I woke this morning before daybreak. And although I had another busy day planned I couldn’t help but stop and take some time just to admire another gorgeous sunrise while listening to elk bugling in the valley below. How is it that something that happens everyday never gets old or insignificant? And all we have to do is slow down long enough to notice and appreciate it.
So Yellowstone basically has two “loops” (see map below). I drove the northern loop yesterday. So of course my objective for today was the southern loop. My first stop this morning was the Norris Basin on the west side of Yellowstone.
The Norris Basin (Images) is the hottest of the hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone. It has many different and interesting formations and also has the geyser with the highest eruption in the park (no it is not Old Faithful) called the Steamboat Geyser. And I believe the Norris Basin also holds another distinction in the park….the most visitor deaths! In his 1995 book “Death in Yellowstone”, park historical archivist Lee H. Whittlesey identified 19 human fatalities (Deaths) from falling into thermal features (not all 19 were in the Norris Basin). The most recent was June 2016 when a 23 year man from Portland Oregon (Colin Nathaniel Scott) left the designated trail and fell into a thermal feature (Denver Post) while bending over to touch the water….yikes! NOTE: if you saw the picture of the PH from my last post (Yellowstone – Day 16) many of the thermal features in Yellowstone are one step from battery acid! So if you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone it’s not only the bears you have to look out for.
After Norris Basin I stopped at a few other thermal areas like Artist Paintpot, Fountain Paint Pot and Biscuit Basin just to name a few. The two things that stood out to me the most were the amazing colors and the clarity of the water. It’s really something to experience.
My next, somewhat reluctant, stop was Old Faithful. I say reluctant because, as expected, it is always the most crowded and difficult place to get into and around and while I had been to Old Faithful before I felt that I had to stop since I was driving right by it. So as the name implies there is a certain predictability and schedule to the eruptions but it’s not exact. So they have benches sitting a long way around it where people can sit, and wait, for Old Faithful to do it’s thing. Now, as most of you know, I’m not one to just sit and wait :-). So I blew past the “waiting area” and headed up the hill to get a bird’s eye view. As with most climbs this significantly cut down on the number of people, although there were a few brave souls sitting at the top waiting for the next eruption. I took a few pictures and headed back down. When I reached the bottom, and the backside of the viewing area, Old Faithful did his….her….its thing! While I would love to be able to say that it was amazing, incredible and even life changing, alas, while it is pretty cool it’s not very dramatic or life changing….sorry. 😉 But it definitely is something you should take the time to see if you find yourself in Yellowstone.
By the time I left Old Faithful I was totally “jonesing” for a hike. I looked for a hike in the area that would provide some climbing, provide a good view at the summit and that was off the beaten trail. After doing some quick reading I decided to do the “Divide Lookout Trail”. It is named the “divide” trail because it is situated on the Continental Divide (more on that below). When I got to the trailhead there was one other car…so I’m thinking, “ok, criteria #3 satisfied”. I grabbed my daypack gear and headed out. Now, I do have to admit that I did have a little hesitation when I got to the signs at the trailhead. They were pretty insistent on making you aware of the bear activity in this area and while I never worry about black bears on the east coast, western grizzlies are a completely different story. So armed with my Frontiersman Bear Spray and a keen attention to everything around me I headed in.
It was a nice trail and I met a couple (I assume the other car) within the first 1/2 mile or so. They said they hadn’t seen any bears but did see prints and scat. Now, they say the worst thing you can do while in the woods is to “surprise” a bear. That’s when (they say) most bear related issues occur. So, one of the things they tell you while hiking in bear country is to make a lot of noise frequently….of course they also tell you to hike it groups of 3 or more but hey, what can you do. Since I can’t manufacture hiking “buddies” (3 or more) I try to hedge my odds by making noise as I hike. So about every 1-2 minutes I yell out loudly, “Hey Bear!”. A funny thought I had during this hike was, if I was a bear I’d be way more angry about some stupid human walking through the woods yelling, “Hey Bear!” every minute than being surprised by one. But hey, I’m not a bear so what do I know. So I hiked along for an hour or so yelling “Hey Bear!” in the hopes that I would not see any…at least not close. 🙂
The “view” that I read about was a view of Shoshone Lake. Shoshone lake is the largest back country lake in Yellowstone so I was excited to see it from above. During the hike I got a few tantalizing glimpses of it through the trees so as I hiked further and higher I was expecting a great view from the top….but unfortunately that didn’t happen. When I reached the top there was nothing be trees in every direction. I spent 5 minutes looking all over the top for another trail that might take me to yet another summit but there was none. I was soooo bummed and a little ticked! What’s going on here? This is trail false advertising. (ha ha). So reluctantly (I guess I did a couple of reluctant things today huh), I turned down hill and headed back feeling very dissatisfied and chipped. 🙂
About halfway down I noticed the bright orange trail markers. I had seen them on the way up but didn’t really pay a lot of attention but this particular one stood out to me. Now, it’s the only trail in the area and (at this point anyway) it basically looked like a two lane highway and I remember thinking, “if you need a bright orange trail marker to stay on this trail you probably should not be in the wood”. ha ha
When I made it back to my car I continued a little way up the mountain through Craig Pass and passed the “official” continental divide sign as well as a beautiful, and unknown to me, unique little lake. Isa Lake has the distinction of being the only natural lake in the world that drains into both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Pretty cool for a little lake in a little pass. You just never know what cool and interesting things you’re going to come across when you get out and explore. 🙂
My last stop of the day was at the West Thumb Geyser Basin in the West Thumb area of Yellowstone. The cool thing about this basin is its location as it is located right on the shore of Yellowstone Lake. The one very interesting feature in this basin (for me) is the Abyss Pool. I’m not sure if it’s the deepest thermal pool in Yellowstone but if not it is certainly one of the deepest with a depth of 53′. And like most of the other pools the water is crystal clear so you can see all the way to the bottom and the colors are just crazy cool!
I left the West Thumb Geyser Basin and headed north toward the Lake Village (See Days 14,15 post) area to stay for the evening. On the way I stopped at a picnic area beside the lake to make some dinner. While I was eating dinner I took the time to admire and appreciate the magnificent sunset just as I had earlier today with the sunrise. The beauty of God’s creation is really all around us, all the time. And again, all we have to do is slow down long enough to notice and appreciate it.
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