wildlyrandom

I love the wilderness and thrive on random moments that catch my eye and my breath, camera in hand

a little rusty

[september 12th]

Remember one thing: we come from the southern tip of Africa, where the winter temperatures seldom dip below 8degC and where snow is the stuff of fairy tales… it is with this in mind that we head out with just a little more than trepidation. We are a little rusty; it has been some time since we have ventured far off our doorstep.

We could have headed straight up to Banff from Cranbrook, but we have this desire to peep in on the other side of the Rockies and so we set out back through Fernie towards Alberta. This is a good move, as we already know Fernie, and its stores, which makes it a little less daunting to stop for provisions, which we now have to do for ourselves; no more B&G to treat us. Okay then, it is only me that finds anything new daunting for reasons even I cannot explain to myself. It seems I have difficulty processing too much information thrown at me all at once, especially in noisy and bright conditions. It helps to talk myself through my actions, which doesn’t look good at all if I am on my own; so grateful to have Hugo at my side.

A mere one week prior to this day, Fernie was still baking under a summer sun; we return now, to a wonderland of snow-capped peaks. Excitement fills the chilly air; snow is a novelty for us!

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Just around the corner, the countryside opens out into rolling agricultural plains, flanked by the Rockies to the west.
It is a good 200kms to Calgary. We settle back to enjoy the ride. I am determined not to think about negotiating the city until it is time.

And then, too soon, it is time!

Hugo is driving; that is enough for him to deal with as the traffic hurtles down at him on the wrong side of the road. His brain has yet to adjust to 60+ years of incorrect information. In South Africa, we drive on the left side of the road.
I am faced, yet again, with information hurtling down on my brain. I must remember to breathe!
We do have a GPS, but it doesn’t allow me to anticipate the next move, at least not visually, and that is when I remember google maps. YAY! I have an iPad too, with reception! Oh, how I love technology! Never before have I appreciated that little blue moving dot quite as much as right now. Once again, standstill traffic is a blessing, if one is in the correct lane! The little blue dot ensures that I can direct Hugo accordingly in very good time.

In the end, I really enjoyed the little navigation exercise.

Time to fuel up. Hugo has been watching and learning; this is not something we have to do for ourselves in South Africa. He manages like a pro. Back to the Rockies we go.

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Calgary looms

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breathing space enough to enjoy the art

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everything is super large

I can hardly contain myself as we roll in closer and closer to those magnificent mountains dusted with icicles thicker than ever I have set eyes upon before. I didn’t know which way to turn as we sped past snapshots, window-framed, in every direction.

But I must concentrate. We will need to turn off at some point and everybody seems to be in a rush to get to wherever they are going.

And then it was gone; we flew under it long before our brains could catch up with the instructions. We needed a park pass, this I knew, but I hadn’t registered that we needed it as we entered the area. Easy to panic. What to do? Eventually, the little ducks all fell into their row up there in the grey matter, and I realised that we could buy our park pass at our campground; the gates we had sailed past, sans laissez-passer, were more as a convenience for those travellers that were speeding right through and out at the other end. Breathe.

It was with relief that finally, our exit came into sight. Bow Valley Parkway was a narrow winding road through luscious scenery at a very reduced speed.

We found our pre-booked campsite in good time and settled down for a good night’s rest.

Lakes are on the menu once the new day dawns.

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Thought for the day:

“Our lives are a collection of stories – truths about who we are, what we believe, what we come from, how we struggle, and how we are strong. When we can let go of what people think, and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness – the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love and belonging. If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness lives inside of our story. It’s time to walk into our experiences and to start living and loving with our whole hearts.”
~ Brené Brown

 

heavy-hearted

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It was only when Galen mentioned that it was September 11th that we realised what day it was and why many flags were flying half-mast. Technology had brought the horror of events as they unfolded that day, right into our living rooms even in South Africa, thousands of miles away. It’s not that similar events around the rest of the world are less horrific, but this day we watched them live; the feelings of helplessness are indescribable!

Even so, life moves on… and our stomachs were growling.

Time for brunch.

It’s the small things in life, you see, that make the big things bearable.

…and this meal had our taste buds in for a treat par excellence!

We were on the road again…

…back across the border; B&G had a plane to catch. It was a late night plane, so we stopped off at the campgrounds where H&I would spend the night. There were sites a plenty available under the massive trees in the Moyie Lake Provincial Park, so we set up camp, took a stroll down to the water, and then headed out again with another quick stop for a flight of a different kind.

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It was with a heavy heart that finally there was no denying that the time had come to head for the airport just north of Cranbrook. H&I had to continue our trip on our own now, into the unknown, just the 2 of us, on the right side of the road. We would miss those 2, their company, the excitement of a catch on the fly, the trouble they took over meals both in and out, and their navigation!

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May your days in the office be stimulating!

Banff, here we come, ready or not…

 

trout bums

[September 9th]

On the road again we head north once more, but not back into Canada yet; B&G are taking us a little off the beaten track again for the last 2 days of fishing before they have to return to their offices.

Along the way, we stop to stock up on provisions and to enjoy brunch at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches. America is not complete without another stop at Starbucks for none other than the super sweet pumpkin spice latte (you have to try it, they say!) – Thanksgiving is coming up.

B&G navigate their way comfortably through the Montana countryside, and before too long we turn off in search of Trout Bums where we will be spending 2 nights in a cabin.
It is a surprise it turns out because said cabin, named Trouthaus, glows with warmth and solid luxury.
I love camping more than anything else in this world, but I have to admit there does come a time when a bath to soak in and a toilet for just the 4 of us, is a very welcome sight indeed!

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Hugo is the lucky recipient of a fishing licence for this area, a Father’s Day gift, so while they head down to the river at the bottom of the property, I partake of the hot water on tap. My head of hair most especially enjoys being submerged under water for a good long soak, after which I stretch out on the deck surrounded by the bliss of the forest and the birds that frequent it.

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When there is no longer a single ray of light left to squeeze out of the day, the 3 fishermen return; Hugo lights the fire, I load the washing machine (which we were thrilled to find, as H&I head straight on to our next 2 weeks of camping after this) and B&G busy themselves in the kitchen.
Once again we are served a scrumptious meal which we devour in front of the crackling fire before retiring to grandma’s feather beds for the night.

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From the cabin, the track runs all along Rock Creek, so into our trusty auto we bundle to find a spot to fish. There are spots by the dozen but everybody has beaten us to the best already. After a good couple of kilometres, we emerge into the sunlight and finally a great spot with no takers.

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When hunger beckons we head back to find a suitable place to prepare lunch. While the pot boils, the men cast a few more lines… and no, the bush has not returned us to our roots, nor have we forgotten our table manners; we simply forgot to pack eating utensils.

And so, all good things have to come to an end…

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…but there is always the next leg with fresh ones just waiting to be discovered…

 

Thought for the day:
“Whatever we perceive in the world around us tends to reflect who we are and what we care about most deeply, as in the old saying, ‘When a thief sees a saint, all he sees are his pockets.'”
~ Sufi quote [Centre for Applied Jungian Studies]

 

boiling river

[September 8th]

Galen is passionate about fly-fishing which leads us off the beaten track many a time to glorious rivers in glorious places. Today it is the turn of the Lava River, which they are going to walk from its single entry point. After a wonderful brunch on the river bank, they set off on foot while we head out on wheels to explore the rest of the main terrace as well as the upper terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs, which is just a hop away, from the eastern entrance this time.

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Lava River

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Mammoth Hot Springs from the main terrace

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Cupid Spring

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Canary Spring

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Travertine Occupants

Feasting on Chemicals
Filamentous Bacteria

Thread-like filamentous bacteria link together, creating chains that can spread into aprons.  They live on hydrogen sulfide gas rising through vents.

Living on Sunshine
Cyanobacteria

Like flowering plants, colorful cyanobacteria use light for energy, or photosynthesize.  If other microorganisms did not consume hydrogen sulfide gas near the vents, these sun-loving microbes would be poisoned. 

~ taken from an info board on site

Back on wheels we do the loop around the upper terrace, pass back through Mammoth Springs and pull in at the picnic spot on the Lava River, just as B&G emerge from under the bridge:

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Orange Spring Mound

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which reads:

Orange Spring Mound

1  Yellowstone’s volcano heats water deep underground.

2  Under great pressure, the water percolates upward through buried limestone, dissolving a mineral called calcium carbonate.

3  Above the ground, the water begins to cool and evaporate.  Gases are released and water pressure decreases.  Orange Spring Mound gradually grows as water flows over it, depositing calcium carbonate which hardens into travertine.

Heat dwelling bacteria and algae grow abundantly in Orange Spring Mound’s water creating tapestries of “living color.”

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Angel Terrace

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After all the geyser viewing, I had only one more request: Boiling River Trail and its destination which for some reason took on proportions of mysterious wonder in my mind. It did involve soaking in hot:cold water in a river out in the wilderness, which is surely the most favourite thing I could possibly dream of doing. Its destination alone was mysterious (most probably due to my habit of never reading instructions properly until it is absolutely necessary) and so it was, then, that, not minutes after entering the park at the north entrance a whole week back, we drove right on by it for a good kilometre without the slightest hint of its being there.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about actually doing what I so longed to do, not least of all due to all the bacteria warnings, but also due to the presence of other people in front of whom I would have to appear semi-naked (and that was before I knew how difficult it was to keep one’s balance over slippery rocks trying to reach a soaking spot)!
Still, I wasn’t going to miss out!

We found the parking easily, and the stroll along the sparkling Gardner River was indeed fit for slops.

 

Steam clouds appear.

Nervous excitement.

Scorching streams bubbling their way along; thrilling to bewitching proportions (yes, it takes very little for some of us to gain the same elevations that others find riding gigantic waves on a tiny board).

Everybody has stumbled out into the river where the arrow directed, but yours truly has seen stairs going down into the crystal clear water a little further back and I am not going to budge an inch from there.
H&I have the nook to ourselves and can wallow just inches from the steaming waters spilling into the icy pool, the main river rushing past just beyond the shelter of gathered rocks. Heaven is…!
H does attempt to join the crowd later but succumbs to lack of balance at the first opportunity. He is clearly enjoying it there, but cannot entice me in. B&G are undoubtedly having the best time of all, the scramble having been worth every minute.

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scorching temperatures

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spot H and B&G further back

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yep, all fours

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B&G wobble their way out

An underground discharge of water from a mysterious source beneath nearby hydrothermal terraces flows out of the ground at over 100 degrees. The channel joins the otherwise cold waters of the Gardner River, creating a blended pool that is too good to pass up.

~ taken from http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/boiling-river-hike-yellowstone/

What an awesome afternoon, but the day is not yet done.

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mule deer en route back to camp

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B&G leave us behind back at camp from where we will walk down to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone while they head out in search of another catch.
It is a lovely stroll down beside Tower Creek to the Tower Falls and all the way down to the Yellowstone River, and then back up, with hopes for a short ice cream break dashed as we came face to face with doors firmly shut for the day.

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the path down to the creek

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Yellowstone Canyon

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The day ends with a spectacular display; the heavens too, are on fire.

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Thought for the day:
“I was so worried about getting approval that I forgot what I liked. I forgot how to be myself”
~ Amy Pearson

where the wildlife roams

[September 7th] and it is time to pack up and move on. The Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of the park beckons. We are off to look for wildlife while B&G do some serious fishing.

It is an enjoyable drive and it is not long before Galen’s sharp eye spots an owl perched on top of a sapling in the middle of nowhere. Further on there are cars pulled to the side of the road, and where there are park wardens something is going on. We drive by slowly, spotting nothing when just by chance I turn around and there it is the little bear trundling up the rocky gorge.

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We have attempted to leave early, as the campsite for the next few nights works on a first come, first serve basis. Our first choice of camp is closed to campers due to fires in the area, which means we have only this one chance. We make it by the skin of our teeth with only one site big enough for 2 tents still available. Britt jumps out to declare it taken!

We register, pack out into our very own bear box this time, and then set out in search of fish. After a peaceful brunch beside the river, B&G choose a spot where they will test the waters for an hour.

We take a drive.
They decide to stick to their spot on the Soda Butte Creek. Bison graze not too far off and Canada geese enjoy the meandering waters. We passed many fishermen along the way, so hopes are high today; it must be a good river.
We leave them to do their thing and drive out again in the opposite direction to see what we can see.
The bear season is over; bears have had their fill and are preparing for the winter, but bison are out in numbers, as are the pronghorns, a couple of bighorns and later another crowd draws us in…

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Canada geese

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Bighorn sheep

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Pronghorn

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Bison beaut!

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On the way back to meet up with B&G, a traffic jam has us worried that we will keep them waiting yet again. There is a motorbike up front on a bend and he is not moving an inch. A string of cars has bunched up behind him, but the holdup remains a mystery. Finally, we spot some movement. Bison. Bison ambling around right there in the middle of the road and going nowhere fast despite enticing fields in every direction. Eventually, one of the vehicles from the opposite side can stand it no longer and makes a dash for it. He is lucky, and with him, a few cars get by quickly. Suddenly, though, we watch as a little calf runs into the road and behind him the rest of the herd. They stop dead, right there in the middle of the road, again.
Where are the wardens when one needs them most?

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Anywhere else coming upon a sight such as the one in the photo below would be a sure sign that a rare bird has been spotted. We waste no time pulling over to join the crowd on the mound. There are 2 people with scopes.

Wolves they say!

They are very far away, and really very small, but still, they are wolves; scopes do not lie. A most unexpected bonus to our day to be sure!

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Back at Tower Falls, we set up camp, pull out the beers and light the fire.

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And so ends another great day in Yellowstone!

More about the wolves:
“Your wolf may be like this one – a split second gasp, a fragment shared between naked eye and mythic mammal. Or, if you are lucky, perhaps you will have a longer moment, even long enough to note wolf behavior in your journal, to jot notes down in the diary at night about how your wolf did this or that. Perhaps your wolf will be seen with the aid of a long lens set upon a sturdy tripod at the edge of the Lamar Valley, a zoomed-in close-up and intimate look at this amazing creature. Whatever form your wolf takes, you can be sure that your wolf will live with you. He will give you the kind of image that cannot be rubbed out or faded by the years. That vision will last.”
~taken from Changes Seen a Decade After Yellowstone’s Wolf Reintroduction

morning glory

[September 6th] dawned cold after a night through which I never warmed up ever! I was snug as a bug when I slid into my sleeping back, which is fit for temperatures a good dollop below zero, but then from my core the cold spread and settled in.

Warm bagels were served, the windscreen scraped, and with the dial recording a cool zero degrees C, we set out to explore the Upper Geyser Basin… in the mist!
But the mist lifted and the sun popped out warm and welcoming on cue as we pulled into the parking lot in anticipation.

Old Faithful was waiting…

We were waiting…

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Old Faithful was still building up steam…

In the meantime, B&G went for coffee while H&I wandered around Geyser Hill. Soon enough people began to gather as eruption time neared…

We waited some more; Old Faithful puffed and gurgled and lurched a little, and just as we wondered if the show was a no show…

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Old Faithful simmering

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…there she blows!

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all over in a puff of smoke

We wandered off then to explore what for me was sheer magic; magical textures, shapes, colours, gurgles, jets, warm steam and neverending activity.

The sawmill geyser and the spasmodic geyser had me spellbound; I could have hung around close to indefinitely… a jolly good thing the others hurried me on as there was much more to see.

A film crew had gathered around Castle Geyser which was due to blow anytime soon-ish, but we didn’t linger. B&G were lucky to bump into it in full throttle, though, on their way back to fetch the car later when H&I ambled on to the Black Sand Basin on foot. They passed the Sawmill Geyser again too, on their way back, showing no sign of activity at all. I count myself lucky to have seen as many as we did in action!

And then there was the Grotto Geyser blasting forth in all directions… and later, nothing but a puff of smoke.

Perhaps the crowning two sights in the Upper Geyser Basin was that of the Riverside Geyser and the Morning Glory Pool. Words fail me…

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Riverside geyser simmering…

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and then with a roar announcing its presence…

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what a spectacular sight!

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Morning Glory Pool

Yes, this pool was named after the flower and this is why:
“Long a favored destination for park visitors, Morning Glory Pool was named in the 1880s for its remarkable likeness to its namesake flower. However, this beautiful pool has fallen victim to vandalism. People have thrown literally tons of coins, trash, rocks, and logs into the pool. Much of the debris subsequently became embedded in the sides and vent of the spring, affecting water circulation and accelerating the loss of thermal energy. Through the years Morning Glory’s appearance has changed as its temperature dropped. Orange and yellow bacteria that formerly colored only the periphery of the spring now spread toward its center.”
~ taken from https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/tours/oldfaithful/mrngglry.htm
…where you will find a photo of its morning glory days.

En route to the Black Sand Basin, we passed the Punch Bowl Spring, the Black Sand Pool and the Daisy Geyser looking nothing like a daisy at all as it lay there quiet as a mouse – we can’t be lucky all the time!

It was a good walk through some wetland and forest to the Black Sand Basin that didn’t disappoint. B&G caught up with us there, seen here through the blue haze of the Sunset Lake.

Lunch beside the river in the sun and then on to the Midway Geyser Basin and the long-awaited Grand Prismatic Spring:

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Grand Prismatic Spring

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“The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica.
Grand Prismatic Spring was noted by geologists working in the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, and named by them for its striking coloration. Its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.
The vivid colors in the spring are the result of microbial mats around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The mats produce colors ranging from green to red; the amount of color in the microbial mats depends on the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids and on the temperature gradient in the runoff. In the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter the mats are usually dark green. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.
The deep blue color of the water in the center of the pool results from the scattering of blue light by particles suspended in the water. This effect is particularly visible in the center of the spring due to the lack of archaea that live in the center and the depth of the water.
~taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Prismatic_Spring
see also: The Science Behind Yellowstone’s Rainbow Hot Spring

And so the item at the top of my bucket list can be ticked off, or perhaps moved down in the hope of being able to pop in again sometime.

We head back to camp via the Hayden Valley and bison in their dozens.

It has been a GOOD day!

 

Thought for today:
Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.
~ Peter T. Mcintyre.

pork chops and biscuits

[september 5th]

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Undaunted by the rain, B and G have planned to fish the Firehole River while we head back up to Norris Geyser Basin to explore the back basin.
They choose a point of entry and will walk the river. We will meet them on the road again at a given time. Unfortunately we don’t have cell reception to coordinate times, so they end up waiting for us for a good half hour. I imagine they hated the thought of the fish they might very well have caught in that time.

0011bAt some point they came upon a hot spot fed by a stream, similar to the one below, for some relief from the cold. Wonderland indeed!0011c

We head off, bumping into the White Dome Geyser along the way… we are about to head back to the car, our backs turned on the geyser already when another car pulls up, its inhabitants pointing vigorously. We nearly missed it! White Dome puts on a glorious display against the stormy sky:

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Engulfed by the warm steam0011g

Back at Norris Geyser Basin we find its most famous geyser which was not about to erupt on this day – some facts to try to illustrate the extraordinariness of this park:

“Steamboat Geyser, in Yellowstone National Park’s Norris Geyser Basin, is the world’s tallest currently-active geyser. During major eruptions, water may be thrown more than 300 feet (91.44 m) into the air.

Steamboat’s major eruptions last from 3 to 40 minutes and are followed by powerful jets of steam. Steamboat does not erupt on a predictable schedule, with recorded intervals between major eruptions ranging from four days to fifty years. The geyser was dormant from 1911 to 1961. Minor eruptions of 10 to 15 feet (3–5 m) are much more frequent. After an eruption, the geyser often vents large amounts of steam for up to 48 hours. Cistern Spring, located nearby, will drain completely during a major eruption of the geyser; the spring refills within a few days.

The last eruption of Steamboat Geyser occurred on 3 September 2014.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steamboat_Geyser

My snapshots of the back basin this day:

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Pork Chops Geyser surrounded by the exploded rocks

The Porkchop Geyser is relatively new as far as geysers go. It was a rather quiet, erratic geyser until 1985 with occasional eruptions between 15 and 20 feet high. In 1985 though, it began to erupt continuously spouting 30 feet high from its 3-inch diameter vent. The burst was especially surprising because of its 100°F temperature, which is well below boiling. Also, the water was full of silica. The geyser’s spray built up into a large ice cone nearly 8 feet high. It was draped with translucent silica gel. Then, on September 5, 1989 in full view of visitors, Porkchop exploded. Rock and debris were launched up to 220 feet away. Now it’s only a bubbling, seething pool with temperatures reaching between 98 and 162°F and a depth of 2.5 feet. The geyser measures 13×18 feet and was named in 1961 by geologist Don White because of its porkchop-shaped crater.
http://www.yellowstonepark.com/norris-back-basin-geysers/

0011lVixen Geyser resting after a bout of spitting

The Vixen Geyser is known for its temperamental, spit-fire disposition. In fact, that’s why Yellowstone National Park’s second superintendent P.W. Norris named this feature “vixen.” The geyser’s temperature rises to 195°F, yet its eruption schedule is erratic to say the least. Intervals can last from minutes to hours; its eruption duration can go for seconds to 50 minutes and the height of its stream can soar anywhere between 5 and 30 feet. Researchers have noted two “typical” kinds of eruptions. One displays minor activity every few seconds with occasional splashing and spouting up to 15 feet high mixed in. Major eruptions are rare and unpredictable, but when they do occur they can last up to an hour with water shooting up to 30 feet. After either type of eruption, the crater drains, leaving a gurgling sound in its wake. Vixen erupts from a round, cylindrical vent stained a pinkish color by iron oxides deposited with silica.
http://www.yellowstonepark.com/norris-back-basin-geysers/

After meeting up with B and G again, we popped in at Biscuit Basin a little further up on Firehole River. Biscuit Basin forms part of Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful, but has its own parking. It would have been a hearty walk up from Old Faithful itself.

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Sapphire Pool – the colour is out of this world and I can hardly believe my eyes!

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Shell Geyser

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As we approach the bridge over the river, where B and G are waiting patiently for us – and a jolly good thing they had to wait too – along came trotting…

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… a coyote! It paused at the bridge (spot B and G) and then toddled off crossing the river a little further on. Clearly those humans on the bridge were not to be trusted!

Feeling satisfied after that sighting, we drove into West Yellowstone, the little town at the west entrance, for supplies and lunch.
The day ended with a spot of fishing at the campsite for B and G and our first sighting of a blue bird.

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Will day 3 bring sunshine as promised…

Thought for the day… a beautiful video about the wolves in Yellowstone NP:

How Wolves Change Rivers

 

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