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Thursday, August 26, 2010 : From Yellowstone to Twin Falls, Idaho

 

There's no way we can get bored by Yellowstone. So, before beginning our long trip back to San Francisco, we make yet another visit to the park.

 

Did we keep the best for the end ? Anyway, we begin this day with Old Faithful. Some people gossip about it growing older, but less and less faithful. Short of expecting swiss-like clockwork accuracy, let's admit that producing a 100-ft high eruption every 62 minutes is not easily within any geyser's reach. We're struck by both delight and awe.


Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful

Old Faithful

 

We made perhaps 20 pictures, before, during and after the eruption. However, what they do not show are the four rows of benches in half-circle, close enough to see the show but far enough to avoid being sprayed by hot water. Old Faithful indeed attracts big crowds ! Despite the early morning time, the seats are almost all busy.

 

The eruption by itself is rather short, no more than two minutes, but it is really a great show.

 

Old Faithful is part of one of three geyser basins that we set aside for our last day here. Most giant geysers, including, precisely, the Giant, even more powerful but not as regular as Old Faithful, are here, at Upper Geyser Basin. As anywhere else in this country, parking lots are huge, so you can drive there without any worry.

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Yellowstone National Park, Upper Geyser Basin

Upper Geyser Basin

 

We walk a little further in between the various geysers of the Upper Basin. This picture pretty well shows that the edges of the geyser are actually only a thin crust of rock, on which humans should set foot at no price, unless they are absolutely willing to get boiled, hence the pervasive woodbridges that can be seen on the right edge of the picture.

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Yellowstone National Park, Upper Geyser Basin, Green Spring

Upper Geyser Basin, Green Spring

A little further, Green Spring is not very active, just a few fumes. That being said, trees and its own depth give it those lovely green reflections that can be seen on the right side, hence its name.

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Yellowstone National Park, Black Sand Basin, Emerald Pool

Black Sand Basin, Emerald Pool

 

After Upper Geyser Basin, we make a rather long stop at Black Sand Basin, which owes its name to the volcanic ashes that cover a large part of the ground. This basin is crossed in less than an hour's walk, and the time to see such wonders is really worthwhile. We have been well-inspired to keep some time for a last visit, without too much pressure on our schedule.

 

Emerald Pool, shown on the picture, is getting covered with a thin colored crust which, here again, has a bacterial origin.

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Yellowstone National Park, Black Sand Basin, Cliff Geyser

Black Sand Basin, Cliff Geyser

 

As you can see, Cliff Geyser is very close to the road. In other words, walks are short, and trekking will have to wait. Considering the size and riches of this park, this should be possible.

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Yellowstone National Park, Black Sand Basin, Sunset Lake

Black Sand Basin, Sunset Lake

 

Still at Sand Basin, we walk around this boiling water lake, with orange shades on only one side, hence its name of Sunset Lake.

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Yellowstone National Park, Midway Geyser Basin

Midway Geyser Basin

 

As can be seen on this picture, there are geyser eruptions outside Upper Geyser Basin. This one is about 15 ft high.

 

The foothill that can be seen behind the geyser is most likely the edge of the caldeira left after the last eruption. This caldeira is about 40 by 25 miles, which is about the size of Los Angeles. This gives a small idea of the power of the last eruption and, possibly, of the next one, which obviously no one knows when it will happen.

 

The grey tree trunks that you can see are the last remnants of the great fire that burned down 1/3 of Yellowstone in 1988. Since nature is not short on resources, other trees are growing back. The National Park Service took that opportunity to revamp its probably obsolete firefighting policy. Today, it is out of question to let a fire of whatever importance burn under control, precisely because it can run out of control, which is exactly what happened in 1988.

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Yellowstone National Park, Midway Geyser Basin, Excelsior Geyser Crater

Midway Geyser Basin, Excelsior Geyser Crater

 

Excelsior Geyser Crater is the by-product of a collapse. On the left edge of the picture, you can see the traces left by the crumbled rock crusts, a good 6 feet above the present water level. Most likely, the rock crusts collapsed under their own weight.

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Yellowstone National Park, Midway Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic Spring

Midway Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic Spring

 

Some geysers may be very deep, other are just shallow ponds, like this one. Only the center is slightly deeper.

 

Let's admire the spectacular bright orange and turquoise shades.

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Yellowstone National Park, Midway Geyser Basin, Turquoise Pool

Midway Geyser Basin, Turquoise Pool

 

Still in Midway Geyser Basin, Turquoise Pool is a wide pond, mostly likely quite deep, of a uniform blue. We do not see them on the picture, but a few vapor fumes flow up from the surface.

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Yellowstone National Park, Midway Geyser Basin, Turquoise Pool

The water of the Midway Geyser Basin overflows into the Firehole River

 

All that water flowing from the bowels of Earth has to escape somewhere. As we can see, it flows directly into the Firehole River. I let you imagine the heat and acidity of this river. I did not check.

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  Yellowstone National Park, Firehole Spring

Firehole Spring

 

We are now at Lower Geyser Basin, the last significant one. This spring, Firehole Spring, owes its name to the orange shades, the color of fire, on the side where water escapes.

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Yellowstone National Park, Firehole Spring

Surprise Pool

 

Surprise Pool owes its name to the fact that it is almost shut by the rocky crusts that formed on its surface. We can't see inside, and we have no idea of its depth. This is the surprise !

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Yellowstone National Park, White Dome Geyser

White Dome Geyser

 

Slightly remote, White Dome Geyser emits, at the time of our visit, only thin white fumes. This hill is nevertheless the product of mineral accumulation during the lifetime of this geyser.

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Yellowstone National Park, Clepsydra Geyser

Clepsydra Geyser

 

This is Clepsydra Geyser. Whether it has been named after its waterclock accuracy or simply after its natural elegance is not known. Whatever the reason, it deserves its name. Its eruption, while we were visiting, was gorgeous !

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Yellowstone National Park, Fountain Paint Pot

Fountain Paint Pot

 

When gases exhaled by a geyser are not powerful enough to move mountains of water, like Old Faithful, sometimes hot water mixes with rock into this boiling mud. This witch's cauldron, in front of us, owes its name to the pastel shades of the various surrounding rocks melt into mud.

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Yellowstone National Park, Silex Spring

Silex Spring

 

Silex Spring is a simple hole in the rock, seemingly quite deep. Let's also notice the shades, turquoise on the bottom and orange on the sides.

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Yellowstone National Park, herbivores busy drinking

Friendly picnic companions

 

We picnic a little further, next to a river where those quiet herbivores are refreshing, absolutely undisturbed by visitors. It looks like we are part of their landscape.

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Near West Yellowstone, entrance of the Diamond P Ranch

The entrance of Diamond P Ranch, offering horseback riding near West Yellowstone

 

Early in the afternoon, we finally leave Yellowstone. Soon after, we cross the entrance of the Diamond P Ranch, which, I will learn when doing the research for this site, is one of the most famous providers of horseback riding in the area. We just meant to show the wooden frame above the road and the mailbox beside it. The ranch itself is at the end of the road, 1/4 mi. away from the main highway. The Cadillac parked on the side looks genuine, but the cowgirl leaning on it is a dummy.

 

Later on, the Interstate follows a prairie fire for a few miles. Whether it is spontaneous or man-made, we cannot tell. Flames are getting closer to the highway without quite reaching it, which is better.

 

Later in the afternoon, we are getting a bit frightened by our car's tank quickly decreasing gas level. And there is still no gas station in sight, which is pretty odd in this country. Looking for one off the highway, we find a ghost station. Back on the highway, I drive very slowly, expecting to run out of gas anytime. Whe we reach the Chevron station at Declo, only 7 mi. are remaining in the tank. it was high time !

 

We finally make it to Twin Falls or, more precisely, Jerome, Idaho, a sort of unfinished industrial project in the middle of nowhere. We are surprised that a hotel has been opened in an area with so little activity. The picture of the Star-Spangled Banner in the welcome page of this site was taken here. This is out stopover tonight.

 

During our dinner at Subway's, I get a call from my good friend Alfredo, who lives about 60 mi. from here. But he got my message too late, and we will not be able to meet. Too bad ... one more reason to come back.

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