Thursday, May 28, 2009

"The Most Beautiful 50 Miles"

With rain in the forecast since Monday and extending into the early part of next week, we had been delaying a visit to Yellowstone NP. But since it has been clear and sunny all week, we placed our chips on "Sunny," spun the wheel of chance, and headed to Yellowstone.

We always stay near a town instead of camping in a national park so that we can experience the culture of the area (albeit only briefly) and meet locals.

The downside is that we sometimes have to drive a longer distance to the park. In our present case, however, the longer drive took us up the rugged volcanic canyon carved by the North Fork of the Shoshone River to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

President Theodore Roosevelt called the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway from Cody (WY) to Yellowstone "the most beautiful 50 miles in the United States."

Today, we did not have the luxury of stopping at the turnouts to photograph scenes because of the distance we needed to travel to the site of Old Faithful, so these photos were taken while traveling.

The banks of the Shoshone River could barely contain the rapidly moving river, swelled by the melting snows. We hope to return with more time to capture some of the activity.

Once inside the Park, we found it interesting that we crossed the Continental Divide twice within a five-mile stretch between West Thumb and Old Faithful.

At every Visitor Center in the national parks we've visited, one of the rangers will invariably say, "Be on the lookout for ______ (moose, elk, bighorn sheep, or even bear)." However, one moose and a few buffalo have been the extent of wildlife that we've seen.

We arrived at Old Faithful in time for the 11:29 am eruption. A direct relationship exists between the duration of Old Faithful's eruption and the length of the following interval. Short eruptions (around 2 minutes) lead to short intervals (about 65 minutes); long eruptions (4 minutes or so) lead to long intervals (about 94 minutes). During a short eruption, less water and heat are discharged; thus, they rebuild again in a short time. Longer eruptions mean more water and heat are discharged and they require more time to rebuild. The average interval now is about 79 minutes.

Geysers evolve in response to small, natural changes in their plumbing systems, water temperature, dissolved gas and mineral content of the thermal water, amount of water, amount of heat, changes in pressure, and other factors. Geysers are also affected by natural events in Yellowstone such as frequent earthquakes. We were surprised to learn that Yellowstone has over 1,000 a year.

Even in late May, the crowds were considerable. We can only imagine what the numbers must be like in July and August.

The day was sunny and in the mid 70s. The cloud of steam and water against the deep blue sky made for some beautiful photos.

This was our introduction to Yellowstone.

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