Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2). To make the most of it in four and half days seems ambitious. It is nonetheless doable with the help of a knowledgeable National Park ranger.
The first thing we did, upon arriving in the town of West Yellowstone, was to pop into one of the park’s Visitor Centers and seek consultation. We provided the ranger with the duration of our stay, the starting/ending point of the day – which is usually our lodging, what we wished to see/accomplish, and had him crafted a plan for us. It helped tremendously.
The first (half) day he had us visit Old Faithful. This took care of the wait time for the eruption and knocked one big item off our list. It also happened to be a cloudy day with scatter showers – perfect for doing just one thing and getting ourselves acquainted with the park’s layout.
On second day we drove the bottom half of the park. We saw many hydrothermal features along the way, such as Fountain Paint Pots, Grand Prismatic Spring, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and Mud Volcano, and concluded the day with a spectacular view of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone basked in late afternoon sun.
Third day got us through the mid section of the park, starting with Gibbon Falls.
Situated just north of Gibbon Falls, is the one-mile (1.6km) Artist Paint Pots trail.
Much of this area was destroyed during the 1988 fire.
Yet today, a young lodgepole pine forest thrives.
The trail winds across a wet meadow on a boardwalk
reaching an area with colorful hot springs, mudpots and small geysers.
Much of the water in these springs is near boiling.
Blood Geyser has never ceased erupting since it was first recorded in 1882. It can erupt up to 6 feet high and discharges 150 gallons of water a minute. The high concentration of iron oxide in the water spews out, staining the surrounding rocks a rich red, given the geyser its gruesome name.
Don’t think it is bloody enough? Here’s another example of the stain.
Uphill, there are a couple of mudpots.
This slight elevation gain is one of the biggest factors in the development of mudpots.
The water supply is more limited higher up the hill.
Where hydrogen sulfide gas is present, microorganisms help covert that gas into sulfuric acid.
The acid breaks down the surrounding rock into clay and mudpots are formed.
Various gasses continue to escape through the mud, causing it to bubble and pop.
Make sense? Stay away from the flying mud, it is hot enough to burn you!
Next up, Norris Geyser Basin