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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Yellowstone - Here We Come!

It was supposed to snow on the way from Salt Lake City but we only encountered a few sprinkles here and there along the way to Yellowstone. Upon arriving at the West Entrance we had partly cloudy skies. Threatening clouds soon appeared the closer we got to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, though.

Our first charging stop was in Pocatello, Idaho. Do you know what Pocatello is famous for?

"Founded in 1889, Pocatello was known as the "Gateway to the Northwest." As pioneers, gold miners and settlers traveled the Oregon Trail, they passed through the Portneuf Gap south of town. Stage and freight lines and the railroad soon followed, turning the community into a trade center and transportation junction."

Trees just starting to bloom there.

I don't know the name of the tree but the smell of the flowers was very sweet and quite strong.

Looks like a light snow is falling on the mountains outside of Pocatello.

Cattle are raised in Idaho so we passed miles and miles of fields where grass is growing. Cattle need lots of hay. Fields have to be irrigated, too.

Of course when you think of Idaho, the word "potato" probably popped up in your mind first.

I'm not sure if the fields are being prepared for planting or if the seedlings are already planted.

Russet potatoes are sometimes known as Idaho potatoes in the United States, but the name Idaho Potato is trademarked by the Idaho Potato Commission and only potatoes grown in the state of Idaho can legally be referred to by that name.

"The Idaho Potato Commission is a marketing board that represents the potato growers of the state of Idaho. The group's main initiative is Grown in Idaho — a collective trade mark program for marketing Idaho-grown potatoes, products containing them, and accompanying advertising campaigns."

The McRae family owns the trademark "Idaho" in the U.S. in connection to any potato based product.

We could see more snow in the hills the closer we got to the West Entrance of Yellowstone. Fog lifting from the hills was a positive sign.

The partly cloudy skies in Yellowstone were a welcoming sight.

Our first sighting of bison.

"The American bison and the European bison (wisent) are the largest surviving terrestrial animals in North America and Europe. They are typical artiodactyl (cloven hooved) ungulates, and are similar in appearance to other bovines such as cattle and true buffalo. They are broad and muscular with shaggy coats of long hair. Adults grow up to 2 meters (6 feet 7 inches) in height and 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in) in length for American bison and up to 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) in height and 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in) in length for European bison. American bison can weigh from around 400 to 1,270 kilograms (880 to 2,800 pounds) and European bison can weigh from 800 to 1,000 kg (1,800 to 2,200 lb). European bison tend to be taller than American bison.

Bison are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. The bulls leave the herds of females at two or three years of age, and join a herd of males, which usually are smaller than female herds. Mature bulls rarely travel alone. Towards the end of the summer, for the reproductive season, the sexes necessarily commingle."

I needed my telephoto lens next time to see their eyes and horns better.

"The American species has 15 ribs, while the European bison has 14. The American bison has four lumbar vertebrae, while the European has five. (The difference in this case is that what would be the first lumbar vertebra has ribs attached to it in American bison and is thus counted as the 15th thoracic vertebra, compared to 14 thoracic vertebrae in wisent.) Adult American bison are less slim in build and have shorter legs. American bison tend to graze more, and browse less than their European relatives. Their anatomies reflect this behavioral difference; the American bison's head hangs lower than the European's. The body of the American bison is typically hairier, though its tail has less hair than that of the European bison. The horns of the European bison point through the plane of their faces, making them more adept at fighting through the interlocking of horns in the same manner as domestic cattle, unlike the American bison, which favors butting. American bison are more easily tamed than their European cousins, and breed with domestic cattle more readily."

"Bison temperament is often unpredictable. They usually appear peaceful, unconcerned, or even lazy, but they may attack without warning or apparent reason. They can move at speeds up to 56 km/h (35 mph) and cover long distances at a lumbering gallop."

"Their most obvious weapons are the horns borne by both males and females, but their massive heads can be used as battering rams, effectively using the momentum produced by what is a typical weight of 900 to 1,200 kilograms (2,000 to 2,700 lb) moving at 50 km/h (30 mph). The hind legs can also be used to kill or maim with devastating effect. In the words of early naturalists, they were dangerous, savage animals that feared no other animal and in prime condition could best any foe except for a brown bear or a pack of wolves."

Fountain Paint Pots

"Along Fountain Paint Pot Trail you will see various hydrothermal features that are expressions of Yellowstone’s still active volcano. Within this geologic system, each type of thermal feature is represented. They can be grouped into two general categories—those with a great deal of water (hot springs and geysers) and those with limited water (mudpots and fumaroles). Despite their structural similarities, no two features are exactly alike."

"Much of the soil within the Yellowstone Caldera is the product of hardened lava flows from the region’s volcanic past and is unsuitable for many types of trees.

The central part of the park is characterized by miles upon miles of lodgepole pine, a tree which thrives in the slightly acidic soil of the caldera. The roots of lodgepole pine extend sideways rather than deep into the ground—an advantage in the caldera where the topsoil is very thin and contains few nutrients.

Dead lodgepole pines near some hydrothermal areas look as if they are wearing white anklet socks, at one time called “bobby socks.” The dead trees soak up the mineral-laden water. When the water evaporates, the minerals are left behind, turning the lower portion of the trees white."

Bacteria Mat

Silex Spring

"Silex Spring is named for the large amount of silica found in and around this feature. Silex is Latin for silica. Silica comes from the underlying volcanic rocks, which the hot waters dissolve. This silica is then deposited as sinter, which lines the pool and forms terraces along the runoff channels.

The large runoff channels the boardwalk followed from the parking lot are formed from Silex Spring. Thermophiles thrive in these hot waters, which in turn give the channels such a variety of textures and colors. Silex Spring has an average temperate of 174.7°F (79.3°C), an average pH of 8.4, and an average conductivity of 2000 uS/cm. It last erupted in 2006."

Fountain Paint Pots

"Hydrothermal features can be grouped into two general categories: those with a great deal of water (hot springs and geysers) and those with limited water (mudpots and fumaroles). Despite their structural similarities, no two features are exactly alike. All of these features occur in the Fountain Paint Pot area.

Thermus aquaticus, the thermophile that revolutionized DNA replication processes, was discovered in this area."

This is a classic mud pot. In the spring it is watery due to rain and runoff. In the late summer and fall it will be very thick.

"Mudpots are acidic features with a limited water supply. Some microorganisms use hydrogen sulfide, which rises from deep within the earth, as an energy source. They help convert the gas to sulfuric acid, which breaks down rock to wet clay mud and creates the area’s smell. The pungent odor of rotten eggs is caused by the hydrogen sulfide gas.

Various gases escape through the wet clay mud, causing it to bubble. Mudpot consistency and activity vary with the seasons and precipitation."

"Red Spouter formed as a direct result of the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake. A vent opened up in this spot, which then turned into a mudpot. This hydrothermal feature does change seasonally, depending on the height of the water table beneath the surface. When the water table is high, it bubbles as a mudpot. When the water table drops, it reverts back to its origins as a fumarole."

"This spring originated with the Hebgen Lake earthquake, and changes throughout the seasons. In the spring and summer it spouts red water and mud. During the late summer and fall it is a hissing fumarole."

Leather Pool

"Leather Pool underwent dramatic changes after the Hebgen lake earthquake of 1959. Prior to the earthquake, it was a warm (143 F/62 C) pool that supported leather-like brown bacteria. After the earthquake, water temperatures rose to boiling and killed the microorganisms. Since that time, Leather Pool has cooled and once again supports the brown bacteria."

Geysers have constrictions in their plumbing systems that prevent water from moving freely to the surface where heat would escape. Water beneath the constrictions creates a buildup of steam. Eventually the steam pushes water past the constrictions and the geyser erupts.

Clepsydra Geyser

This nearly constant performer splashes from several vents and its steam can be seen throughout the Lower Geyser Basin. Its name is Greek for water clock, and was given because the geyser used to erupt regularly every three minutes. Since the 1959 Hebgen Lae Earthquake, however, Clepsydra erupts almost without pause. Sometimes it quits during Fountain Geyser's eruption.

Jelly Geyser

Jelly Geyser (also known as Jelly Spring due to its rare eruption frequency) erupts from one of the largest craters in the Fountain Group. Intervals between eruptions may range from ten minutes to more than an hour. Jelly Geyser's eruptions usually lasts for less than a minute. It has an average temperate of 126.3°F (52.4°C), an average pH of 8.6, and an average conductivity of 1800 uS/cm. It is an orange, bacteria-lined hot spring."

Many fallen trees in the area

It started raining/snowing ever so slightly when we reached the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

"Completed in 1999, the Snow Lodge is the newest of the park’s full service hotels, and has been recognized with the Cody Award for Western Design and Travel and Leisure’s Inn of the Month. The heavy timber construction, exterior log columns and cedar shingle roof were part of the design that is destined to make the Snow Lodge a significant example of classic “parkitecture.” Fireplaces in the lobby and between the bar and dining room are magnets for chatty gatherings of friends and family.  The Snow Lodge also features a full-service dining room, quick-service “Geyser Grill” and the charming Bear Den Gift Store."

Dining Room

Outside of dining room

Fireplace separates the dining room and the bar.

Reception area

Bison Scapula

I forgot to photograph the empty room, but I did take a picture of the cute soap.

Good night from Yellowstone National Park.

"Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-sq.-mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. Mostly in Wyoming, the park spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho too. Yellowstone features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. It's also home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope."

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