Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 Rainy Day in Yellowstone

Firehole swimming hole with friends

I had been checking the weather report for days preceding our Labor Day trip to Yellowstone.  The reports all came back that Yellowstone would be sunny on Labor Day and that would be sandwiched between stormy days.  Wishful thinking.  Either that or someone in the Park Service paid the weather bureaus off.  The morning of the trip, the weather bureaus were reporting scattered showers, chance of rain 20%.  More wishful thinking.

We had been making plans for this trip with a couple of other families, so we needed to go.  Rain or shine, we had a grand time in Yellowstone.

We ended up driving up separately and meeting in the town of West Yellowstone.  The plan was to go swimming in the Firehole River and then kick around Old Faithful and the geyser basins.  It was a little chilly when we got up there and the sky was overcast.  At about Madison Junction, it began to rain.  Several members of our party said, "Well, I don't fancy swimming in the rain." so we decided not to chance it.  We stopped at Firehole Falls and the boys did a little rock climbing, then we proceeded to the swimming area.  We decided we would just wade because it was raining, but one of the boys got his trunks on anyway and got in the water.  Pretty soon all the boys were doing it.  Then the old men did it, finally the wives and daughters got their suits on and joined us.

I had not been swimming in the Firehole for almost thirty years.  I forgot how enjoyable it is to swim there.  Since it was raining, we were the only ones swimming at first.  Eventually a few others joined us.  Good time had by all.  I'm just a little cheesy, and I got out of the water singing, "I'm swimmin' in the rain, just swimmin' in the rain..."

The Firehole is a mountain stream, but it's warmer than most mountain streams because of all the geyser water that flows into it.  It was warmer in the water than it was in the rain.  Lots of fun.  Everyone on the trip seemed to enjoy the adventure.

Firehole Falls.  One of the mainstays of our trips to Yellowstone.  We always seem to stop here.  Never tire of it.

Rock climbing at Firehole Falls

More rock climbing

But wait, there's more rock climbing

Once you get to the top, you have to come down

Haydn wading in the Firehole

Christian and me wading in the Firehole

Getting in the river

Swimmin' in the rain...

Rhys made it across the current to the cave.  Both he and Garrett made it over there and I immediately worried less about them in the water.  Strong current there.  Both are learning to swim a lot better.


Boys in the cave

Rhys swimming in the rain

The Hot Chick and our boy

We stopped at Nez Perce Creek picnic area so I could show our friends the grave of Mattie S. Culver, who died in March of '89.  That's 1889.  She was the wife of the innkeeper, E. C. Culver.  In those days there was an inn at the confluence of Nez Perce Creek and the Firehole.  Culver was the proprietor.  Story goes that his wife, Mattie, died of consumption but the ground was too frozen to dig a grave so he froze her body in two whiskey barrels end to end and waited for the spring thaw till he could bury her proper.

Today there is a beautiful marble stone and a fence at her grave site.  Just about the only thing left to show there was an inn at Fountain Flats.  I like to pay my respects to Mattie at least once every summer.  On a clear day, the picnic area at Fountain Flats is my favorite place to eat on the southern loop.  On the way back from the grave, we stopped to take some pictures of some Silvery Lupine which is abundant in Yellowstone.  One of my favorite flowers. 

We drove on and found the Whiskey Flats picnic area where we could find a modicum of shelter from the rain and had our lunch.  I remember when Whiskey Flats had open water on them.  Today it is almost all meadow with a little marsh in the middle.

Mattie's grave

Silvery Lupine with raindrops

Silvery lupine

Picnickin' in the rain...

After the picnic, we went on to Old Faithful and kicked around for awhile.  It seems that we always have to have ice cream when we go to the park and this was no exception.  This time I could even participate.  I had the mango sorbet, which was very good.  We poked around the Old Faithful Inn for awhile.  I enjoy that old building.  It's the largest log structure in the world.  A lot of this stuff I tend to take for granted but when I'm in tourguide mode I have to remember that my guests may be seeing it for the first time ever.  That seems to always make it new for me again.

Yellowstone is my sanctuary.  I can't seem to get enough of it.  We checked the prediction clock and decided to wait for Old Faithful to erupt.  I don't know how many times I've seen the old girl go off, but it's still always an impressive show.  Yellowstone is indeed a wonderland.  They have created several new interactive museums in the park.  We stopped at the one in Canyon earlier this year and then we went through the museum at Old Faithful.  It's really nice and well done.  A professional museum experience.  I've been impressed with the Park Service in the last few years.  I think they're doing a good job balancing three million people a year with the idea that a goodly portion of the park needs to stay wilderness.  There was a time when visitors didn't feel very welcome in Yellowstone.  That has changed, and I am glad.

The backside of the Old Faithful Inn.

Native plants in the obsidian sands around the Old Faithful Inn

Really cool old chimney

One of the rear entrances to the building

Rustic beam construction and creative use of materials for lighting

Immense fireplace.  Each of the four faces has a separate fire grate. 
This thing is massive

Christian in front of one of the fire screens to give an idea of scale

Very cool timber construction

More timbers.

Cool newel post  

More cool stairs

Part of the Inn, shot from a window from another part of the Inn

Rustic iron lighting fixture in the ice cream shop

Cool hallway in the Inn

Upper Geyser Basin on a bleary day

The show begins

and continues

it keeps on going

and going

Museum exhibit

Museum exhibit

After the eruption, one of the families in our group headed back to Idaho and the rest of us decided there was still enough daylight to see a few more things.  We went to the Fountain Paint Pots nature trail.  There are several types of thermal features in Yellowstone.  Geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots.  They are all related and each of those types of features are on display at Fountain Paint Pots.  As we walked along the trail, I couldn't help but think we were seeing the thermal features of Mammoth Hot Springs in it's infancy.  In a few hundred or thousand years from now, the Fountain Paint Pots will look very much like Mammoth.  That's my prediction anyway.

Photogenic uprooted tree at Fountain Paint Pots

Close-up of same tree

Another view

But wait, there's more

Mammoth Terraces in their infancy.  Come back in a thousand years...

One way terraces are formed

Life clings wherever it can

I like rocks

Bacterial mat

There are so many pools like this in Yellowstone, but I never tire of them

The Hot Chick at Fountain Paint Pots


Dried up mudpot.  In the spring it should be active again

The lichen really is this color on this rock

Red Spouter Geyser

Lower Geyer Basin

I like this pool

Clepsydra Geyser. 

Boys will be boys

Lower Geyser Basin

Terraces forming

The white mineralization at the bottom of these trees is called Bobby-Soxing

Better view of the terraces being formed

Everything comes with a cost

More terraces

Prison of dead trees

Group shot

After the Fountain Paint Pots, the other family left for home and I wanted to see one last thing.  I'm glad I did.  We took the Firehole Lake Drive, which was part of the old road.  Before the fires of 1988 there was a trail on this road called the Three Senses Nature Trail where you would hold a rope and walk along with your eyes closed.  There were places along the trail where you could stop and hear things, smell things and touch things.  It was always best to walk along with someone who would read the signs to you so you could do the trail the right way.  The fires of 1988 destroyed the trail I guess because the trailhead is long gone.  Pity.

The Firehole Lake Drive is the other section of the Lower Geyser Basin along with the Fountain Paint Pots.  There are many beautiful thermal features along this road including the famous Grand Fountain Geyser.  It had been a long day already so we didn't try to see the geyser go off.  One day I will see that one.  When I do I'll post the pics here.  Enough talk, here are the pics from the Firehole Lake Drive

The first thermal feature on the drive.  Don't remember what it's called

Firehole Spring.  More terraces being formed here.  This place has a bigger head start than the paint pots

Firehole Spring is in constant motion

The bubble bursts

Surprise Pool.  No longer surprises because it's illegal

Great Fountain Geyser

Terraces forming all along the perimeter of the Great Fountain Geyser


Bacterial mat on the sinter

White Dome Geyser

Firehole Lake

Bacterial mat in Firehole Lake

Constantly bubbling little geyser

Things like this were all over the place

When the signs say "Thin Crust" this is what they mean.  Here is where a Bison fell through and inadvertently created a new thermal feature.  I'm sure it wasn't very pleasant for it.

Bi-colored bacterial mat on the sinter

This feature is called the Hot Cascades.  Probably the hottest waterfall in the world

I like texture

Side view of the Hot Cascades

Newly created rock

and it's brother

Where life begins in Yellowstone

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

Wouldn't you know it, there was a cow moose and her calf in Swan Lake

The sun sets on a great day
On the way home we saw a cow moose and her calf in Swan Lake.  It had been years since I'd seen a moose, and now I've seen four since July.  Awesome.

We had a great day.  Swimming in the rain, hanging out in an historic building, seeing great thermal features, spending time with friends and family.  We are blessed.  What a great day!

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading and SEEING your post!!! I LOVE Yellowstone, but it's Great to see it through your eyes!!! Thanks!