We were now at our first full day at Yellowstone (June 17). Neither my son nor I are big fans of crowds of tourists, so I’d mainly planned to visit locations that were away from the standard Yellowstone locations. (You may have noticed I do something similar in my hikes around Central Ohio.) Very few people are willing to go the extra mile (literally) to see something different. So, today’s plan was to visit the Monument Geyser Basin.
But that didn’t mean that was all we had to do.
Let me put up the Yellowstone map again (click to make it readable).
Remember, we were camped up in the northeast corner intersection at Tower Fall Campground. The Monument Geyser Basin is in the middle west, between Madison and Norris. While we were aiming at Monument, we felt free to stop and visit stuff along the way.
Our first stop was the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River, near Canyon Village. We’d been there before 9 years ago, with my son’s Boy Scout Troop. It was a cute diversion.
Here is where the Yellowstone River goes over the falls that puts it into what is called the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
And here I am as we see upstream before the river hits the falls.
Up that direction (south) is the Hayden Valley, a really broad expanse that is just filled with wildlife.
Oh, and if you’d like to see what the falls look like from downstream, here’s a picture from 9 years ago of my other son, with the falls in the background.
We first headed up the Hayden Valley, to the Mud Volcano and Dragon Mouth’s Spring.
Here let me say a few words about wildlife blocks. The tourists go absolutely nuts about all the wildlife at Yellowstone. They’ll see something and stop in the middle of the road (the rangers really, really discourage this). Or (better), they’ll pull over to the side.
You can always tell when there is wildlife around—just look for the traffic jam. Drives. Me. Nuts.
The funny thing is, around Canyon Village, or near the entrances, you will get these wildlife blocks when there is one lone bison off in the distance. What these people don’t realize is that if you just drive around a bit, they will have plenty of opportunity to plenty more. Plenty more all together.
On the way back from the Mud Volcano, we got two see two bison ford the river.
Then after that, we headed west, and along the way we passed the valley for the Gibbon River.
And in the Gibbon River Valley was a huge herd.
They were everywhere.
Continuing on, we looked in at the Artists’ Paintpots, but we could not even turn up the road it was so crowded. Who wants to deal with such crowds? We didn’t. So we continued to the Monument Geyser Basin.
The hike up to Monument Geyser Basin was about a mile and a half. The climb was about 600-700 feet.
We met one couple coming down as we were going up, and a family going up was we were going down. But that was it. (Compare this to the nearby Artists’ Paintpots; we instead went the extra mile and got a really cool place to ourselves.)
At the top was the geyser basin. Monument Geyser used to go off pretty regularly, but after an earthquake all that were left were hot springs and steam vents.
It was also nice that there were no fancy boardwalks with ever-present warnings. Up here there were a few logs that marked off the safer places from the less safe ones.
In this picture you can see a left-over cone with a bit of steam coming out.
I should mention that the whole area reeked of sulphur.
Off to the right from that last picture was the little creek fed by the waters of the hot spring. You can kind of see it start in this picture.
You can also see Mt. Holmes and the rest of the Gallatin Range in the distance.
Here’s the little creek valley itself.
I was able to head down the valley and shoot back up towards the geyser basin.
In that picture there are a bunch of pine trees to the left. They were perfectly safe to walk through. However, as one got closer to the creek (which also had springs of its own), they stopped.
And with my bare feet I could tell that the ground was getting warmer. Clearly, when the ground got too warm, the pines could not grow there.
It was also a warning to me that I’d gone just far enough.
In the above picture you might notice the color of the creek. Here’s a close-up of that.
The crystals are usually something like travertine, which precipitates out of the mineral-laden hot water. And various algae love the different temperature water.
Here’s a picture of the Gibbon River Valley taken on our way back down.
That’s where we saw the bison on our way there.
When we left, it was late enough that we made another attempt to get to the Artists’ Paintpots. This time we made it in, and just barely found a parking spot.
It was a short hike from the lot to the paintpots. Along the trail, if you knew just where to look, Monument Geyser Basin was visible.
Look just above my right shoulder for that white spot. That’s it. (Of course, all of the hot spring and geyser areas are white, since the heat kills all of the vegetation.)
The Artists’ Paintpots were okay. (After a while, it is easy to get jaded: “Oh, some more bubbly, steamy, foul-smelling mud or water.”) While some of the locations in it did have some nice color (from the algae), the paintpots themselves were kind of a nice, neutral wall-of-your-bedroom beige “paint”.
You need to look more closely at that picture. That’s a liquid pool of “paint”. And the heat underneath was boiling the mud so that it kept splootching up.
See it now?
Here’s another plop I managed to catch.
That was actually kind of fun.
But there were also the hot, colorful pools there too. Here is my son on the boardwalk with a couple of those pools in front of him.
At this point we really weren’t exerting ourselves. We were really just settling in.
And getting ready for our next day.