Yellowstone NP Fun Stuff©

Sunday we took a day off after our travel day on Thursday and Fun Stuff© on Saturday. Went to Mass and ate dinner…leftover pulled pork gumbo. Neil made it out of the leftover pulled pork from Missoula’s Notorious Pig…and although the pulled pork did improve on aging in the fridge it really made good gumbo. He put in the “trinity”…onions, celery and carrots…along with some Andouille sausage…let that cook for awhile and then added flour…cooked it into a nice medium brown roux and then added beer, chicken stock, and the pork. Seasoned with file powder…of course…various other stuff and hot sauce. We had it over rice and put the leftover rice into the leftover gumbo…then ate it for dinner leftover the next night with sour cream on top.

Monday we set off for another day of Fun Stuff©…the plan for the day was to drive to the Old Faithful area with a stop on the way at Biscuit Basin to take the Mystic Falls hike then continue on down to Old Faithful. Along the way…we discovered that our GPS pronounces the word “geyser” as “geezer”…we got quite a kick out of that.

As I indicated…our first stop was at Biscuit Basin where we had to take the boardwalk through the thermal thingies for about 1/2 mile before heading out on the 1 mile each way (and 150 or so feet vertically) Mystic Falls hike. Most of the hike was in the woods but the last 1/4 mile or so was out in the sun and it was starting to get warm.  When we got up in the campground…temps were in the 40s but by the time we got to the Biscuit Basin parking lot Neil stripped off his sweatshirt and changed into shorts for the hike and was glad he did.

We got some nice shots on the way to and as we walked through the Biscuit Basin thermal area.

Cow elk along the road just south of Madison.

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Firehole River Cascade…this was taken from upstream. We backtracked a half mile or so and Neil hiked a couple hundred yards down to where he could see the cascades.

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Firehole River Cascades…about 15 or 20 feet total drop but a nice view nonetheless…the falls doesn’t always have to have a great drop to be photogenic…some of the great closeups you’ve seen the past couple of month were of a drop of just 3 or 4 feet…it’s what it looks like, not how far it falls that counts.

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Sapphire Pool…at the Biscuit Basin thermal area…about 40 yards across, 30 or so feet deep and this beautiful color. Didn’t even smell either…it’s a hot spring so that ‘splains the steam drifting around.

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Shell Spring…the hole is about 3 feet across and didn’t bubble up too far. It was one of those set quietly with just some steam escaping for awhile and then did this whole bubbling thing. I have no idea why it’s a spring and not a geyser…but Ima a bear, not a vulcanologist.

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Here’s a short video of Shell Spring…reader Ron (Neil’s older brother…hey Ron, disregard the people speaking French in the video…that wasn’t coming from the spring, it’s the bubbling/hissing stuff you want to hear) wanted to know if they sounded like farts or what and asked for some sound effects. You’ll need to right click and open in a new window…or else view the video and then hit the back button to get back to the blog…Neil’s too cheap to pay the extra bucks so that WordPress will allow him to embed the videos in the blog directly.

After a bit on the boardwalk across the thermal area…we headed into the forest and up to Mystic Falls. Here’s a shot Connie got while Neil wandered a little more uphill and cross rocks to get the dreamy flowing shots. Those were taken from just behind the large grey rock on the right side…it doesn’t look far but it was another bit up hill then sort of downhill and cross country to get to the edge of the river.

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The shot above misses a couple of the upper portions of the falls…which drops a total of 70 feet on the Little Firehole River…and is actually quite a pretty falls reached via a moderate 2.4 mile or so round trip hike. There are a total of 8 (at least the way I counted ‘em) cascades making up the whole falls…plus another couple small ones downstream of the falls proper…although it’s not clear that all are included in the measured height as the total looks more than 70 feet to me. Downstream of the falls there’s a really steep section of rapids heading on downhill.

Looking downriver fro where Connie rested.

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A shot of Neil Connie took after he wandered over to the better vantage point.

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The main part of the falls.

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A wider shot showing all of the cascades.

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And a couple more closeups of various portions of the falls…Neil really liked this one from a photographic point of view.

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We headed back down to the parking lot…crossing back over Biscuit Basin and stopping by for a shot of Jewel Geyser…it’s about 10 feet high and goes off every 9 minutes or so.

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Neil also got a short video of Jewel Geyser…only the end of the eruption and we didn’t find out about the 9 minute period until later or we would have stayed and gotten more.

We had a snack when we got back to Big Red and some iced tea from the cooler…then headed on down to the Old Faithful area. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser at Yellowstone…it was originally named Eternity’s Timepiece by the guys that discovered it but then even they didn’t like that name so it was changed to Old Faithful.

OK, a little info on geysers. There are only 900 of them on earth…Yellowstone, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, New Zealand, and a couple other places I can’t remember. Of the 900…over 500 of them are located in Yellowstone NP…and of the 500 over 150 of them are located in the Upper Geyser Basin region of Yellowstone along with Old Faithful. I had no idea that there were that few in the world.

Old Faithful…well, it’s not actually the most timely reliably erupting geyser either…but it’s the famous one anyway. It currently erupts every 69 to 98 minutes…the exact interval depends on how long the previous eruption was. Scientists have tried to send cameras down Old Faithful to figure out how it works…and they managed to get their camera a whole 42 feet down before it melted. Old Faithful itself has a narrow restriction 4 inches wide about 21 feet down…this restriction is what cases it to only periodically erupt. It sits there and steams until the pressure builds up enough for it to erupt. When it does…the eruption lasts for 1.5 to 2.75 minutes and averages about 8,000 gallons per eruption…all of which comes up through that 4 inch hole.

Here’s some more video for Ron…first is a short clip of OldFaithful in the non eruption mode than the second is a longer clip of the Old Faithful eruption we watched…again, you’ll have to disregard the shutter clicks and talking during the eruption. The geyser is about 100 or so yards out and the eruption is 180 or so feet high.

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We stopped and had lunch while we were waiting on the eruption interval to go by…we got there just after it went off. Connie had a pretzel and Neil a Philly cheese steak on a pretzel bun…they were nothing spectacular but both were way better than the last park service sandwiches we had and they satisfied our hunger.

After Old Faithful…we headed back to Big Red and went another 3 or 4 miles south to the Kepler Cascades for a few shots…another nice fall but sort of crowded as it’s right off the road and not nearly as photogenic as Mystic Falls earlier in the day was. Kepler is about 150 feet total drop with 50 feet in the largest single drop. Unfortunately…the canyon is relatively narrow at that point and the viewpoint isn’t optimally placed for photos…but we got some pretty decent ones anyway.

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With that our day was down and we headed home. Dinner was the leftover gumbo then it was off to bed after some TV. 

Tuesday we were up early…we had an 0900 scheduled ranger led hike at Artists Point near the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River…Connie just made coffee directly into our travel mugs and we grabbed breakfast from McDonalds on the way into the park. 

About 8 miles past the entry station as we drove along the north bank of the Madison River we spotted a ranger in his pickup herding a cow elk out of one of the parking areas along the river towards the forest on the north side of the road. We ignored her since it was pretty dark still under the trees but then just beyond the parking area we spotted a bull elk in the middle of the river…obviously he was heading towards the cow with amorous attentions which were spoiled by the ranger. He turned and headed back south to the far side of the river…but kept turning and looking back towards his intended…and unintentionally gave us a pretty perfect pose…right in the middle of the river in a sun beam coming down from the east. Pretty darned spectacular we say.

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A little farther on…a buffalo decided to cross the road directly in front of us…like 4 feet directly in front of us. He just wandered across the road…obviously he gets the right of way…didn’t get a shot as it was still pretty early and dark under the trees, we really lucked out getting the elk above.

Then…just a bit further on we pulled off in another parking area to see if there were any creatures over on the river and there was this really great misty scene…drifting gently down the river with the sun lighting it up. Got some great shots…and Connie got a great video as well…except it turned out that she forgot to start the recording on the video so we didn’t actually get it. We’re going to try again tomorrow morning as it’s supposed to be cool again.

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The reason for our early outing was the Canyon Rim walk with Ranger Laura…that got underway just about 0900 with about 2 miles round trip and 120 feet or so of elevation gain. First stop on the walk was Artist’s Point…where you can get a pretty excellent view of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This is a single drop of 308 feet and is a mighty impressive waterfall.

These were taken from the south rim of the canyon looking westward to the Falls…it’s about 2 or 3 miles away in these shots. Take careful note of the area just to the right side of the drop at the top…that will become important later. Most of the south rim trails are closed for construction as are several of the overlooks on the north rim.

Wide shot.

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Zoomed in a bit…the river is about 25 yards wide at the top of the falls.

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The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is 21 miles long and only about 13,000 years old. It was not primarily formed by river erosion as the Grand Canyon was…but rather by glacial action. This section of the park is composed primarily of Rhyolite Rock…which means it has a lot of iron in it. Over time…due to the heat generated by the super-volcano underneath the park gradually baked this rock so that it became relatively soft. Then about 15,000 years ago during the last Ice Age the canyon (which didn’t exist yet) was covered by about 3,000 feet of glacial ice…the movement of this glacier gouged out most of the canyon. Even today…the edges of the canyon are pretty soft and weak and frequently sections drop without warning…hence the almost constant reminders by rangers for visitors to stay away from the edge. Doesn’t work though…we saw dozens of people literally sitting on the edge of the canyon during our walk. We continued our walk getting stories and information from Ranger Laura and taking pictures as we went.

Lodgepole Pines…so named because of the long straight trunk which native people used for their teepees. About 90% of the trees in the park are Lodgepole Pines…the trees you see on the ground were killed by a fire sometime in the past and eventually fell. Lodgepole Pine cones do not open except when the area around the cone burns…this basically kills off the grasses and such so that the seeds can take root. You’ll see large stands of them that are obviously the same age, height, and diameter…they were all born from the same fire. You can easily recognize a Lodgepole as it’s only got branches at the top when it’s a mature tree…the lower ones don’t get much sunlight so the tree self prunes itself and kills off the lower unproductive branches.

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Looking east down river in the canyon…which is about 1,000 feet deep for most of it’s length.

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Another shot of the lower falls as we returned from our ranger walk…little later in the morning so there was more light.

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Our next stop was back west a little then across the river to the north rim of the canyon a mile or so upstream of the upper falls…then a trip down the north rim heading downstream stopping at various viewpoints along the way.

First stop was the brink of the upper falls…a 1/3 mile or so round trip with 120 or so feet of elevation drop from the parking lot down to the overlook…which is literally at the top of the upper falls. The upper falls is about 30 feet wide as it goes over the lip.

Looking upstream from the brink…the lip of the falls is about 10 feet out of frame to the left here.

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Neil turned 90 degrees to his left from the above shot for this one…the brink itself.

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And a couple more shots down into the basin.

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Next was an overlook where you can see the upper falls…it’s not possible to see both upper and lower at the same time as there’s a river bend in between them. The Upper Falls drops 109 feet.

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From there…next stop was…you guessed it…the brink of the Lower Falls. Connie chose to skip this one as her knee was starting to ache…she injured it a week or two back when we were visiting Joe Claxton in Coeur d’Alene…their English Mastiff (all 180 pounds of her) ran into the side of her leg. Its getting better, but she still has to baby it a little. Neil went on down anyway…about 1/2 of a mile and 600 feet down …quite a climb coming back up. Some great shots of the lower falls and the canyon from the overlook.

Looking downstream. Inspiration Point…which provides the most famous angle of the Lower Falls is on the north (left) rim just before it goes around the bend.

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Turning 90 degrees to his right to see the brink itself.

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And a couple of almost straight down shots into the basin 309 feet below. He kept the camera strap around his neck and stuck his arms and the camera out and took these shots blind.

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With that…our day was done. We stopped one more time to get a shot of the Lower Falls from the north rim…but it looks pretty much the same as the ones from the south rim so I’m not going to post it.

We did take a short video of both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls from the brink viewpoints.

Dinner was grilled halibut, asparagus, mushrooms, and romaine lettuce…all on the grill and all delicious.

Wednesday…well, we set off early again in hopes for more wildlife on the roads and another shot at the misty waters so Connie could try the video again. Struck out on both so we continued on our other planned visits for the day…Grand Prismatic Spring and a couple other thermal thingies locations.

First stop was the park sign…sorry we missed it before but we didn’t see it on the way in.

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Next up was Firehole Canyon Drive…which turned out to be a nice 2 mile side trip with a couple of really great…but unnamed…waterfalls.

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We stopped by Fiery Falls road…but didn’t do the hike as it was too far for us at this elevation. However…we did get a few nice shots while driving through there.

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Next up…the Midway Geyser Basin…which had some more thermal thingies.

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Then off to the Grand Prismatic Spring…which is one of those “famous Yellowstone things”…don’t do much for us but we went anyway and put it here in the blog for ya’ll. Actually…I think the last 2 above were from here as well…but the name really ain’t important…they’re thermal thingies, they’ve got pretty colors, and if you come to Yellowstone it’s just one of those things ya gotta do.

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Next…the Thumb Geyser Basin…it’s right on Yellowstone Lake.

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Yellowstone Lake.

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The Howard Payne Memorial Dead Tree photo…can’t imagine what killed it…sulfur smell, alkaline water, 200 degree water running over it…nah, none of that. Musta been old age.

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Lakeside Geyser…or geezer as Neil likes to call them now. About 2 feet high and the rock opening is 4 feet or so in diameter. That’s the lake behind it…this one is almost under the waterline.

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Aren’t those the prettiest blue-green colors…I can’t get over how great they look…even if they do stink.

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And some orange thermophiles…they’re bacteria that love heat and have a pretty color scheme.

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Just incredible aqua-blue-green colors. 

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Another hot spring…again right on the edge of Yellowstone Lake.

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Next stop…LeHardy Rapids…not really all that much to look at…but they were supposed to be so we stopped. Kinda of a wasted stop…especially as it was 100 or so stairs down to them and we were really tired.

Seems like the altitude is affecting us much more today than earlier in the week…same altitude I know but we were really struggling to get enough air today. 

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Last stop…the Mud Volcano. 

Here’s the first one…yeah, it didn’t do anything for me either. Smell really sulphur dioxide (rotten egg chemical)…to Neil it looked like a geyser except it had mud in it. Connie sat this one out…her knee was hurting again so she sent Neil the 200 feet vertically uphill to get these…he’s a nice guy…ain’t he.

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Sour Lake.

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Mud volcano #2…still not doing anything for me…but at least it don’t stink as bad.

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After that…we headed home for dinner which would be Mushroom Risotto. It was tasty. Tomorrow we’re headed down through Yellowstone NP to the south entrance…which is also the north entrance to Grand Tetons NP and then we’ll continue on down to Jackson WY…home of Jackson Hole Ski Resort and then back home. After that…well, it’s gonna snow overnight Thursday to Friday and rain Saturday so we’ll just stay around the rig. Sunday we’ll get ready to head east and Monday we’re off on another travel day.

Here’s a short video of Mud Volcano #1…still don’t do anything for me.

Interesting stuff from the net.

Sorry…no photo for this one but it’s a classic. LA Tech was playing Mississippi State in football last Saturday and at the end of the 3rd quarter was trailing 50something to 14. No worries though…they started the 4th quarter with 2nd and goal from the MSU 7. The center snapped the ball over the QBs head, he ran back to about the 25 and tried to dive on it…it squirted free and continued down the field with at least 4 or 5 players trying to get it. Finally…LA Tech recovered the ball and lined up for the next play. It was now 3rd and goal…on their own 7 yard line…I don’t think there’s a play in the book for 3rd and 93.

Irish Riding Mower.



How old is Granddad.


A real Cliff Hanger.


Playing volleyball across the US/Mexico border…international cooperation indeed.


Absolutely nailed the headline.



About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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