Day 29 – July 7, 2016
Mileage – 79,794
Hiked – 3 miles
Our goal for the day is to explore Yellowstone. To start we need to address where we are going to stay and Yellowstone is infamous for crowds and full campgrounds. Staying outside the park promises at least an hour-long drive to go back in and that doesn’t take into account the line at the park entrance. Wake up earlier – put girls in seats – drive to Yellowstone. So we wake up early, 6:00am, and hit the road within 15 minutes simply pulling the girls sleeping bags an all out of their overhead space and plunking them still slumbering into their seats.
The drive is picturesque, rolling hills and steams punctuated by flat open grassland with mountains off in the distance. Meadows are dotted with deer and pronghorn. One eerie section of the road Known as Night of Terror (yes really) denotes the aftermath of an earthquake as it rumbled through a canyon carved by a mountain stream. This high magnitude earthquake cased landslides to shower down burying unsuspecting campers and quickly blocked the river resulting in unprecedented flooding full with debris. Few people in the overflowing camping area survived. Road and bridges for miles were destroyed isolating surrounding communities. A new lake was formed. The interpretive signs are a good reminder of the power and lack of predictability of nature.
We travel on to Yellowstone with renewed commitment to stay on the trails and be mindful of wildlife. And the lines start… lines to get into the park, lines to check campsite availability… a good reminder to be patient and upbeat. The first campground is full. The second is to the north committing us to exploring the north loop on day 1 (today). We feel lucky to get a site in the park, others later in the day won’t get this opportunity, as the camp hosts ensure to tell all campers to reject requests to share sites.
Traveling north our first stop is Mammoth Hot Springs. A tour bus shows up at the same time (a small one we later learn). The advantage here is that we can tagalong at the back and listen to how the area is formed with heated and acidified water coming toward the earth as hot springs. As the water travels it acidifies with the calcium it picks up along the way allowing it to break down and penetrate further. Spring out of the earth, it cools on the surface and the minerals it picked up along the way are deposited and begin to form rock which can grow at a rate of 24 inches per year (that’s compared to 1 incher per 1000 years found in stalactites and stalagmites in caves). Depositing minerals also narrow and block channels so the water is constantly rerouting and springing up in new spots.
We see from the hot spring in the middle of the parking lot that this ever changing environment poses some unique challenges for the National Park Service, their infrastructures, walkways, roads, etc. has to be flexible and moves often. It also poses danger to visitors who stray off paths and break through the crust stepping into boiling acidic water.
Interesting in the pools here are the colors caused by micro-organisms that live at varying temperature ranges and PH found in different parts of the pools (blue and red). These microorganisms may give scientists insight into life on other planets such as Mars. We explore the flowing pools and deposits some remarkably in similar to things we saw in Oregon Caves.
From here we head toward Tower Falls keeping our speeds low along the way to see wildlife including elk, deer, bison and a black bear. Were there is a bear in a populated park, there is a bear jam traffic grinds to a halt. We stop to see a petrified tree and venture down a 6-mile dirt road to see vistas from a high plateau
We stop briefly at Tower Falls then drive around to the Canyon. Folks are tired by the time we arrive at the Canyon (near 6:45pm) so instead of exploring we head to a ranger program at Norris Campground, learning about antlers and horns. Jenney prepares dinner during the program and we eat at Norris campground.
From there we head back to the campground stopping at roaring mountain to see the steam rise in the cooler night temperatures. We arrive for the night after 9pm and the girls are quickly asleep. Jenney curious about how far we have hiked pulls the dates and mileage from the blog and collect trail maps. Without wifi we can’t map the city walks, but without San Francisco and Seattle the total is more than 88 miles. As time goes and confidence builds it’s also obvious that hikes are trending longer, initially starting in the first part of the trip at 2-4 miles climbing to near 7 with the infamous Yosemite day at 10. Maybe that’s a new measure to track.