The Family Stone Part II: Other Spouters and Splashers

Posted by on October 19, 2014 at 11:51 am :: No Comments

The next day, we all jumped in our respective vehicles, forming a caravan of familial trippers, to journey around the park. We saw everything from a dragon’s maw to an acid lake during that gradual loop through Yellowstone. The following is an account of our round.

Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in Yellowstone, was difficult to see under its shroud of steam but the intense bacterial mats surrounding it were hard to miss.

Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in Yellowstone, was difficult to see under its shroud of steam but the intense bacterial mats surrounding it were hard to miss.

We began by heading east from Old Faithful, toward Fishing Bridge. At Fishing Bridge we paused for an extended time to allow for multiple unsynchronized potty-stops and to purchase extra layers of clothing. Why the extra layers you ask? Yellowstone was cold! Although it was August, the temperatures never rose above 50 F and they definitely drifted a lot lower. Most of us were not prepared for this unseasonal preposterousness and the omnipresent rain didn’t help our readiness.

It was neat to have a group of family members traveling with us.

It was neat to have a group of family members traveling with us.

However, the disagreeable weather didn’t stop our convoy from continuing north to the Mud Volcano area. The Mud Volcano region is stranger than fantasy. There you will see hillsides cooked by steam, lakes as acidic as stomach juices, and seething masses of ashen mud. Your nose will constantly be assaulted by the pungent aroma of hydrogen sulfide gas, something akin to a rotten egg reek. Yes, it’s a putrid, bizarre, and magical place.

Lower Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls. It roars 308 feet down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Lower Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls. It roars 308 feet down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

After Mud Volcano, we stopped for a picnic at Otter Creek. Our table was situated in a lovely spot near the Yellowstone River but the chilliness encouraged our eating to proceed rather speedily.

Acid-loving thermophiles have transformed the runoff from Pinwheel and Whirligig Geysers into these streams of green.

Acid-loving thermophiles have transformed the runoff from Pinwheel and Whirligig Geysers into these streams of green.

Following our quickly-consumed meal, we checked out the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River from Artist Point. Lower Falls plummets 308 feet into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Between the emerald tint of the gushing water and the red hues of the rusting canyon, this chasm is definitely a keeper.

Vixen Geyser, so named because of its temperamental disposition, erupts for seconds to nearly an hour at internals that range from minutes to hours.

Vixen Geyser, so named because of its temperamental disposition, erupts for seconds to nearly an hour at internals that range from minutes to hours.

The majesty of the falls persuaded most of the members of our group to seek a better look via Uncle Tom’s Trail, which leads to an unparalleled view of the waterworks from 500 feet down into the canyon. Uncle Tom’s Trail is not recommended for those with heart, lung, or other health conditions…or little brothers with acrophobia. This short but strenuous route travels over 300 stairs made of perforated steel sheeting, AKA holey metal, which means that you remain quite aware of the extreme drop-offs beyond your feet as you descend it. Drew was not thrilled about the vertical vertigo produced by Uncle Tom’s but he managed to make it to its terminus with some motivational chiding from his child.

Porcelain Springs in Norris Geyser Basin is colored by silica.

Porcelain Springs in Norris Geyser Basin is colored by silica.

We spotted this elk near the road.

We spotted this elk near the road.

Our last stop on the way back to Old Faithful was Norris Geyser Basin. This utterly wacky region was mesmerizing. Norris is one of Yellowstone’s most acidic and fieriest stretches. The water in many of its hot springs maintains temperatures above the boiling point and its colliding colors are nearly as extreme. We lucked out and saw Constant and Vixen Geysers shooting their stream as we wandered past them but even without those interesting bursts Norris would have been a rare treat.

Vibrant groundcover paints Biscuit Basin as well.

Vibrant groundcover paints Biscuit Basin as well.

The next morning, before Jason and I headed back to Utah, we toured the Black Sand, Biscuit, and Fountain Paint Pot areas. We were still eager to discover more of Yellowstone’s spurted secrets. We saw Fountain, Clepsydra, Cliff, and Spouter Geysers explode but Black Sand Pool was probably the most interesting feature we encountered that a.m. The natural plumbing feeding Black Sand Pool periodically shudders and groans like strained pipes before it shoots a wave of bubbles to the surface of the pool. The ground literally shakes beneath your feet. We weren’t expecting this and it was pretty dang cool.

The Fountain Paint Pot is a peculiar area in the Lower Geyser Basin where acidic waters have dissolved stone and created pools of bubbling sludge.

The Fountain Paint Pot is a peculiar area in the Lower Geyser Basin where acidic waters have dissolved stone and created pools of bubbling sludge.

Yellowstone’s bubbling springs, blasting geysers, and polychromatic streams are incredible and beautiful. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most visited national parks. Got some family and/or some time? I’d recommend checking it out.

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