Nov 24, 2014

Yellowstone part 2

"There is something in the wild scenery of this valley which I cannot describe: but the impressions made upon my mind while gazing from a high eminence on the surrounding landscape one evening as the sun was gently gliding behind the western mountain and casting its gigantic shadows across the vale were such as time can never efface.  For my own part I almost wished I could spend the remainder of my days in a place like this where happiness and contentment seemed to reign in wild romantic splendor" - Lamar Valley, Osborne Russell 1835

The first white explorers of the Yellowstone region (fur-trappers & mountain men) were called liars and fools for making up such laughable stories about bubbling mud, colorful pools and steaming geysers. Six decades later, a geologist, a photographer, and a painter, returned from a successful expedition with visual proof. 

People began to take notice. Only under the impression that this rugged, boiling, unstable land held no use for farmland or economical development, congress agreed to set it aside as a public "pleasuring ground." In 1872 President Grant signed the bill, creating the first National Park in the history of the world.

We hiked to Fairy Falls...

...continued on to the Imperial Geyser (no boardwalks here!)

...then turned around and headed back through the meadow and past Fairy Falls again...

...where we sat in the shade and had lunch. It was like sitting at the foot of an altar. Except that we were harassed by this fat chipmunk the whole time.

Then we climbed up a hill/mountain on an unmarked trail to be rewarded with this fantastic view of the Grand Prismatic Pool. Just incredible! Nothing like it in the world!

We met some nice people up at the top - what a place to make friends! One of the women must have been a professional photographer, she took this fantastic picture for us. Great memories :)

Splendid Geyser with her splendid rainbow

Punch Bowl Spring

Morning Glory Pool.

EVERY YEAR park personnel remove hundreds of rocks, coins, and other objects from Morning Glory Pool.
"Morning Glory Pool is losing its brilliant color. Through ignorance and vandalism, people have tossed objects into the hot spring, clogging it's vent and lowering the temperature. Brown, orange, and yellow algae-like bacteria thrive in the cooler water, gradually turning the vivid aqua-blue to a murkier greenish-brown.
All thermal features are at risk. Hot springs and geysers have fragile, complex plumbing that takes centuries to develop. Morning Glory's future is uncertain; you can help by immediately reporting any vandalism."

Ignorance indeed. So infuriating. We decided that we'd put our bear spray to good use if we ever witnessed vandalism.

The park is ever-changing. This section of the Artemisia Trail was swallowed up by the thermal pools! The sign says "unsafe trail, new trail about 20 yards --> stay on trail, thank you!"

More Yellowstone to come!

Nov 18, 2014

Yellowstone part 1

After leaving the awesome landscapes of Craters of the Moon, we pushed further on down the road through the forested and construction-riddled countryside that is eastern Idaho. Driving Hodor through narrow construction zones is never particularly enjoyable, but as always, we managed.
We pulled into our campsite at Henry’s Lake state park – which, in spite of its unremarkable name, was truly awe-inspiring.

Our morning view
We excitedly jumped out to check out our new road-home, but quickly jumped back in to grab our winter gear – near-freezing temperatures took us off guard, as we had just been in temps hitting 90+!
With nightfall upon us, though, we did a small amount of exploring the park, enjoyed a few adult beverages, and prepared ourselves for the caldera wonderland of Yellowstone, our nation’s FIRST national park.
Naturally, the first day that we visited the park was on Labor Day, so every major stop was PACKED. But it was hard to let that get to us with the majestic views of these one-of-a-kind volcanic features. As you may expect, the pictures hardly do them justice, but WOW – these are other-worldly.

Getting to spend as long as we wished at each feature enabled us to learn the ‘personalities’ of many of the volcanic features. We’d learn the alternating eruptions of various geysers within each geyser basin, and would learn to expect one to go off as soon as another finished. And how the strength of one geyser eruption would affect the strength of another.

And we’d learn when the best time to get a picture of any number of the pools based on the temperature and sunlight.

The combination of sulfur gas, heavy hot steam, and beautiful forested and mountainous scenery truly seemed as an earthly meeting point for the divinity of the heavens and the fires of hell.

Our first few days at Yellowstone were such a humbling experience. These beautiful geysers and pools were here long before we were, and will continue bubbling and steaming away long after we’ve left this life.

"There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred." –Theodore Roosevelt

More Yellowstone to come!


Nov 7, 2014

Everything is Lava

On the road again, beautiful Idaho country.

Oh our way to Yellowstone, we stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. It's a sea of lava, and it is very strange to approach. The land has a warm tone for miles, scrubby vegetation and some trees. But in the distance, you see a swath of black. The borders of the lava flow are pretty well-defined.

Type "craters of the moon" into google maps/earth. Zoom out - you can see the pathway of the flows. Zoom in, and you can see the textures frozen in time. A lot of it still looks liquid!

The Shoshone Indians are believed to have witnessed eruptions. There are two different (though similar) legends about exploding mountains and melting hills. A spur of the Oregon Trail came through here, not a pleasant terrain for covered wagons. Check out this page for more history.

A cinder cone - not quite a volcano, but a vent in the crust that sputters up lava. It's built up over time by the volcanic debris. You can see another two cinder cones behind this one.

These little white plants have extensive root systems, they space themselves out evenly, and look like snow in the distance.

The hotspot that formed Craters of the Moon, is now beneath Yellowstone. It stays in place, but the North American Plate is moving southwest over it.

Onwards to Yellowstone! The grand finale of our serendipitous volcano tour.