“Yellowstone is my happy place”

Days 7 and 8.
All good things have to come to an end.  L and I packed up a week ago this morning and headed out of the park.  We did make several more stops on our way out towards West Yellowstone, that I’d saved to the end of our visit.

The first was at Black Sand Basin, where we saw Cliff Geyser erupting.  This geyser has significance in True Gold, the sequel to Repeating History that I’m working on right now.  It’s also one of my two favorite lesser geysers, the other being Sawmill in the Upper Geyser Basin near Grand.

Cliff Geyser
Biscuit Basin was closed because they were rebuilding the boardwalks, so we didn’t get to walk out there, but our next stop was Midway Geyser Basin, where we walked the boardwalks in the company of a busload of tourists, and peered down into the steam of Excelsior Geyser Crater and across enormous rainbow-tinted Grand Prismatic Spring.
Excelsior Geyser Crater — in the cool morning you can barely see the
Caribbean turquoise water for the steam.
Grand Prismatic Spring, with its rainbow in the pool and strikingly-shaded algae mats surrounding it.
We made one last stop at the Fountain Paintpots, where Clepsydra Geyser was doing its usual thing (Clepsydra, which means water clock, really isn’t a geyser, which implies periodic eruptions — it’s a perpetual spouter).  This is where, on another trip to the park several years ago, a woman, who did not appear to speak English, stepped off the boardwalk so that her companion could take her picture, while everyone around them stared in dumbfounded horror waiting for her to fall through and boil herself to death.  I know that couple went home to wherever home was telling stories about the crazy American woman who freaked out when all they wanted was to take a picture, but I yelled at her until she got back up on the boardwalk.  I did not wish to see another entry in Lee Whittlesey’s book Death in Yellowstone, thank you very much.
Clepsydra Geyser
On this trip Fountain Paintpots is where I saw a wildflower I did not recognize (this doesn’t happen very often [g]).  My friend M helped me identify it from this picture when I got home.  It looks just like a harebell, except that harebells a) don’t have foliage like that, b) don’t bloom this early in the season, and c) don’t come in bright yellow, or indeed yellow at all.
Yellow bell fritillary, aka Fritillaria pudica
I’d never have guessed it was a fritillary, but it is.  A new-to-me wildflower is always a bonus.
On our way west from Madison Junction to West Yellowstone, we saw some elk cows grazing alongside the road.  They didn’t look nearly as healthy as the ones we’d seen up at Mammoth.  The grazing along the Madison River is excellent during the summer, but it’s much better at Mammoth in the wintertime.  The one I got a picture of looks pretty sad.
Cow elk
Tuesday was the first overcast day we’d had in the park, but the rain really didn’t start letting go until about the time we got to Butte, on our way home.  When it did, though, it came down with a vengeance.  It poured on us off and on all the way home.  This last picture was taken at a rest area near Deer Lodge, Montana, and shows some of the huge clouds and rain we dealt with all the way home.  You can’t tell from the picture, but it was pretty darned windy, too.
Clouds over Montana
We were incredibly lucky, though.  The day after we got home, it snowed not only over Snoqualmie Pass (and, I suspect, Homestake and Lookout Passes as well), but in the park.  And that’s the way it’s been all week, while it’s been cool (10 degrees below normal averages) and rainy here in western Washington.
I miss the park already…