Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 10: Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks

Our first stop of the day was in downtown Jackson Hole to take pictures of these massive arches made entirely of antlers. Slightly disgusted, I did not partake. Imagine an arch made of human limbs! I digress... I did get to observe three "pikas" (momma and two babies) scurrying about in a small patch if grass. Momma dutifully stood watch as the babies did whatever it is baby pikas do.

Then we stopped at Teton Point Turnout in Grand Teton and then Oxbow Bend for pictures and geological discussions.

Then we spent time at this lake pictured below where we had some fooling around on the dock. Unfortunately, I didn't note the name of the lake.

Next stop--Yellowstone! As you can see by the pictures, we all wore the same shirt today because this park gets exceptionally crowded. But fortunately the crowds were not too bad this day. We took pictures at Yellowstone Canyon and had a picnic near Old Faithful. Then, of course, we watched Old Faithful erupt, which it will do about every 93 minutes for 2-4 minutes. My friend and I spotted some brilliant blue hot springs after the eruption. We were so taken aback by these wonders that we were late for meeting the rest of the group at the van. While our professor did not seem pleased--it may just have been worth it!

The hot springs, geysers and fumeroles at Yellowstone are evidence (along with 2,500-3000 earthquakes per year) that the area is very much geologically active still today. The last time Yellowstone Volcano erupted was 640,000 years ago, and it has erupted a total of 3 times that we know of, with an interval of approximately 650,000 years between each. Within the next 10,000 years another eruption is likely. Such an eruption would be cataclysmic, considering the last eruption deposited volcanic ash as far as Charleston, South Carolina.

Our next stop was Midway Geyser Basin, where I was only able to see Excelsior Geyser, and not the large nearby hot spring, because I did NOT want to be late again! The blue water seems tropical, doesn't it? However, the smell of sulfur seems rotten!

Driving along to the next stops, we were on the lookout for bears, as we had only seen one for a matter of seconds before it ran off. Our professor informed us that she always sees MANY bears in Yellowstone, but that of course was not when she was with me.  I'm seemingly some type of bear repellent, as I've never seen a single one in all my travels. Today was no different.

We stopped at Gibbons Waterfalls for pictures. The sense of peace I had at Yellowstone topped that of any other natural place I've been to yet.

Buffalo are so prevalent in Yellowstone, that we even saw one walking along the road! He was being escorted by a police car as traffic slowed to take pictures and have a few laughs at the poor animal's expense. I hate thinking about how confused and disoriented all the commotion must have made him. The sight was very bittersweet.

Then we stopped at Mammoth Springs. The impressive step-like formations of the travertine are called "sinter terraces."

Although it had only rained for a matter of minutes (the most rain we've seen all 10 days), we caught a beautiful rainbow as we headed to our last stop.

Our last stop was Beryl Springs. The steam can actually be heard here indicating the pressure under these rocks.

Needless to say, today was an extremely long (yet satisfying) day.

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