Today was a complete change from the bitter cold temperatures and bright blue skies that we had while exploring the park yesterday. Slate gray skies and unrelenting snow fall were on order for today….not the best weather for photographing Old Faithful, but that is also part of the challenge of photography – being able to adapt to changing conditions and sometimes, that means going out in less than ideal conditions. We were travelling by snowcoach again today, this time to Old Faithful and the Fountain Paint Pots area of Yellowstone National Park
We stopped behind the snowmobilers in the photo above to watch the female elk and a couple of Tundra Swans along the banks of the Madison River.
The weather showed no signs of improving as we made our way towards the Fountain Paint Pots in the Lower Geyser Basin area of the park. Our first stop in the short walk around the Fountain Paint Pots was the Celestine Pool, one of the hot springs that, tragically, has resulted in the loss of human life.
Near Silex Spring, bacterial mats composed of various types thermophilic bacteria transform the winter landscape with broad brush strokes of yellows, greens and browns, all dependent upon the temperature of the waters in which they thrive.
We also stopped for a few minutes to watch Red Spouter, a fumarole on the Fountain Paint Pot trail. Normally, Red Spouter emits steam and other gases; however, during the wetter months of the year, it splashes up muddy water that is red in color.
Leather Pool was our next stop along the Fountain Paint Pot trail. Once a warm (143 F) pool lined with a brown bacteria that gave the pool its name, it’s temperature increased significantly after the Hebgen Lake earthquake in 1959, killing the algae that resided in the pool.
After exploring the area around the Fountain Paint Pots trail, we stopped by Excelisor Geyser, named by the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. The Excelisor Geyser pool discharges 4000-4500 gallons of 199F water per minute directly into the Firehole River. It was an active geyser at one point in time, but it is believed that its powerful eruptions damaged some of its internal plumbing system, turning it into a productive hot spring most of the time.
We were soon off to the witness what would be one of the many highlights of the trip…..the eruption of Old Faithful in the Upper Geyser Basin. Due to it’s predictability, it can be almost impossible to find an unobstructed view of the eruption. However, in the wintertime, there are very few people around and you can get a clear view from just about anywhere on the boardwalk that surrounds the geyser. Named in 1870 during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition, Old Faithful was the first geyser in the park to receive a name. The eruption of Old Faithful was very difficult to photograph since the steam and water explosion matched the gray color of the sky. By darkening the sky a little bit, I was able to differentiate between the geyser and the skies behind it.
After experiencing Old Faithful erupt, exploring the visitor center, and enjoying lunch (and finding my cell phone for the umpteenth time – not sure why I kept losing it on this trip), it was time to start making our way back towards Madison Junction, but there were a couple of more stops to make before we exited the park for the day, the first of which was the Kepler Cascades.
Kepler Cascades were first described by the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870, but remained nameless until 1881. In 1881, then park superintendent, Philetus Norris named the cascades after the 12 year old son of Wyoming’s territorial governor John Wesley Hoyt, Keppler Hoyt, who was visiting Yellowstone with his father when the cascades were named.
Located upstream from the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers, Firehole Falls drops approximately 40 feet within Firehole Canyon.
Firehole Falls was basically our last stop for the day, but when we stopped at Madison Junction on the way out of the park, I spotted a Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) that was moving among the branches of a tree overhead. After watching it for a bit and snapping lots of photos, it was time to head out of the park….
Until the next adventure….