Sunday, July 15, 2007 ;
7:11 AM
13 July

Woke up really early again, to catch wildlife when they are active. By 7am, was out at Hayden Valley with binos and all. Saw bison, mule deer and elk. There are more moose and bison in Teton NP it seems.

But it was fun to see the bison kind of "frolicking". (Although being a large and fierce-looking animal, I don't suppose you can use that adjective?) They were having fun, kicking up soil, drinking water, rolling about in the mud.

Some were grazing beside the road.

Then we moved down to Le Hardys Rapids, where there are leaping cutthroat trout from the river. But besides the fast-moving river rapids, there are a lot of flora and fauna worth checking out too. The trail is also very pleasant, always right at the side of the river. Of course, the crisp morning air, the birds chirping and the sound of flowing water made it all very enchanting.

Found many cat's parsnips full of flies, don't know why. But it is interesting, so we took a pic.

Above: the rapids. No cutthroat trout pictured though.

Then we headed further south to Fishing Bridge, where we there was a great view of the Yellowstone River (below).

As there were many birds, we stopped to admire them.

Below left: Pelican flying above the river. Right: Pelican swimming and fishing in the river.

Many other birds too, but we are unable to ID them very well. Got a good bird guide though, so when I am free, I'll look at all those pics we took and slowly try to ID them.

After that, it was about 10am and we stopped at Fishing Village (near Fishing Bridge) for a nice hot breakfast of blueberry pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, ham with milk and orange juice. Very hearty indeed. The blueberries were really fresh, and the pancakes were homemade, very thick kind. Yum yum. Furthermore we were really hungry from all the morning activities.

After that, we travelled south, and stopped at the Natural Bridge. ds2 was napping by then cos he woke super early. So I stayed with kids in the van while dh went on the hike. It was a 3mi hike, but dh ran, cos he didn't want to waste time. Hee, we were like doing the Amazing Race, trying to squeeze in as many of the natural wonders into our 3 days in Yellowstone.

He was back within an hour, sweating profusely and panting away. :-) Got this beautiful pic though. It's named natural bridge because it was formed from the erosion of rock. There are more such beautiful natural bridges in Utah actually. We will visit the Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon NPs (in Utah) sometime next year for sure.

Further south was the West Thumb Geyser Basin, meaning there was a concentration of geysers and geothermal features there. By this time, ds2 woke already, so we all walked the boardwalks. It was a loop, so we enjoyed ourselves and took our time.

Above left: Amazing, the geyser hole was in the middle of the Yellowstone lake water.

Below: deposits from the geysers caused the trees to die.

Above left: hot spring pools. Above right: the run off from hot spring pools to the Yellowstone Lake. The lake's water is very cold while the spring's is hot. So along the way, there'd be transition of temperatures, which supports different species of thermophiles, hence the different colours and hues of orange and green.

Dear students, remember your PCR? And the Taq DNA Polymerase used that's so crucial to the PCR process? It came from the chemotrophic bacterium Thermophilus aquaticus, and was discovered in 1969 (not too long ago!). Where was it first found? Yes, it was first discovered at the Great Fountain region of Yellowstone National Park! That's why, I'd always wanted to explore YNP. When I was young, it was more because of the wildlife, the large mammals. But along the way, I realised how much more you can discover there!

Below: the clouds were so beautiful we stopped to take a pic of them.Below: some of the hot spring pools were very deep. This one is called the Abyss pool, cos it's just so deep?

After the amazing biology and geology lessons, we continued northwest to the Old Faithful region. The Old Faithful geyser got its name because it is the only "quite predictable" geyser that erupts at approximately 90 min intervals.

There are other geysers that erupt more forcefully, reach a greater height, or are more majestic, but they may be difficult to observe because you may not know when they will erupt. There are 4 geysers that the NP rangers try to give approximate times of eruptions. So we did check that out at the Old Faithful Visitor Center.

The other timings were not suitable, either at night or just not according to our packed schedule, so we decided to watch only the Old Faithful.

The timing was just nice for us to have lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge, and even an ice cream cone dessert, while waiting for the dear old geyser to display itself. :-)

In the Lodge cafeteria, while waiting for dh to get the food, I fell in love with the pretty framed windows and took a few pics of the view of the Old Faithful geyser from inside.

After that, we sat on the balcony, because there was a crowd around the geyser barricade already, so the view would be better from the Lodge balcony.

The time given came by and went, keeping all of us in suspense. Some guys beside us joked loudly and said, "Hey everyone, that's was great, that's it, let's go!" Because the geyser would continuously spurt some water out anyway, so everyone pretended that was it. The whole show was over.

ds1 and ds2 were just roaming ard the place. But when the geyser finally erupted, it was magnificent, and ds1 halted in his tracks to witness the glory of the water jet. ds2? oh man, he was oblivious to it, continuing to examine the soil creatures he was fingering. Arrrggh.

Below: the Old Faithful in action and the crowds.

Below left: see ds2 squatting down there? And see how everyone beside me were capturing the geyser in action? Only ds2, so blur. Aiyoh.

Below right: after the geyser eruption, we gathered to take a pic, still eating our ice cream.

And then we walked ard the Old Faithful geyser area, which is also known as the Upper Geyser Basin. ds2 was so happy running ard the boardwalks that seemed to stretch to no end.

Rest of the geysers were not erupting, just hissing and spitting some water. So they are not pictured.

We continued northwards. Then a very strange phenomenon occured. It suddenly started to rain, without warning. You know in Singapore, or other parts of the USA, there would be grey clouds and dark skies, then some thunder rumbling? And then a drizzle first? But no, the rain just started with a heavy downpour, despite the blue skies overhead and bright sun.

Then we felt that the rain drops seemed heavier and bigger than normal. Many cars and of course, bikes pulled to the side. So we did also, since visibility from the windscreen was poor. When we stopped, we realised it's not a normal downpour! It's a HAILSTORM!

That's so weird, cos the sun was still shining. Yet, the hailstones were pelting the van non stop. It created a huge din, so we had to shout to be heard. We didn't see any bikers ard us, but we thought of them and wonder if they are ok! We did see many of them earlier.

We were also thankful we were not in the middle of a hike!

After maybe 30-40min, it stopped suddenly too. So we carried on. However, it transformed the landscape into that of winter. Very odd, but also very amusing. It seemed just like winter, with the roads all slippery and everything so white.

Below left: the pellets on our windscreen. Below right: the "winter" scene that was created.

We went north again, to the Midway Geyser Basin. Altitude-wise, we were heading down. At our cabin, it was at 7734ft (2357m), while at the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful was, it was at 7365ft. By the time we reach the Lower Geyser Basin, it would be ard 6800ft.

There are 4 types of hydro- or geothermal features: 1. hot springs 2. fumaroles 3. geysers and 4. mud pots. At some of the basins or the Fountain Paint Pot, you can see all 4.

Below: A small geyser spurting some spray. Geysers differ from hot springs in that there is some constriction near the top where the hot fluid is supposed to bubble out. Due to that constriction, the fluid is forced out, causing a expanding, towering jet of boiling water to erupt out of the hole, like an explosion. The largest geyser in the world, Steamboat Geyser, is here in YNP and there are the most geysers concentrated here in YNP too, more than anywhere in the world.

Below: These are fumaroles. Fumaroles are steam vents, so instead of boiling water, it is steam and gases that hiss out of the vents. They are hot springs actually, but with very little water, such that, before the water reaches the surface, it has already evaporated.

Below left: amazing how some hardy plants can still survive. Although they have changed color, possibly from contamination by the mineral deposits.

Below right: A beautiful azure blue hot spring. How hot springs work is so interesting. Too long to describe here, but you can check Wikipedia or the YNP website. In brief, the magma heats up water beneath ground, till it is superheated, but it remains a liquid due to great pressure from the rocks above. The water is highly energized and returns back to the surface as a hot spring.

The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is really the grandest, very big and beautiful.

But the Excelsior Spring is the most colourful. With many hues and is simply beautiful. The blue is such a pretty blue. The orange, green, yellow are all caused by the thermophiles living in the hot springs.

Both springs discharge into the Firehole River. All these were seen at the Midway Geyser Basin.

The last one is the mud pot.
Where hot water is limited and hydrogen sulfide gas is present (emitting the "rotten egg" smell common to thermal areas), sulfuric acid is generated. The acid dissolves the surrounding rock into fine particles of silica and clay that mix with what little water there is to form the seething and bubbling mudpots.

We saw mud pots at both Fountain Paintpot and Mud Volcano, but I didn't post the picture here. Just some mud with bubbles in them.

ABove: the ancient old tour bus of Yellowstone. Still used as a tour vehicle now!

We also toured the Norris Geyser Basin, and stopped by Gibbon Falls just to take the following pix. After that, we headed back cos it was ard 8pm by then.

Here at Gibbon Falls, dh asked ds1 to pose for a picture. He did the following (below left).
So dh said, not nice, pls pose again. ds1 gave a really weird laugh (below right).

Dh next said: be natural leh. again! (see next pic) aiyoh! not nice! not so fierce pls!

(see next pic) dh: arrrggh, no smile, not nice!

(see last pic) dh: ok lah ok lah. better than nothing. (although the smile was once again, so fake.)

Below would be my most fav pic for the whole of Yellowstone. I love this shot of the Snake River, cos you can see it meandering. And it is so calm, so blue, so serene. And the graceful old couple also added a lot of meaning to the pic. We don't know them of course. Just thought they were being very romantic, taking an evening sunset stroll beside the river.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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