Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2009 Vacation - Day 5: Yellowstone Wandering

Our first full day in Yellowstone started with breakfast, a rather long drive to the Geyser area of the park, and a hike to Mystic Falls.

I was in a gloomy mood most of the day. Yellowstone seems to bring out the depression in me. I used to think it was how long it takes to get anywhere in the park. Inevitably you end up behind some slow RV. This trip, so far, the traffic has been rather light, shooting a hole in my theory. It could be the gloomy weather … or maybe it's just Yellowstone.

Our first stop Friday was the spectacular Old Faithful Inn. The Wife had seen it on the Travel channel and we stopped to take a look. Pretty cool. Since we had a bus tour planned on Saturday that included Old Faithful itself, we didn't wait for it to blow, instead we headed to nearby Biscuit Basin.

There's a hike at Biscuit Basin called the Mystic Falls trail. I did this hike fourteen years ago and I wanted to do it again to see how things had changed. The area was ravaged by fire in 1988. When I was there in 1995 everything was blackened but new life was visible everywhere. Most of the trees along the trail were no more than a foot or two high. This time the landscape had changed completely.

The trail starts at a boardwalk that takes you past several hot springs and geysers. The trail follows the Fire Hole river. At the first 'Y' junction we veered off the river and headed up to a lookout point high above the surrounding plain. The trail switchbacks steeply up the ridge. A chipmunk jumped the Wife on the way up and stalked us all the way up the ridge. Must have thought we had food or something. From the top of the ridge you can see several geysers including Old Faithful. The plain had changed a lot since my first visit. Back then the plain was a grassy meadow with few trees. Today the plain is dominated by new growth trees. Quite a different sight.


We followed the trail along the top of the ridge before we switchbacked back down to the falls. Mystic falls is a 70 foot torrent of water. Very impressive. Living in Southern California I missed raging rivers and waterfalls. The rest of the trail follows the river back to the boardwalk. Once again luck smiled on us and the rain held off until we got back to the car. This hike, with the addition of the lookout loop is about 4.1 miles roundtrip. (Silly me, I left my GPS in the car so I have no elevation information).

The drive back to Yellowstone Lake sucked any remaining energy we had. Must have been the four continental divide crossings or something. We stopped at Fishing Bridge for some lunch before heading for the hotel for an afternoon nap. I'm kind of disappointed with myself. A 4.1 mile hike wiped me out. I suppose I have to remind myself that we are at elevation (7,000+) but I'm still disappointed in myself.

The afternoon ended with a boat trip out on the lake with a little history thrown in. The sun, that had been hiding in the clouds most of the day, finally made an appearance and we ended up with perfect boat riding weather.

We closed the day with a few drinks in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel sunroom listening to piano music and watching the sun go down over the lake. Pictures can be found here.

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