Tuesday, December 15, 2015

September 2015: Yellowstone with the Art Guys

Algae covered encrustations at Mystic Falls

I have a buddy in the Art Department at the University where I work.  He teaches photography.  I've talked about Yellowstone to him many times and we talked about going up together for a photography trip.

He wanted to go up to the park to scout ahead because he was taking a field trip later in September with his students, and he wanted to see things in Yellowstone that most people don't get to see.  We decided to see moving water.

The Hot Chick and I have been going after the road less traveled in Yellowstone for several years now and it seemed like a perfect fit.  I took my buddy and his team teacher on an excursion to Yellowstone and showed them some stuff.

First Stop:  Firehole Cascades
There is a scenic drive just after Madison Junction on the road to Old Faithful called Firehole Falls Drive.  We take that drive often.  It's a two mile road through a deep, steep canyon.  Along the way are a couple of plunge waterfalls, a swimming hole and a cascading waterfall.  Most people don't get out of their cars at the cascading waterfall because from the road it doesn't seem all that impressive.  If you get out and walk along the river, though you see things up close that you can't see in an automobile.  We climbed out over a bunch of rocks to get to the cascades.  It did not disappoint.

Firehole Cascades

Pretty powerful cascade


Harebells clear into September

Another angle 

And another

Things are tuff all over

Fallen log changing the course of the river ever so slightly

Most people don't see this

or this

Rose hips

Looking downstream


More details

Bison think they own the place

Second Stop:  Firehole Lake Drive
Firehole Lake Drive is another scenic drive between Madison Junction and Old Faithful.  It's closer to Old Faithful than it is to Madison though.  It's a nice two or three mile drive through a thermal area.  The rockstar in this area of the Lower Geyser Basin is Great Fountain Geyser.  It's one of the great geysers in Yellowstone.  I plan to plan a trip to Yellowstone next summer just to see that geyser erupt.

Also on that drive are several smaller geysers and Firehole Lake.  The lake is superheated and there is a small waterfall at the outlet called the Hot Cascades.  Pretty cool to see steaming water pour down a cascading waterfall, even if it only drops a few feet.  Even when the park is teeming with people, Firehole Lake Drive is underappreciated.  That's okay with me, keeps the riff-raff out.  Last summer, in the early part of the season, the road was closed because the ground was so hot it melted the road.  At least that's the local legend.

Sinter and algae on the Firehole Lake Drive


Still more.  This landscape looks different every time you go.  Rocks are growing before your eyes

Hot Cascades

Different angle

I love the sun play in the water...

so much that I photographed it twice

Stop #3:  Mystic Falls
My buddy wanted a short hike with a big payoff.  I instantly thought of Fairy Falls but that's five miles round trip.  I suggested Mystic Falls with is only about two miles round trip.  I've blogged about Mystic Falls a few times here so I won't go into the particulars, but my buddy and his team teacher were very impressed.  The last two times I've been to Mystic Falls, we've gone rock hopping in the middle of the stream and gotten very close to the base of the falls.  I got closer to the base this time than I ever have before.

Mystic Falls from the base

Side view.  The spray was pleasant

Part of the reason it's called Mystic Falls because of the thermals that pour into the river at the falls

You should try this sometime

Another view

The falls in it's entirety

Random cairn

Stop #4:  A short visit to Gibbon Falls
We looked for a way down because we wanted to see Gibbon Falls from the base.  We were in a time crunch so we abandoned our search after a few minutes, but Gibbon never disappoints, even late in the season when the volume of water is much less.

Gibbon Falls.  One day I'll view this one from the base.  Maybe next summer

Stop #5:  Sheepeater Cliff
Once again, things to see off the beaten path.  Sheepeater Cliff has become a pretty popular picnic area.  Most people stop and eat lunch there.  A few people climb the cliff.  Even fewer go exploring.  I belong to that group.  After talking about the geology of it and climbing the cliff, I took my friends first to the little hidden cove where I believe Native Americans used to camp.  Then I took them downstream to the waterfall we discovered there several years ago.  I'm pretty sure the majority of people who see this waterfall are fishermen.  This time we didn't stay on the cliff.  We scaled down to the water and got up close and personal.  It was my first time seeing it in that way.  Won't be my last.

The hidden cove at Sheepeater Cliff

I've always liked columnar jointed basalt

Rapidly running water at the cascades downstream

More water

And more.  The cascades are very segmented, not only up and down stream but also side to side

A segment

My buddy

Another segment

I was actually here on this excursion.  Here's the proof

The other guy

More of this angry little stream

I like running and falling water

As you can see


Another section of Sheepeater Cliff


A deer hanging out at the Golden Gate near Mammoth

Stop #6:  A short stop at Undine Falls
We had talked about seeing as many waterfalls as we could in a short period of time.  Undine Falls is one of my favorites.  I've hiked it and viewed it from many different angles.  Maybe next summer I'll hike to the base.  I have never done that before.  Been to the brink but never the base.

We stopped at the roadside viewing stand for this one.

Stop #7:  Petrified Tree, a short stop
I usually stop at Petrified Tree early in the season because for the last several years I have seen black bears in the little canyon here.  Many years I'll stop and look at the bears and not even climb the path to the tree.  There are actually about a dozen vertical tree trunks petrified in this little valley.  Most of them are hard to get to and all of them are more impressive than the one they have fenced off.  The good news for conservationists is that the other trees are masked by living trees and they are extremely difficult to get to.  Most people (and by that I mean almost all) don't even know about the other trees, and the Park Service ain't volunteering the information.

Petrified Tree

Random grouse, thinks he owns the place

Took his time

Last Stop Before the Sun Went Down:  Gull Point Drive at Lake
I really like going to Gull Point Drive at sunset.  It's idyllic.  Peaceful, restful, serene.

Sunset over the lake at Gull Point Drive

Since this was a fact finding mission, at this point we took a vote.  Do we swing around to Old Faithful and go home the regular way or do we head south and drive through Grand Teton National Park and go home through Jackson.  The art guys voted to go through Jackson even though it would be dark the whole way.  I think they wanted to get a sense of time since that was their path for the field trip.  It only added about an hour to the trip, and since I'm that guy who always likes to go home a different way than I came, it worked out just fine.

The field trip was a success and the students got alot of great pictures.  My buddy had a big itinerary mapped out and hit several of the locales I showed him.  Several of the locales they photographed were outside the park boundaries.  The students told my buddy they wished they had just stayed in the park the whole time.  I may have to take them on another field trip.