Sunday, July 30, 2023

Yellowstone: Fountain Paint Pots, Black Sand Basin, Emerald Pool, and things (June 21: coauthored by Benjamin and Mom)

On Tuesday night (June 20) we slept in Rexburg, a city in Idaho, at the AmericInn where I slept on a couch. The next day we had a two hour drive to Yellowstone. It took us a long time to get to the entrance gate, but once we got inside the park things were smooth sailing. 

We started to drive a twisting mountain road. A few moments later we saw steam rising off of the hills. 

Mom said we should probably pull over to explore, so we drove down the road to investigate and stopped at a parking lot next to a trailhead. 

It's a good thing we did because we'd found the Fountain Paint Pots! We all got out of the car and started to walk down the boardwalk. We came to a sign that said warning unstable ground! Stay on the trail! 

So we stayed on the trail close to the end of the trail. If you go off the trail you could be seriously injured by a blast of steam or something. Everyone thought the boy on this sign looked like me, but I would never step off the trail by a geyser!

Most of the trees near the geyser are dead and you can see the base of the trunks are very white. This is because the trees soak up the mineral-rich waters, which then clogs their vascular system. For example, one mineral that is abundant is calcium carbonate. Once that solidifies, the tree can no longer move nutrients from the ground up to its leaves and it dies. 

I think that's kind of the same thing as how humans get kidney stones or gallbladder stones. Too much calcium (for your kidneys) or other stuff (for your gallbladder) builds up and then you have trouble moving things in and out of those organs. 

It was crazy to see the steam just piping up from the ground.

Here's Alexander...he wasn't feeling very well this day, but thought it was the steam making him sick:

Just look at how amazing these views are!

Pretty incredible, if you ask me!

I think it's pretty funny that we were all really excited about being here, while Alexander is just standing by himself wishing we could leave. Poor little guy. He was so sick! But we didn't know that, and there were so many cool things to see, so we just kept dragging him along.

Here you can see some minerals and bacteria and things starting to crystalize by the edge of the pool:

These mud pots were rather interesting to watch—boiling mud! 

One of my favourite parts, though, was the Red Spouter. You could literally hear it frothing and gurgling out of the ground. Sometimes it would come out in a big spray! This formation was made during the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake, so it's a relatively new place to visit, geologically-speaking—only one year older than our grandpa! 

Here we are walking along the trail...

And here's a big puff of steam blowing toward Phoebe, Dad, and Grandpa:

Phoebe liked it!

Alex didn't like the steam coming near him at all. 

Here's Zoë by Leather Pool (I think—it was one of the pools right by the road):

Here are some more views of all the vents and things in this area:

The fountains were pretty cool. This one looks like a rainbow with the blues and the yellows:

We saw a giant herd of bison in the distance. I kind of had a wide mouth drop and after that I had mom take a picture of me with the bison in the background.

Bison are so cool (and I got to see so many on this trip, between Yellowstone and Antelope Island)!

Mom was impressed that these flowers were trying to grow here where the landscape seems so dangerous:

 After that we went back to the parking lot to drive to the Old Faithful.  

On the way there we saw another point of interest—The Black Sand Basin, I think it was called. 

Mom just saw it from the side of the road and said, "Let's stop! We won't be driving back this way after we see Old Faithful and who knows what there is to see after!"

So we stopped. It was so pretty!

We walked around on the boardwalk and walked literally on on top of the boiling water! 

Mom was afraid to even let Phoebe down because she was afraid Phoebe would crawl through the fence or something, so Phoebe got carried a lot.

She is kind of a crazy baby sometimes, so Mom's fears were justified.

As we walked around we saw so much bison poop and it was so close to the geysers so we joked that maybe the bison had “the most dangerous poop” contest the person who survives… wins! We saw so much poop and so many hoof prints! Right by the edge of the pools, even! It makes me wonder if buffalo ever get burned by the hot springs and things.

Sometimes even the bison are overwhelmed by (and die from!) concentrations of gasses from the springs, but I don't know that they ever fall in. Here's a video I found on YouTube of a bison standing in water from a hot spring:

It seems like if they're big enough to break the board walk...they're big enough to break through the unstable ground, but perhaps they have a good sense of where and where not to step...except for that one board...

Please note that this is not me giving you permission to ignore the signs telling you to stay on the path. As a Junior Ranger, I insist that you do stay on the path! I just think it's amazing that a bison can just get that close to a hot spring to poop!

Here are some more pictures of this area:

There were some pretty cool geysers here, and the ground was so colourful!

Here's a picture of everyone (except Dad) on the boardwalk that goes right over boiling hot water!

Here's a picture of Dad:

And here's a picture of Dad and Mom together:

Here's Miriam:

And here's what might be my favourite picture of all—Phoebe picking her nose!

After that we drove to Old Faithful. Mom said that even if something looked interesting we had to just drive right on past it because we were running out of time and needed to get to Old Faithful. But when we finally got there we could not find any parking anywhere! I was in Grandpa's car and we were lucky enough to be right there when someone left their parking spot and we swooped in to catch it. But the other car drove around and around forever!

Finally, Dad drove by us and said, "Stay there!" 

So we did!

But they still couldn't find a place to park, so eventually he stopped the car and let out Mom and Miriam and Phoebe and Alexander (who had some medicine and a nap in the car and was feeling a little bit better) so that they could come find us while Dad kept looking for a place to park.

But they didn't!

They went to the visitor's center to get some junior ranger books (because Dad dropped them right off at the visitor's center) and they saw a sign that said Old Faithful would be erupting in about two minutes! 

So Mom said, "I don't know where everyone else is or how to find them, but...if we want to see Old Faithful erupt we have to go now! Maybe we'll find everyone else there!"

But they didn't, because we were still staying where Dad said to stay (though we did visit the ranger kiosk to get junior ranger books for everyone)!

Miriam filmed the whole eruption (maybe she'll add a video some day; if not, you can see a video of Old Faithful erupting on the National Park website or just anywhere on YouTube or whatever).

The geyser was already steaming quite a bit when Mom and the other kids walked out to the viewing platform:

And then it started erupting just as soon as they got there, pretty much!

Here's unhappy Alexander with Old Faithful behind him:

And here's a very cheerful Phoebe with Old Faithful behind her (she was much more interested in the rocks on the side of the trail):

Here's Mom and Phoebe with Old Faithful erupting behind them:

When Old Faithful was winding down, Mom had to make a plan to try to find everyone. We didn't have any reception on our phones so we had to find each other old school style!

Mom said the best thing to do was for her to just sit in front of Old Faithful with Phoebe and Alexander. First of all, Alexander wasn't feeling well and he needed to work on his Junior Ranger booklet, so sitting in one place was a good idea. Second of all, it's an obvious place to look for them—right in front of the major of majorest attractions in the area!

So Mom picked a bench right in front of the geyser. And then she sent Miriam out looking for me, Rachel, Zoë, and Grandpa. Miriam is old enough and responsible enough to wander up and down the boardwalk by herself, and she knew right where Mom was, so if she didn't find anyone else she could always make her way back to Mom.

Meanwhile, Grandpa came up with about the same plan. He stood in one place with me and Zoë and sent Rachel milling around looking for Mom and everybody.

In the end, Miriam, Rachel, and Dad (who had finally managed to park the van) all ended up meeting at a T-intersection of the boardwalk! It was pretty funny! There was a lot of, "We were just right over there!" and "We were standing right here the whole time!" We had all been so close to each other the whole time! But there were so many people there we just didn't notice each other.

No one else (except Mom, Miriam, Alexander, and Phoebe) got to see Old Faithful erupt that day, but that's okay. After we found each other another geyser blew its top and it went for like three minutes non stop. 

Here's evidence on how tired Alexander was feeling:

We joked “that's more faithful than the old faithful!” because of how long that geyser erupted for! After the geyser we finished our junior ranger books.

Here we are working hard on our booklets—that we each had two copies of because we had grabbed books for everyone we thought might want one and they had grabbed books for everyone that might want one:

It's good to know that we're thinking of each other!

As one of our activities we needed to listen to a ranger lecture:

She told us all about bison horns.

Bison are so cool! The bulls (boys) have huge horns that stick out straight so that they can fight other bulls for a mate. So I think that this bison we saw right on the side of the road must have been a male.

Not only were his horns straight, but he was all alone. The females tend to travel together in a herd with their babies, while males can be kind of loners.

The females, however, can have crazy horns up and down spiral and straight because they do not need to fight. They can have the most elaborate horns in the world, which I think would be cool to have. 

We also saw some elk while we were in Yellowstone. I love their antlers. In my opinion, they are the most impressive because the antlers are spiked and branch off in different directions, which is so mesmerizing. We saw two of them a girl and a boy we drove by the girl first (the one without horns) then 5 minutes later the boy showed up and stared at us and it was slightly unsettling but also so cool. Elk do not have horns; they actually have antlers, which fall off and regrow, while horns do not fall off in early spring. The horns are actually part of the skeletal system, so they're attached to the skull of the bison by bone. But antlers can be shed. 

Did you know that porcupines (and other rodents) will eat antler sheds? That is so mind boggling! I mean, it might be a good source of protein but it is still very weird. And no wonder I never find any animal sheds lying around—they must have been eaten by porcupines.

Another thing I learned (at Mount Rushmore, not at Yellowstone) was that sometimes it can be illegal to scavenge for animal sheds, so you have to make sure you're not breaking rules by taking them. Especially in a national park, it would not be allowed to collect sheds. The ranger that I interviewed told a story about how he found some antlers once when he was camping with his family, so he thought he would just take them home—how neat would that be?!—but some other campers saw him and reported him to the park rangers, who came to visit him at his campsite and told him that it wasn't allowed. 

So you have to always check the rules! Another thing that a lot of people forget is to stay away from wildlife. They get close to the babies to take pictures and sometimes they get attacked. This is very dangerous! I know that the park website says to stay away from animal, but I am warning you again. Just earlier last week two people were gored by bison from just standing to close (we did not get to close and get gored, just so you know that we were safe) but we did admire the bison from a distance (and only took those close pictures as we were driving past in our car, without stopping at all).

Anyway, I got the Yellowstone Junior Ranger badge and that badge was my fifteenth badge, which is so cool (still have way more to go—there's like 485 of them)! 

Here we are by the Old Faithful sign:

And here's Phoebe playing with a rock (actually a piece of asphalt) while we were waiting to be picked up by Dad and Grandpa, who had gone to get the cars. They thought it might be better that way, just so we didn't all get lost again!

Phoebe's hair was so wild from sitting in her car seat. Hahaha!

The drive out of the park was pretty cool! We drove all along Yellowstone Lake (which is ginormous). It's all inside the Yellowstone Caldera—which is like the belly of the supervolcano! Sometimes it was hard to believe that we were just driving through a volcano because it was so beautiful—and snowy!

But other times it really felt like a when we saw steam just rising up out of the ground...

Or when all the trees were sticking up all over the hillside like spindly matches:

It's a very unique, very captivating drive:

We had so much fun in Yellowstone! I hope that one day we can go again and spend more time doing some hikes and things!

(If you want to read about the 2011 trip to Yellowstone, here's a link to that. Apparently that year Grandma bought a Yellowstone t-shirt to wrap around Rachel's legs because she was complaining about being cold. Honestly, I think Grandma probably wanted to buy a t-shirt, anyway... I think that one of the girls actually uses that t-shirt as a pyjama top now!)

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