Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Yellowstone - 6 August 2012

Not far from Cody we came across the historic Buffulo Bill dam which, when built, was the highest concrete arch dam in the world. Used to provide irrigation water and hydro-power, the power plant fell into disuse in the 20s and the dam has been, more recently, raised 25' with a new hydro plant built further down stream.
After a look around the visitor centre we followed the Shoshone River (which it dams) up along the beautifully scenic valley until we entered Yellowstone Park through the eastern entrance.

Unfortunately, not long after we entered, so did the rain and so our views as we drove around the shore of Yellowstone Lake were rather grey and dismal.  The main interest was in looking at the various stages of re-growth after the major 1988 fire and the not so large 2001 fire.
It appears that the park managment have learned much from these fires and completely changed their approach to forest fires, realising that they are a perfectly natural occurence, required to keep the entire ecosystem healthy and functioning well.

The rain had mainly stopped but the sun was still hiding when we walked around the West Thumb geothermal area, right on the lake shore.  This area provides a great selection of different coloured pools and the thermal activity extends into the lake as witnessed by a flock of ducks
that were all in one small area and which all simultaneously dived, leaving no trace on the surface that they even existed until some minutes later when they all simultaneously surfaced.  Clearly something below had triggered movement in a food source.

Continuing round the Great Loop we came to the Grant visitor centre, walked in, saw the prediction time for the next blow at Old Faithful and the drive time written on the wall, looked at our watches and promptly got back in the car for the run up to the geyser area.

There are massive carparks available and even a motorway style overbridge off-ramp to get cars in and out efficiently, it is an exceedingly popular place.  Interestingly, once out of the car there are signs to all sorts of things except the location of Old Faithful itself so we adopted the novel technique of following the crowd.

Although the average cycle is 93 minutes there is a +- variation of 10 minutes but nevertheles we were there in good time with 2000-3000 other watchers ringed 4 deep along the viewing boardwalk.  Four minutes late, Old Faithful put on its world-famous display which lasted for about four minutes.   Fortunately the sun also obliged with its world-famous display and so we had a fabuloous spectacle.

From here there is a 2.2km walk to the Morning Glory Pool through the geyser feild.  We were extremely fotrunate to see a number of geysers in full flow, one of which only plays every twelve hours.  Even a hardened Taupo boy had to admit that the show here is pretty impressive, which is not hard when they claim half of the geysers in the world in this park.

On the outbound walk we were treated to full displays by the Anemone, Fan, Mortar and Spiteful geysers and the return trip rewarded us with the Giant, Sawmill and Beehive geysers.  The Beehive is only every 12 hours and its display was just a few minutes after another cycle of Old Faithful which we could see from the same vantage point.

From Old Faithful's timing it was clear that we had spent three hours just in this area, walking a lot more briskly than any one else and there are many more delights to explore tomorrow but before then we had to slip over the border into Montana and out the western park access, to our camp at West Yellowstone.

177 miles today, total trip 3943. States Wyoming, Montana

No comments: