US Trip 2014 – Yellowstone

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We spent the night only a few minutes away from the west entrance to Yellowstone, so we had planned to spend the entire day in the park, and then drive towards Wapiti. We had a total of 17 earthcaches, 15 virtuals and 4 traditional caches planned for the day.

We started early, as we do every day on this trip, and went straight to the park entrance. Yellowstone is the first of a total of 10 national parks we’re going to visit on this trip. Our route through the park was mainly the southern section, but with a few detours.

Rute Yellowstone

The first earthcache, GC14ZQY Yellowstone Talus Slope, was quite easy, and taught us something new never had heard about before. The next, was a whole lot harder. But we quickly learnt to ask rangers for help when stuck. When we planned this trip, we selected the earthcaches we thought we were able to solve once we got here, so some were left out. But we decided to do a few of the ones that were left out anyway. GC2N8XW Ojo Caliente Earthcache was our first encounter with Yellowstone’s geothermal activity, and it was the first time we got to experience the smell of Yellowstone…

We’ve seen boiling water plenty of times before, in our kitchen. But seeing water boil on the side of a river like this… …you’ll have to see (and smell) for yourself to understand.

Boiling water

Our next stop was Fountain Paint Pots. Before we could get there, we had to wait in line to get a parking spot. Not everyone wanted to wait, one guy skipped the line, and parked right in front a bus. Luckily, this was the only time during our visit that we witnessed this kind of behavior.

Several of the caches in Yellowstone are located in small clusters, with nice elevated boardwalks between them. I know that some Norwegians might think that the boardwalks are there because people are to lazy to walk on the ground – that’s only because they don’t know better! Here, we got to see up close why the boardwalks are there. Firstly, it’s really hot some places, but most important, the ground is filled with life! Creating all sorts of interesting patterns.

Thermophile microbes

We explored the area, which included magnificent pools, mud pots and fumaroles. After doing all the caches here, and taking a lot of photos, we continued towards the Grand Prismatic Spring. Getting to the parking lot turned out to be a challenge, we weren’t the only one wanting to see GPS today! But after waiting patiently long enough, we finally got a parking spot.

Just as on the last stop, there was several caches to find here. The most memorable of them are the one on Grand Prismatic Spring itself, recently honored as Geocache of the Week (the second Geocache of the Week-cache we found on this trip). GC1JY47 Rainbow’s End: Grand Prismatic Spring is definitly worth a stop! Even though I have a camera worth a few thousand US dollars, there’s no way I take a picture that really shows how awesome this place is (might be because the camera is better than me, and I don’t know how to use it properly… And, we brought the wrong lens…) – you really have to see this place yourself!

Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring

After Grand Prismatic Spring, it was time for the main attraction – Old Faithful Geyser! We had trouble finding parking here as well (kinda used to it now), but after somewhere between 5 and 10 laps around the parking lot, we found a spot. A short stop in the restrooms, and then we headed straight to Old Faithful. Judging by the huge crowd gathered around the area, we figured out that an eruption was going to happen soon. And sure enough, just as quickly as all the phones and pads made their way up into the air, so did the water from Old Faithful. Since we’re also tourists, we had to get some photos as well! (but we didn’t use a phone!)

Old Faithful eruption

After the eruption, and an attempt to get something to eat, we went on a walk around the Old Faithful area/Upper Geyser Basin. Of course, to find all the caches here! It was supposed to be around 5km/3 miles to walk, to find all the caches. But it turned out to be more than 7km/4.4mi. It was worth it, we got to see several eruptions of Old Faithful, from different angles. We got to experience Solitary Geyser, all by ourselves – the only spot in the park without any other people!

Solitary Geyser

But it didn’t last long, after about three minutes, people started spewing out from all over – just like water from a fountain geyser. When walking down from the next cache, we were stopped by some other park visitors. It didn’t take long to see why – a few elks were standing in the middle of the trail, eating. We had to wait a few minutes before we could continue. All in all, we managed to find all the caches, and spent about 4 hours here. That’s about twice as much as we had planned. But so worth it!

Tracklog Old Faithful

We continued towards the eastern entrance, or exit if you like. We stopped to find several caches. Two of the caches were located inside a construction zone. Luckily for us, no construction workers were around, and the information boards we needed to read, were still available by foot. We did a short detour past the intersection where we should turn to the eastern entrance. If you guessed we did that to find more caches, you were right. As earlier today, we hadn’t planned to spend too much time on this detour. But when we ended up in the middle of a huge crowd on the lookout for bears, we didn’t have any choice! We probably could have walked faster than we were able to drive. People and parked cars everywhere, and of course two of the caches we wanted to find – were right in the middle of it! Suddenly, we became one of those people keeping the traffic slow…

People everywhere

We managed to find the information we needed, take the pictures we needed, and then we tried to get out of there. Easier said than done, but we managed. By the time we got to the last earthcache on this detour, it was starting to get dark. On top of that, the earthcache turned out to be a lot harder than we thought, and by the time we got back to the car, it was almost completely dark. We had a few more stops on the way out of the park, and a few outside planned. We (barely) managed to find the virtuals we had planned, but had to skip a few of the earthcaches. The last earthcache was so close to where we were going to spend the night, so we decided to drive back to that after getting some sleep.

By the time we got to the first of the last virtuals, it was completely dark! See for yourself, not much visible in the photo, except from me and my GPSr, but there is a bridge and a river there…

Me and a bridge

While driving out of the park, we got to see several lightning bolts, and even caught one of them on camera! (the bright portion of the tree is just over exposure, due to the car lights being on).

Lightning bolt

Since we didn’t stop to get a photo when entering the park, we made sure to stop at the entrance sign when leaving. We actually went past it, and then turned around to go back. But we decided to skip the traditional caches we had planned to find – even though we were really close to one of them. It was simply way too dark to continue caching.

Yellowstone National Park

We ended up finding a total of 15 virtual caches and 16 earthcaches today. We took a total of 550 photos/short video in Yellowstone.

I do know one thing for sure, we’ll be back!

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