Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Vacation: Part 3

Our next stop at Yellowstone was the Biscuit Basin area.  (The "biscuit" looking formations that gave the area its name were destroyed in the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake.)  I like the colorful areas, which are "thermophiles" -- microorganisms that thrive in these very hot habitats.

Shell Spring (and the area around it does look like a shell to me)

Mustard Spring

Next, we went to the Fountain Paint Pot area that had been strongly impacted by the 1959 earthquake.

Red Spouter came into being after the earthquake.  It is a muddy hot spring that boils vigorously.  Hot springs differ from geysers in that their underground channel systems (i.e., "plumbing") are not constricted so the water comes to the surface all the time, not just in bursts.

This is a mudpot (part of Fountain Paint Pots) -- "Acidic features with a limited water supply.  Hydrogen sulfide, which rises from deep within the earth, is used by some microorganisms as an energy source.  They help convert the smelly gas to sulfuric acid, which breaks down rock into clay.  Various gases escape through the wet clay mud and cause it to bubble and pop."

A close-up shot of the thermophiles.  This area had a sign stating "Bacteria mat." (Do not confuse with "Bath mat."  Very different beast.)

At the end of this area (each of these areas had trails taking you past the features), we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel.

The next day, we targeted the eastern side of the park, having done much of the western side on the first (full) day.  We visited the Mud Volcano area first.  This is where one of the major vents from which the lava of the volcano 640,000 years ago flowed, and scientists monitor the area closely for clues about future volcanic activity.

Churning, churning

To me, the highlight of this area was Dragon's Mouth Spring.  Mysterious and awesome.  The Crow Indians "saw the steam as snorts of an angry bull bison."  It's had a lot of names over the years; the current name was given by "an unknown European American."  

For something very different -- a more traditional sort of majestic outdoor scenery -- we went up to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.  This canyon was likely created after the earthquake 640,000 years ago.  "The multi-hued rocks of the canyon result from the hydrothermally altered rhyolite and sediments."

The falls as seen from Inspiration Point
On our way out of the park, we saw Mammoth Hot Springs.  "These features are quite different from thermal areas elsewhere in the park....As hot water rises through limestone, large quantities of rock are dissolved by the hot water, and a white chalky mineral is deposited on the surface."

From here, we traveled toward Kennewick, WA for my cousin's wedding (where I did not take any photos).  In Montana, we noted a road sign for "Anaconda Opportunity."  Yes, we'll definitely be going that way.  (Apparently those are two communities you can reach by taking that exit, but put together, they have some strange implications.)  At a rest area, we saw the adorable Columbian ground-squirrel.  We were not the only visitors enchanted by these little creatures and their rearing-up-like-tiny-prairie-dog ways.  While sitting in the car, I saw several people do a double-take as they walked by them, and one guy looked like he was about to crawl down into the grass to get a closer look.  As you might imagine, these little rodents inspired great excitement in people's dogs, too.

Next:  My first openly atheist wedding and other family tidbits from eastern Washington.

1 comment:

mom said...

Great photos!