Monday, August 3, 2009

Exploring Yellowstone, Part Three: He maketh me hike up tall mountains and leadeth me beside still waters (and boiling geysers and springs)

On Thursday, I was looking forward to arriving at Lake Yellowstone Hotel; not only because we all desperately needed a shower after being out in the backcountry for four days, but also because I worked there one summer as a housekeeper during college. Other than a few improvements to the parking area and the addition of a snack bar by the lobby, not much had changed since then. One thing that I did not remember from my college days were all the bugs! Out in the backcountry, we had brought along bug spray, but it was the low-Deet variety designed for kids. We missed our Deep Woods Off, and that was the first thing we bought when we got to the general store. As we walked along the road between the hotel and Yellowstone Lake, we had to dodge swarms of gnats that were so thick you could hear them buzzing. I don't think I have ever heard gnats buzz before! Lake Yellowstone is beautiful, though, and in some ways it feels like home for me.
This is how thick the bugs were, and I think these gnats were bigger than the ones in Virginia.

We wanted to make sure our kids saw some of Yellowstone's geysers and hot springs, so on Friday we drove to Old Faithful. We explored the elegant Old Faithful Inn for a little while, and headed outside to view Yellowstone's most famous feature, Old Faithful Geyser. We didn't have to wait long before the eruption, and the kids were excited to see it. Afterward we took a stroll along the boardwalks to admire some of the other geysers and hot springs in the area. We strolled throuhg the Old Faithful area, and made sure we arrived at Daisy Geyser in time for it to erupt. By this time the kids (especially the youngest) were starting to get a little whiny, but when the geyser erupted they were very impressed! After lunch on the porch of the Old Faithful General Store, where we got to watch a mother bird (some kind of swallow, I think) flying in and out of a nest full of babies, we headed north to the Lower Geyser Basin to see the Fountain Paint Pots. This is an area of bubbling mud that looks pinkish in color; in the spring, the mud is more watery from snowmelt, and as the summer goes on it starts to dry up and the mud gets thicker. It looks like a pool of bubbling pink paint. This was my husband's favorite feature in the park when his parents brought him here as a kid; I'm not sure our boys were as awestruck as he was. ("THIS is your favorite thing in Yellowstone? Seriously??") Next stop was Midway Geyser Basin, home of the dormant but still bubbling Excelsior Geyser and the largest hot spring in Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic Spring. The kids were getting tired and their awe of geysers and hot springs was beginning to wane, so we made our way back to Lake, stopping briefly at the continental divide where there is a shallow pond full of lily pads called Isa Lake. I had been past this on the road several times in years past, but never stopped to see it up close. It's an interesting spot, because it sits right on the continental divide. We spotted a salamander as it darted under a lily pad, and watched a little eel swimming around as well. (Someday I'll blog about my youngest son's love of critters of all shapes and sizes. He didn't want to get back in the truck to go have dinner.)

Old Faithful, always faithful!

The boys really liked Spasmodic Geyser.

Daisy Geyser

We had fun watching this family while we had our lunch.

Fountain Paint Pots--blub, blub...

They say Excelsior Geyser dumps 4,000 gallons of water into the Firehole River every minute.

Isa Lake, on the Continental Divide.

On Saturday, we took a morning hike on Elephant Back Mountain, where we had a gorgeous view of Lake Yellowstone. This is a trail I hiked many times during my summer in Yellowstone, because it's very close to Lake Village. It's a great one to take with kids, too, because even though parts of the trail are a little steep, it's only about a three-mile loop. (Hopefully when we come to Yellowstone again we'll be able to tackle some bigger mountains. I've done Avalanche Peak and Mount Washburn, and both are strenuous but well worth it. I can't wait! )

The flat part of Elephant Back trail (that's our youngest running ahead)

Ok, it's not THAT's our ten-year-old's creative photography!

a red squirrel we spotted on the trail

Yellowstone Lake from the top of Elephant Back Mountain. You can see Lake Lodge on the left and Lake Hotel near the middle.

After lunch we drove a few miles north to the Mud Volcano area. This is another park feature I have driven past many times, but never stopped to look at. It's an area full of what look like boiling muddy lakes, some of which are churning violently and some gently sizzling. I'm glad we stopped to see it, because it was more interesting than I expected, and even beautiful in its own way. If you ever visit Yellowstone, be sure to check it out!

They call this Dragon's Mouth

Churning Caldron. All the thermal features smell like rotten eggs; this might be the stinkiest one in Yellowstone. Still, even the kids agreed that it was way cool! (well, way hot)

One of many bison we encountered on our vacation. This one seemed to be contemplating a mud bath.

One of several sizzling muddy ponds

Sunday was our last day in Yellowstone. After I took a few farewell photos of the lake in the morning, we had breakfast and went over to Lake Lodge for Sunday Mass in the recreation hall. This was where I spent many hours as an employee watching movies and basketball games, not to mention some serious partying; it was great to return here to worship the Lord. I still wasn't Catholic back then, and as a convert it was even more special to be celebrating the Eucharist here, with a view of the lake through the windows. After lunch we made our way back to Gardiner, stopping along the way to check out the Canyon Visitor's Center, and a brief stop to admire the unusual rock formations just south of Mammoth. As we were exiting the park through the Roosevelt Gate, my ten-year-old lamented that we might not ever return.

"Don't worry," I said. "We'll definitely be coming back." Next summer, though, we might just be camping in the backyard.

Goodbye, Yellowstone Lake

This guy was checking me out. The bugs are still thick, even at 7:30 am!

They call these rocks The Hoodoos

This was quite a long post, and if you're still reading it, THANK YOU for sticking with it until the end!!

1 comment:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Bookmark and Share