Yellowstone Tour (Day 4 of 7) : A date with Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

This morning we woke up feeling very excited because we were finally going to Yellowstone National Park.  To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from Yellowstone, but I knew that we were on the Yellowstone Tour so I guessed that it was something worth seeing.  All I knew was that it was a huge park (it extends into several states), and that’s its popular for campers and tourists.

I remember the very first time I heard about Yellowstone National Park.  It was back in the 4th grade and our Science teacher was talking about volcanoes.  It brought us to the topic of geysers, so of course he had to tell us about the most famous geyser of all – Old Faithful.  I’ve wanted to see it since then, and now I was finally going to.

We were a good 450 miles away from the park, so this meant spending several hours on the bus again

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Passing the time by watching videos and listening to music

Just like the previous day, my view from the window consisted of lots of empty fields and a few farm houses

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We made a few pit stops along the way, as usual.  The pictures below were taken at one of them.  We were the first bus to arrive so we managed to get in and out of the bathroom without the long lines.  We used the extra time we had to stretch our legs.

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Our group stopped at a gas station for lunch.  There weren’t that many food choices so we ended up having fast food again

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I gained so much weight and broke out like crazy on this trip because of all the unhealthy food we were eating 😦 (Thank goodness for Photoshop’s healing tools)

After a few more hours on the road, we made it to Yellowstone National Park:IMG_4833

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Our bus stopped to let us take pictures with the Roosevelt Arch, which was one of the many entrances to the park.  (Like I said, this place is HUGE.)  This one is at the North Entrance in Montana.  We were wondering why half of our group went the other direction, away from the arch, but we later found out that there was a huge sign that says “Yellowstone National Park” a few meters away. The other buses were blocking it from view so we didn’t see it.  We only spotted it after we were back on the bus and by then it was too late to go back down to take photos.  But at least we managed to take  some nice pictures with the arch:

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After spending the several hours on the bus, it felt nice to be able to walk around, so we ran around the field nearby and took a few photos

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Ezra was trying to copy the Sound of Music meme in this shot.  (Click HERE if you have no idea what I’m talking about).  Pretty close right? XD

Back on the bus, Tim handed out some maps of the park

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He also gave us some brochures which shows some of the wildlife people might encounter in the park.  As you know, I’m terrible with animals so Ezra tried to give me a quick zoology lesson.  She gave up after a few minutes after declaring that I was hopeless T__T

Tim also gave us some facts about Yellowstone.  He told us that most of the park is located in the state of Wyoming, but some parts of it are in Montana (where we were) and Idaho territory.  There are many lakes, mountains and rivers in the park, as well as a number of interesting wildlife, making it a popular place for campers, bikers, hikers and tourists. There are a lot of geothermal activity in the area, mainly due to the Yellowstone Caldera (AKA the “Yellowstone Supervolcano”).  As a result, the park houses several mudpots and geysers.  One of the most popular is of course Old Faithful.

Our tour took us to Mammoth Hot Springs to see some mineral deposits brought about by the volcanic activity in the park.  When we got off the bus, we found these fellas resting in the shade

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We were free to take photos but we weren’t allowed to approach them.  A lot of the animals you will see in the park as used to people walking around, but they’re far from domesticated.  They won’t chase after you, but if you get too close then there’s no telling what they might do.

After a quick run to the rest room to peel off some of the layer of clothes we were wearing (it was cold when we left Wyoming that morning, but it was nice and warm in Yellowstone), we headed over to see the mineral deposits

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Tim didn’t get the chance to explain what these were, but according to some websites I visited, they’re limestone deposits.  They somehow managed to form these neat little terraces.

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We also saw this cone-like thing in the area:

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It’s called the Liberty Cap

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It’s another structure which formed due to the continuous deposition of minerals as the hot spring water cooled.  There was a fence around it so we couldn’t get close, but it’s supposedly around 11m tall.

IMG_4893As I mentioned earlier, Yellowstone is a popular place for bikers and hikers.  There are a lot of trails that you can follow in the area. The Beaver Ponds Trail is one of them, and it starts at the Mammoth Hot Springs.

On our way back to the bus we found a bison grazing in the nearby field:

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Back on the bus, Tim shared more stories about Yellowstone National Park.  He told us that in the old days, people didn’t know about geysers and geothermal activity, so they couldn’t explain why all the steam came from the ground.  Supposedly, one man was brave enough to go into the park (back when it was uncharted territory) to see what was in there.  When he came out, he told people that a monster lived inside the park (well, I suppose it wasn’t a park yet at the time), and it followed him around wherever he went.  The “monster” lived under the ground and occasionally made growling noises.  It breathed steam which rose high up into the air.  And no matter where the man went, he could hear the beast growling underneath him and see its breath rising from the ground, following him.  Poor guy must have been so freaked.

Outside our window we saw these dead trees on the ground due to a forest fire:

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The park officials leave them where they are and allow them to naturally decomposeIMG_4952

Tim told us that forest fires occasionally occur in the park.  Some are caused by tourist, but most of them occur naturally when lighting strikes.  In the past, the people were really scared by the fires and did their best to stop them the moment they started, but they soon realized that it’s a natural part of the ecosystem.   The fires clears out small areas of the forest, especially the small plants beneath the canopy.  With these smaller plants gone, the larger trees get more nutrients.  Also, over time, the ash becomes fertilizer for the trees.

We also saw some snow from  our window, which I found strange because it wasn’t that cold outside

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Our bus driver dropped us off at the start of the Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail

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It’s a pretty short trail (less than a mile long) on a boardwalk.  As we walked around we saw lots of sign of hydrothermal activity such as hot springs, geysers, mud pots and fumaroles.

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There were many different pools there.  I thought it was interesting how colorful some of them were.  We were told that the different shades of reds and yellows were mostly due to the oxidation of iron in the soil.  But sometimes they are also because of the different bacteria that live in these pools.

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Look how beautiful the colors are in this one 😀

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You can see how the mud is bubbling up due to the heat

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I had to take a picture of this sign because “sintering” is a term I hear quite often in material science.  It’s a common heating process used to fuse powders into a solid material.  In fact, part of my thesis studied the effects of sintering temperature on the crystal structure of kaolinite clay discs.  I didn’t realize that “sinter” had another definition.  According to the Free Dictionary, it also means “a chemical sediment or crust, as of porous silica, deposited by a mineral spring.”

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After we were done with the trail, out group finally made our way over to catch Old Faithful 😀

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We’re here!!

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Perhaps the most important reason why Old Faithful is so popular is because it is the most predictable geyser on Earth.  At the moment, it erupts every 90 minutes (with an uncertainty of about 10 minutes).  This means that tourists can schedule a visit to Old Faithful and see the actual eruption.  During this time it shoots out a huge amount of boiling water which can reach up to about 50m high.

We got to the viewing deck 10 minutes before Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt, so we just sat around for a while, watching steam come out of the ground.

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See where the steam is coming out?  That’s Old Faithful 🙂

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Other people waiting for the eruption

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The weather was so fickle that day.  It would switch from hot to cold in a matter of minutes.  When we got there the sun was hiding behind a cloud so we were all bundled up to hide from the cold.  Then a few minutes later the sun came out and it got so hot that we ended up removing some layers of clothes

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Then the sun hid behind the clouds again and it was freezing once more.

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All wrapped up again.  Brrrr~ This time it was colder compared to before the sun came out.  I even put gloves on!

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Look at my mom, lol.  She left her coat and beanie on the bus, but she had the detachable hood in her bag. This was how she protected her head from the cold XD

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Ezra left her beanie in the bus too so she ended up wrapping her scarf around her head XD

Finally, after a little bit of waiting, it was time for Old Faithful to show us what he’s got:

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I took a few pictures in the beginning but they all looked like this so I decided to just sit back and enjoy the show.

The entire thing lasted about 5 to 10 minutes.  There was lots of water and lots of steam.  Old Faithful had a couple of false starts before the actual eruption.  I think he was messing with us (j/k).  It would start to spew out some water then stop abruptly.  I think it was warming up while preparing for the big one.

After Old Faithful, we got back on the bus to see the Midway Geyser Basin

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The basin contains the Turquoise Pool, Opal Pool, Excelsior Geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring.  According to some sources, the Excelsior Geyser is the largest geyser in the world, with eruptions reaching up to 300feet.  However, it’s been years since its last eruption, and it’s now considered dormant.  The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone Park and its supposed to be really colorful.

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On the bridge heading up to see the pools

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Saw some more bison grazing near the river

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Sight seeing around the boardwalk

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The air was really thin up there so we kept running out of breath

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My dad took these paparazzi shots of us near the Grand Prismatic Spring
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We didn’t really see all the the vivid colors that were supposed to be there due to the bacteria.  If you Google images of the Grand Prismatic Spring you’ll see that it’s supposed to be really bright and colorful, but what we saw was a little muted compared to the other pools we saw earlier that day.  Maybe because we were too close to it?  Or maybe you had to be there at a certain time?  I’m not really sure …

Another paparazzi shot my dad took us of walking back to the bridge

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He decided to stay behind there because the thin air made him breathless.IMG_5149

Hi Daddy~

After this we got back on the bus and Tim took us to our rest stop for the evening, the Dude Motel in West Yellowstone.  It was a very small town, sort of the like the one you see in old horror films.  Even our motel look like a location for  a good thriller movie:

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What do you think?  I mean it’s nice and all, but I think we’ve just seen too many horror films.

And what was even scarier is how we were cut off from the rest of the world.  My mom and Ezra went to the check in counter that evening to ask how we can make a call to California to reach Ninang and Kurt (we call them every night).  The lady at the counter responded “Oh, you can’t make any calls outside”.  Apparently their phones were just good for making calls inside the town.  They didn’t have wifi either.  (But if you stand in the motel parking lot you can access the wifi of the other motel across the street.)

Our group didn’t stop for dinner before arriving at the motel, so Tim told us we were free to walk around the town to look for places to eat.  He mentioned that it only consisted of a few blocks so we don’t need to worry about getting lost … unless a mad axe murderer abducts us in the middle of the night.  Just kidding.  The town felt really safe and the people there were nice 😀

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We walked around a bit and stopped by at the nearby grocery to restock on water and fruits before looking for a place to eat

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It was almost 9pm when this picture was taken, can you believe it??  Look at that sky! 9PM in the Philippines means total darkness!  I can still see signs of the sun in some of these photos.

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About a block away from our motel we saw this Dairy Queen stand.  We saw that they served burgers so instead of continuing our search for a restaurant, we decided to just get a few to go and eat them back in our room.

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I never knew that Dairy Queen served things other than ice cream…

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Admiring this quaint little town while waiting for our order 🙂

We explored the town little more (dropped by a few gift shops to look for souvenirs) before heading back to our room after we got our burgers.  There wasn’t much to do that evening since we didn’t have wifi, but at least we had a TV.  I tried hanging out at the motel parking lot to access the wifi from the motel across the street but I didn’t last long because of the cold.  I just sent Ckloy a few messages and pictures on Viber before taking refuge in our warm room.  We had a bathtub in our room so I decided to spend the evening having a nice soak.  Ezra wanted to do the same but I apparently used up all the hot water so she ended up having to sit in cold water.  I guess we should be thankful she didn’t get sick.  (Tita Carol, the other Filipina lady on tour with us, caught a cold because she ran out of hot water during her shower.)  Tim told us that we had to be on the road again by 6:30am the following morning so after our baths we hopped into bed for our beauty sleep.  We were  told that we would continue our tour of Yellowstone Park the next day before moving on to our next destinations.

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