Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Old Faithful, Elks, an easy day in Yellowstone

We really love this park....outside of not having much TV.  The one station that always comes in is a PBS station over analog.  At certain times we get 4 HD stations, non of which are prime time type of stations.  But we did not come here to watch TV, but when we are in the motor home at night, it is nice to have something on.  Before I jump into today, look at this sunset which just took place...
Below is a picture I took from our motor home this morning of the American White Pelicans flying around the lake...they probably did not like the 6 or 7 fishing boats sitting out in an area they like to frequent.
Here is another one sitting in the area this evening after all the fishermen had left...this is along the south-east portion of the lake.


Henrys Lake is a natural Alpine Lake, four miles in length and two miles wide.  It feeds a tributary of the Snake River, which eventually goes into the Pacific Ocean.  However, it is only 10 miles away, and on the other side of the Continental Divide, from the headwaters of the Missouri River. 
Where we are staying we are just over 6,400 feet in altitude.  It does not seem that high, but we were over 4,000 feet where we stayed near Glacier National Park, so perhaps we are use to the altitude already.
Well, now for our trip to Yellowstone.   Since I had already been before, I thought a nice, easy trip in, see Old Faithful and some wildlife, and back to the park seemed like the best thing to start our visit off with.  We left around 10:30 am.  We finally made it to Old Faithful around 12:30, shortly after its last eruption.  The next eruption was due around 1:48.  So we visited the brand new visitors center, pictured below.

The inside of the Visitor's Center was real nice, one of the nicest I have seen

 The displays were very nice, very colorful, and very informative.
And Marcia figured that we should take a picture of this wolf, because so far all we had seen was a three distance Elk....

We then sat down for the movie they planned to play 30 minutes before the next eruption, which means it should start around 1:18 or so.  About 1:25, some of the people were a bit concerned that it had not started yet.  A guy left, came back and told his group that they were not going to show the movie.  I got up and made the announcement to the rest of the people, and we headed out....just to meet a Park Ranger who apologized for the mix up, but there was a 2 year old boy who was lost since the last eruption, and he was still lost, and they just forgot to start it.  We all immediately understood.  We headed outside for the Old Faithful to do her thing.
At first we sat on some nearby benches to wait the 20+ minutes.  Marcia could not get this little child off of her mind.  We both said a silent prayer for the child and the parents...what else could you do? 
As the time got close, we moved over to a clearing away from the crowd, but where we had a clear view.  A couple of park volunteers walked by and said that the boy was still officially missing, but they had a lead on where he might be. A few minutes later an older couple in orange vest walked by with smiles on their faces.  "Yes, we found him....he was with another family member in a different area of Old Faithful."   Relief, and the wonderment of why a family member would let a 2 year old be away from its mother without the mother knowing it.  At least the child was safe, and never knew the potential danger that many felt the child was in.
And now it was time for the Geyser to go....but first, a little information about Old Faithful.  It is a cone geyser, getting its name in 1870.  It is probably the most predictable cone geyser on earth.  Depending upon the magnitude of the eruption, anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 gallons of water shoot up, sometimes as much as 180 feet high.  Back in 1939, Old Faithful erupted around 66 minutes apart -- but now the average between eruptions is more like 90 minutes.  The park has recorded more than 137,000 eruptions, about 25 years worth.

It is possible for you to view an eruption online.  There is the DUO LINK, which will show you two views (if the cameras are working AND it is daylight), or the SINGLE VIEW taken from the new visitor's center, and includes a countdown to the next eruption.  (Note, the duo link has the single view in the left side, and also includes the countdown.)  Yellowstone Geyser Live is a live video feed, so once you use the duo or single view to see when the next eruption will be, use the live video link to see it blow live.

Now for our event today, the time was getting closer and closer to 1:48.  The crowd starts to gather 30-45 minutes before the predicted eruption time. There had been a few "teaser" eruptions of steam, and even a little bit of water.  This is normal.  Now the time is 1:50...it is just a little late...and then it starts....
 A higher amount of steam, a higher amount of water, then it blasts off...

 I don't know how this eruption rated to the normal.  We both were amazed with what we saw.
 After it reaches its full height, it settles down and puts out a mass of water.
 And it puts it out, and it continues for a few minutes, slowly dieing out....to await the next eruption.
We had rain up north, and we did not take very many nature pictures due to the bad weather.  But on the way back, we took a couple of side roads, and the weather was good enough to take even more pictures.

 This area has many areas of geysers.
 You see steam rising from the earth in many places.
 And if you get close up, you really get a show....as you can see with the Spouter Geyser below, which is where we parked to enjoy our lunch.
 And of course, you have see our lunch view....
The view out the front window above, and out the passenger's side window below.  I'm telling you, I just don't know how many of these lunches I can stomach!
We then went to find a place for the dogs to enjoy a bit of green grass, and we continued our trip home.  The first side road we took was Firehole Lake Drive.  This is where the Great Fountain Geyser is located, but there was nothing great about it while we drove by...but pictures of it look awesome when it is really going.
 Look how clear the water is in this Firehole pond.
 While this larger one is steaming hot.
 This is where the Great Fountain Geyser is....as I said, not so great when we drove by today.
 This is White Dome Geyser...a small bit of steam today.
Near the end of the drive, this is the most active area, with a number of water geysers steaming and shooting just a little bit above the water line.

Our next side road was the Fountain Flat Drive.  This looks like a road that use to go for a long way and meet back up with the main road...but now they block it off about 1/4 of the way in and only let hikers and bikers go along it.  What a shame because Marcia, and many others who have disabilities, cannot make this trek.  While in Yosemite they allow those with ADA motor placards to still enter into areas that they have blocked off for hikers and bikers.  They ask you to drive no faster than 10 mph, and you have to have your flashers on, and have your ADA placard showing.  Now why Yellowstone does not do this I don't know...I think it is a shame!  No pictures here...just a big grip...

Our next side road was Firehole Canyon Drive.  It goes along the Firehole River just past Madison for about 2 miles.  It is a one way road, and well worth the ride.
 Firehole Falls is a nice site.
 There are some good views of the river, the one above is looking back towards the falls, the one above is looking forward near the exit of the road to the main highway again.
 After that, we continued to head back to Henrys Lake.  Now I promised Marcia that she would see Buffalo, Deer and Elk today.  I figured the first two were in the bag...and I was worried about seeing the Elk.  Well, it was totally the other way around....lots of Elk, and amazingly no Buffalo nor deer.
The above picture Marcia took on the way to Old Faithful.  We had seen two Elk earlier, but they were so far away (not that any of them were real close.)
On our way back, I saw this Elk laying down....and then I thought I saw another.
And sure enough, there was a second one...but Marcia did not see it.  So I had an idea.  Hey Skruffy..."What's that out there?"  Grrrr....BARK  BARK   BARK...
Suddenly, the one turned to four!  Good girl Skruffy...  I think all the others who had stopped were thankful too because they all had cameras up to their faces as we drove on.

Then the rain came again...and what's that along the left in that meadow?  Yep, even more Elk.

 In the picture above there are five Elk, one of them is way over along the tree line.
These three were running to catch up to others ahead.  Altogether I counted around ten Elk in this meadow.  All of the Elk we saw today are within what they call the "Madison Elk Heard".  These heard lives exclusively within the park, and have not been hunted in at least for 150 years or so. 

Tomorrow we plan to leave much earlier, and sometime we hope to meet up with Michael who did make it safely into the park today.  Not sure what part of the park we will visit, but I sure hope we see some buffalo!

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