A Break From Work - A Day Of Play

After three fairly intense weeks of work on 'The Ranch House', we took a break and spent the day in YNP with our friends, Terry and Bonnie. What fun! In the past I've really focused on the animals. This time, due to Terry's and Bonnie's geological interests and background, our focus was more on Yellowstone's geothermal features.

Two books added to my deeper enjoyment of this excursion. One, "The History of Yellowstone - Vol. 1" by Aubrey L. Haines has increased my understanding of and appreciation for the early 'movers and shakers' in the Yellowstone area. Although my readings haven't even reached the formation of the area as a National Park, the sightings and journals of early visitors has added greatly to my appreciation of this unique spot in my backyard.

The other book I purchased in the Park yesterday. "Yellowstone Treasurers" by Janet Chapple was recommended by the Visitor Center Gift Shop attendent, Mary. I was looking for a book which told about the things most people never stop to see, either because they don't know they exist or because they want to see the 'important' things. Like me, many of our guests prefer the out-of-the-way, different, and off-the-beaten-path treasures. So, I thought I'd do what I could to begin educating myself on these places.

Well, apparently there isn't a book written on this specific subject. But, I suppose if there were, they would no long be 'different' and 'little-known'. However, Mary highly recommended Janet Chapple's book so I decided to check it out. Although it doesn't necessarily cover 'out-of-the-way' places, I found it added greatly to our enjoyment of the Park - if for no other reason than it told us about the 'unmarked' pull-outs and their treasures.

Of course, a day's visit doesn't begin to scratch the surface of this massive and incredibly diverse piece of terra firma. However, we explored several spots - drove many miles of road - and took a lot of pictures. Three areas we looked at in at least a degree of 'depth' were Midway Geiser Basin (between Madison and Old Faithful), Artist's Paint Pots (along the Gibbon River), and Mammouth Hot Springs (near the North Entrance).

Midway Geiser Basin sits along the road from Madison Junction to Old Faithful. This area offers views of several hot springs and some incredibly colored bacteria mats. The crowning jewel of Midway Geiser Basin is Grand Prismatic Spring. This delightfully colored spring is the third largest in the world (the only larger are in New Zealand). It measures 250' x 300' and is 160' deep. From its depths 560 gallons of 160 degree water pour into the Firehole River each hour.

The colors of the bateria mats combined with the deep blue of the spring and the rainbow colors of the steam creating a kaleidoscope of color. The ripples created by the water as it flowed across the nearby flat, and the brilliant orange-sided waterfall of steaming water pouring into the icy-cold Firehole River were added bonuses. I can't believe this was one of the spots we had driven past in our rush to get to the Upper Geyser Basin and its famous resident, Old Faithful.

After enjoying lunch and two displays put on by Old Faithful and picking up my new book in the Gift Shop, we headed back to the North in route to Mammouth Hot Springs, our next 'destination'. However, as all visitors to YNP know, between you and your next destination are many things to see - often so many it is hard to ever actually 'reach' your destination.

For me, the next highlight was another spot I had never bothered to stop and explore. Although not nearly as 'commercialized' as Midway Geiser Basin, and although certainly less spectacular in size, Artist Paint Pots was a little gem my new book suggested was worth the stop. So we did.

The short 1/3 mile hike delivered us to yet another area with steaming springs and flowing hot water. Our eyes were drawn to the small murky blue colored pools, the dancing green ribbons swaying in the warm stream, and the little (2 - 3 inches in diameter) bubbling 'puddles' of hot water. But, the best was saved for those willing to brave the mud and climb the hill for the view from above.

Again, the colors took the show. The combinations of red, orange, blue, and green, blended with the more 'earthy' colors to create a palette of color which delighted our eyes. And, we found ourselves fascinated with the weaving, slender fingers of green waving gently in the warm stream.

Our final 'treat' of the day - Mammouth Hot Springs. Now, I have to admit the last time I visited Mammouth, I was greatly disappointed. In fact, were it not for our friends' desire to see the famous site, I would have been glad to head in another direction. However, with my little book in hand and with a bit more walking, I came to appreciate - no, I really enjoyed - this unique hot spring.

Again, color took top ratings, but this time the unique shapes created by the calcium carbonate forced to the surface by the emerging water definitely competed for first place honors.

The reason for my disillusionment with the area lay in The Main Terrace. I had memories of it in the early 80's when it glistened and flowed - a sight to delight even the most spavined eye. However, I learned from my book that the calcium carbonate has a nasty habit of plugging holes. That along with underground changes stopped the flow to The Main Terrace in the 1990's. So, when I visited two years ago the whole thing seemed anti-climatic.

However, with a little extra walking we found a delightful spring - Canary Hot Springs - which sparkled and winked as it worked its colorful way from one terrace to the next, through the trees, and down the hill. Best of all, the walkways were built in such a way that we could experience the terracing effect of the calcium carbonate and the hot water and the colors of the bacterias which feed in the hot water from several different angles.

All in all, although we have work up to our eyeballs (I know, what's new), this trip was a rare delight. In fact, I am hopeful we will get two or three more days in Yellowstone before our summer season officially begins.

In closing I find myself echoing the words of that famous trapper, Russell Osbourn. After some time spent in Yellowstone, before it was a National Park, he penned the following:

"For my own part I almost wished I could spend the remainder of my days in a place like this where happiness and contentment seemed to reign in wild romantic splendor."

Lady of the Lake

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