Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day 5 - Yellowstone Lake to Norris Geyser Basin (and back)

Weather:  Temp was 47, but it was sunny and beautiful all day.  Also, it was much warmer in the geyser basin, so we never put on a coat which was lovely
Steps:  Shaun - 18,279; Shan - 18,142....and by the end of the day we were feeling every one of those steps!
Varmints:  Swainson's hawk (no point earned since we already saw a red-tailed hawk), white pelican (point for Shan), heron babies (point to me), bison, elk, mountain bluebirds (which are seriously cool!), chipping sparrow, beaver (unverified so no point), chipmunks, ground squirrel, and buffleheads.
Point tally:  Shaun - 12 ; Shan - 12 (I think I should get a handicap since I'm driving and need to keep us from dying, don't you?)

Our cabin at Lake Yellowstone. Isn't it cute?

                      Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Today, Shannon the cruise director, planned a full day of fun in Yellowstone for us, and might I just say that she did an absolutely awesome job!  We started the day with breakfast in our little yellow cabin (which we give a 7 on our 0-10 scale) at Lake Village. Also here is the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, the oldest hotel in any national park opening in 1891.  I thought the Old Faithful Inn was older, but it was built in 1903 (go ahead, you can use that bit of trivia at your next cocktail party).

Lake Yellowstone, and that bright orb in the sky is actually the sun!

       Swainson's hawk - didn't he pose pretty for us?

We're having problems wth one of our tires, so every day we have to go fill it with air.  On the way to the service station (and about 1/4 mile from the hotel) we stopped to take pictures of beautiful Lake Yellowstone since all the pictures we took of it yesterday were with clouds all around it.  We also saw a beautiful hawk and then headed north towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (isn't it weird that it has that extra "the" in it?).

                             Mud Volcano

        One of the many hot springs near the Mud Volcano

Before we got to the canyon, we happened upon a hydrothermal area that had a bunch of hot springs, mud pots, vents, and geysers.  They are so amazing, and we know we're going to get to see a lot of them on this trip.  Every one is different....some of them just emit steam, some spew stuff, and some of them make interesting noises.  Some are really colorful, which comes from the little creatures that live in them, and some are weirdly cream-colored if they are no longer active.  They all have names, and some of them are really creative like Dragon's Mouth, Whirligig, and Porkchop Geyser.  Shannon even saw perfectly preserved bear, bison, and elk prints in the mud surrounding one of the hot springs, which got her three more dang points!

        Shan checking out the bison in Hayden Valley

Our next pullout was Hayden Valley which is a sweeping flat area where there was supposed to be every kind of animal known to man, and all we saw were a few measly bison and one elk.  Calł us disappointed (which really means we're getting spoiled).
Artist Point - Lower Falls (308 vertical feet which is twice as high as Niagara Falls)

These don't even look real, do they?  I can't even describe how beautiful this was
Upper Falls                                                         The Brink of the Upper Falls

We finally got to the canyon, and we went to the furthest point, which is called Artist Point.  From here, you have a view of the whole 20-mile-long canyon as well as the Lower Falls. After almost dying climbing up from that viewing platform, we headed to the Upper Falls (109 feet) as well as the Crystal Falls, and then we climbed down to the Brink of the Upper Falls.  The second, third, and tenth climbs weren't as bad as the first one.  We seem to be acclimating to the altitude.

We stopped at several other viewing areas, and Shan even climbed up onto a weird tunnel-like formation.  We seriously could have stayed here all day, but we wanted to see the Norris Geyser Basin, so we eventually said goodbye to one of the most amazing places we've ever seen.

On the way to Norris, we saw a herd of elk, and then some random bison trotting down the side of the road.  Shan took the pictures while I kept the car moving.  You definitely don't want to stop when these animals are only a couple feet from you!

                        Steamboat Geyser

                    Echinus Geyser - my favorite

Norris Geyser Basin is North America's most volatile and oldest continuously active geothermal area.  There are two miles of boardwalks that take you past about a hundred geysers/vents/hot springs, etc., and once again we were just blown away by the spectacle that Mother Nature had in store for us.  The only problem was that my battery died in my camera halfway through the walk, and my four extra batteries were safely locked up in the dang car!  Oh well, we still got some cool pics and got to experience all of them, so we were happy.

The back part of Norris has another mile boardwalk around what they call Porcelain Basin which is the park's hottest exposed basin.  There were areas in every color of the rainbow, some of them making crackling sounds, some sighing, and others just burbling quietly along.  Getting back to the car involved another climb, but we're getting good at that now.

Since we were staying back at Lake Yellowstone, we had to drive back the way we came which meant that we basically saw all the same things as we already know.....a few elk, some birds, some bison, no biggie, right?  I mean, we've seen so many bison that we don't even stop for them anymore.....ok, well maybe that's not entirely true....

Oh look, there's a couple of bison on the cute!

Uh oh, we have a three way head-butting session going on here.
At this point, the dude behind me decided to just drive past these guys, but he had to weave in and out of the cards (and BISON) parked all over the place.  We decided to follow him, but then......

Oh shit, here comes another one.  Back er up Bessie, back er up!

Oh my gosh, that could have been us!  Those people are so screwed!

Whew!  That was a close one!  Those people are gonna have to change their pants for sure!

Uh oh, here comes even more.  We may never make it out of here alive!
Man are these big animals.  Luckily, their tails are down.  We may live through this yet.

Ok, so some of them are leaving.  Let's see what happens.  Crap, another guy just pulled around me and stopped!

We thought for sure we were capturing this dude's demise.  What an idiot!

Ok, the coast is clear.  Gun it, Mom!

A mile further down the road, two more cross in front of us, but they were quick.  You wouldn't believe the line of cars behind us.

The Great Bison Encounter brings to an end another exciting day in Wyoming.  After that last adventure, we are too exhausted to do anything else! Tomorrow we're headed further north to Mammoth and the northern loop and staying at a B&B in Gardiner right outside the park.  I can't wait to see what fun stuff awaits us there!

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