins in the park to include the Upper Geyser Basin, which contains the world-famous geyser Old Faithful. The river was named by early trappers for the steam that makes it appear to be smoking as if on fire.

Further on up the road are Firehole Falls.

The falls has a drop of approximately 12 m.  A little bit of information for you – Lt. Gustavus C. Doane, U.S. Army, a member of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition described the falls in his 1871 report to the Secretary of War:

Following down the river bank through a deep cañon of volcanic rocks, in many places broken in huge fragments, we presently came to rapids, having a fall of perhaps 40 feet in a half mile. At this point the channel narrows to 150 feet, and is shut in by perpendicular rocks. We were obliged to scale the ridge above, and follow down the steam on its summit, through dense timber and steep ravines, with considerable difficulty. In three miles we reached a level bottom, on the river, at the junction of a large creek coming in from the northeast. Camped at the junction. Distance 18 miles.’

The three of us split up to do our own thing and I must admit this place is very relaxing.  To watch the river and listen to nature is very soothing to the soul.  I thoroughly recommend this great little drive which has plenty of places to stop and take photos.

Next stop Lower Geyser Basin – another old friend and one of our favourite places that has many walkways.  There is no rush today so we can walk around, take our time and take lots of photos.  The Trail is approximately 3km so we head off each at their own pace.  The usual sulphur smell and I am sure it is doing wonders for the skin.  But, let’s not worry about the smell, let’s  just enjoy shall we?

Bacteria Mat – I have no idea of what makes this mat so intriguing.  There is no explanation so I just take a photo and admire.  I would hazzard a guess to say that there is some sort of bacterial life down there but that’s about all.

If you want to search the web you will find this from the Yellowstone Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail Tour  –  ‘Bacteria and other thermophiles(heat loving microorganisms) usually form the ribbons of color like you see here. The green, brown, and orange mats are cyanobacteria, which can live in waters as hot as 167 F (73 C).  At this temperature they are usually yellow-green. They become orange, rust, or brown as the water cools. In cooler water other thermophiles may appear that will modify the colors even more. Color may also change due to stress, such as the intense sunlight of mid summer’.

Yep, couldn’t have said it better myself. Everything about these features has been copied from the above website just in case you want to read it here instead of clicking another button.

Deep beneath this pathway, heat from the molten rock of the earth’s interior is transmitted up through the solid rock of the earth’s crust.  Ground water circulating through these rocks becomes heated and follows cracks and fissures upward. Where the hot water can escape at the ground surface, a hot spring is formed.  So onto the hot springs – –

Silex Spring– another wonderful blue coloured feature.  Unfortunately still photography does not do the water justice.  It is constantly bubbling away at a boiling temperature.  Hot water is a better solvent than cooler water; it dissolves large amounts of silica, the major element of these volcanic rocks. Silica, in the form of sinter, lines the bottom of Silex spring. It forms terraces along the runoff channels and gives the spring its name: Silex is Latin for silica.

Silex Spring overflows most of the year. This overflow creates a hot environment where thermophiles thrive. Thermophiles become food for several kinds of flies that live in and on the hot water. The flies then become food for mites, spiders, various insects and birds.  Just thought you may want to know – –

Fountain Paint Pots – bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.  What mesmerising little features these are.

In early Summer the mudpots are thin and watery from abundant rain and snow. By late Summer they are quite thick. The mud is composed of clay minerals and fine particles of silica. In this area the rock is rhyolite, which is composed primarily of quartz and feldspar. Acids in the steam and water break down the feldspar into a clay mineral called kaolinite.

It’s a wonder that someone hasn’t had the brainwave of getting a few buckets of this and selling it to gullible women who have too much money and not enough sense.  Use this and you too can have a youthful complexion.  I could make a fortune!

Leather Pool – another boiling pool of water.  This makes me realise that we are indeed standing in the middle of a dirty big volcano!  But I don’t think about that for too long – it’s not a good thought.

Leather Pool underwent dramatic changes after the Hebgen lake earthquake of 1959. Prior to the earthquake, it was a warm (143 F/62 C) pool that supported leather-like brown bacteria. After the earthquake, water temperatures rose to boiling and killed the microorganisms. Since that time, Leather Pool has cooled and once again supports the brown bacteria.

Just goes to show that without warning any of these features can change.  Maybe on the next trip (bucket list) I will get a totally different set of Kodak moments!

Fumaroles – I just love the sound of the escaping air from these darlings!  Sometimes it is quiet, sometimes so loud you can’t hear yourself think!

The hiss and roar of a fumarole comes from gases – steam, carbon dioxide, and a little hydrogen sulfide – rushing from the earth through the vent. Its channel system reaches down into the hot rock masses, but it contains very little water. When water contacts the hot rock, it flashes into steam. Its volume increases 1,500 times and drives the gases from the vent.

That sounds just like a group of politicians don’t you think? A fumerole of politicians – now that’s good.

Spasm Geyser – what a cutie.

Whether Spasm is or is not erupting can be a clue to Fountain Geyser’s activity.  This small geyser is quiet after its big neighbour erupts, then resumes splashing to 3 feet (0.9 meters).

Not much to say about this little one eh?  Nevermind I think it is really sweet and it is bubbling away all the time.

Clepsydra Geyser – a very active geyser to say the least.  Always hissing and shooting water in the air.

This nearly constant performer splashes from several vents and its steam can be seen throughout the Lower Geyser Basin. Its name is Greek for water clock, and was given because the geyser used to erupt regularly every three minutes. Since the 1959 Hebgen earthquake, however, Clepsydra erupts almost without pause.  Sometimes it quits during Fountain’s eruption.

Well, everyone needs a bit of a rest now and again don’t you agree?  This is a wonderful trail – full of activity but in such contrasting landscape.

Sometimes there are open expanses with wonderful green trees and bushes, other times there is nothing.  Such a contrast.

We go back to the car park and parked beside us are a couple who are just holidaying around before they make their way to their holiday home in Arizona for the Winter.  Great to be some.

They note that Kylie and I have Aussie accents and tell us that they were in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics.  They loved Australia and would like to return some time and have more of a look around.  We wish them well and back in the car we notice that the three of us all smell of sulphur, which is understandable, so the windows come down for some fresh air.  Our next port of call is Firehole Lake Drive which is a one-way paved road through a section of the Lower Geyser Basin. It is located in between two other thermal areas, with the Fountain Paint Pots to the north and the Midway Geyser Basin to the south.

White Dome Geyser – This enormous buildup shows that this cone-type geyser has been around for a long time, and it has nearly sealed itself closed. Its 12-foot-high geyserite cone is one of the largest in the park. Its eruptions are unpredictable, but generally occur with intervals ranging from 15 minutes to 3 hours but intervals between 20 and 35 minutes are most common.

Eruptions typically last 2 to 3 minutes and reach heights of about 9m, the maximum height being attained early in the eruption. As usual for cone-type geysers, the play is continuous for most of the eruption’s duration, and begins and concludes with a brief steam phase intermixed with liquid spray. Eruptions are around 30 feet high, and usually last only a minute or so. They are normally frequent, every 15-30 minutes, but occasionally take much longer to recharge.

We come to another wonderful area – Black Warrior Group.  There are several features within this group – I just love the name of this one – Young Hopeful Geyser. It sounds as if it is still growing up and aspiring to be something like Old Faithful.  I really do hope she makes it.  Walking around the pathways there is no-one in sight except for us 3.  Now that makes a nice change.

It is getting late in the afternoon and we still have to pack and do a bit more shopping so we decide to head back to the hotel.  We discuss our time in Yellowstone and agree that we would like to come back here – but not when roads are closed.  Unfortunately we cannot dictate to Mother Nature about the bushfires, so maybe a Winter Wonderland Tour will be put on the bucket list.  This place would be magic in Winter and maybe we would even see a few wolves – have given up on the bears.

Arriving back – we all have a Nanna Nap and afterward pack the car again and get ready to head off tomorrow on the homeward leg of our journey.

Highlight of the day : ALL our old friends

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