Beauty Pool, Castle Geyser, Cody, Fire, Geothermal, Geyser Alley, Geysers, Giant Geyser, Hot Spot, Hot Springs, KOA, Lake Yellowstone, Montana, Morning Glory, Mud Pots, Old Faithful, Pool, Smoke, Tectonic Plate, West Thumb, Wyoming, Yellowstone
Day 8 – Yellowstone
Our original plan of entering the park first thing in the morning was slightly derailed after we got in the truck, Dad attempted to put the truck in gear, and the engine rumbled a whole lot but barely moved. From there we headed back to Cody so Dad could get some transmission fluid.
While at the gas station, I ran in to get a coffee and the cashier saw my sweatshirt and asked where Saint Martin’s University was. I said Olympia, Washington. He said he hadn’t heard of it, even though he was from Puyallup. I told him it is really in Lacey, but no one knows where that is, so I tell people Olympia and hope they know their capitals. He said he knows where Lacey is, but still hasn’t heard of SMU. Typical.
We got back on our way and entered Yellowstone from the East Entrance. We drove back through the same woods, this time with me paying attention instead of napping. We drove along Yellowstone Lake awhile, and what I thought was fog at the time was hovering over the lake in just a way that you couldn’t tell where it ended and the lake began. Later, we found out that it was actually smoke that had traveled from a fire in the north of the park—along the same route that we took earlier in the week. Those roads are now shut down, as they are letting the fire take its course.
This is a good thing, however, as fire is one of the most important ways a forest rejuvenates itself. A ranger explained that many of the trees have pine cones that hold thousands of seeds that can only be opened by fire, where the seeds may then spread all over to plant new trees. Also, the trees have a protective layer of bark around them that allows it to withstand the fire. If fires don’t happen often enough, the fire becomes much more unmanageable and lasts much longer, causing damage to the forest. Also, we heard that during the huge fire of 1988, only about 10 animals died, as they can sense it coming and get out fast enough. Phew!
We briefly stopped at West Thumb, one of the most scenic spots to view hot springs and geysers. With the background of the lake, there wasn’t anything like it. It is thought that, because the underwater profile is significantly deeper than the rest of Lake Yellowstone, that there was a giant eruption 125,000 years ago. This makes West Thumb an extremely thermal area.
We got to hear a ten minute presentation from one of the rangers, explaining that the water in a geyser is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface, and 400 degrees deep inside near the small opening where the pressure of water builds (forcing the water to shoot our of the geyser). He explained that, a few years ago, there was some strange heat underground in the area, even more than they were having then or are having now (150 degrees eight inches below our feet). Pools and springs were turning into geysers, and trees that had been able to survive nearby were dying. Scientists still don’t know why this area was changing. However, now the geysers have calmed down, and the temperatures have gone down significantly. However, it seems the hot spot has moved under the lake, as there is a strip along shore that never freezes over during the winter. The ranger speculates that it is the tectonic plate has shifted over the hot spot in the earth.
After eating lunch in the parking lot, we moved on to the main event: Old Faithful. But what we quickly learned was that the Old Faithful stop is much more than the famous geyser. As we waited for the geyser to go off on the trusty 90 minute mark, we saw Castle Geyser erupting for a good 20 minutes far to our left. When we saw Old Faithful, it didn’t go as high as I was expecting, and didn’t last too long. I wonder if this is because the Castle Geyser was erupting at the same time. Much of the information we have read about geysers up to this point is that water drains from a connecting pool or spring via underground pipeline before if erupts. If the pipeline connects them, then the pressure wouldn’t have been as high for Old Faithful. This was confirmed later when Mom and I were walking back from our walk along geyser alley, where we viewed the eruption from a distance and saw that the second session was a lot more impressive.
Geyser alley was a great finale to our Yellowstone experience. The great thing is that the chances of you seeing a geyser erupt (in addition to Old Faithful) during your walk is quite high. Many of them had signs with estimated times they would erupt, and most were pretty accurate. It is a 1.5 mile walk from Old Faithful to Morning Glory, the famous rainbow pool. We made the loop, which ended up taking about an hour and a half when stopping to observe many of the wonders along the way. It was definitely worth the walk!
The end of the walk led us to the famous Glory Pool. However, we learned that its vivid color is fading because of people throwing garbage into the geyser. When people throw small objects even as small as coins, minerals can build up and it can plug the small opening below.
We all met back at the camper (Dad decided not to do the walk, and Megan wanted to visit the gift shop) and decided we needed to switch up the cuisine. We exited the park and found a Mexican restaurant. It was all right, but us Yakimanians are pretty picky about our Mexican food.
We drove well into the night to get a head start on the long drive home, and ended up in a Bozeman KOA for the night. Everyone was pretty pooped at that point, so we all turned in to get ready for a long drive through Montana tomorrow.