Yellowstone in 200 words and 40-ish photos

At the top of Vicki’s bucket list for travel in 2022 was Yellowstone National Park.

We planned the summer around it, but made time for the Montana Dinosaur Trail, the Badlands and cousins in South Dakota and 10 days in Canada.

But Yellowstone is clearly “WOW!” territory.

A quiet lake, a sunset and a pair of binoculars. It makes for a nice evening. Oh, that and a comfy chair.

The eruptions that formed the landscape are some of the biggest in North America and any one of which would likely end civilization today. That’s a sobering thought considering the magma chamber still lies underneath the park.

For now, the landscape provides wondrous views of lodgepole pine, bison and elk. And lots of tourists. Lots.

We lost a couple of days at the start of our two weeks there because resources had to be shifted after the horrible flooding that hit the north part of the park that year. Many people shifted their travel to places like Glacier National Park, but we stayed with Yellowstone. The regular workers said traffic and crowding were down. If so, I’d hate to be there in a busy year.

We had challenges with getting parked in our campsite (tight, even for our tiny trailer), getting power in said campsite (no electricity), but it was all worth it.

Lewis Lake at Yellowstone was a great park, but the sites are tight, even for us. Even so, some folks with slightly bigger rigs managed to squeeze in. Better driving than I can manage. Also, you’d best like Lodgepole Pines. That’s what you get.
Lewis Lake has some cool trees. I would assume the lake level has dropped over the years. The roots formed great structures.
Some sunsets were just stunning. Here’s one of them. Lewis Lake, Yellowstone National Park.
No idea what caused this gall or swirl to grow on the tree root. It makes for an interesting image. (And makes me wish for a REAL camera and a roll of Tri-X Pan film. Sigh)
People spend a lot of time waiting for Old Faithful. We visited with the couple near the sign; they are motorcycle tourists camping in the park. Once the geyser blows, people start leaving, even before it returns to the quiet stage. Seems to me if you travel thousands of mile to get here, you could at least wait one full cycle. And, no, I won’t have a photo of the eruption; lighting was poor, and none of them do it justice. Better photos available online.
The water in many of these hot features is incredibly clear. About the only thing alive is the heat-loving bacteria that give color to the edges. This is in Geyer Basin, I believe.
Biscuit Geyser was named for formations like these, but when there was a violent eruption several years ago the formations broke up. These are in a different basin. The biscuit or cauliflower formation is a silica (same thing sand is made of) that is called sinter, perhaps for the scale like formation.
The heat and chemicals in the water at Yellowstone’s hot springs formations aren’t very friendly to life. But, like they said in the movie, life finds a way. The heat-loving bacteria earns it living from the heat and minerals and the air, and it is, in turn, eaten by a species of fly that can endure the conditions. And where one form of life thrives (see next image) another will follow.
The common Kildeer bird has found a good food source in the hot springs … the fly that is adapted to the conditions. While humans walk on these surfaces at their peril, the kildeer can tread just fine while looking for supper.
On a day trip to Jackson, Wyoming, we stopped at Lake Jackson’s Coulter Bay Marina, which is no longer much of a marina. Agricultural irrigation, the impetus for creating the lake in the first place, has first dibs on the water, and the boat docks and sailboat moorings in the marina are now high and dry. The lake still has water, but not what it once was. This is the story for much of the western states. And much of the world, for that matter.
Driving the roads at Yellowstone National Park, you cross the continental divide several times. This one is at an unusual lake that drains both to the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s perched in something like a bowl at the top of the divide.
It’s easy to get sucked into just The Drive along the scenic roads in Yellowstone. That’s why there is merit in downloading one of the audio tour guides to listen along (they use your phone’s GPS to tell you what is coming up next. You hope.) One such site is the Kepler Cascades, which run along the main road on the west side of Yellowstone National Park. It’s a lovely series of rapids and waterfalls that is worth the stop and short walk along the boardwalk to see how water has cut through the volcanic rock.
Spouter Geyser is one of the features at the Black Sand Basin in Yellowstone. Its eruptions aren’t super high but go on for hours. The back sand name for this basin comes from the sand formed by broken down obsidian..
Try as I might, I can’t capture the colors of this pool in Black Sand Basin. (Maybe rainbow pool, maybe opalescent; not sure) This is why I’m leaving the super cool images up to the experts and the pros who visit the park at the perfect season, temperature and lighting. We visited Black Sand with one of the Yellow Car Tours (highly recomended, BTW), and our guide that day, Jack, pointed out that one of the most-reproduced images of one of the famous scenes was taken from a helicopter. Cheating, I say. Even so, this image does hint at the clarity and color of the water, and the depth, indicated by the darker colors at the bottom right. Best seen in person, but still.
Much of Yellowstone National Park is made up of layer upon layer of ryolite, a type of igneous rock formed by hot lave flows. But in the 1950s, a different formation was identified. This is Tuff Cliff, an example of welded tuff, which can be formed when a volcano *really* goes boom. Big chunks of rock go flying from the eruption in a cloud of superheated ash, and as they land, the hot mix welds together. Erosion eventually exposed the cliff face here. You can see, I think, the jumble of different forms of original material. There’s a quote worth sharing from “The explosive volcanic events that produced these tuffs were unbelievably large and violent-many times greater than the 1981 eruption of Mount St. Helens. They destroyed the southern half of the Washburn volcano and whatever mountains existed between Mt. Washburn and the Red Mountains. Geologists have identified streaks and thin layers of Yellowstone volcanic ash from as far away as California, Saskatchewan, Iowa, and the Gulf of Mexico. Volumes of ash blasted into the stratosphere circulated around the globe and must have altered the weather worldwide.”
The Artist’s Paintpots was a cool spot, but we were there at the wrong time of the year, or at least the water cycle in the mud volcanos that inspired the descriptive name. They were a bit dry and a bit bland, but I could see how spectacular they must have been in the past. However, the view at the top of the hill (where the paintpots are) was stunning. Yes I walked all the way up, despite my troublesome hip.
Again, I find the depth and clarity and color of these hot pools to be fascinating. This is down the hill from the Artist’s Paintpots.
Ferns find a happy place in a sheltered area near all the heat and humidity of the thermal pools.
One of these is the blood geyser, I believe. Lots of hot water coming out here.
Nope, I did not tackle the hike down to the overlook on the upper falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Maybe next time. This is with my longest telephoto setting.
Another view from the north rim of the canyon shows just how deep the rhyolitic lava flows are. It’s a long way down there.
The Yellow Car tour vehicles are original from the 1930s, albeit with an updated drive train. At left is Diane, our guide for this tour to the top of Washburn mountain, as best I remember. It was cold, but we popped the top of the touring car.
Another trip to Jackson took us to the dam site for Lake Jackson, showing just how low the lake is. But the view of the Grand Tetons is still stunning.
This sample of old man’s beard lichen, possibly Usnea scabrata, was identified for us at Yellowstone. We saw lots of it up aroound Emerald Lake in British Columbia.
Finally, on Signal Mountain near Lake Jackson, we find cell service again! If you’re going to Yellowstone and want service, you’d best get a Verison phone. Otherwise you will be incommunicado.
Have I ever noted that Vicki loves her Athlon binoculars? On Signal Mountain, with the Grand Tetons in the background.
If I understand correctly, this mountain is made up of glacial till, which was dumped and eroded down. Note the rounded nature of the stones being exposed on the road cut. Typical of streambed stones.
A vertical “Black Dike” of an igneous rock called diabase cuts through the much, much older older granite and gneiss rock of Mount Moran, part of the Teton Range.
A fox’s ears perk up as it trots through the sage and prairie grasses near Lake Jackson, Wyoming.
Yep. Park workers have a sense of humor. Here’s a smiley face one of them left as he or she was building a boardwalk around a hillside.
When you’re moving really slowly with a bad hip, your apparent threat to small critters becomes less. This chipmunk(?) came right to my feet to pose for his closeup.
Rock spires, trees and birds all reach for the sky in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
A layer of basaltic lava formed crystal-like columns as it cooled.
A 50-million-year-old redwood tree stands where it was buried by an eruption long ago. In 1907, there were two redwoods here, but tourists chipped away souvenirs and destroyed the second one. The fence was put up to protect this one.
Remnants of the redwood’s growth ring have long since turned into rock.
The Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace is one of those truly “wow!” places at Yellowstone. The scenes of what looks like frozen waterfalls change almost daily as the flow of water changes.
Seen from above, the terraces echo the larger pools in the geyser basins, with clear water thermophilic microbes providing color.
On the back side of the terraces, you can find the Orange Spring Mound, an example of how tiny flows of water can create, over time, huge structures. Look near the top of the mound, then check out the “fountain” in the next photo.
This little water fountain at Orange Spring Mound was one of our favorites.
This miniature snow fort, only a few inches high, is growing near the plarking area at Angel Terrace in the Mammoth Spring area of north Yellowstone.
A crescent moon, birds, trees, mountains … and another great sunset, although this one is near Bozeman, after leaving Yellowstone. Still a nice way to say farewell to a bucket-list journey to the mountains.

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