Saturday, September 22, 2012

On Way to Niagara

We didn't make too many stops on our way to Niagara Falls last week, but we did have a fun drive.  We headed north out of Cincinnati towards Lake Erie.  As we drove through the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio we got to drive by the lake for much of the day, though we only caught a few glimpses from the roads we were on.

One of my goals was to see all of the Great Lakes on our trip and we almost made it.  We saw the four smaller ones, but when it came to Superior we only saw the St. Mary's River between Superior and Huron as I forgot to drive out to the lake itself when we visited Sault Ste. Marie.

We also stopped at a rest area in Pennsylvania (that is where the beautiful shaded view above is from).  We passed through more states this day as we went through Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

After our experience facing many tolls going into Chicago we decided to avoid the tolls that were along the route.  This meant that we exited the interstate shortly before entering New York and drove along backroads for a while.  It was worth it for some of the neat sights that we saw like this old bank building.

We camped on Grand Island, which was between Buffalo and Niagara Falls.  It was a nice little island, the only slight issue being the $1 toll every time you drove over this bridge onto the island.

The campground was virtually empty as we were there after Labor Day when the season really ended.  It made for some quiet nights though.

The next morning we got up and drove to Niagara Falls State Park.  The first thing we noticed was that not only were there plenty of parking spaces, but we got to park right next to all of the park police cars--so I felt like our car was quite safe.

In the next post I'll show more of the sights we saw on Goat Island.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Firehole Lake Drive - Part II

After driving past White Dome Geyser we came to another dome, the Pink Cone Geyser.  This one has a particularly interesting history as it was apparently paved over in the 1930s, but "this seems to have had little effect on the geyser's performance."

No record of Pink Cone erupting exists until 1887.  from 1889 to 1936, it seemed to be dormant; then for the next 23 years, it erupted approximately every two days.  After the Hebgen Lake EArthquake in 1959, its intervals were as short as 50 minutes with eruptions of similar duration.  Through the years, the time between eruptions has increased to approximately 20 hours; the duration is about 100 minutes; and it erupts up to 30 feet (9 m). 
Small amounts of manganese oxide cause Pink Cone's color.  This mineral also comprises many of the brown, gray, or black deposits.
--from NPS Fountain Paint Pot Area Trail Guide
We didn't see any eruption from Pink Cone, but I think that is it off in the distance under the steam.

But when we drove on to the next parking area we found that part of it was under construction.  The boardwalk out to Firehole lake was being rebuilt.

Thankfully I could still walk out towards Hot Lake.

Steady Geyser was the first thing I saw along the path.

As you can see the geyser was somewhat active.

As you can see there was quite a bit of steam coming off the waters--Hot Lake truly lived up to its name.  I felt like I was walking through an alien landscape.

Right before getting to the lake I saw the Hot Cascades, mini-rapids of hot water, tumbling towards the lake.

Hot Lake itself wasn't the easiest thing to photograph because of the steam.

On the walk back the path disappeared from view at least once.

Then I saw Black Warrior Lake (or where it was supposed to be).

And there was some neat growth (lichen?) on the rocky ground.

You can see all of the drive pictures in this album:


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Firehole Lake Drive - Part I

After leaving the Fountain Paint Pot trail area it was a short drive over to the start of the Firehole Lake Drive.  It is "a 2-mile (3 km) drive that passes geysers, hot lakes, hot springs--even a hot cascade."

It was a nice drive, with several places where you could park and get out of your car to look around at various points of interest.  The only bad thing was a van full of teenagers that let out at one stop while we were there.  The (I can't think of a polite way to describe them) kids decided that they needed to urinate, so they walked out well off the trail to go into the bushes.  In the process they walked very near to a thermal feature (something many, many, many signs in the park warn against).  It is because of idiots like them that people are injured and certain things are ruined for other visitors.

The first thing we saw was the Firehole Spring which was apparently named for "the large bubbles [that] looked like flashes of light" according to early explorers.

I'm not sure if the steam blowing over the water was a normal lever or if it was exacerbated by the cool air.

I was more impressed by Surprise Pool.

The edges were bubbling.

You can see the bubbles rather well here:

The Fountain Geyser is apparently one of the predictable geysers, but we hit it at a bad time before the prediction had been updated for the new day.

Still as the guide says whether the geyser "is in eruption or not, you will see why the early explorers were so enthusiastic about this geyser's beauty."

The White Dome Geyser is thought to have been erupting for hundreds of years due to the size of the cone.
From such an enormous cone one might expect enormous eruptions.  However, its narrow vent has been nearly sealed off with sinter deposits.  Eruptions reach a height of approximately 30 feet (9 m)--the height of the entire cone.  The eruption lasts about two minutes before gradually changing into spray and steam.  Intervals between eruptions are usually 30-35 minutes, but may be as long as 3 hours.
--from NPS Fountain Paint Pot Area Trail Guide
If you look closely you can see signs of much of the buildup.

In the next Yellowstone post you'll learn more about Hot Lake and the feature the whole drive is named after--Firehole Lake.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fountain Paint Pots - Part II

Distant hills and mountains comprise a volcanic tableland... 
Yellowstone is one of the few places in the world where geysers occur.  The essential for geysers and hot springs exist here.  Snow and rain provide water, heat from deep in the earth warms the rock and water above it, and fractures in the rock provide the "plumbing" through which the water circulates.
A geyser's channels have constrictions that prevent the water from circulating freely to the surface where the heat would escape.  Pressure builds.  Steam rises and is trapped by the constrictions and overlying cooler water.  At a critical point the confined steam actually lifts the cooler water and causes the geyser to overflow or splash.  Pressure release continues, more steam rises and forces water out of the vent.  The eruption begins. 
--from the NPS Fountain Paint Pot Area Trail Guide
I think I have all of the geysers below correctly labeled, but I'm not completely sure.

The first geyser we came to was Jet Geyser which apparently erupts every few minutes.

It wasn't the most active geyser we saw, but wasn't completely silent either.  I think this video is of Jet from later on when we were looking at it from the other side.

Fountain Geyser was next which "is one of the most impressive geysers in the park.  Eruptions reach 20-50 feet..."  We didn't get to see an actual eruption, and it appeared to be empty as the guide said it often was in between eruptions.

Spasm Geyser wasn't too impressive, but did have a constant pool of water (and I'm sure I got the name right on this one, ;-)).

But Clepsydra Geyser was quite impressive, even from a distance.

Pictures turned out rather well too.

And a video closer was even more impressive.

You can see all of the pictures from the Fountain Paint Pots in this album:


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fountain Paint Pots - Part I

As we were heading south we stopped at the Fountain Paint Pots.  They're part of the Lower Geyser Basin, which is north of the Midway and Upper Geyser Basins, between Old Faithful and Madison.

According to the area guide pamphlet you can see "the four types of hydrothermal features: geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles."  In addition a rather famous creature, the bacteria Thermus aquaticus, "the thermophile organism that revolutionized DNA processes, was discovered in this area."

As we left the parking lot we started walking on a boardwalk.  It was interesting to see how it was laid down directly over some features (like the mats below) and flows of water in some places.

We came across some bacterial mats pretty quickly.  I still think the vast array of life to be found in these seemingly hostile conditions is amazing.

At Silex Spring, consider how this hot water arrived at the surface.  Deep beneath your feet, heat from partially molten rock beneath the surface is transmitted up through the earth's crust.  Ground water circulating through these rocks becomes heated and follows cracks upward.  Where the hot water can escape at the surface, a hot spring forms.
 Silex is Latin for silica, the major component of rhyolite, the primary volcanic rock in Yellowstone.  Hot water dissolves silica, which precipitates as siliceous sinter along the bottom of the spring and in runoff channels.
--from the NPS Fountain Paint Pot Area Trail Guide
These are some of the most amazing features, bubbling pots of mud.
We caught them at a decent season when they weren't too thick, but weren't too thin.

I really enjoy watching the bubbles of mud form:

Here you can get an even closer look:

Next we saw a fumarole spouting steam into the chill air.

It was wetter than most fumaroles--but most features change with the seasons.

The Red Spouter had quite a bit of roiling water, not too far beyond the fumarole above.
Red Spouter, which originated with the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, exhibits the behavior of all four thermal features.  In the spring and early summer it is a muddy hot spring that may seem like a geyser as it splashes reddish water several feet high.  As the water table lowers in late summer and fall, Red Spouter seems more like a big mudpot, and then a hissing fumarole.
--from the NPS Fountain Paint Pot Area Trail Guide

Tomorrow we'll continue along the boardwalk to the area's geysers.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Firehole Falls

The Firehole Falls are one of the very many waterfalls that we saw in Yellowstone. I feel like we saw at least one different waterfall each day, and some days it was more than one.  I knew there were geysers, I knew there were large animals, but I'd either forgotten or not known that there were so many waterfalls in Yellowstone.

We came across this one as we were driving south.  I think that it was along another turn off, similar to the one where we discovered the Virginia Cascades--but it was definitely higher than that particular water feature.

The road was alongside a rocky cliff, just like the cascades.

After we drove by I think we saw that there was a swimming hole nearby--but it was close when we drove past (and was quite cold).  Needless to say I wouldn't try swimming anywhere near these rapids.

I think it could be interesting to see how far that depression goes.  I could imagine a story where the hero tumbles down the falls and then rests their battered body in that small sheltering alcove.

The rocks are quite fascinating.  I really enjoy the different textures visible as you look up and down.

I wonder where these trees came from and what kind of story they would tell if you knew.  How far have they floated down the river?

However, you didn't read this just for the pictures, did you?  You want to see a video too.  I'd be happy to oblige:


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Afternoon by the Lake

We're staying at a cousin's lake house/cabin for a couple days. Originally we were going to camp at Mackinaw (on the mainland), but they offered to let us stay here. Amy urged my to accept, and we did so. We arrived this afternoon, shortly before my relatives left--so we got to visit with them for a bit.
After that we spent some time relaxing and reading.

Then Amy asked to go out on the canoe, after she reminded me that she had never been in a canoe before.

So we pushed off and she got the hang of paddling rather quickly. The sun was going down and the woods made for some beautiful pictures.

It was very peaceful drifting along in the boat...

PS Now we're enjoying the remnants of a small campfire after we roasted several s'mores.
-- Posted from my iPhone
(c) 2012 iWolff Ltd.

Location:N Shore Dr,Kalkaska,United States

Bison on the Road

On our way south towards the Lower Geyser Basin we saw some bison, and as we weren't yet immune to their charms I took some pictures.  We actually saw quite a few of them in a meadow alongside the road.

It had been somewhat cold the night before and we had actually gotten snow (I'll post later about our night camping in the snow).  In fact in some of the pictures and the video here you can see that some snow was still falling.  This guy for example didn't look too happy, but his horns are quite impressive.

As they did elsewhere the bison crossed the road with impunity.

They knew that nobody was going to mess with them.

Amy especially enjoyed the young, finding them very cute.

Below you can see all of these animals and the snow that was blowing around them.