The Family Stone Part II: Other Spouters and Splashers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.