Yellowstone, 2nd day
We started the day at 35 degrees. Wow! I thought 35 was cold for August.
Our plan today was for hikes but the air quality was even worse than yesterday. Instead we will just do the tourist stops and short walks to overlooks or other features.
On the way up to the falls, we got caught in another Buffalo traffic jam. They are very common in some areas of the park and one of those is Hayden valley which we have driven though yesterday.
An entire herd was moving down from the hills on the west of the valley. They were taking their sweet time moving down to the river which is to the east of the road.There were young with their mothers and several HUGE bulls. The bulls are not only easy to identify by they are much larger size but also because they are “excited” to be near the females if you get what I mean. Very educational. Eventually the last of the herd moved off the road and we were able to continue. We waited 25 minutes before traffic started moving again.
Our first stop was the north side of the falls. We walked down to the “brink” of the lower falls. It was a bit more of a “walk” than we expected. The decent to the top of the falls is on a trail that switch backs multiple times and drops 600 feet down into the canyon. Of course, the return trip was much much longer than the trip down. At least it seemed to be a lot longer anyway. We did have some beautiful views of the falls. From the top of the falls to the base of its drop is 308 feet but it is common for 60,000 gallons per second to pass over the brink. Wow!
The next stop was Grand View overlook and then the final stop at Inspiration point. It gives some really spectacular views of the canyon.
We found a spot just down the road where we had cell service. Cell service is a rarity in the park and only available in a few small areas. The other one we found is near the north shore general store which we pass each time we drive in from the east entrance.
After some discussion, we decided to drive south to see more thermal features. Before we got there a Buffalo traffic jam stopped everyone on the road. A single bull buffalo was standing in the center of the road looking back and forth at the cars he had stopped. The big boy look pleased with himself. After about 5 minutes, he moved to only block one lane. Buffalo know they have nothing to fear and are the apex animal of the park. Even the predators avoid them. It would be difficult for a pack of wolves to even take down a single adult and no chance at all if it is a small herd. Only a new born buffalo is at any risk.
We arrived at West Thumb which is a caldera inside the larger Yellowstone caldera. Over and over again, we are reminded that this is an active volcano that is just waiting to erupt. The West thumb area has its own features to see. Several of these are actually in the lake's edge. Over 3,000 gallons of hot water pours into the lake at this location. Even with all that, the lake remains 45 degrees even at the warmest part of the summer. After all, the water is entirely snow melt. The activity in the area varies from year to year. Some years the geysers spray high in the air and at other times they barely bubble up two feet.
There are paint pots which also look like bubbling mud of different colors. Using the laser thermometer, I got a temp of 140 degrees. As you can see, we are practicing social distancing. The boardwalk is mostly empty. The Blue Bell Pool was very pretty. Not a safe place to put even a toe.
This is not a safe place to step off the board walk.
Lake side spring where two ducks were diving for something to eat along with lots of pots, pools, and a few lake shore geysers. Fishing Cone which is rumored was used to cook fish by the native tribes that have lived in the area for centuries. It is easy to imagine a fish on the hook being dipped into the slowly overflowing cone to cook. I just wonder if the water was safe for food.
Black Pool which is blue? Before 1991, it was black until the water temperature rose and killed the black algae that gave it the black color. Now, it is a pretty light blue and you can see down to the bottom. It Is at 146 degrees.
Abyss Pool also blue but much deeper. At 160 degrees.
We were getting tired and decided to head back to the General Store for cell service and some ice cream.
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We are hoping for better air quality tomorrow.
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