On the truck front, we do finally have our beloved tow vehicle back! To answer some of the questions, yes we consulted legal advice, and after 7 days someone from Banks did contact us. Pretty much as expected, they flat out denied that their system could have caused the damage to our engine, BUT if any warranty issues came up we are on our own. They sent some paperwork to us, but after reading it, any recourse we might have had applied only to the original warranty on the truck, not the extended warranty after the original was done. Extended warranties are not considered "warranties", but "service contracts". It's all in the wording, isn't it? We also looked into arbitrage, but that is a long, involved process that would require us to go back to Florida for the sessions, and the majority of the appeals are denied after months have dragged on. So it was ready last Friday, and we spent our "weekend" off driving the 5 hours down to pick it up on Sunday, and then coming back to the ranch on Monday. We did decide to take a different route home, and that will be the next post (just a tease for you to keep reading!).
Anyway, the weekend before we finally had our "virgin visit" to the country's first National Park, Yellowstone, established in 1872. We had arranged to spend the day with John and Carol Herr again, and we had a totally enjoyable day. Being such a huge area to explore, we have decided to concentrate each visit there on a single area, and we chose the Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin area for our first visit. There is a walking trail starting from the visitor center that goes to Biscuit Basin and back that is about 5 miles long, and we figured we could do this, even as slow as we are :-)! There are dozens of geysers, pools, springs and other geothermal pools along this trail, and I'm afraid we underestimated how long it really would take us to do the trail, as we did not make the entire loop to Biscuit basin; we did, however, do over 6 miles, and spent 6 hours doing so!
This has to be the most interesting, surreal environment that I have had the privilege of seeing with my own eyes. The hydrothermal region of Upper Geyser Basin contains more than 20% of all the geysers in the world, as well as thousands of non-erupting hot springs. This concentration of hydrothermal features provides ample evidence of Yellowstone's volcanic geology. 3 major eruptions have occurred in the past two million years, and the volcano is still active. Molten rock, or magma, may be as close as 3-8 miles underground, and provides the first ingredient for the thermal features: heat. Rain and snow supply the second ingredient: water. The water seeps down several thousand feet below the surface where it is heated. Underground cracks provide the third ingredient: a natural plumbing system. Hot water rises through this plumbing to produce hot springs and geysers. But enough chitchat, onto some pictures!
Parking at the Visitor Center, as we began our hike up to the upper observation area, we were able to take a nice picture of the iconic Old Faithful Inn. We had written down the estimated eruption times of the geysers that are predictable, and figured we had just enough time to climb up to the upper level. It was a pretty good rise in elevation, but the hiking guide had said "the trail is in excellent shape with well-planned switchbacks, making the small climb seem easy". Well, that statement is kind of relative, what seems "easy" to folks from around here doesn't seem quite so "easy" to those of us from the flat lands :-).
We did make it with a couple of minutes to spare, and saw Old Faithful's eruption for the very first time.
Other treats we saw up at the top of Geyser Hill Viewpoint was this beautiful Western Tananger...
a yellow-bellied marmot...
and her baby :-)!
We headed down the trail, following the signs, and ending up taking an unplanned detour from the main trail....
but it was ok as we ended up visiting Solitary Geyser, out by itself off the well-trodden path.
Solitary Geyser very obligingly erupted for us while we were there; sometimes you do end up in the right place and the right time.
As we made our way back to the main trail, we passed such beautiful features. The ribbons of color in and around the thermal features are usually formed by thermophiles (heat-loving organisms). These organisms-algae, bacteria and archaea, are primitive life forms that have inhabited the earth for almost four billion years.
Can you imagine the first explorers stumbling into this environment, and what they must have thought?
Spasmodic Geyser...erratic, splattering eruptions.
Ghostly white trees, near the hot springs
A great example of the thermophiles around a spring.
The whole area was completely fascinating. Carol and I were taking picture after picture, one reason it has taken me so long to get this post up :-).
One of the most loved features in the Upper Geyser Basin is known as Morning Glory Pool.
Another predictable geyser, Daisy Geyser. Daisy erupts to a height of 75 feet for 3-5 minutes.
A gorgeous western bluebird was posing perfectly, showing off his hapless insect.
We walked further up the trail along Firehole River...
to the beautiful Gem Pool area.
I find it impossible to pick a favorite picture, so I know I'm including way too many!
At this point we turned around as we didn't want to miss the eruption of Riverside geyser. As we arrived, we could see the basin area starting to fill with water that spilled back into the river. We waited, and waited and waited, until it was at least 30 minutes past the predicted time span for eruption. It would look like it was getting ready to blow, but then didn't! We hated to leave, but a bank of very black, threatening looking clouds rolled in, and we could hear thunder. It was almost two miles back to the Visitor center, so we turned to go and of course, you know what happened!
It finally erupted! I snapped few quick pictures, and then we hot-footed it quickly down the trail. Luckily, we made it to shelter before the hard rain came, and I think it was the quickest two miles I've ever
We were all starving at this point so what was going to be lunch at the cafeteria turned into an early dinner and it was pretty good. I was surprised :-). We spent a little time in the Visitor center....
Saw one more eruption of Old Faithful, and then piled into the car for the hour and a half drive back to Moran. One quick stop at Lewe's Falls...
and a view down the river of the Tetons. Still no bear sightings for me, though :-(. Our next excursion to Yellowstone will be in a couple of weeks, when we will be exploring the Canyon Area, with the beautiful Lower Falls and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We do have a couple of things over the next couple weeks planned here in the Tetons as well, so stay tuned.