Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hitting a Bison.

My roommate, Carole, and I went out to West Thumb Geyser Basin last night.  We really haven't explored any of the geothermal features and we wanted to see something new.  On our way down to West Thumb, it was raining and the wind was blowing (and lots of trees blew over).  However, as we approached our destination, the sun came out.  A beautiful double rainbow appeared (it's hard to see the second one) over where the forest had burned the previous year.  

As we pulled into the parking lot, we notice a herd of elk that were grazing just off the edge of the parking lot.  There is a family that is extremely close to the big bull elk (it's almost bugling season!) and I'm afraid that are going to get gored.  I asked them to move back away from the bull elk and the babies, but they just stayed.  He kept pausing to watch them, which is a bad sign.  I thought something was going to happen - thankfully, nothing did.

We walked around the geyser basin.  They have beautiful pools.  The light blue pools, which was what was mostly in the area, are the hottest.  They are too hot that they really can't support the thermophiles that are found in many of the springs - so they are just a crystal blue color.

This is Carole standing next to the edge of a spring overflow.  The overflows are able to cool off a little bit and provide life to red thermophiles.

The blip in the water is called the Fishing Cone.  It is an active geyser that is found just off shore in Lake Yellowstone.  The setting sun was casting beautiful shadows on the mountains on the other side of the shore while the almost full moon shone brightly above us.

This is a different extremely hot pool - called the Abyss Pool.  The hot springs are incredibly large and can easily burn a person to nothing but bones in a matter of a few minutes.  (There is a book, Death in Yellowstone, that gives very gruesome descriptions of this - for more details, check it out.)

West Thumb is a fairly small geyser basin but it's known for being one of the most scenic since Lake Yellowstone is situated directly east of the area.  It was really beautiful.

We did a short (1/2 mile) hike out to Duck Lake, which few people have probably walked out to.  It was a neat lake with a black sand beach and lots of elk prints from where they went to get a sip of water.

On our way back to Canyon (about a 2 hour drive), we were going around a curve in the dark.   There was a bison standing in the middle of the road that we didn't see until we were about 5 feet away from the 1 ton animal.  We smashed into his rear (in Carole's Mini Cooper!) and he slid up over the roof of the car and smashed into the windshield.  Luckily, Carole had just gotten her windshield fixed or else he might have slid right on through.  Carole and I were shaken and had some minor scrapes - but overall we were very lucky.  

Unfortunately, when we struck the bison's rear end, the impact looked like it broke his hip bone.  He limped off the side of the road (while 20 bison surrounded our car - grunting the whole time).  The rangers had to put him down.  (There is going to be a rather blurry picture at the bottom - so if you don't want to look, don't go all the way to the very bottom.)  The other bison kept circling around him and licking his head.  It was extremely sad.  However, he will become part of the food chain and be food for a bear.

This morning, I got up bright and early and went out for a hike.  (I wasn't able to sleep for some reason.)  The lighting on this field was perfect and there were a few bison that were hanging out, eating grass.  I felt oddly at peace with the bison this morning.

Don't go further if you don't want to see the picture...

The red is from the flashing ranger lights.  Poor guy!

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