Monday, August 1, 2016

Yellowstone: Norris Geyser Basin

I haven't been to Yellowstone since I was a little girl, and I've been wanting our family to go for years now! I knew the kids would love it. We finally set aside a time and scheduled it for this last June. As it turned out, our spring and summer got crowded with a couple other trips as well, and even though it made logistics a little tricky, I was kind of glad we had the rental near Yellowstone already reserved, so we weren't tempted to put it off again! I planned a Geology Unit in our homeschool for May and June, and even a little mini-unit on just Yellowstone right before we went, so we were all extremely excited to see the things we'd been learning about!

It was hot and crowded, of course. But there are also lots of good things about going in the summer, like having all the roads be open and no chance of snow! And, of course, that was just when we could go, so no use worrying about it!

We stayed not quite a week (spending two days driving there and back, one day near our cabin, and three very full days in Yellowstone itself), and though we could certainly have stayed longer, we felt like it was a pretty good amount of time and we saw most of the things we wanted to in the park. I'd love to go again sometime in the Fall, though! I feel like I could never tire of that strange and beautiful landscape.
I was totally taken aback by the huge, forested expanses like this one. I didn't remember anything except Old Faithful from when I was younger, really, and I wasn't expecting such vast wilderness! 

Even though we'd learned about WHY all this geothermal activity takes place here, and we'd seen hundreds of pictures and watched dozens of videos—it still took our breath away to be driving along and then suddenly see a scene like this:
Steam rising up from the earth, morning light streaming through. It was spectacular. There are so many geothermal features that aren't even "notable" enough to appear on a map or a guide—but they are amazing all the same! I really loved just driving along and looking out at everything we passed.


We drove in from the west and stopped to hike the Artist's Paint Pot trail. That steam rising through the dead trees just off the trail was so eerie and desolate-looking!


Goldie kept insisting, "I want to hold my OWN hand!" And then she did so.
This cute little squirrel was nice enough to pose for me.
These mud pots ("Paint pots," they're called, because the dissolved minerals in them give them a milky, chalky color) were really funny. They were so thick that they made a loud blopping noise as the bubbles rose and popped.
As we prepared for the trip I kept getting nervous about the danger of it all! It didn't help that I read the first chapter of a book called "Death in Yellowstone," detailing horrifying stories of children falling into boiling springs and so forth (I had to stop reading after that)—and yet, I didn't want to terrify the kids so much they couldn't have fun! Sam said that ALL he remembers about his childhood trip to Yellowstone is being completely petrified with fear. So, we just spent a lot of time before the trip talking about safety, obeying the signs, etc., and I think the kids were all appropriately wary. But I still worried about Goldie and Junie, who think they are BIG and can do ANYTHING. They were actually really good, as it turned out, though. I had very few moments of worry once we were actually at Yellowstone!

And of course, luckily, there were plenty of people around to make disapproving comments to us (or to their companions) about how we should be holding all of our kids' hands or keeping them closer to us. Thank goodness for unsolicited parenting advice; where would we be without it? 
Malachi Norris
We spent most of our time in Norris Geyser Basin the first day. There are lots of places to hike around within this basin, and it was probably (though it's SO hard to choose) my favorite place we went. The other areas (around Old Faithful, for example) FELT like Yellowstone to me. Maybe I remembered them from before. They were interesting and strange and beautiful. But Norris Geyser Basin—it felt like another planet! The desolate landscape striped with vivid colors, and the heat pulsing from the ground, and the constant hissing and burbling sounds: they all combined to make the experience feel surreal. You walk around each turn feeling that this place is literally like nothing else on earth.
This milky water! I loved it. Such an unusual shade of white-blue!
And I wish these pictures had sound effects. The hissing and roaring of the steam adds so much to the strangeness of everything!
We saw several geysers erupting, which was exciting. I'd been afraid we wouldn't see ANY, since most are not predictable, and it seemed too much to hope that we'd just happen along at the right time. But there were several (besides Old Faithful) that erupted right by us during the few days we were there. We loved it!

The more wooded parts of the trails were always a relief. It was SO hot, and the backpack with Teddy in it was SO heavy!
Along with weighing roughly the same as a troop of well-fed gorillas, Teddy has been greatly displeased with his quality of life for the past seven months or so, and one never knows quite what will incur his vocal displeasure. At Norris Geyser Basin, he wanted to ride on Sam, and Sam alone—and on top of that, he wanted to move at a steady, unflagging pace, never stopping to examine something closely, enjoy a vista, or chat of this and that.

Unfortunately, we were unable to accommodate him in either of these vastly reasonable desires, and this provoked his fierce wrath. He SCREAMED every time I stopped walking, which accounts for the shaky, hurried quality of some of these photographs. Oh, Teddy. I am sure he will become a delightful child very soon.
We saw a white-footed bunny! Only for a moment, of course, before the screaming forced us onward, but he was very cute all the same.
Amazing view across the evergreens.
Everything was so beautiful! I especially loved the deep blues of the hot pools, different shades depending on the depth and location. I am VERY glad I didn't stumble upon this place as an explorer in the 1800s and have to find my way across it alone—but with trails and boardwalks and informational signs to make us feel a bit safer, it is a magical place to visit! :)

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