Yellowstone is one of the earths biggest volcanos. The reason there is so much geothermic action going on is because the magma is only four miles under the surface of the earth. Today we drove down south to check out the geyser basins. I learned a lot about how geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots work. The magma underneath Yellowstone superheats underground water which is then forced up though openings in the earths surface...When the opening is small and constricted you get a geyser...when there is no constriction, you get a hot spring..when it is just a little bit of water, it turns to steam and you get a fumarole. Mudpots develop when there is limited water but a great deal of minerals and acid decomposing microorganisms.
We started all the way down at Upper Geyser Basin which is the home of Old Faithful although the first geyser that I saw the Grand Geyser...and it was GRAND! It had three eruptions and they were spectacular...It was very exciting...We then hiked around on the wooden boardwalks and looked at the other smaller geysers and hot spring pools...there are a lot of fumaroles around too...which looks like a hole in the ground that hisses and steam comes out but no water. It started pouring rain at that point but we knew that Old Faithful was due to erupt soon so we made our way down to see that....it was anti-climactic after seeing the Grand Geyser, which was SO much bigger, but I am glad we saw Old Faithful since it is so famous!
The rest of the day was making our way north and stopping at other geyser basins like Midway, Black Sand, Biscuit, and Lower...All of the basins have vibrantly colored hot springs due to minerals coming up from the ground. They also are very steamy and smell like sulfur... The air is cold between puffs of steam but at some points you almost feel like you are hugging a freshly cooked and peeled hard boiled egg...warm, wet, and stinky! We also visited the Mud Pots, otherwise known as artist paint pots...these look like bubbling mud pits...the mud is really smooth and spa-like and you want to touch it except it would burn you badly.
As we traveled along there were pull-off points to see animals and waterfalls..It was not as big of an animal spotting day as yesterday...A white coyote was right next to us on the road at one point and a huge bison almost ran into our car at another point, but other than that just a few elk sightings. We spoke to some people who had just seen two big grizzly bears run off in the distance but they were too far for us to see at that point. We did see two spectacular waterfalls, Firehole Falls and Gibbon Falls.
The last place we stopped today was Norris Geyser Basin..I felt like I was on another planet....the ground was hissing, bubbling, and steaming all around me and off in the distance I could see snow covered mountains...totally surreal.
The weather is constantly changing....you can see in the pictures that it is raining at some points and totally sunny and beautiful at others...Tomorrow we are panning a wildlife hike in the morning and then we will check into the Yellowstone Campus and meet the other teachers for our course orientation...