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Thursday, September 10, 2015

On the Road, Part II: First Day in Yellowstone

With our Subaru in the shop being seen to, we rented a Chevrolet for the day and entered Yellowstone National Park (and the state of Wyoming) from its West Entrance. Yellowstone was the first national park to be established in the U.S. (in 1872, the first anywhere, actually), and is known for having the world's greatest concentration of geysers, as well as the largest high-altitude lake in the United States and, ominously, sitting atop a supervolcano that may one day cover the western U.S. in a suffocating layer of ash and plunge the rest of the world into a prolonged period of winter. For the time being, however, all that geothermal activity combines with its stunning natural scenery and diverse collection of wildlife (bison, grizzly bears, wolves etc.) to make Yellowstone a must-see for any visitor to America (and there were plenty of Chinese taking in the sights while we were there).

Going along the 142-mile (229 kilometers) scenic Grand Loop Road, it wasn't long before we encountered our first bison:


Approaching geyser country:


Old Faithful: what is there to say about Yellowstone's most iconic geyser? Spewing between 3700 to 8400 gallons (14,000-32,000 liters) of water 100-180 feet (30-55 meters) high every 35 to 120 minutes, we only had to wait about 20 minutes for the geyser to do its stuff:



While impressive, Old Faithful was eclipsed (in my opinion, anyway) by Beehive Geyser, which only erupts once a day and which we were fortunate enough to see shortly after Old Faithful had given its performance:




Taking a walk through the Upper Geyser Basin, we came across the curiously named Chinese Spring:


The clarity of many of the springs was inviting, though you would be boiled alive should you try to enter one:


Castle Geyser has been erupting for thousands of years; in comparison, Old Faithful's cone may only be a few hundred years old and still growing:



Countless eruptions of silica and other minerals have stained the ground around many of the geysers and springs:


The day was hot and sunny, and the sky was clear; it short, it was perfect. My wife might disagree with my climate assessments:


Solitary Geyser erupts every 4-8 minutes:


The view of the geyser basin from Observation Hill:



Historic Old Faithful Inn is close to...you know what. I tried to make reservations for us there, but all the hotels within the national park were booked solid for the dates we would be there:


After several hours exploring the area around Old Faithful, we got back in the car and headed back to West Yellowstone, making several stops along the way. Here, Amber checks the water temperature and is surprised to find it was warm from spring water trickling into the river:


The Midway Geyser Basin has two notable attractions. The first is the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring, with an expanse of 370 feet (113 meters):



The other is Excelsior Pool, the clear blue waters of which reminded me of a tropical beach. Only with a lot of steam:



Every hour 4000 gallons (15,142 liters) of hot water flow out of Excelsior Pool and into the Firehole River:


There were more geysers and springs to check out on the drive back to town...:


...as well as some wildlife:



Back in West Yellowstone (and in Montana), we were relieved to learn our 2007 Subaru still had some life in it, but we were warned to keep an eye on the oil level if we wanted to continue our cross-country trek. After dinner, Pamela retired to our hotel room (the sheer scale of Yellowstone exhausted her), while Amber and I took a walk through the small town, finishing the evening off with a scoop of huckleberry ice cream. Huckleberry takes many forms in Montana - in addition to ice cream, we sampled huckleberry fudge, pie, soda and taffy while we were in Big Sky country:


Back at our hotel and no doubt that we were in the West:


To be continued...




 






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