Monday, September 24, 2012

Mud Pots, Canyons and Terraces in Yellowstone National Park, WY (Part 2)

Our week-long stay in Yellowstone continues as we visit the Mud Pots, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone including Yellowstone Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs and two small geyser basins near Old Faithful.  At night, we hear a very strange flute-like noise which we come to learn is the elk rutting.  It is a very distinctive and eery sound, reminding me of the one made by the nasal cavity found by the paleontologist (played by Sam O'Neill) in the movie Jurassic Park.  The elk visit our campground one morning; three of them noncholantly walk by the tents and trailers.  A ranger tells us that two bucks were fighting one afternoon in one of the campground loops and one elk put his antlers through the side of a tent-trailer.  I'm glad they weren't near our trailer.

The Mud Pots are very pungent.  Imagine hundreds of rotten eggs.  These vents are very high in sulfides and certain micro-organism that live in the liquid turn it into sulphuric acid.  I have to stay upwind of these as the odour makes me very nauseous.  Most of the mud pots are bubbling muddy water as the sulphuric acid dissolves the surrounding rock into a clay-like substance.  We do not stay here long.  We make our way to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, an 800 to 1,200 foot canyon cut by the Yellowstone River.  There are two waterfalls, the Upper Falls which is just over 100 feet, and the Lower Falls which is just over 300 feet.  We hike down near the bottom of the canyon floor at the Lower Falls for a spectacular view of it and the canyon.  The walls of the canyon are golden, hence I guess, the name Yellowstone.  What a sight.  And the thunder of the water is similar to that of Niagara.
Marilyn at Lower Yellowstone Falls

Lower Yellowstone Falls and canyon
It is this afternoon on our way to the canyon that we are delayed by a large herd of buffalo which decide to cross the road, one at a time.  It's a Yellowstone traffic jam, and if the buffalo want to cross here, then you'd better let them!  We laugh at this view, take a few photos and drive around the line of cars.  Many buffalo can be spotted by the road and in the meadows, grazing and sleeping.
Buffalo traffic jam in Yellowstone NP
Mammoth Hot Springs is near the north entrance to the park, and a one and a half hour drive (each way) from our campsite.  This area is dominated by hot pools which flow down the hillsides into circular travertine terraces.  The effect is like that of a tower of champagne glasses with a fountain of bubbly liquid pouring from one level to the next.  Some of the solidified minerals (calcium cabonate) resemble ice, but I assure you, it's quite warm out and there is no ice or snow.  It is unfortunate that many of the terraces have dried up; only a few have any water in them.  Those that are now dormant are crumbling with the effects of weather and other forces.
Mammoth Hot Springs - travertine pools
Biscuit Basin and Black Sand Basin near Old Faithful are home to more geysers like Black Opal Pool, Sapphire Pool and Cliff Geyser.  These areas are small, taking us only 20 minutes to travel the round-trip boardwalks, but full of steaming vents and bubbling pools.  It does not disappoint.
Cliff Geyser in the Biscuit Basin

Sapphire Pool in the Black Sand Geyser Basin
We plan to visit the Norris Geyser Basin on our last day, but I am confined to the trailer with a bad migraine.  I have been plagued by migraines here in Yellowstone, possibly because of the elevation (between 7,500 and 8,000 feet), the twisting, winding, hilly roads and long drives each day.  Instead of remaining one more night to see this area, we decide to leave something for a future trip.  We press on to the south.

Yellowstone is a surprising pleasure for us.  We still prefer places with many fewer people and congestion, but the park has a lot ot offer and we are glad we came.

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