Morning to research and afternoon to explore.
The elk were gone from the campground in the morning, apparently having moved to the Gardiner school’s athletic field. And the pronghorns were grazing on the hillside, too. I drove back down to Gardiner, bought milk and ice — the Gardiner supermarket is sensible enough to carry block ice, thank you very much — and went back to the Heritage Center to finish this trip’s round of research. They let me leave bookmarks behind in their rack, too, which was nice of them.
After that, I headed back into the park, and down towards the Norris Geyser Basin. Norris has two basins, actually, the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin (geysers always occur in low spots, which is why they’re called basins). I wanted to walk the Porcelain Basin, called that because the sinter looks rather like it from a distance. All smooth and pale and with very little in the way of plants in the basin proper. The main thing I like about Porcelain Basin is the little spring/spouters that make this really nifty spitting/sizzling sound. I grin every time I walk by them.
After that, I decided to drive over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, to see all that high water I’d been seeing in the Yellowstone River for the last couple of days go over those spectacular falls. The falls were about as full as I’d ever seen them, which is saying a fair amount. And I discovered a new-to-me place, which is not something I can say very often anymore about my park. Somehow, in all of my visits, I had missed a little sign along the road between Canyon Village and the Chittenden Bridge saying temptingly “brink of upper falls.” This time I didn’t. I turned off down the short road and came to a parking area and a path, which ended in a staircase. At the bottom of the staircase, it was almost like standing at the railing at Niagara. Not anywhere near as enormous, obviously, but every bit as loud and misty. Complete with a rainbow. Just lovely. And I saw some veronica along the way.
After that it was back to Norris (it’s only twelve miles one way between Canyon and Norris, across the center of the figure eight that is the Grand Loop Road), which is named after the second superintendent of the park, back in the 1870s, Philetus W. Norris, who had a penchant for naming things after himself. He has a bit part in Repeating History, and was an interesting fellow.
This time I wanted to walk the Back Basin trail, a mile and a half through the woods and along the boardwalks past geysers and springs and fumaroles. This trail goes past Steamboat Geyser, the world’s largest but also one of its most erratic geysers (its recorded intervals between eruptions range from two days to over fifty years). I would give my eyeteeth to see Steamboat erupt someday, but the chances are slim to none. Still, this is one of the best walks in the park, and there’s lots of interesting things to see. Including, today, a flower I’ve never seen before, bog laurel or Kalmia microphylla. It’s the same genus as back-east mountain laurel, which is one of my favorite plants.
By the time I made it back to my car, it was late enough in the afternoon that I needed to head to West Yellowstone (known locally as just plain West), where I had a reservation for a bed in the hostel at the Madison Hotel, the oldest hotel in town, which is, as I know from personal experience, haunted [g].
If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:
Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures