Yellowstone: Almost Homeless and Stranded! (2/4)

Cows run away from the storm while the buffalo charges toward it

and gets through it quicker. Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge,

I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.

Wilma Mankiller

State 16: Wyoming - September 25, 2017

Nate

We woke up in the parking lot of the Old Faithful Inn, having had a chilly but comfortable night’s sleep! Upon exiting Rosie, we saw an elderly retired couple from Oregon parked next to us, and they were picking animal fur from what was left of their vehicles front grill. Yesterday, their pick-up truck collided head on with an elk, and sustained major front end damage. Lori and I said a prayer for them, and asked the big guy to protect us from a similar fate. We have a jam packed day, which includes visits to 5 smaller geyser basins. I am going to limit this blog post to our favorite geyser from each of the basins we visited. First on the agenda was some unfinished business from yesterday with the most famous geyser in the entire world Old Faithful.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful’s surface temperature is 199°, erupts every 75- 100 minutes, and eruptions last between 2-5 minutes reaching a height 110-185 feet. The geyser was named for it's nearly regular schedule of eruptions. Old Faithful is not the biggest, nor is it the most predictable, however, it is the biggest predictable geyser in Yellowstone. We walked 100 feet from where we parked last night to the grand balcony to see Old Faithful erupt. You can call the park, go online, or go to the visitor’s center to see the next time she is due to erupt. The next scheduled eruption was at 9:29 am, and off went to the outdoor balcony to view one of mother nature’s grandest displays! We arrived 10 minutes early just in case she was running ahead of schedule, but like most women, she was 10 minutes late. (oh man, I am going to get some hate mail for that one) Watching Old Faithful erupt felt like a magical experience, and is something everyone should witness once in their lives! Please enjoy the pictures below of this national treasure!

After Old Faithful finished her show, we headed to the newly remodeled Old Faithful visitors center 100 feet away. We watched a movie on the history of Old Faithful, and looked at the displays. They did an excellent job explain the geology of the Yellowstone geysers in an easy, interesting and understandable manner. Please see the pictures below.

Lori

After leaving the Old Faithful Visitor Center, we drove 1 mile to the Black Sand Basin, which is an isolated part of the Upper Geyser Basin. Black Sand Basin is named such due to the small fragments of black sand which cover portions of the basin. The smaller basin features jewel-like geysers, and colorful hot springs. Below are the geothermal features we visited at Black Sand Basin.

Iron Spring Creek

Emerald Pool

Named for it's green color, Emerald Pool is the most famous, and arguable, the most beautiful spring in the Black Sand Basin. Visitors throwing foreign objects into the pool have caused the temperature within the pool to decrease. The decrease in temperature results in a change of bacteria and algae growth within the spring, and thus a change of color. The edge of the pool is now orange and brown, instead of a bright emerald green! Please don’t throw items into the hot springs as it robs the future generations of enjoyment.

Next we headed to the Opalescent Pool, and came across a Russian man, and his three cocker spaniels. He was attempting to get all 3 of his dogs to pose in front of the pool unsuccessfully. The naughty one of the trio named Jack was on his back because he thought it was play time. Lori offered to take pics of the 3 dogs and the Russian man together. After a few comical outtakes, we finally got the money shot! Please see the pictures below of the Opalescent Pool, a middle aged Russian man, and three cocker spaniels one of which is names Jack.

Below are additional pictures from our visit to the Black Sand Basin.

After leaving Black Sand Basin we drove 3 miles to the Biscuit Basin. Biscuit Basin is an isolated thermal group, which is also part of the Upper Geyser Basin. Biscuit Basin contains a small collection of thermal features which include gem-like encrusted pools and geysers, and is divided by the Firehole River.

Sapphire Pool

Sapphire Pool’s temperature is 202F, measures 18x30 Feet, and is the main attraction of the Biscuit Basin. Sapphire Pool's name is derived from it's crystal-clear blue water, and for it's resemblance to an oriental sapphire.

Please enjoy the additional pictures below of the Biscuit Basin.

Sometimes, you have to look close to see the real beauty of Yellowstone, so here are some closeups of Biscuit Basin.

After departing the Biscuit Basin, we finally finished exploring the Upper Geyser Basin, and were now off for a 3 mile drive to the Midway Geyser Basin. Midway Geyser Basin contains a small collection of hot springs, but despite it's small size, Midway possesses two of the largest hot springs in the world. I know I originally said I would highlight our favorite geothermal feature from each basin, but our favorite in Midway Geyser Basin was a split decision between Nate and I.

Grand Prismatic Spring (Lori’s Choice)

Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone, and the third largest in the world. Prismatic's temperature is 147-188°F, measures 250x380 feet and discharges an estimated 560 gallons per minute. The spring sits upon a wide spreading mound where water flows evenly on all sides forming a series of rainbow stair-step terraces. Grand Prismatic's colors begin with a deep blue center, followed by pale blue and green algae from beyond the shallow edge. Outside the scalloped rim, a band of yellow fades into orange. Red then marks the outer border. Steam often shrouds the spring which reflects it's brilliant colors. Grand Prismatic Spring is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

Excelsior Geyser (Nate's Choice)

With a temperature of 199°F and measuring 276x328 feet, Excelsior was once the largest geyser in the world. However, the geyser hasn't had a major eruption since the 1880’s. Excelsior is now a productive thermal spring, discharging 4050 gallons per minute. Numerous vents boil and churn the water within the crater, covering it in a dense layer of steam. Nate says this Excelsior geyser is his favorite because he likes it because it's big, hot and steamy.

Below are additional pictures from our visit to the Midway Geyser Basin.

You have to look close to see the real beauty of Yellowstone, so here are some closeups of Midway Geyser Basin.

After departing the Midway Geyser Basin, we drove 6 miles to the Lower Geyser Basin. The Lower Geyser Basin encompasses nearly 12 square miles, and possess a large variety of thermal features, including mud pots, geysers, pools, springs, and fumaroles. Most of the thermal features are widely scattered in small groups which include: The Fountain Group, Firehole Lake Group, White Dome Group, Great Fountain Group, White Creek Group, and the Imperial Group. It is a travesty to only highlight one of the dozens of spectacular geothermal features of the Lower Geyser Basin. However, one stood out among all others.

Great Fountain Geyser

Great Fountain Geyser is one of the grand geysers of Yellowstone. It has a temperature of 202°F, erupts every 8-12 hours with a duration of 45-60 minutes reaching heights of 75-150 feet. The geyser's cone is 150 feet in diameter surrounded by a 14x20 foot crater. Bursts may reach up to 200 feet, but average 100 feet. The Great Fountain Geyser erupted during our visit, and her powerful display was spectacular! I think the estimated eruption height of 75-150 feet is very conservative. In actuality it appears as if the geyser sent water well over 200 feet into the air. What an awesome display of beauty and power! Please see the pictures below.

Please enjoy the additional pictures below of the Lower Geyser Basin, and look for the one's Rosie photo bombed!

Nate

After leaving the Lower Geyser Basin we drove 13 miles to the Gibbon Geyser Basin consisting of the Chocolate Pots, Sylvan Springs, Artist Paint Pots, Geyser Creek, Gibbon Hill and Monument Basin. Each group is small, unique and different in size, shape and color.

Artist Paint Pots

The Artist Paint Pots are the most popular feature of the Gibbon Geyser Basin. They are isolated in the Lodgepole forest at the end of a mile hike. The group was named after the pastel multi-colored mud pots. Iron oxides have tinted white mud various colors of pastel, beige, pink and slate. The thickness of the mud varies from season to season. In the spring and fall the mud pots are thin and soupy, and the mud bubbles and boils. By late summer, the mud pots thicken and may hurl hot mud 10-15 feet high. Mud cones will also form when the mud is thick only to dissolve into mud pots when excess moisture is present.

Lori didn’t want to visit the Artist Paint Pots. I think she lost interest at the trail head sign which said, “Watch out for airborne hot mud”. I tried to convince her to come by saying it was the same therapeutic mud they used in facials and mud baths at the spa. Still, she wanted no part of the flying hot mud, so I was clearly my own for this stop. I on the other hand, don’t mind getting down and dirty, and could not wait to take on the Artist Paint Pots! I immediately disembarked for a one-mile hike through the forests of Yellowstone to the Paint Pots. The Artist Paint Pots is my selection for the most beautiful spot in Yellowstone. It appeared as if mother nature dumped a bucket of paint of every imaginable color down a hillside. I hiked to the top of the painted hill, and stood there in awe at the sight which lay before me. It was a moment in time I will remember for the rest of my life! Every time I think I have seen the most beautiful view on my cross country trip, mother nature never ceases to surprise me again. I really wished Lori had come with me to share in the experience. However, I took lots of pictures and a video for Lori, and then began my mile hike back to Rosie. Please enjoy the pictures below of the Artist Paint Pots. If you only look at one set of pictures from this blog post, please let this one be it!

Please view the additional pictures below of the Gibbons Geyser Basin.

After departing the Artist Paint Pots, we drove 3 miles to the Norris Geyser Basin, but it was already beginning to get dark by the time we arrived. We walked to the basin’s trail head, but then decided it was best to return first thing in the morning. Lori was walking 10 feet behind me as we made our way back to Rosie. When all of a sudden Lori let out this blood curdling primal scream! My thoughts were racing, my adrenaline was pumping, and I expected the worse. With bear spray in hand, I turned around in a flash expecting to see my wife being mauled by a wild animal! However, what I actually saw was a cute little chipmunk run right between Lori’s feet. After my blood pressure returned to normal, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing! Lori didn’t find the situation at all funny. She said the chipmunk scared her, and told me not to to make fun of her. We finally made it back to Rosie, and needed to find a place to park for the night. Since we had such good fortune stealth parking at the Old Faithful Inn last night, we decided to try our luck at another lodge tonight. We discovered the Canyon Lodge was 12 miles up the road, and had Michelle, our GPS, set in a course.

For us, the sum of all fears on this trip would be if either Lori or I lost our lives, and second to that would be if Rosie got totaled. Rosie is our home and our transportation, and if she got in an accident, we would be instantly stranded and without shelter wherever the accident occurred. Although we have had a few close calls on our trip, during our drive to the Canyon Lodge in the pitch black on the windy back roads of Yellowstone, Rosie almost went to that great junkyard in the sky in the most unexpected way!

As we drove down the road towards the Canyon Lodge, we saw a traffic jam of vehicles in the opposing direction directly ahead of us. We noticed there were 2 bison and a calf in the middle of the road 20 feet ahead. Since there was nowhere for us to turn around, we slowed to a stop, and put Rosie in park. The oncoming vehicles all blasted their high beams so they could see the family of bison in the road, and dozens of motorists got out of their car lighting up the night with a flurry of camera flashes. We were instantly blinded! Now I know what it must be like for Kim Kardashian to be photographed by the paparazzi! Apparently, the bison did not like the massive illumination, because all three of them suddenly turned around, and ran directly down the road towards Rosie! Although bison are wild animals, they usually ignore humans unless you provoke them by getting too close, or if their calf’s are threatened. Here we are with others provoking two bison with their calf, the bison were charging directly toward us at a high rate of speed, and we are absolutely powerless to change our current predicament. Seconds seemed like an eternity, as Lori and I scrunched down in our seats, said a quick prayer, and braced for an inevitable impact. One of the bison came so close to my driver’s side door, that I heard it's fur rubbing across the side of Rosie. After the bison’s passed and after almost soiling ourselves, we gave the big guy another shout out for sparing us and Rosie from catastrophe. Tomorrow, I am going to have to check to see if my car insurance covers bison damage. We finally made it to the Canyon Inn, and found a quiet corner of the parking lot to park Rosie for the night!

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