Old Faithful and an "Old Boiler"

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Saturday, October 20, 2007

We made it into Yellowstone park - 2 days worth, day one may have been raining all day and day two snow - but the sun shone and although we never saw "Yogi", boy was it worth it.
Yellowstone park is actually what was left behind after a huge volcanic eruption and most of it is the crater (caldera) measuring something like 45 miles by 30 so it was quite a volcano.
Day one we explored the northern end, Mammoth to Cook City. Entering the park through the original entrance set up in 1872 we were soon in Wyoming and the first town - Mammoth to be met by a herd of Elk roaming and grazing everywhere we looked.

On the edge of town is our first sight of the hot springs dotted all over the park.

These are amazing, even in the rain, smelly but nice.
Taking the road east to Cook city we were soon climbing up past the snow line, it was raining but signs of snow that had fallen through the night were everywhere.  

We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife. The rain didn't matter any more as we found ourselves in amongst huge herds of buffalo,

these had been farmed in the park up until 1952 but now roam as free wild herds numbering over 3000. There was our first sighting of a golden eagle, up high in a tree and with the sun behind it but never the less, it was there, just the other side of the river from us.

There were more buffalo sometimes within touching distance, exciting and scary at the same time, they are huge. Betsy got so excited at videoing those crossing the road just a couple of yards in front of us that 2 seconds after starting the video she pressed start again which in fact stopped the video so we got the 2 seconds!

Cook City was covered in snow

and not what you would call a city, one street less than a mile end to end. As the road continued through "Beartooth Pass" and that was closed, we turned round and went back. The return journey seemed like a different place, the rain eased up and all the snow on our route had melted. We had a brilliant taster of the park and looked forward to day 2.

Saturday turned out to be snow instead of rain, Leo gave us an early Skype call to wish us happy anniversary (thanks for the reminder). So our first "celebration" of the day was a dip in the Gardiner River where it is joined by the Boiling River. Yes there is a river that "boils" - the emergence of one of the hot springs from Mammoth that runs for a few yards and then enters Gardiner River.

Approaching this phenomenon we caught sight of a few other people enjoying the experience. Stripping down to our bathers in the snow seemed a bit crazy and entering the cold waters that hid the slippery rock route round to the actual warm waters reinforced this craziness.

It's weird having your feet in cold your legs in warm and your hands in extremely hot water tumbling over the rocks you are using to balance as you make your way to the "sweet spots" that is where the hot joins with the cold and you can just about get an all over "pleasant".
We very quickly dried off and returned to "Scoobie" for a cup of tea, yes we had taken a flask of hot water and some tea bags to celebrate :). Continuing south back through Mammoth and on towards Old Faithful. We had many stops peering at the steam emerging from many fissures enhanced by the snowy landscape.

We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife, there were the buffalo (old hat by now) elk and deer lined our route, our eyes were so peeled they ached. It's funny, as you look so intently into the trees you start to lean forward, as if the extra foot from leaning back in your seat to leaning forward means you have a better chance of seeing things? We just couldn't help it, every 5 minutes or so we looked at each other then returned to a more normal, reclined posture only to be back hunched forward 5 minutes later - it's hard this eye peeling look out concentration. As we climbed higher the snow started to fall faster and the roads had a good white covering and at times we were the first tracks to be made in the snow. Before reaching Old Faithful, Betsy reckoned she had seen a wolf but even after turning round and "peeling, craning and looking" for all we were worth, he was no longer in sight - so I said "if we both hadn't seen it and there was no photograph, then it didn't count".
We made it in time for the 2:58 eruption of Old Faithful (seems like it's every 92 minutes this year). It was a very steamy affair as the outside temperature was quite low, personally I felt it wasn't that impressive but non the less "glad we came". The bonus about travelling at this time of year is that we don't have to contend with any crowds - goodness only knows what it must be like in the summer.

Our return journey, back the way we came, as our original circular tour was not possible due to many road closures. We stopped at the Artists Paintpots - boiling mud, more geysers and would you believe, a wolf! This time it did exist - we both saw it and a picture - even though it may have been a Coyote - we are willing to be corrected (if you know).

By now it was dark and our return home and feet up by the fire with a cup of tea was a very welcome end to our 34th anniversary - we must be getting old :).
To check out some of the excellent sights we saw with a very informative commentary, view the videos produced by the park rangers at this website: http://www.nps.gov/archive/yell/insideyellowstone/index.htm
We also have some video in the album.
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