Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Eclipse and end of the season in Yellowstone

The eclipse had its biggest impact in Yellowstone in numbers of visitors and not the actual event.  In fact, I was a bit disappointed.  I thought the 97-98% estimated coverage would result in more dramatic lighting.  Instead, my shutter speed dropped a bit and the light had a greater softness, but the impact was slight.  Since I worked that day, I didn't drive south to the area of totality. Friends saw that and said it was impressive.

Here the impact included a huge drop in visitors for the day.  I had only one person for my tours and roads and parking lots resembled early May rather than August.  Delightful to have such peace, quiet and sense of space.   But that was just the lull.  The park was more crowded than usual for several days before and the day after was impossible.  In fact, the Park Service eventually closed admission to the park for those who hadn't yet checked through the entrance station and closed the  entrance into the Old Faithful area for those already in the park.    I had the day off, did chores around the house in the morning.  Our employee area showed no impact.  But as soon as I hit the road to go to West Yellowstone for some grocery shopping and other errands, I realized my mistake.  Traffic was stop and go for the two miles until I reached a turn around spot and then getting through that parking area to turn around took about 15 minutes for a small lot.     

My season is quickly coming to an end.  Normally I work until about the 1st of October, but this year my contract ends Sept 5 so that I can get back to California and get ready for a departure to England on Sept 22.  In between is my 50th high school reunion, also in California.  It will be hectic, but I have already planned most of my wardrobe, camera equipment to take, and various details related to travel.  

Here are some photos from the last month or so.  I love getting the feel of the geothermal basins without taking the iconic photos.  Early morning steam and sun rays at Black Sand Basin has become a favorite.

The next few views are from the boardwalk at Grand Prismatic in the Midway Geyser Basin.  The largest hot spring in the park, it is an iconic photograph, one every visitor wants.  The first two include the reflection of the trees from the hill beyond, just to give them a little difference from the usual.  The third is a detail of the patterns created by mineral deposits and thermophiles which give the area around the pool its rich colors.

View of Grand Prismatic from the new overlook.
The big event in the park this year was the opening of the new overlook to Grand Prismatic.  In the past, people created what are known as "social trails."  These are informal trails, not maintained by the park service.  After numerous accidents on the hillside, a maintained, safe trail was built last year.  It didn't open until sometime in mid-July of this year  to allow additional time for the old social trails to begin healing and for the Park Service to enlarge the parking area for Fairy Falls trail head to accommodate the large numbers of people who would want to hike to the new overlook.  That parking lot was immediately overwhelmed.  Still, this is a great new experience.  I took some photos of the full pool, but prefer this one of just a portion.   My favorite photos from the overlooked turned out not to be the pool but the patterns on the ground with a couple of single "Bobby Sox trees."  These are trees that have drowned when flow from geothermal features changes, flooding areas which once had healthy trees.  Since all but a few species of trees do not like being in constant water, they drowned.  But not before soaking up the water containing minerals.  After the trees die, the water evaporates leaving the trunks and base with mineral deposits.  These white deposits make the tree look like they are wearing white sox, hence the name Bobby Sox trees.  Looking down on them from the platform, diminishes the effect of the white, although you can make it out in the photos.

Rich deposits of thermophiles and minerals make textured colorful beds along the boardwalk at Biscuit Basin.  

These thermophiles are at Black Sand Basin

Here are a couple views of the terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs.

One of my favorite views is along the Firehole River just south of Midway Geyser Basin.   Afternoon and early evening  thunderstorms are frequent here and can make for dramatic skies.  

Early morning at Black Sand Basin

"My" Historic Yellow Bus (or touring car) at White Dome.  Usually my camera does not go with me on tours, but on the day of the eclipse, with only one passenger and desire to get some photos of the eclipse effects I carried my camera.  I liked the steam behind the bus and snapped this one  quickly.

Cave Falls in the Bechler region of the park (accessed by either a 38 mile hike from Old Faithful or by car from Idaho) is a quiet corner of America's first national park.   The waterfall is the widest in the park.  It is fun to photograph with a neutral density filter to get the slow, silky appearance of the falling water.

And finally, here is my photo taken at the peak of the eclipse.  It looks like I used a polarizer, but this was taken without, with no editing to accentuate the colors.   If I didn't tell you it was during the eclipse, I doubt anyone could tell.  This is at Black Sand Basin, which is close enough to where the bus is stored and maintained that I could get there after I dropped my solo passenger.  He was going to meet his family to experience the eclipse and I dropped the bus, returning later to clean it and do my paperwork, and rushed to Black Sand.  This is a better example of "Bobby Sox trees" than the ones from the Grand Prismatic Overlook.