An Afternoon Surprise

lunch of yummy berriesAnother afternoon Moose

The afternoon was waning so I left the little bear to his berries. I planned to continue checking for moose. There’s a swampy area right at the Moose Junction end of Moose-Wilson road. The parking area looks out over the bog. This is supposed to be a great spot for moose but so far I haven’t had any luck here. I pulled in to park for a bit but as the sun slid toward the horizon all was quiet. Time to wrap up for the day.

A Bit of Deja-Vu

Moose in the afternoonAt the end of Moose-Wilson Road I turned right past Moose Junction and the Visitor Center. Taking another right I was back on the main road to Jackson. I’d just passed the Jackson Hole Airport when I saw cars lining both sides of the road. Another critter jam. This time everyone was looking west toward the Teton range. The sun was angling right into my eyes. At first I couldn’t see what everyone was looking at because of the sun. Suddenly I got the angle right and I spotted it. It was another moose.

Moose watchingBull Moose

This was the same area where I saw the last moose but that time the moose was on the left side of the road. This time the road was above the marshy ground on the right side of the road. It looked a lot like the same moose. He was just as unconcerned as the other one too. This time instead of wandering along the side of the road he was meandering toward the road from across the large field. It was hard to get an angle where the sun wasn’t hitting the camera lens directly.

Here Comes Bullwinkle

Moose in the setting sun

As the big guy headed toward me I took as many pictures as I could. Since the field only had some streams and marsh I wasn’t going to get that iconic photo of a moose in a pond but I’ll take what I can get. For quite awhile it seemed Bullwinkle would head right at my car but when he was about half way across the field he changed directions. He was still heading for the road but now he was going to meet up with it way behind me. It was time to move on. My photo ops had passed.

 

Moose in the afternoon

Madison Junction to Gibbon Falls

Madison River joins the Gibbon River

At Madison Junction the road from the West Entrance joins the loop road. The Madison River also joins with the Gibbon River at this point. I continued on the Grand Loop to follow the Gibbon River

Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls

I saw the stone walls and walkways first. Photographers were set up with tripods, intent on something I couldn’t see. I was coming up on the parking area for Gibbon Falls. Gibbon Falls is not the highest or wildest waterfall in the park but it is really wide. The water flows in lacy ribbons over the gradual rock drop. From the parking lot you have a walk of about .2 miles to the southern end of the lookout. Along the way you enjoy different views of the falls and interpretive boards that describe what you are looking at. This is a very nice stop.

Gibbon Falls

You’re Looking at the rim of a Caldera

The Gibbon River flows along the rim of the Yellowstone Caldera. Gibbon Falls is where the river falls off the rim. Its mind boggling. The rim just looks like a mountain ridge but its the lip of a giant volcanic crater! 

over the caldera rim

A White Navigator

Returning to my car I met a couple who, like me had just trekked the length of the walkway. They were driving a large white Navigator and once again I wished I had an SUV instead of my little black Toyota. That would soon be a factor in my next Yellowstone adventure. Little did I know what was waiting for me just a few miles ahead as I followed my new acquaintances out of the parking lot. They turned right and so did I. They were on their way to Norris Junction. I planned to skip Norris today and start my swing back toward Jackson through the   Hayden Valley. I was hoping to start spotting some wildlife. All I can say is “Be Careful What You wish For!”

Jousting Bison

In the Cauldron Boiling and Bubbling

A Boiling, Bubbling Brew

stock photo

Apologizes to Shakespeare (and Macbeth), but boiling, bubbling cauldrons are what went through my mind at the Fountain Paint Pots Loop Trail. This area has it all, mud pots, geysers, hot springs and fumaroles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fountain Paint Pots Loop Trail

That’s a mouthful. Good thing the trail is shorter than the name. Its only about .5 miles to complete the whole loop. It does have a slight elevation of about 50 ft. Plus the trail is a well maintained boardwalk making the walking easy.

Celestine Pool

Celestine pool

It was pretty windy the day I was there and the wind had a real “bite” to it. As I started up the boardwalk I passed a large, quiet pool named the Celestine Pool.  Don’t be fooled by its tranquil, steaming surface. In 1981 a young man and his dog both died here. The dog jumped into the steaming waters and the young man followed to save it. Neither survived the scalding water.

I wandered along for a few more yards then decided to save the rest of the trail for a warmer day. The wind was blowing the clouds of steam away from me so I was getting the full force of the cold without the tempering of a steam cloud. Sadly I didn’t make it to the boiling mud pots this trip.

 

Firehole Canyon DrFirehole Canyon Drive and Waterfall

Back in the parking lot I considered my options. Time to head more north to another loop road. This one is called Firehole Canyon Dr. The road is a 2 mile one-way drive through the Firehole River’s canyon. Here I found another waterfall. This one is the 40 ft. Firehole Falls. With it’s canyon walls and rushing currents it’s not a quiet , peaceful falls. This waterfall has a roaring energy.

 

 

Firehole River falls

There is a small parking area near the falls but no sidewalks on the side of the road closest to the falls. No one seems to let that stop them, myself included, as we jockey for the best photo we can get.

Firehole Falls

A little farther on you can go swimming in the river if you dare. There is parking and a set of stairs down to the river. I bet it’s a nice spot on a hot summer day.

Firehole falls flows over the boulder

Side trip of Geysers and Hot Springs

Geysers abound on Firehole Lake Dr.

Just past Midway Geyser basin is Firehole Lake Dr. The concierge stressed that I should be sure to take this side loop.  At first I thought it was just more thermal features. But it turned out to be a great drive.

Unforgiving Landscape

 

Great Fountain GeyserGreat Fountain Geyser

I missed Great Fountain Geyser. I think it had just gone off. I could see the steam clouds ahead of me but when I got there it was over. This is one of the four  highest spouting geysers in Yellowstone. It’s fairly regular too but where I’d just missed it I’d have about 12 hours to wait for the next eruption so I waved at the steam and moved on.

White Dome Geyser

Eruption Begins at White Dome

I passed some steaming lakes and springs then turned a corner to spot a geyser that had built up quite a cone at the base. This is White Dome Geyser. According to my Gaperguide the eruption cycle is about 10 minutes so I pulled over to go on Geyser watch. It must have just gone off before I arrived because it took the full 10 minutes before erupting. I was much closer to White Dome than I had been to Old Faithful so in some ways this was more exciting.

White Dome Plume of Steam

There’s a board walk that goes around the base of this geyser. Some tourists were reading the information boards when it went off. Their reaction was priceless. I guess if I’d been sanding there and been surprised I’d have looked funny too!

An Active geyser

Paint Pots or Ravens

Fountain FlatsAs White Dome subsided I moved on. I drove past more steaming hot springs and possibly some geysers. I passed Firehole Lake. Looks inviting but you’ll scald you skin off!  As Firehole Lake Dr connected with the main loop road I spotted a sign for Fountain Paint Pots. I was anxious for a chance to try photographing those bubbling mud holes.

In the large parking lot I was greeted by a huge raven. These large “crows” are everywhere around Yellowstone and this fellow Pretty Ravenwas particularly friendly. After a brief chat with Mr. Raven I followed a long boardwalk out of the parking lot past steaming hot pools of water. I didn’t see any bubbling mud. And the wind was cold!

Next Stop: Lewis Falls

Lewis Falls is just a 30 Ft Cascade

Parking for Lewis Falls is mostly by the roadside. Its just a short walk up a slight incline to a rocky outcrop with a good view of the falls. Even I was up to this much. I skipped the rocky trail that takes you right to the falls. It looked a bit slippery and icy from the snow in the area. I’d skipped this stop the day before because there were so many people. This early I was the only one here. Lewis falls 30 ft cascade

Lodgepole pines frame the waterfallNamed for Meriwether Lewis

Just as the Lewis River is named for Meriwether Lewis so too is the falls unless you want to say its named for the river. Even with the frothing cascade it’s hard to believe this river is carving out a 400 ft canyon just a little way downstream! On the opposite side of the road from the falls the river spreads out to a wide calm river meandering through a peaceful meadow. I’m told this is a great place to look for moose but the meadow was empty when I was there.

Standing in a Volcano

Everyone knows that Yellowstone is a super volcano but within that giant caldera are numerous vents and smaller caldera. It’s these features that create the bubbling hot springs, geysers and mud pots. According to the Yellowstone Guide Yellowstone Treasures by Janet Chapple, Lewis Falls marks the southern boundary of the caldera. I think she means the super volcano caldera. My Gaperguide talked about the road following the rim of the caldera so I think they are the same thing. Kind of amazing to think you are in such a huge active volcano.

Take a minute to Fish

The day before I spotted an angler perched on the overlook. He was whipping his fly rod back and forth and finally the line soared out in a graceful arch. I couldn’t do that if my life depended on it. It seems that most of the rivers are restricted to fly fishing. Check with the local rangers for rules and permits before you give it a try. Snow in the forest near the falls