I’ve always been fascinated by volcanic activity and here in Yellowstone you can get about as close to that as possible. The cold gives incredible contrast to volcanically heated water and when geysers are particularly active it’s amazing to witness, I love seeing steam columns rise against a sapphire sky. The snow can try to belie the danger of leaving the pathbut if you know the history of deaths in the park you know to stay on it. Our guide Doug made every step informative and fascinatingso we not only had great info but breathtaking scenery with nobody else there. The steam would freeze on the path…it was good to have good snow boots. The color of these super-heated pools is incredible. Some geysers have names like “Sapphire or Morning Glory” it’s obvious why. They water itself is clear but the way the light is refracted brings awesome color to our eyes. I don’t know how trees make it with the extremes in temperature but they do. We learned about the root system and general toughness of Lodge Pole Pine…I have new respect for this amazing tree living where no other can! A glance back at this area. Leaving we saw some geysers had acted up again. What power! Lead on Doug! What’s next!
Monday, January 27, 2014
After our first rest stop we proceeded to the lower geyser basin. The cold air had ice crystals in it that looked like diamond dust in the air…stunningly beautiful. Mist rose from the above freezing river making many pictures somewhat foggy. By this time the sapphire sky had made its welcome appearance. Here was saw the mist rise from the river and cling to plants on the riverside…it was nature’s perfect flocking. I don’t think fake flocking could ever do such a great job! Stepping off the road was a risk…very thick powder would engulf you quickly as Lovely here demonstrates. Note the sun making the flocking glow. Bald Eagles are resident here in fact one came to eye the raven’s disgusting feast. Disturbingly on closer inspection the ‘feast’ was another dead raven. The swans didn’t seem to care one way or another. Bison made their presence known once again on the other side of the river. The cold is nothing to them. Impressive to note that until it’s twenty below zero they don’t have to burn body fat to stay warm. Only moose beat Bison in their ability to endure cold. Nearing the lower basin it begins to look like arctic tundra. Note the huge steam bank as we approach the volcanic activity. At first it appears to be low clouds but it’s not, it’s all steam. Flocked trees returned as we proceeded. Closer evidence of hot water from geysers was now apparent. Small wonder the river is not frozen. Soon we will see some actual geysers…are you ready for it?
Thursday, January 23, 2014
When I was coming up to my 12th birthday Mom and Dad brought me to snowmobile in Yellowstone. It was a tremendous adventure. What a treat this year when Mom and Dad brought me and my family to a snow coach tour 30 years later! West Yellowstone was a daunting destination with our weather being what it’s been. We prayed for good weather and we sure got it! Clear roads all the way. Our first stop in West Yellowstone was the Three Bear Lodge. Wonderful food! Mom is a huge buffalo fan so she was horrified that I chose buffalo tips for my meal. My wife chose rainbow troutwhile my son chose a more traditional chicken sandwich. The lobby had what some might call a tourist attraction…I don’t care, it made for a cute picture for Gabby. We went to bed early knowing it would be an early one. Boarding the snow coach was pretty exciting. We had an excellent guide named Doug who is a veteran ranger and snow coach driver…he had so much information and since this was a private tour with only us he was so gracious to stop wherever we could to see things. Early on we saw trumpeter swan who graced the river. I found it amazing how they were almost always in pairs…bonded for life. Next a huge bald eagle nest…Doug said they don’t clean the nest…they just increasingly expand it thus how they end up so big. I’ve heard some aren’t interested in the swans…sorry, I am. Their sheer size is amazing…how can such a large creature be so graceful? There were signs of other creatures not so graceful…what killed this elk I wonder? We were excited to see our first bison. They are comfortable to 20 below zero…wish I had that ability! Even the swans in the river seemed oblivious to the cold. Even without the animals the view is simply to die for. The lighting went from partial cloud cover tot perfectly clear…either way it was awesome. It was strange to experience the cold and yet the water in the river didn’t freeze…plenty of warm water from the geysers keeps the water above freezing. Our guide pointed out this frosted tree standing alone in the sunlight…awesome! The bison were as unperturbed by the cold as the trees. Our first rest stop finally came and still the beauty of the surrounding forest grabbed me. Our snow coach was a modified Suburban…wheels replaced with…well, this: . Thus ends the first part of the Yellowstone series…more to come!