So I thought we tried to see everything the first day! Today, we actually did!
Norris Geyser Basin is like walking through The Land that Time Forgot
. The most recent volcanic eruptions have taken place in this area leaving the earth’s crust very thin. Much of the path system has raised platforms to keep visitors from possibly breaking through into the subterranean labyrinth of boiling water or superheated steam. I love the names of the various thermal features -- Whale’s Mouth, Crackling Lake, Whirligig Geyser, Green Dragon Spring, Hurricane Vent, and Black Hermit Caldron. The air is laced with acidic smells and gurgling, hissing, burbling, popping and sizzling noises. Steamboat Geyser gives off a constant rumble and plume of steam as it shoots water 10 to 40 feet high. However, on the very rare occasion when it really erupts, it shoots water up to 300 feet for up to 40 minutes and is the tallest geyser in the world -- Oh, what I’d give to see that!
We took a short trip to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. From several lookout points, we viewed the Lower Falls. This is a majestic waterfall plunging 308
feet - almost twice as high as Niagara Falls! The turquoise river thunders over the falls and into the canyon that has an astonishing array of colors including gold, yellow, pink and rust.
A little further down the road is the Mammoth Terraces. Looking like a stage setting from some futuristic movie set on a distant planet these towering terraces rise up forming large many-colored stairs with glistening travertine pools on each step. Travertine is made of calcium carbonate which is sparkling white, but the water that flows over the steps contains millions of microscopic organisms that not only add color but patterns to the steps. The waters ebb and flow over the massive structures leaving solid masses that can grow up to three feet a year.
Our trip to Tower Falls was short. In previous visits, we have walked to the base of the falls. However, it was closed today. We were able to view it from the top and get some lovely photos. We continued our journey, this time south along the highest stretch of roadway in the park. Dunraven Pass sits at 8,859 ft which sits in the shadow of Mount
Washburn at 10, 243 ft. I remember traveling this road years ago, and it along with many others in the park is much improved.
The road eventually led us from the highlands onto the vast openness of the Haden Valley where a herd of over 200 bison were grazing with many rolling and wallowing in the dusty earth. Bison do this to cool, rid themselves of pests, when they are molting, and during the rut. It is hard to believe that millions of these creatures used to roam much of North America, and even harder to believe so many millions were slaughtered. Here in Yellowstone they are treated like the sacred cows of India -- revered and unharmed. They roam wherever they please -- cars be damned!
After winding our way through the throng of cars, we drove further south to Yellowstone Lake. At 7,733 ft it is North America’s largest high altitude lake with 141 miles of shoreline. We drove to the Lake Butte Overlook which sits at 8,348 ft. giving a breathtaking unobstructed view of the lake, surrounding forest and mountains. The trees on the Butte were burned in 2005. There was
a major fire in Yellowstone in 1988 where over one-third of the park was affected. Although devastating at the time, the forest has regenerated. New stands of trees have grown and in freshly burned areas like the Butte vast stretches of forest are covered with brilliant wildflowers. Forest management practices have changed over time. In a dance as old as time, the old are replace by the young, the sick with the healthy. When we respect this dance, we hear the music that nature sings.
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