Sunday, November 8, 2020

Mosaic Monday #104: Road Trippin', Part II

October 14: A Classic Yellowstone Day

Ask anyone about Yellowstone National Park, and you are likely to hear one or more of the following: Geysers, bison, mud pits, traffic, elk.  On our first day in the Park, we were blessed to experience all of the above, and more (well, except for the traffic!)

Our day began with sustenance, Head Chef style.  (I am not shy about singing his praises, but for this trip, he really pushed the boat out.  Knowing that we would not be visiting many restaurants, he prepared numerous meals ahead of time, and froze them.  His menu planning for breakfast AND dinner was detailed and sumptuous - no cereal for breakfast in this cabin!)

From the moment we entered the Park, wonderful vistas spread before us.  And just as quickly, we spotted our first wildlife, a bull elk.  Well, actually, we spotted the cars pulled over at random spots on the road, and figured THEY had seen something.  (Can you see the pale dot on the hillside, on the left-hand side?  I know; it looked better through the binoculars!)

I was fascinated with the rapid changes in topography - open prairies one mile, and high rock formations the next.

Near this point, we took a small hike to Harlequin Lake.  It was decidedly average; I suppose we are spoiled by all the alpine lakes we visit in Montana.  But our next stop, Gibbon Falls, made up for it.


As we drove, we occasionally passed through steam, obviously the product of an un-named steam vent or hot spring close to the road.  Yellowstone was established in 1872 as the world's first national park primarily because of its unparalleled collection of geysers, hot springs, mudpots and steam vents.  So I was delighted when we made our initial stop at one of the geothermal features, Artists' Paintpots.  

Mudpots are acidic features with a limited water supply.  Their consistency and activity vary with the seasons and precipitation.  The plaque below explains it well (you can enlarge by clicking on it).

A video is a better illustration than a still photo.

A short distance down the road, we arrived at Norris Geyser Basin.  Parking the car, a few scrubby pine trees line a path to the visitor center.  And then, suddenly, the path drops away and the basin yawned below us.   The size and the number of features was incredible!

In the basin - far below the towering peaks of the Gallatin Mountains - water accumulates underground.  Heated by the Yellowstone Volcano, the water travels upward to erupt from acidic geysers, rise from steaming fumaroles and simmer in shimmering pools.

Norris Geyser Basin is named for Philetus Walter Norris, second superintendent of Yellowstone from 1877 to 1882.  He recorded this area's hydrothermal features in detail and also oversaw construction of some of the park's first roads, parts of which still remain as the Grand Loop Road.

By this time of the morning, our coffee cups were empty, and it was convenient to stop at Canyon Village for a refill.  We took a spin around the gift shop, and chose a Christmas ornament as our souvenir, adding to our extensive collection of brass ornaments commemorating our vacations.

Canyon Village is named after the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, featuring two massive waterfalls and a deep, brilliantly colored canyon.  The Yellowstone Canyon Rim Drive has numerous pullouts - we focused on the "Brink of the Lower Falls" and "Lookout Point".

Reaching the Brink overlook requires hiking a steep trail that winds down the canyon wall ... a wall of hardened rhyolite lava ... a wall exposed by the Yellowstone River while excavating the canyon.

In the photo above, I am standing at the Brink, gazing directly down into the canyon.  It was dizzying.  The moving water, the deafening crash of the falls striking bottom, the mist that shrouds the base of the canyon in such a way that you can't really fathom its depth.

Below Lower Falls, volcanic heat and gases soften the rhyolite rock.  The river carves more quickly here than upstream, sculpting a ledge and creating a waterfall.  To the right is a picture from the vantage of Lookout Point.  From here you can appreciate the full 308 feet of Lower Falls.

We rolled south toward Hayden Valley, renowned for reliable wildlife sightings.  Sure enough, a sizeable herd of bison grazed peacefully, and further on, a large number of spotting scopes lining a parking lot was the only clue we needed that something special was out there.  We pulled in and soon enough two different grizzlies came into focus in our spotting scope.  Too far for pictures, but you can trust me that they were magnificent!

We skirted Yellowstone Lake, framed on the east by the Absaroka Mountains, before the road turned westward toward the Old Faithful Complex.   The lake is the largest high-elevation lake (above 7,000 feet) in North America.  Many of the area's 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes occur under the lake, causing uplift and subsidence events that continue to reshape the water's edge.

Judging from the stream of people heading for the parking lot, we had just missed an Old Faithful eruption.  But I was OK with that; we saw the geyser erupt many moons ago when we came here with the kids.  Plus, it meant there were less than a dozen people wandering the boardwalks - easy social distancing! 

The Upper Geyser Basin, home of Old Faithful, hosts the majority of the world's active geysers.  The concentration of hydrothermal features here provides ample evidence of Yellowstone's active volcano.  Below is a video of the Spasmodic Geyser, bubbling away.  You will also hear the wind - it was non-stop that day, making the temperatures feel even more bitter.  Occasionally, I stood in the path of the steam, a futile attempt to warm up!

In this basin, partially molten rock (magma) from the volcano may be as close as 3 to 8 miles below your feet.  Imagine!  

Given the steam and the wind, at times it was almost impossible to obtain unobstructed views of the pools, especially the ones with the color.  Here you can see my shadow, reaching high to gain perspective and amplify the blue shades of Crested Pool.  With temperatures above 199 degrees F, Crested Pool is almost constantly boiling.  The extreme heat prevents most bacterial growth, resulting in exceptionally clear blue water.  As you would expect, every feature has signs warning about the dangers of leaving the boardwalk, especially for unstable ground.  So, I thought it was interesting that you could see the hoof prints of bison around the features - they must know where it is safe to walk!!!

As we completed the loop, our final stop of the day was Fountain Paint Pot.  That's a lot of mud!  

Throughout the day, we observed numerous ravens in the parking lots.  Of course, visitors are asked not to feed the wildlife, but it is apparent that the ravens have come to associate parking lots with nourishment!  So, at our last stop, I had to take a picture of the raven "assigned" to this parking lot.  I imagined this fellow was looking me over, assessing the likelihood of a handout.  Sorry, buddy!

It seemed entirely fitting, as we neared the exit to the Park, returning to the cabin for the night, that we saw abundant wildlife.  Four small gangs of elk, in the same location as the bull elk in the morning.  A bald eagle ripping pieces off a freshly caught trout.  And best of all, a herd of bison along the roadway (see video).  Yes, the ideal ending to a classic Yellowstone day! 

Editorial note: I am stunned that this is my 104th Mosaic Monday post.  Two years.  Where did that time go?  My heartfelt thanks to everyone who supports Mosaic Monday - we are small but mighty!

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  1. ...Yellowstone is one of those special places that I'd love to visit, maybe some day. Thanks Angie for hosting the party.

  2. Yellowstone is a very famous place, I heard about, I have seen documentations. Maybe in Future we can visite this landscape? After Isolation?

    Happy MosaicMonday

  3. Congrats on two years of Mosaic Monday.
    What a beautiful trip. There is just so much beauty in this world and I love that we can share it with each other.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

  4. What a beautiful part of the world to visit, so special to see the herd of bison! The thermal activity reminds me of Rotorua in NZ.

  5. Yellowstone is so, so beautiful but I always think supervolcano. It really is a special place to visit.

  6. lol, I have been there twice and I would go back tomorrow if I could. There is soo much to see and on a trip there is never time enough. Last time I was in Norris it was much more colorful and also half of the area was closed. I think due to the bad weather we had. It snowed and the boardwalks was slippery. But I love it. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Yellowstone is amazing! We stayed in two places in the park when we visited in 2016. At Old Faithful and then at Canyon. If we went again to take in Grand Tetons, too, we'd opt to stay outside the park. Can you share the cabin location you stayed in? Beautiful photos Angie!

  8. We spent many days in Yellowstone about ten years ago, driving in and out of every entrance and visiting all quadrants of it. It became my favorite national park for all its beautiful diversity. Just to think it is a caldera! What an explosion that must have been millions of years ago. Did you pass through the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, MT. We stayed a night in Gardiner and had really good pizza....funny how that pizza has stuck in my mind all these years later.

  9. wow thank you so much for taking us to Yellowstone - magnificent! prairies, mountains, geysers, waterfalls, bison - all wonderful. And the videos really do show things in a way photos cannot. I must do more of that. MI usually organise all the mals on our camping trips, but my hubbie is in charge of bacon and egg breakfasts and bbqs. Congratulations on your hosting 104 link ups. Thank you so much for keeping Mosaic Monday alive - which was my first linkup years and years ago. Stay safe, enjoy your week, and thankyou again for the link up.

  10. Gosh, two years....really?? That time has gone by quicker than quick. My daughter and son-in-law just returned from a road trip to Yellowstone and both said it was fabulous. Your photos have shown just how amazing it is

  11. Thanks for the memories. I was there as a kid on family vacation but have only a few pictures. My Colorado boy was able to visit the park a couple of years ago with friends. May we always protect these natural landscapes for future generations.

  12. Another wonderful virtual tour for me, Angie. Thanks for hosting!

  13. The first photo is surreal. I'd love to go back to Yellowstone. My pareents used to go there every year, snowmobling. I only enjoyed it in summer.

  14. Happy Two Years Angie! :) I loved seeing the bison herd. The geysers are so cool, but those paint pots are really neat. I loved learning about them. Nature rocks! :)

  15. Congrats on 2 years of hosting Mosaic Monday! I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I've taken part for years now and look forward to the posts and visiting the friends I've made over the years. I love you trip posts! I'm stuck at home but I can see the country when I visit you! Hugs!

  16. First of all a million thanks so much for all the weeks you’ve hosted this lovely party! As well as for your own always interesting posts. I love Yellowstone and it was fun to see it through your eyes. You mentioned a much earlier trip with your kids and that made me smile. Over the course of our many many years (;) we have visited Yellowstone three times: once with small children, once with teenagers, and once with just the two of us. We talked about how each was a completely different experience ...none of which I would have skipped for anything! I’m so glad you got to experience it again. The paint pots area is a big favorite of mine.

  17. Amazing landscape, very special! I would like to visit it someday.

  18. Wow, impressive images! I'd like to see Yellowstone. Thanks for hosting!

  19. Hello,
    What a great trip! Yellowstone and the Tetons are one of my favorites place to visit. We have been twice and I would go again given the chance. Your photos are beautiful. I loved the waterfalls. Thanks for hosting, have a great day!

  20. Dear Angie - The thing I hear most about Yellowstone Park is super volcano underneath the park. About 70 percent of my country is mountains including many volcanoes. They can cause destruction during eruptions but are tourist attractions for their scenic beauties. But scale is quite different. Your photos tell me about very American landscape; spacious, dynamic, and beautiful. Thanks for sharing.


  21. I would love to go to Yellowstone National Park - geysers, elk etc it all sounds and looks really interesting and all served with a wonderful Head Chef food! Congratulations on all your Mosaic Monday achievements I can't believe it has been that long either! Have a lovely week. Wren x

  22. Great photos! We had hoped to go to Yellowstone last month but decided it was not wise. That part of the state is fairing worse with the Covid. So I enjoyed your pics. Maybe next year. For now we are staying put and enjoying our home. You take care. Kit

  23. I missed today---well I am here but the day got away from me and here it is dinner time--almost--SORRY.
    Love being on the tour with you. I have never been to Yellowstone--Bob has several times. But you showed and talked about such different areas that I never heard about. I am amazed and thank you

  24. What a trip, love it. Yellowstone is so lovely, and the end, it were the Bison, beautiful.

  25. Hello Angie.

    Christmas shopping is an ongoing thing in our house too. Always on the lookout for that little different item. Enjoyed Trip Part 2 and your scenic photos and of course Head Chef’s contribution.

    I have been following the US election as we have friends there so I understand how you might be basking in the Biden Time. It worries me that he seems to be suffering from the onset of dementia. Also our friends pointed me towards the successes of the current administration.

    I’m sure everything will work out fine.

  26. Surely one of America's greatest treasures, Angie, and a tribute to the vision of Theodore Roosevelt. From what I hear it may be getting a little overloved from the vast numbers of people who understandably want to visit, but perhaps it is time to open only for a couple of days a week to give the park time to recover.

  27. Wonderful 'travelin' with you through your beautiful photos ~ great post ~ thanks ^_^

    Live each moment with love,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor

  28. Wow - what a fabulous adventure. Gorgeous shots!

  29. Great post, Yellowstone has always been magical to me. You have captured that. Going off season is the only way to do it if you can. Night and day difference in the experience.

  30. A beautiful and amazing place. Great photos and thanks for sharing your experience and photos. Have a wonderfu weekend, Angie.

  31. I've been to Yellowstone once, as a child. I was old enough that the memories remain, and it made a huge impression on me.

  32. Goodness me Angie, what a fabulous 104th Mosaic Monday post this is.
    Congratulations on that number and many thanks for the lovely photographs, mosaics and videos. What a fantastic visit to Yellowstone, I am so pleased I was able to come along with you.

    Take care, stay safe and well.

    All the best Jan

  33. What a wonderful trip. Glorious photos! I'd love to visit Yellowstone.
    Congratulations on 2 years of Mosaic Monday, Angie.
    Many thanks!


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