Saturday, September 3, 2011

Water Water Everywhere

Day 8: Sept. 3, 2011

Today was all about water. We got a later start this morning, leaving Madison Campground after dumping and filling our water tanks. We headed south, planning to stop at all the places between Madison and Old Faithful which we'd had to pass up the night before.

Our first stop was the Firehole Canyon Drive, a one-way road along the canyon formed by the Firehole River. We spent most of the day by this river, which is warmed by the many hot springs which empty into it along its length. But at the north end, it forms a canyon and cascaded through below us.

We left the canyon drive and the road opened up again into that beautiful combination of blue blue water and green grasslands. There we found a mother elk and her calf resting along the river.
We took a short side road which led to a hot spring right at the edge of the river. Joe tested the water and said it was a nice temperature for a swim--not too cold. This was just the first of dozens of springs we saw today, spilling into the Firehole River and warming it up.
We continued down the road, and as we approached the Lower Geyser Basin, we saw the incredible, unworldly sight of steamy plumes rising into the blue sky.
We couldn't stop and explore them, however, because the parking lot was jammed! It was our first experience so far with lots of tourists, but I suppose only to be expected on Labor Day Weekend. We left the basin for later, and continued on to the next stop: Midway Basin. Again we had problems parking but we managed. We were determined not to miss Grand Prismatic, the largest of Yellowstone's thermal springs.

The pool is really too large to appreciate from ground level--I understand the thing to do is hike to the top of a nearby "hill". But of course we did not have time for that. So we did our best to appreciate the blue of the pool and the orange and yellow runoffs.
Nearby is the Excelsior Geyser, which is huge. It sends 4,000 gallons of boiling water cascading down into the river every minute! The vision of this runoff was incredible and I took a short movie as well as still shots of the steaming water rushing into the deep blue river.
I especially liked the patterns the water made as it ran out of the geyser--little terraces with bands of colors.
The view from Midway Basin is also wonderful, if you can tear your eyes away from the springs and geysers. If you look up, you can see the meadows which surround the hot springs, and the mountains in the distance. So beautiful!
When we left Midway, we were hungry, so we stopped in a pull-out along the river for lunch. This was our view out our door--dozens of hot springs steaming and spilling into the river.
After lunch we visited Biscuit Basin. What can I say--more delightful springs, these much smaller but very active. We saw several small springs which bubbled up and over, subsided and sank down into their "holes", and then bubbled up again--all within a 5-10 minute time span.
Finally we came to the Upper Geyser Basin, home of Old Faithful. The parking lot was mobbed when we arrived around 3:30, but we found Mo a place in the back of the Visitors Center area and trekked on over there. We picked up a guide to the basin, found out that Old Faithful was not due to erupt for another 80 minutes, and so we went to see the other geysers. The vista is completely other-worldly.
We saw lots of geysers, including Aurea, which erupted for us while we were still close to it.
Then it was time for Old Faithful itself--and we had a wonderful show. I had to take my iconic photo just like everyone else.
After the eruption, as we were walking to the Old Faithful Inn, we saw in the distance that Lion Geyser, which we'd seen a little while earlier, was erupting. Thanks to my zoom lens, I was able to capture a good shot.
We looked into the Old Faithful Inn to admire the architecture (and get ice cream!)
Finally we started back north again--we were hoping to get to our campsite tonight in Gardiner before dark, and it was already 6 pm. But of course we stopped along the way for Gibbon Falls
and for Roaring Mountain (there was no traffic, so Joe turned off Mo's engine and I could hear the mountain roar!)
and for a herd of elk on the lawn in the middle of Mammoth Hot Springs.
After that, we went as fast as we could for the last 6 miles to Gardiner. Despite the dusk, we could see that once again, the scenery was fantastic. We also passed a pair of mountain goats who were grazing right at the edge of the road--but not only was it too dark, my camera's batteries had run out. So with no more photos, we made it to the campground around 8:30, just as the last light was fading.


Aimee said...

More wow. And, imho, THAT is where water BELONGS. not in suburban basements.

Why does the mountain roar?

Tom said...

Great writing again and great photos. So neat to have digital camera compared to the olden days of a 36 picture roll.

We may be among the few that hung around Old Faithful to see it do its thing a couple of times.

It's hard to absorb all of the beauty of the park.

Like in your last entry its just WOW!

Debbie and Joe said...

@Aimee: The mountain roars because there are fumaroles coming out of it. If you look near the middle of the photo, you can see some steam puffs. I have some close-ups of those but it took me until 3am to upload 3 blogs and all those photos so enough was enough, LOL! Glad you like the blog and you are right about where water belongs!