Sunday, September 20, 2015

September, 2015: Yellowstone--Mystic Falls

This is BOB.  It stands for Big Ole Bison.  Courtesy of my children

We only went to Yellowstone once in August.  The reason we only went the one time is because there were so many people in the park on that trip, we decided we'd let it calm down a bit before we went back.  I'm not opposed to people hanging out in the park, it's just that I'd rather not hang out with so many of them.  I go to the park to commune with nature.  It's difficult to do that when there is so much noise and confusion at all the major stops.  I live so close to Yellowstone that I can go at any time.  The tourists sometimes plan for years to go.  Many of them will only go to Yellowstone once in their lives.  I do not wish to deprive them of the opportunity, but I would rather not share it with them.  Typically, in August I like to hit the backcountry for that very reason.  For one reason or another, we weren't able to hit some of the longer Bechler hikes I had on the agenda this year. There's always next year.

We had some friends I had promised to take through the park before the semester started.  They made it back to town and wanted us to make good on that promise.  It was time to go back to Yellowstone.  As we headed up, I assessed what they had seen and what they had not seen.  I wanted to make sure they saw things they had never seen before.  That was actually quite easy because they had only been a few times and had only hit the big stuff.  That made it easy.

Stop #1:  Bear Gulch/Mesa Falls
There are two ways up to the West Entrance of Yellowstone from where we live.  The regular way, Highway 20 which is an hour and a half or Bear Gulch and the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. which adds twenty minutes of driving and an hour of sightseeing.  When we take new people up to the park, we like to go the scenic route.  It gets them primed for what is to come.  I have blogged about this trip already a few times, so I won't go into much detail today.  Mainly I'll just show pictures.

We stopped at the fish platform down at Warm River and fed the fish.  I didn't take any fish pics this time, but I did capture a really cool osprey.

After feeding the fish, we went first to Lower Mesa Falls and then Upper Mesa Falls.

The osprey at rest

In flight

Going fast

I liked the shadow

Lower Mesa Falls

And we found a Geocache, serendipitously 

Upper Mesa Falls

Rainbows at the base

Stop #2:  The Cool Stuff Along the Way
One of the things our friends said they wanted to see was waterfalls.  We decided to take them to Mystic Falls, which is one of our favorite waterfalls.  It's one of the prettiest that I have seen.  On the way, however, we took them along the Firehole Falls Drive, then to Mattie's Grave and the site of the Marshall Hotel before we made our way to Biscuit Basin and the trailhead to Mystic Falls.

E. C. Culver, the proprietor of the Marshall Hotel used to throw his trash in the Firehole River right at this bend in the river.  You can still wade out and pick stuff up, mostly broken plates and other tableware.  You Can't Take It From The Park, Though!  Leave it in the river where future generations can enjoy playing archaeologist.

Firehole Falls

Obligatory annual photo in front of Firehole Falls

Wading in the Firehole

and finding pot shards.  We left them there

I believe this flat spot across the river to be the site of the Marshall Hotel.  We didn't go there because of the bison.  Didn't want to shorten or complicate our trip

More wading.  The river is surprisingly warm right here.  Quite pleasant actually

Stop #3:  Mystic Falls
At the end of the boadwalk at Biscuit Basin is a dirt trail to Mystic Falls.  Somewhere along the line, Fairy Falls got advertised in tour books and it has become a heavily traveled trail.  So far, Mystic Falls, while a popular hike doesn't get the same traffic that Fairy Falls does.  That makes it better.

Mystic Falls is a cascading plunging waterfall that falls about 70 feet in total.  It's called Mystic Falls because of the thermal activity around it.  Steam rises from numerous thermal features all along the length of Mystic Falls, giving it an ethereal quality.

We had only hiked in to the falls and back in the past.  This time, the Hot Chick suggested we take the loop trail this time.  If you hike in and out, the total distance is probably about a mile and a half.  If you take the loop, your total distance is about three miles with a short but steep ascent in a series of switchbacks to the top of the Madison Plateau.  On that trail there is an overlook that opens over Biscuit Basin.  The view over the whole of the plateau and the upper geyser basin was quite impressive as well.  We caught an eruption of Old Faithful from the overlook.  I'm pretty sure that's an experience very few people get every year.

We hiked into Mystic Falls along the regular trail first, then we climbed up the trail to the overlook.  We did take a moment to walk over to the brink of Mystic Falls.  I like to, whenever possible, photograph a waterfall from the base, from the side and from the brink.  Just when you think Mystic Falls can't get any cooler, you happen upon a better view.  I took many pictures of this waterfall.

From there, we hiked along the top of the plateau to the overlook and then headed down to the parking lot.  When we take new people into the park, we often see the same things we have seen before, so we like to extend our trails and do things we haven't done.  That's why we took the plateau trail to the overlook.  I think it enriches the experience a great deal.  The view was so spectacular that I will hike this again.

Varmint along the trail

First view of Mystic Falls

Afternoon sun behind the falls.

Closer to the base


More hoodoos

Me and our friends

The Hot Chick and our friends

Further out to get a sense of scale

Going up the trail, you get a more clear shot of the upper part of this waterfall

It's kind of steep

This waterfall keeps getting cooler

and cooler

Up the trail looking out on the valley

The waterfall from the trail

Mystic Falls from a higher vantage point.  

Why they call it Mystic Falls

The brink of Mystic Falls

This gives you an idea of how long it takes for dead wood to rot away in this part of the country.  This has probably been here for many decades

The trail

Overlooking the Upper Geyser Basin

Then we noticed Old Faithful was going off in the upper right corner

The Madison Plateau with another geyser going off

Old Faithful from the Madison Plateau

Biscuit Basin from the overlook

More of the plateau

What the trail looked like

What it looks like with the Hot Chick on it

An idea how steep it can be

Fall colors

and idiot tourists.  Down the boardwalk from here there was a woman off the boardwalk, dipping a hanky in the thermal overflow and rubbing it on her face.

I like texture

Started the day with an osprey, might as well end it with one.

And the bluebird of happiness

After the hike down, we were so close to Old Faithful that we stopped by and got the obligatory ice cream.  Because I can't have milk, I always get the mango sorbet at Old Faithful.  Dang good.  Since we had seen Old Faithful from the plateau, we didn't wait around for it to go off again.  We headed home after a very cool day in Yellowstone.