Yellowstone: Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (3/4)

“It is the place where the center of the earth finds

an exit and gives us a glimpse of it's soul”

Anne Coe

State 16: Wyoming - September 26, 2017

Nate

We awoke in the parking lot of the Canyon Inn having had a very restless night sleep. Yellowstone's nightly freezing temperatures once again kept us tossing and turning. We bundled up in our sleeping bags, counted sheep for over an hour, and even drank almond milk all to no avail. At 4 am, we finally dozed off, and 5 hours later we woke to the sound of birds chirping. Now that we had the sunlight on our side, we drove 12 miles back to the Norris Geyser Basin to continue our exploration of Yellowstone.

Upon arriving at the Norris Geyser Basin, the pungent scent of sulfur attacked our senses the moment we opened Rosie’s doors. The nauseating stench of rotten eggs instantaneously soured our stomachs. It smelled as if an entire hen house had died and was left to rot in the field. Undeterred by the basins olfactory assault on our senses, we proceeded to the nearby Norris Geyser Museum to speak with a ranger prior to beginning our exploration. We learned the following: Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest and most dynamic thermal area in Yellowstone. In 2003, the surface temperature in the basin shockingly reached 203 degrees prompting it's closures to the public for weeks! Hopefully, there would be none of that during our visit today!

The Norris Geyser Basin is divided into 2 sections: The Porcelain Basin and The Black Basin. The two basins form a figure 8 loop trail 2 ¼ miles in total length, which converge at the Norris Museum. Behind the museum is a grand balcony featuring breathtaking views of the Porcelain Basin, which is where we began the days’ adventure. The Porcelain Basin consists of hundreds of densely packed geothermal features chaotically merged together brilliantly painting the horizons in colorful perfection. Please enjoy the pictures below of the Norris Geyser Porcelain Basin.

Please view the additional Porcelain Basin pictures below.

After looping back to the Norris Museum, we set off to explore the 2nd part of the Norris Geyser Basin: The Black Basin. In stark contrast to the Porcelain Basin's panoramic rainbow colors, the Black Basin's desolate and charred landscape tells a story of is volatile existence over millions of years. In one of the most inhospitable environments on earth, only the strong and adaptable species survive. Evidence of this ongoing struggle littered the landscape. Lush flowing grasses, and towering pine trees grow wild and free directly among charred and white ashen up rooted trees stumps as far as the eye can see. Never before I have I witnessed such a stark contract between life and death before my eyes! The Black Basin featured 3 noteworthy geysers:

Echinus

With a water PH the same as vinegar, Echinus is the largest acid water geyser in existence. For years, Echinus Geyser was a main attraction at Yellowstone erupting every 35 to 75 minutes. However, in 1998 for reasons still unknown, the geyser became less frequent and predictable, and eruptions have been extremely rare. When active, it's pool fills gradually with water and then bursts of steam and water explode 40 to 60 feet into the air. Please see the pictures below of this massive acidic sleeping giant!

Steamboat Geyser

With major eruptions shooting water in excess of 300 feet into the atmosphere, Steamboat Geyser is the tallest active geyser in the entire world! Steamboat's eruptions are entirely unpredictable occurring anywhere between 50 years and 4 days apart! Steamboat's last major eruption occurred on September 14, 2014. Please enjoy the pictures below of the largest active geyser in the entire world!

Porkchop Geyser

On September 5, 1989, 8 park visitors were in the Black Basin in a similar manner as we were on this very day. They made their way to a geyser named Porkchop, because it's shape made it worthy of such a name. Suddenly and unexpectantly, Porkchop violently exploded hurling boulders over 200 feet into the atmosphere in all directions! Luckily, no one was injured in the explosion. After blowing off some steam, Porkchop is now a gently rolling hot spring. However, large boulders lie scattered around Porkchop to this very day serving as a constant reminder of it's tumultuous past! Please see the pictures below of violent and unpredictable geyser!

Please view the additional pictures below of our visit to the Black Basin.

Here are some additional pictures of the Black Basin. Sometimes you have to look up close to see the beauty of Yellowstone.

After departing the Norris Geyser Basin, we drove 12 miles back to the Canyon Visitor's Center to visit our next stop: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I didn’t even know Yellowstone had a Grand Canyon! It made me wonder if Yellowstone and Arizona’s Grand Canyon was trying to compete with each other for the title of America’s best national park! Nevertheless, Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon consisted of 6 lookout points: Brink of Upper Falls, Lookout Point, and Grand View along the North rim, and Artist Point along the south rim. The two remaining lookout points; Inspiration Point, and Uncle Tom's Point were closed during our visit.

Artist Point

Artist point looks out over a cliff above the Lower Falls on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone due West of Yellowstone Falls along the Yellowstone River. Albeit geographically correct, that was a lot of Yellowstone’s in one sentence! Lori and I unanimously agreed, Artist point was the most beautiful lookout point in all of Yellowstone Park! We could have stood there all day and never grew tired of the mesmerizing view. We hope you enjoy my futile attempts to capture the splendor of Artist Point in the pictures below!

Brink of Upper Falls

The Upper Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is neither as tall nor as popular as Lower Falls. However, the 109-foot waterfall is impressive in it's own right, and is more than worthy of visit. This vantage point also marks the official beginning of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Please enjoy the pictures below of from the Brink of Upper Falls.

Lookout Point

Lookout Point provided our second opportunity to view the Higher Falls of the Yellowstone River. In the early years of Yellowstone National Park, this vantage point was the most popular lookout for park visitors. In 1880 Superintendent P.W. Norris built a railing at the site, and the location has been known as Lookout Point ever since! Please enjoy the pictures below of the Upper Falls from Lookout Point.

Grand View

This vantage point offers additional views of the Higher Falls on the Yellowstone River. The Higher Falls is named as such due to it's greater elevation than the Lower Falls. In actuality, the Higher Falls is considerably shorter than it's downstream neighbor the Lower Falls. Please see pictures below.

After departing The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, we drove North 37 miles through the majestic mountains of Yellowstone to Mammoth Falls. On the way, we hit a bit of traffic. Please see the picture to the right. We arrived at Mammoth after dark, and stealth parked Rosie directly across from the main entrance to the Mammoth Lodge. I could actually see the hotel security guard from Rosie’s rear window! Since the temperature was below freezing, we went with the assumption security would assume no one would be crazy enough to sleep in their vehicle. However, we are the Cross Country Couple, and we have plans in place for temperatures ranging from zero to 100 degrees! We are usually not so overt with our overnight parking, but sometimes hiding in plain sight is the best solution.

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