Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Family in Yellowstone.

There are officially four days left in Canyon Lodge's season.  My family made it in to visit this past week.  Graham and I are planning for our two month road trip/backpacking experience.  So I decided to take this calm morning where I'm up way to early for my day off to share when my family was here.  

It was great having them here.  It reminded me of when I first got here and was awestruck by the beauty everywhere.  My mom said something about how she loved my pictures but they really can't due justice to the actual beauty that is in Yellowstone. 

I had to work the first few days there were here - but Mark and I got to go on a hike one of the evenings out to Hell Roaring Creek.  About a mile into the hike you pass by a suspension bridge that goes over a river that is active with the fury of the mountains.  

Then you pass through to a sagebrush field that we hit right as the sun was going down over the mountain in front of us.  The yellow blooms on some of the brush were fantastic in the evening light.  My brother said that this was his favorite hike at the end of the week - it probably had a lot to do with our timing on hitting this field at the perfect time.

Behind us the moon was rising through the clouds over a hill that rose out of the field.   (I think this photo is one of my favorites from the summer - although that changes frequently.)

When we made it to the creek, the sun was looking like it was giving us the last glimerings of evening light, so we put away our cameras and pulled out our flashlights.  Luckily, we made it back before the sun went down - although, it was a close one.

The next day, we saw two wolves on our way down to the Old Faithful area.  There was a white wolf and a black wolf with a kill about 40 to 50 feet off the side of the road in Gibbon's Meadow.  Apparently, there is a wolf pack that is about 25 strong that lives in this area.  The ravens were so thick around the kill - it's amazing what fast scavengers these huge birds are.

I was reading the National Geographic article from earlier this year about "Wolf Wars."  They talked about how two wolves had migrated down from Canada and ended up staying in Glacier National Park.  As the two began to breed and grow their pack, they began to expand around the area.  They introduced wolves to the Yellowstone area - but it seems like they would have eventually reached the area later than sooner.  This is the first year that Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are allowing wolf hunting (with specific quotas), since the numbers have improved so vastly that they are confident in their return to the Northwest. 

After we checked into our room, we went out for a walk in the Upper Geyser Basin (which includes Old Faithful Geyser).  This pool of boiling hot water had an interesting ridge around the entire edge.  It amazes me how often we (humans) imitate stuff like this in manmade objects. 

 There was a storm rolling in on us from the Northwest, which created dramatic contrasts between the smoke coming up from Castle Geyser and the sky.  Normally, the smoke disappears into the sky but on this evening it seemed to linger waiting for the rain to fall.

Sawmill Geyser was erupting as we walked by.  The geyser spit out spirals of water, which makes whirrling sounds giving it it's name.  The sky above looks like a painting from Bob Ross.  

Shortly after this picture was taken, we heard the wall of rain coming up behind us.  My parents took off for the hotel while my brother and I trotted through the rain - stopping at Old Faithful Inn.

The rain didn't last long and the colors of the sun came out for a brief moment to wish the world a good night. 

The next morning, we went over to the lodge for coffee and tea.  A herd of bison (about a dozen or so) flooded around the field surrounding Old Faithful.  The geyser went off right as the sunlight passed into the field.  Even a lot of the employees came out to take pictures of the event.  

The bison were being pretty active - rolling around on the dirt, wandering around, sticking their tongues out.   It was nice to see that for a change over them just standing there eating grass.

We did the hike out to Fairy Falls, which starts just south of the Midway Geyser Basin.  We started with crossing the Firehole River, which was laden with fly fisherman (a new favorite pasttime!).   There was an amazing spiderweb that had morning dew drops exposing the secret silk on the bridge crossing the river.
The start of the Fairy Falls trail is an old stagecoach road that has a hill right beside it.  You can tell where other people had scurried up the hill - so we did the same.  You get a great view of Grand Prismatic.

Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the park (and the third largest in the world).  The vivid colors are the result of pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water.   The center of the pool is bacteria-less due to the extreme heat.  The center appears to be deep blue due to the purity and depth of the water.

The colors of fall are out in full force right now.  I was nervous that we weren't going to get any of the effects of fall since we live in a pine forest; however, everything but the tree's needles are taking on vibrant hues of red and yellow.  The yellows on this hike tended to be baby Aspen trees and the reds were the seeding remains of Fireweeds (a beautiful fusia flower that is popular in recently burned areas).

Fairy Falls is a 197 ft. drop off the Madison Plateau.  The hike to get out to the falls itself is mostly flat through forests burned in the fire of 1988.  If you look closely, you can see Mark standing in the bottom left corner.  

There was a raven that was hanging out where other people were picnicing (don't feed the wildlife - whether it is bear or bird...).  Ravens are huge members of the crow family with their average livespan reaching 69 years.  There are known for being a menace but are starting to get more positive reputations as being smart birds the more research that they do on them. 

We went the extra .3 miles to see Imperial Geyser.  From the geyser there was a stream of hot water that grew heat loving algea and thermophiles on it's way down. 

The geyser was erupting when we got to it.  It would pause for a few seconds but then erupt with even more force than it had a few minutes before.  The clear blue water was amazing and shows the extreme heat that was coming out of the geyser.  On the edge of the pool of water had some boiling mud pots.  It's always a different experience to see geothermal activities away from the boardwalks - and I'm glad my family got to see them.

The hike back gave a great view of just how big Fairy Falls is - and how it can be seen from the distance.  If you were one of the first explorers in the area it would be hard to see this from a distance and not make your way over to the base of the falls.

My dad was really excited to be here.  I think it reminded him of when he used to go backpacking a lot more.  It was nice to see him get so into being out in this place that I love so much.

On the last leg of the Fairy Falls hike, we passed back by Grand Prismatic.  The steam gave an optical illusion of looking blue due to the vibrance of the water below the steam.  Ok - I've decided to break this up into two posts because I just realized how long this one is becoming.  Look forward to Family in Yellowstone #2.

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