Monday, July 07, 2014

Getting Down in the Mud

On our previous day in Yellowstone, our efforts to find bubbling mud pots hadn't gone quite as well as we'd hoped. The Mud Volcano had been more watery than what we'd imagined, so we were still on the hunt. We did much better on this day, starting with our visit to the Lower Geyser Basin. Right away, we came to the Fountain Paint Pot:

This gurgling mud pot is the said to be the most famous in Yellowstone, and was certainly much more what we had in mind. But it wasn't the only interesting sight in the basin. The Red Spouter was a nearby Sarlacc of a pit that hissed loudly enough to be heard long before you drew within sight of it:

And just around the corner was a row of very active geysers, including the Fountain and Clepsydra Geysers. Apparently, at least one of the geysers is in the midst of a minor or major eruption at virtually all hours. Two were in full swing as we came through, and had drawn quite a crowd.

Up close, it was very easy to see why:

We then returned to the truck and decided to detour along one of the side roads we'd taken the night before, Firehole Canyon Drive. Disappointingly, the swimming area still hadn't opened up, but it still made a nice spot to stop for lunch, near the waterfall.

Continuing on north, we stopped at the Artists' Paint Pots, a spot that was supposed to be good for more gurgling mud. It was about a half-mile hike in. My bug-bitten ankle was definitely more irritated, but still not so much that I said anything. In any case, the short hike proved to be well worth it. It led to a trail that took you to a hillside peppered with interesting features. And not only could you follow along the front of the hill, you could hike up for a higher vantage (and a breathtaking view):

Best of all, high on the hill, we found a bog of gurgling mud -- exactly what we'd been hunting for all along. And you could get much closer to it than the more famous Fountain Paint Pot.

Some people apparently wanted to get closer still. At every geyser and spring throughout Yellowstone, you'll find warning signs cautioning about the dangerously hot temperatures and sulfuric content of the features. The signs were another way you could separate people just starting their Yellowstone tour from the "veterans" -- these were the people stopping to read these signs for the first time, as opposed to passing them by for the hundredth.

As we were entering the Artists' Paint Pots area, we came upon a young Japanese couple eyeing the runoff from a watery spring. I couldn't understand the exact words of their conversation, but the context was very clear as the following scene played out:

Woman: "I'm going to go touch it!"
Man: "You're not supposed to do that."
Woman: "Come on. I'm doing it."
(Woman puts hand in.)
Woman: "Wow. It's hot!"
(Woman keeps hand in.)
Woman: "Seriously, it's really hot!"
(Incredibly, woman keeps hand in.)
Woman: "Ouch! It burns!"
(Woman finally takes hand out and comes back to the Man, cradling her hand.)
Woman: "Help! It's still burning! It hurts!"
Man: (unknown, but clearly not "I told you so.")

We left the couple behind, toured the area, then returned to our truck.

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