Earthcaching in Yellowstone National Park (Oct 13 / 14)

During our spring and fall breaks over the past few years, we’ve visited 7 or 8 U.S. National Parks and this year we decided that after attending Geocoinfest 2009 in Salt Lake City, we’d head north for our first visit to Yellowstone National Park. With our timing so late in the year, we had to plan our visit around 2 road closures in the park. This wasn’t a critical limitation, as it’s impossible to see very much of this vast park in just two days.

From West Yellowstone we headed generally southeast, with the aim of reaching Old Faithful by mid-morning. It took us a little longer than we planned (12:50 arrival at the Old Faithful visitor center) because there were so many fascinating / scenic / educational spots to stop along the way! We particularly liked the Fountain Paint Pot area in the Lower Geyser Basin…

…and we enjoyed the billowing clouds of steam near the Grand Prismatic Spring in the Middle Geyser Basin. We so yearned for a view of the colourful glory of the Grand Prismatic Spring that we stopped here 3 more times before leaving Yellowstone, but we never once saw more than a glimpse of one edge.

It was raining at Old Faithful but we endured the drizzle to snap multiple, multiple photos during the 4 minute eruption. And as Ol’ Murphy would have it, the rain stopped just as the water ceased to spout, so we headed off to walk the extensive boardwalk system in the immediate area. By the time we headed back to the parking lot we’d walked more than 9 km; highlights included a surprise eruption at the Lion Group geyser, the Grotto Geyser, a couple of bison just off the boardwalk and the colourful Morning Glory Pool. We learned all about fountain geysers vs. dome geysers, the interconnectedness of the many geysers and springs and how fallen trees can be incorporated into geyser domes if they happen to fall in just the right spot! In total we managed to meet the logging requirements for 7 earthcaches during our first day in the park.

GeoK "boys" at the Lion Group geyser

Bison just off the boardwalk (maybe 8 meters / 25 feet from where we stood)

Morning Glory Pool

Temperatures dropped well below freezing and a bit of snow feel overnight, which delayed our day 2 entrance into Yellowstone to about 10:30. Even so, road conditions were pretty sloppy going over Craig’s Pass (just south of Old Faithful), with some sections of compact snow. We even spotted a couple of vehicles that were in the trees off the side of the road!

It was quite a coincidence to stop at the small lake that sits on the Great Divide and learn that the fellow carefully constructing a snowman beside the lake was a geocacher from Alabama! We talked for a bit about the fascinating geology in Yellowstone and then carried on to West Thumb Geyser Basin where we endured chilling winds and rain while we walked the boardwalks to gather the information to log another earthcache. By the time we reached Lake Village and turned around, we’d discovered two more earthcaches and a big heard of bison. Unfortunately, the tire pressure warning light kept flashing for attention. The cold temperature caused the pressure to drop just enough to trigger the warning, but with pretty much of all of the park services closed for the winter, we had to return to West Yellowstone to address the problem.

Altogether we drove about half of the "Grand Loop" around the center of the park. Our boys (ages 10 and 13) volunteered that Yellowstone is their favourite of all the U.S. National Parks we’ve visited so far. So we foresee a return visit, probably earlier in the fall and for a bit longer so that we can see the areas we missed this time around and maybe – just maybe – finally get a close up and full-colour view of the Grand Prismatic Spring.


2 thoughts on “Earthcaching in Yellowstone National Park (Oct 13 / 14)

  1. Wade

    I know you have a lot of beautiful places up in your neck of the woods, but isn\’t the Yellowstone area incredible!It is real special when you can share this beauty with your family.

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