Three Forks, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

- 06 September 2004 -

The Missouri Headwaters State Park visitor information thingy.

Since I have long been interested in the journeys of Lewis and Clark, and since Three Forks is an important place in Lewisandclarkology, I definitely wanted to see what it looked like. However, we wanted to get to Yellowstone before it was dark, and we didn't know what sort of road lay ahead. And, plus, the way to actually see the famous Three Forks was to go on a hike (which I would have loved to do at some other time -- but not right then). So I just took some quick pictures around the info center.


Everybody loves Sacagawea! The Three Forks was probably the least fortunate place in her own life, since she was kidnapped and ended up with Monsieur Charbonneau, whom I am told was fairly nasty. However, her misfortune was the gain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, because Sacagawea could guide and translate for them when they were in this neck of the woods. DeVoto famously minimized her work as mere "recognizing", not "guiding", but it was incredible by any name, and she well deserves her fame.

The old Gallatin Hotel.

Gallatin, Madison, Jefferson -- the rivers which moosh together in their inimitable watery fashion to form the Missouri River. This hotel was named after the Gallatin fork, and at one time it was really something, so they say. Now it's almost nothing. They don't even let you go inside this fascinating old building, because it's in serious danger of collapse.

At a rest stop along US 287.

This lovely mountain river scene greeted us as we stopped at an ambiguously-named rest area along US 287.

A tough business... ... and it's all because of a strange long-lasting fashion for beaver fur hats.

In Yellowstone National Park. 

Note all the dead trees. I believe they were burnt in the Fire of Nineteen-Ought-Eighty-Eight. 

(Years in the form 19xx already seem old; adding the "ought" just makes it seem like it was even further in the past ;b ) I was there the year afterward, and I remember the burnt trees being darker, from, uh, being burnt, 'n' stuff. I guess the burnt part has sloshed off with the rain and melted off with the snow.


Li'l Deerses!

Note the cute little pointy ears! Note the antlers!

More scenery.

Yellowstone possesses scenery by the truckload. Yea, the National Park hath scenic beauty in vast hollering gobs.

Lower Geyser Basin, as viewed from a turnout along the road from Madison to Old Faithful.

A typical view from the parking lot at Lower Geyser Basin.

Hot, steamy, geyser-y goodness!

Yellowstone just wouldn't be Yellowstone without that sweet, sweet bacterial goodness. Seriously! It's the heat-lovin' bacteria (technically "thermophilic", which, of course, means "heat-lovin'") that provide all the fascinating pinks, yellows, greens, reds, and browns that you see in the hot springs, hot pools, and geyser basins. 

It's also fun to go around saying "bbbbacteria!" in a goofy, floppy-lipped voice whenever you encounter the frequent "Bacteria Mat" signs. I speak from much experience. 

Plus, Yellowstone consistently reminds people not to "mark" the bacteria -- because, apparently, there's nothing more romantic to some among our species than seeing their name affixed to another's with a plus sign and scratched into some thick but fragile mats of bacteria.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Silex Pool.

If you pooled together all of the silex that you could lay your musty li'l hands upon, I bet you still wouldn't have something like this. That's because you're not the National Park Service.


Behold the Fountain Paint Pots.

At first glance, it may appear that these are pots of paint that have some inexorable but inexplicable connection with the word "fountain". But when you look deeper into the situation -- when you stare wide-eyed into the very core of the situation in question -- you will realize that the appearance of bubbling gray paint has created a tremendous nomenclatural illusion that has fooled visitors such as yourself, myself, and the two busloads of Chinese tourists that were nearby when I took this picture. Or something.


(More of the Fountain Paint Pots.)

Silex Pool made an impression on Miss Kick and myself. It was the first close-up geothermal feature that we had seen in Yellowstone, and it was so clear and pretty and steamy. It's an excellent example of what you find in Yellowstone. As such, we took quite a few pictures.

The little sinter cone that could.

Sinter is the funky crumbly-looking gray-white material that you see around a geothermal feature. This little sinter cone was found in the Fountain Paint Pot area.

Some little puddles and fumaroles near the Fountain Paint Pots.

This particular feature had some sort of name like "Red Bubbler", but as I did not capture its name on film, I do not have it for my gallery-producing reference. My sincerest apologies.  

Under the boardwalk, 
We'll be scalded to hell!
Under the boardwalk, 
We'll be the done that's called "well"! 
Under the boardwalk! Boardwalk!

So sang the singers popular in parental times. Or something. 

Incidentally, I *was* firmly planted upon (not beneath) the governmentally-provided boardwalk-style walkway when I took this picture. I have no strong wish to be either: a) sautéed; b) burnt; c) deep-fried in a highly-acidic geothermal sauce (which goes nicely with the chardonnay); or d) imprisoned. I would recommend that all visitors to Yellowstone have the same firm compunctions as I myself have.

Leather (?!?!) Pool.

I'm not really sure how this feature got its uniquely cowhidey name. Nevertheless, this is Leather Pool itself, home of... geothermalness. Yes.

The Little Geothermal Feature That Couldn't.

Sometimes, when you are ambling through Yellowstone National Park, you run across geothermal features that just aren't cutting the proverbial mustard any longer. Ironically, this inactivity is caused by activity -- seismic (earthquake) activity. If there's an earthquake -- and the Yellowstone area gets quite a few of them on a regular basis -- geysers can stop, geysers can change (e.g., a fumarole can become a geyser or a pool), or geysers can stop altogether. Features that have ceased to operate may come back to life after later earthquakes. There are several fairly major geysers that stopped operating in the '70s and came back after an earthquake swarm in 1995. Twig Geyser, however, was not one of them.

Here is Fountain Geyser when we first arrived in its pretty valley setting. Note the eerie calm and complete lack of geothermal activity.

Here is Fountain Geyser a few minutes later. Note the fact that there's water and steam all over the place. 

That's what it's all about, my friends.

This was taken just a bit down the walk from Fountain Geyser. 

Forgive me, Father, I have sinted...

This valley is full of sinter: brittle, crumbly geothermal precipitate.

I can't identify the aminal involved in making these prints, since I'm not Mr. Wilderness Wildebeest or whatever, but I bet they were made by something that looks snuggly and huggable but probably isn't.

In the distance, an unnamed geyser.

I name it Pants. George Pants XVIII, esq., to be precise. Yes.

Along the road between Lower Geyser Basin and Midway Geyser Basin.


For your own safety, please do not: 
1. Let your shoulder catch on fire. 
2. Walk away like you just don't care. 
3. Let your hat leap off of your head when you are SCALDED by THE BOILING WATERS FROM THE PIT OF HELL. 

Thank you, The Management.

Now we're at the Midway Geyser Basin. The sintery cliff and its little geothermal waterfall is quite pretty.

A little something called... Excelsior.

(Thanks to Alyssa for the correct name :) )

Turquoise Pool, from a distance.

One of the many boardwalks -- keeping you safe from scalding since nineteen-ought-something!

Note the hills.

Bacteria, redux. It almost looks marbled.

So russet, so thermophilic, so ubiquitous, so dreadfully bacterial! Yes!

Oh, by the way: The Yellowstone Park visitor's newsletter warns people that submersing one's head in the park's springs can give one Legionnaire's Disease. I haven't noticed myself feeling Legionnesque, either at the time or later. Maybe that's because I followed the government's advice and did not SUBMERSE MY HEAD.

Sometimes it's good to listen to the government.  

My head is a fog, sun glints off the bacterial waters, and I am adrift in time and space. 

(No, it's *not* Legionnaire's Disease, it's just bad poetry. Shush.)

Forgotten and distant, and yet they steam on.

I think they need names... Like "The Geyser of Intense and Oddly Unutterable Pain". Or "Bob". Or "Mooghelacky Weinstein Memorial Geyser". Or "Nephi Jones". Or the old standby, "Pants".

I'm here to soak up the sun, gaze at the water, breathe in the steam, and BECOME VALIANTLY ILL.

Legion! LEGION! *cough*

This was not my chapeau. Mine came later. *cough* 

Persons who visit Yellowstone are strictly forbidden to wander into geothermal features for the purpose of retrieving objects that may be launched into said warm 'n' fragile features by the ventilatory forces of nature. That explains this chapeau. That will also explain an aspect of a much later picture, in which this particular instruction suddenly becomes relevant unto my very self. 

Yellowstone is a windy place, and such things do happen.


O, verily unto thee shall be the nomenclature which is called like unto EXCELSIOR! Yea, forsooth, this blah blah blah, okay, it's called Excelsior Geyser. Hey nonny nonny and a fiddle-dee-crumpet. 

It's like a small, circular Grand Canyon with a pool at the bottom and lots of steamy steam emitting therefrom. Yes.

From the land where sinter dries! 
From the land where the eagle cries! 
Like Grand Canyon, but it's small! 
Steamier than them all! 

*commence belly-dancing elves, flute music, etc.*

It's sort of like a cliff at the coast, only with steam instead of salt-spray.

Wish You Were Here! Visit Mystical Dog-Bone Island!

Or, actually, don't, since the Park Service would sentence you to a FATE WORSE THAN DEATH. Like watching poorly-filmed Michael Bolton concert videos while in a room filled with geothermal steam until you catch Legionnaire's Disease *and* go insane. At the same time. It'll be like The Viridian Room. You will think, "I must escape." However, the CD case will always evade you. Or something. Yes. 

Anyhow, Dog-Bone Island. *nods*

Two Lovers in the Steam.

Me 'n' Miss Kick, shadowed in billowing steam-clouds thanks to the solar lighting goodness of the Sun and the sprayed-humidity-producing funkiness of Yellowstone National Park.

"Oh, hello there."
(Subtitle: Yellowstone Traffic Jam)

Mr. Buffalo heartily greets the recreational vehicle.

Buffalo Is Where You Find It (well, them, anyhow)

Buffalo are all over the place at Yellowstone. Deer and elk are romping all over the place, too. We never did get to see any moose, though. Buffalo are tremendously cute and buffalesque and all, and we rather like them, and we are certainly glad to have made their visual acquaintance during our trip, but mooses are more exotic, somehow.

Mr. Buffalo is now munching contentedly on roots or leaves or Twinkies or something.

Note the horns. They are cute but dangerous.

Text mostly written in 2004.
Last updated 20 January 2006.

· return ·