Saturday, August 22, 2009

5627.6 (193.9) Miles to West Yellowstone, Montana

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Lots of looping around Yellowstone today. After a (relatively) late start, I drove through the Roosevelt Gate and repeated part of the loop I took yesterday, making my way down to Canyon where I could pick up the south loop. Took a nice drive along the north rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, looking at waterfalls, rivers, and cliffs.

Unfortunately, this is also where the car trouble began. Apparently, I have a spark plug wire that is slightly miswired. This took trips to two different service stations in Yellowstone to diagnose however. The temporary fix is a bunch of electrical tape to insulate the problem wire. Hopefully, that fix will carry me to Seattle, where I can get the entire set of wires replaced. In the meantime, at least the car is running normally.

Also took a drive out to the east gate of the park, along Yellowstone Lake and over a mountain pass. Nice drive, but the main purpose of taking it is to make sure I cover as many of the park roads as possible. Yellowstone Lake has an interesting story to it. Formed in part of the caldera created by the last supervolcano eruption 640,000 years ago, with one of the bays of the lake formed by a smaller volcano 125,000 years ago, Lake Yellowstone is the largest mountain lake in the world. At different times in its history, it drained into the Arctic Ocean (via Hudson Bay) and the Pacific Ocean. Today, it drains into the Atlantic (via the Gulf of Mexico). The water in the lake is cold enough to cause hypothermia, but the bottom of the lake is a hotbed of geothermal activity. There are also places along the lakeshore where hot springs and other heated features drain right into the lake.

Yellowstone has more geysers, hot springs, and other geothermal features than every other place in the world COMBINED. These include, of course, Old Faithful geyser. I went to see Old Faithful this evening on my way out of the park for the evening. I cought the last daylight eruption around 7:30. The geyser is quite a sight to see. I stood in a less-than-ideal place to see the eruption, and for my troubles got sprayed by some of the water as it fell back to the ground. The reason for Old Faithful's fame, however, is the fact that prior to a number of earthquakes over the past few decades, it went off just about every hour. Today, there are between 40 and 70 minutes between eruptions, but Old Faithful maintains its status as the most famous geyser in the world. And now I can check it off my list.

Tomorrow, I'll finish the south loop between Madison (the first junction in the park from the west entrance) and West Thumb. From there, south to Grand Teton National Park. If all goes well with the car, I'll catch any last second spots I missed (or want to revisit) in the two parks Monday, and then start heading towards the Pacific Northwest.

Pictures will be coming with the next post. They include lots of views of the park, including the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, and some Old Faithful, if the shots turn out well.

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