So, back to Yellowstone. Originally, we were going to come to Yellowstone the night before and camp, leaving the whole next day to look at things. As it worked out though, we didn't get to Yellowstone until about three o'clock in the afternoon, so we had to take the hurry-up-and-look tour of the park. Normally, at every previous park, we'd show up there, grab a map, and have some time to plan out our trails for the day beforehand. This time we got to the park gate, got the map, and had to lay out our plans for the remainder of the day while we were driving into the park, so we had to decide what to look at pretty quickly also.
In the end, we went around the central loop in the park to see Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone Canyon, the lake, and finally Old Faithful and the surrounding area.
In the meantime, I got some pictures while we were driving into the park.
There were huge areas with short trees like this, I think due to the 1988 wildfires. I think there may have also been some more large fires after that in the mid-nineties. It's funny how densely packed they are when they're still small, a lot of them will die simply because certain trees gain some sort of edge over their neighbors and there's not enough room or resources for all of them.
The first place we stopped was Gibbon Falls. It was right off the side of the road, so it didn't take much time to find a good view of it.
Moving on down the road, we stopped at the Artist's Paintpots next. It was about half of a mile to the loop around the paintpots, so we made our way along the path at a brisk walk through the short pines. As we got closer to the loop, we started seeing these colorful little rivulets running through the dirt, and these tiny bubbling or steaming holes in the ground. I'd read about Yellowstone before and how it had geysers and hotsprings, but I didn't realize just how little the ground covered the stuff going on underneath until I got there. In some places, there were large areas where the ground was only very thin - walking off the plank path wasn't a good idea.
Another weird thing is that not all the hydrothermal features are consistent in how they work. Some of them make bubbles, some of them steam, some them are fountains, some of them are just springs where water rises to the surface, some of them are mostly water, and still more of them are mostly mud.
One thing they all did well is smell bad. Sulphur tends to eminate from the ground here along with the water, and it stinks something awful when you get a good whiff of it.
This is a good view of most of the area enclosed by the loop. Looking over everything, my dad said that from his trips a long time ago, he remembered it being it more active. We were wondering if maybe more went on after heavy rains, but either way it was cool to hear him talk about changes in the park over time. It's always funny to think that what seem like permanent things in nature are changing all the time.
View from the top of the loop.
This thing sat there and made bubbles. Bubbles!
Ees so tiny! These little guys were ubiquitous.
This thing was hilarious. It just keeps shooting blobs of mud out of itself, building up mounds of the stuff.
The paintpots were cool, and they gave me a good idea of how this place worked. Somewhere under me was magma, which was heating up water, which was also somewhere under me, all of which was probably not that far away if I could walk to it. All of that was underground, and I could see the end result of some of what was going on down there at the surface. Cool stuff.
It was about 5 PM by the time we got to our next destination, the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Fortunately, what with it being the middle of June, the sun wouldn't be going down for quite some time. There was no hiking here, instead we pulled off at parking lots and went to see the different views of the canyon and the falls in it.
This is the Upper Falls.
Next to this thing, the Upper Falls looks pretty small!
Here we have some more pictures of the canyon downstream.
As far downstream as we could go.
The last place we stopped in this area was nearer to the Upper Falls.
Still not a fantastic photo, but it was certainly better than the first one I got.
After that, we drove a little further south, and made a brief stop at the Sulphur Cauldron to take a quick look at the stuff there. There was a tiny part of the parking lot that was closed because a bubbling spring had come up through the pavement there!
I think this was called the Dragon's Cave, which got its name from the steam that the cave continously belched out. The sulphur smell here was particulary strong.
A mudpot nearby.
Finally, we started driving toward Yellowstone Lake and our campsite. We would stop there and check in first before continuing on to see Old Faithful.
My dad was really excited to show me the lodge there. I had no idea what to expect. We went into one of the buildings, and it was pretty cool inside. There was a gift shop, places to buy food, a dining area, and a place where we got some excellent milkshakes. My dad kept saying it wasn't the place he remembered though, so he asked around for where the "lodge" was. Apparently, we were in the lodge. Eventually he found out that what he was looking for was the Old Faithful Inn, and they pointed us in the right direction. From a distance, it was just a tall triangular building with some flags on it. It didn't look that interesting from where I was standing, pretty cool perhaps, but nothing completely amazing.
We decided to go look at it. On the way out, we saw the times listed for when Old Faithful was supposed to go off. If I remember correctly, it was supposed to erupt around 8:10, give or take 10 minutes. It was 7:40 then, so we had a while to look at the inn.
So we walk over to the inn, and I noted that the front of the building looked much more impressive up close. Whoever designed it had certainly done a good job. So then, I walked inside. The outside had been impressive. The inside of the lobby, on the other hand, filled me with awe. It was incredible. I'd seen a lot of "mountain lodge" style buildings before, and I always really liked them, but after seeing this one, those all looked like cheap knock-offs. This thing is a real piece of art. There were multiple stories of balconies around the center of the lobby, and above those were stairs to catwalks and crows nests above the whole thing. All of the wood in the place was unfinished lumber - literally branches of trees and tree trunks that were nailed in place almost as they were found. The only thing they'd done to them was strip the bark and cut them to size. There was a huge stone chimney in one corner housing a large fireplace also. It was an amazing place, and we spent a lot of time just looking around in it.
I have pictures of the inn, but I'm not going to post them here. They don't do it justice, and it's better if you've never seen pictures of it before going in anyway.
Finally wandering back outside, we made our way to a good place to look at Old Faithful.
After standing around for a while, we got to see it erupt! From where we were standing, we mostly saw steam, but it kept erupting for a good minute or so, and the water reached fairly high in the air.
Nearby, there were a lot of other geysers and pools to go look at. For our last adventure of the day, we went to go look at those.
We didn't get to see any of the other geysers go off, but that whole area was interesting to look at. It was 9 PM when we left and headed back to the campsite. Unfortunately, this meant we had to pitch our tent in darkness and try to cook dinner.
We also tried to put my sister's lantern back in working order. We'd actually managed to find a replacement pump earlier, but our attempt ended in a dismal failure. Dinner however, was good. At this point, I don't remember what that dinner was, but, I do remember it being tasty.
When it came time to go to bed, we did not sleep well. We had to believe that there were a bunch of moles that had lived under our campsite, because the ground was terribly bumpy. Definitely not the most comfortable place to sleep.
The next day, we got up and skedaddled out of there.
So, Yellowstone, it's awesome. I've added to my list of future plans to a trip to Yellowstone and just Yellowstone, I could probably spend a week in the inn there (although, boy is it expensive). It's a big place, and there's plenty to look at. Despite that, I still got to see a lot of excellent stuff given the amount of time we had to go look at it. I love all of the hydrothermal stuff in the park, in fact the coolest thing about the whole area is it's volcanic activity.
It's a geothermal hotspot, and it has been for millions of years. Driving into the park, we could see that the landscape was mostly old volcanic tuff, cracked up like thick layers of asphalt. There have been multiple, huge volcanic eruptions in the park, some of them a thousand times more powerful than Mt. Saint Helen's eruption. You can see the remnants of these eruptions in the ash fields they spewed across the entire continent, as well as the caldera lakes they left behind. Take Yellowstone Lake, and replace it with a volcano - that's a pretty big volcano. And of course, the geyers are all a result of the same volcanic activity, as the magma still trapped underground heats the water. Plumes of steam still rise off of the edge of Yellowstone Lake. There are a few ways I've decided I wouldn't mind dying, and I've added to my list that, when I'm old, I would be okay with getting to see the next eruption happen if I were actually at the park. Otherwise, that would be no fun at all.
There are a few more noteworthy things that happened on this trip. For one, we got to see Mt. Rushmore. I was originally planning to camp there, but the weather was miserable, so we drove on up to Wall and got a hotel room, which was apparently the home of the famous Wall Drugstore. This place is insane. It gained notoriety for offering free ice water in the middle of nowhere a long time ago. Since then it's turned into some kind of shrine to insane tourist business ventures. It's quite a strange place, certainly worth a look.
The next day, we got up and decided to make a quick detour through the southern Badlands. Looks like we'd be adding one more park to the trip. The Badlands had a lot more grass in them than I was expecting, and my dad said he definitely hadn't remembered them being that green. I tried to search the internet for information on increases in grass in the area, but I couldn't find anything. One of the interesting things there was the highly visible erosion of the loose soil - there were old fence posts and drain pipes installed decades ago that had been undermined by two feet or more.
Anyway, here's a slew of pictures from there.
After the Badlands, we came back to the freeway and started off east toward my sister's place again. We played several games of twenty questions (aka coffeepot) on the way.
My sister wasn't actually home, but her husband was. When we got there, it was dark, and my dad told me to throw something away. So I went to the side of the house and tossed the thing in the trash can, when I got an idea. I went around the back of their house and just stood there at the back door. When my sister's husband came to the back door to let the dog out, he saw me just standing there and he was a bit startled xD. It was awesome.
Shortly after we got there, we went to sleep. Tomorrow was the last day of the trip. For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to drive the entire leg, and then finally, right around dinner time, we were back in Ohio on home dirt.
It was a fantastic trip. I am so glad I took the advice I was given, moving my start date back was definitely the right thing to do. There are so many things to look at and so much dirt to walk around on out there, and there's a lot of stuff to learn about it all too. In the future, I'd like to take a similar trip with Liebatron
once he graduates. In the meantime, I've started my new job, and it's been good. I will certainly embark on more adventures in the future though.
For all of you who got this far, thanks for reading! Writing these has been fun.