If you’re visiting this site for the first time, let me begin by welcoming you. We have just arrived at episode five of our nine-part miniseries, meaning that we are directly in the middle, at the apex of our narrative arc. Not to worry, though. I’ve provided some breadcrumbs below to help you get oriented.
Where did we leave off? Please excuse me while I find my spectacles. Ah, yes. We were edging close to the noon hour on October 5th, having slowly and thoroughly explored the north rim of The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Perhaps it was the morning weather—brisk, overcast, with a biting wind—that explained the lack of other tourists that day. As I explained in my previous post, Artist Point was eerily deserted when we had arrived at daybreak, the Lower Falls was ours alone when we first alit on the viewing terrace (although a few others trickled down the declivitous path after we did), and only one other couple was admiring the view from Outlook Point when we showed up there. That trend would continue as we made our way southeast on Grand Loop Road along Yellowstone River, which cuts through Hayden Valley.
Of the few other travelers we saw on that route, most were congregated in small groups along the roadside, and each of these groups had their eyes trained on wildlife out in the grassy plateau. Wildlife spotters were eager to share peeks through their steadied telescopes. In one spot, we were able to watch a family of gray wolves resting in the tall grass about a mile from the road, and we were also invited to view a grizzly bear even farther out, although all I could see was a tiny brown dot, so I had to take their word for it.
The highlight of our short stint as wildlife spotters came when Teri noticed a coyote walking through a large muddy field down near a stream bank. We stopped to watch, and we even saw him carrying what looked like a large rack of ribs while a red-tailed hawk dive-bombed him repeatedly. By the way, if you’re wondering why I didn’t post any photographs of these animals, it’s because I didn’t have much of a telephoto lens with me. The few I did take of the coyote are pretty lousy, and the only reason I took them was to zoom in and see what he was eating.
Our next stop was at the Mud Volcano area, whose walkway guides you through a system of mud pots and hot springs. Our visit there was briefer than we would have liked, since the weather was not cooperating. My favorite feature of this area was Dragon’s Mouth, a seething, milky hot spring with a cavernous mouth that belches sulfurous steam continuously. Its moniker describes it perfectly. Behind it is a small acidic, boiling lake that felt somehow prehistoric, with its fumarole-lined shore. A monochrome photograph of the lake is among my masthead photos above.
If you’ve ever marveled at the empty daytime London streets in the film 28 Days Later or driven through downtown on Christmas morning, then you might be able to conceptualize the strange silence at the Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake that day. It did not feel merely deserted but intentionally emptied, as if all the tourists and rangers had been cleared from the area for some movie shoot just before we arrived, the entire cast and production staff sitting quietly out of sight.
A weathered photograph of shoulder-to-shoulder fishermen greets you at the west end of the Fishing Bridge, their poles protruding from the mass of people like porcupine quills. But Teri and I were the only ones in sight, the normally crowded bridge all to ourselves.
The same desolation awaited us at the Lake Village area, where we parked in the empty post office parking lot and hiked down to the northwest shore of stately Yellowstone Lake to admire its blue-silver stillness.
West Thumb Geyser Basin was our last stop before we departed for Old Faithful in search of a hot spring called Morning Glory. The sun was doing its best to burn through the clouds. The West Thumb Geyser Basin is certainly one of the most interesting geyser basins, not only because of the great variety of geothermal features in its relatively small area, but also because several of its springs and geysers sit in Yellowstone Lake. Our favorite spring was Abyss Pool, shown below.
Stay tuned for the rest of day three.