Volcanoes and Sulfur

Yellowstone was the first ever National Park. It was created in 1972 by President Ulysses S. Grant. It is well known for it’s wildlife and geothermal features, such as Old Faithful. It also contains many different kinds of ecosystems.

Yellowstone is also on top of the one of the biggest super-volcanoes ever. Basically is it ever erupted, Yellowstone and most of the surrounding area would be no more, tons of ash would be hanging in the air, which would make it difficult to breathe, the ash would also smother vegetation and pollute water, which would lead to a nation-wide food crisis. It would kill tons of people.

The world itself would face a mild climate change because the Earth would be in shadow for several days due to the huge ash cloud. The ash would also cause major air travel disruption because Yellowstone is WAY bigger than that eruption, several years ago, in Iceland was. And travel disruption could cause issues with getting supplies such as food and water, from other places.

I actually read a decent trilogy that starts with the book Ashfall by Mike Mullin that took on life after the massive super-volcano explosion, which painted a frightening picture of what life would be like if the volcano erupted. Highly recommended, if you like scary post-apocalyptic novels.

Anyhow, there is no evidence that the volcano is going to erupt any time soon, despite the fact that it is an active volcano, the next eruption is going to most likely be hundred to thousands of years, from now, but still, it was almost all I thought about at Yellowstone.

Anyhow despite my thoughts of extinction and the end of life as we know it, Yellowstone is amazing.

I don’t know how to describe it… It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, it’s like the second you cross over into the park, it’s like you’re on another planet.

The first day we drove there, we explored a little bit.

We checked out the Artist’s Paintpots, which was a quaint little hike overlooking several geothermal features such as mud pots, fumaroles, and some geysers. For those of you, who don’t know, after all I didn’t know, a fumarole is an opening in the planet’s crust, often in the neighborhood of volcanoes, which emits steam and gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen sulfide.

There are an estimated 4000 fumaroles within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, if you’re curious.

The geothermal aspects of Yellowstone have a very distinct smell, it’s sort of a cross between ramen noodles and sulfur.

The Paintpots were very cool, well rather… hot due to them being thermal, but you know what I mean… They were a variety of colors… we had blue pools, green pools, red mud, gray clay, and lots of muddy pools that boil, cause steam to rise, and smell like ramen noodles and sulfur.

It was a pretty easy hike, and once we climbed to top, we just had this gorgeous overlook of colors. It easy to see how it got its name.

The weather at Yellowstone is VERY fickle. I mean, it was sunny while we were hiking to the paint pots, then as soon as we got to the top, it started pouring, and poured and thundered for awhile, and this continued for our entire trip. It would be sunny and then suddenly we’d have severe rain and thunderstorms. And when it rains in Yellowstone, it’s a cold rain.

However the rain produced gorgeous rainbows like the one we saw, on our first day, at Hayden Valley.

And, a lot of families, especially those with younger children, which is probably the majority of Yellowstone visitors we saw, run for the hills, when it starts to rain, and since a little rain didn’t hurt us, Justin and I actually had great opportunities to explore areas that were basically vacant thanks to the rain.

A lot of thermal areas in Yellowstone are unnamed, which you know… with over 4,000 of them is perfectly understandable.

One of the areas we checked out was an unnamed thermal area that was pretty cool aside from this obnoxious family of teenagers, whose son kept on running across the thermal area [and there are signs posted everywhere to tell you NOT to do that] to put hot spring water into a water bottle so his family could feel how hot the water was… we reported them to the Park Rangers, and I  hope they get fined.

We saw Gibbon Falls, which is an 84 foot waterfall right off the road at Yellowstone.

We wandered over to mud volcano, which is exactly what it sounds like, although it doesn’t quite erupt, it does shoot out hot mud up into the air, sometimes as high as 30 feet. You also smell it before you see it.

In that same area is dragon mouth’s spring, which has tons of steam, rushing water, and sounds like a dragon is trying to burn you alive.

And across from there is Sulfur Caldron, that smells like its namesake, and consists of steam escaping from entrapment in the Earth.

After that, it was getting pretty late, and traffic was being held up by Elks and Bison, and we got to our lodge, which was over an hour away from the entrance since we stayed on Lake Yellowstone, grabbed some dinner at the cafeteria at our lodging, and then went to bed.

The next day we were up bright and early because we had a photography tour that left at 6:30, in the morning.

The guide was amazing. He showed me features of my DLSR that I didn’t know existed, and I think the tour and his guidance has made me a much better photographer. I understand things like aperture and ISO, so much better.

We saw  eagles and a bear and elk and deer and bison, on the tour.

 

 

We also toured the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is the first large canyon at Yellowstone, it contains the lower Yellowstone Falls, it’s about 24 miles long and between 800 and 1200 feet deep. The falls themselves are 308 feet high.

We also looked for wildlife on Hayden Valley. There’s this one look-out at Hayden Valley, where people sit for hours upon hours looking for wolf-sightings, it was crazy how many people were just sitting there, chilling on camping chairs, with binoculars, just waiting hours for even a slight glance at wolves.

After the tour, we were both exhausted, we grabbed a quick brunch at the lodge, and then napped for about three hours… waking up early is hard.

Then we decided to watch Old Faithful, once we woke up. Old Faithful was pretty cool. I don’t know what else to say about it. It’s a giant geyser that shoots water into the air as far as 185 feet in the air, and lasts for about 1.5 to 5 minutes.

After that we drove around some more and wound up at Black Sand Basin, which is a collection of smaller geysers, streams. and hot spring pools. The pools were various colors ranging from green to blue to orange. They were very pretty.

Then we headed to Midway Geyser Basin, which is the home of Grand Prismatic Springs. By then it had started raining pretty hard, but we were like whatever, let’s go.

The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and it’s colors match the rainbow, when you look at it. Unfortunately since it was cold and raining, while we were there, all we saw was a huge vat of steam, but we did see some color, some oranges and red and yellow, and a tiny bit of the green and blue through the steam, and it was impressive, unfortunately we couldn’t get the best pictures of it due to the steam, however.

Then we had a stormy and dark ride back to our cabin, grabbed some dinner, and off to bed.

We woke up the next day, packed our bags, grabbed some delicious make-your-own breakfast burrito at the cafeteria, and headed out of the park.

On our way back, we saw Lewis Falls, a 30 foot fall, and then headed out of the park towards the Grand Tetons.

In conclusion, Yellowstone was amazing. It’s literally like nothing I have ever seen before.

It is a must-see US attraction, and I’m so glad we got to experience it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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