In spite of the gloomy weather we decided we'd spend the day in Yellowstone. The weather forecast called for isolated thunderstorms with only a 30 percent probability of rain. There have been many days this summer with this same forecast when we didn't see a drop of rain so we decided to make the trip and figured the rain would stop.
WRONG! It rained pretty much all day. Not that the area didn't need the rain - we've been real dry all summer and the forest fires in Yellowstone and Idaho will attest to that fact. But we decided to make the best of it. We even stopped at several locations and got out of the car to take pictures. But did we bother to bring rain gear or a poncho or an umbrella? Of course not!
It was cool enough that more of the geothermal features in the park were steaming than we'd seen before and it made us very aware of how many of these features there are in Yellowstone. The park is home to the largest super-volcano caldera on the continent - about 45 miles long and 30 miles wide - and more than half of the world's geothermal features are located in Yellowstone.
We stopped first at the Mud Volcano area where the steaming hillside looked at first like one of the fires still burning in the park. We parked and walked the short hike around the area cutting it short because of the rain.
We got back in the car and only drove a couple of hundred yards before discovering another steaming landscape on the other side of the road. The Sulphur Caldron lies below the viewing area so you get a pretty good look at the area from above. This caldron is a bubbling pot of mud and we had to take video to fully capture the picture.
Our next stop was at the overlook for the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River. Again, it was raining so the pictures are not as spectacular as they would have been had the sky been sunny and bright. Oh well, it was still pretty impressive.
Then we headed to the rim of the Yellowstone River canyon and the first of several view points of the Lower Falls. The pictures we took from this vantage point - where numerous postcard and poster pictures have been taken over the years - look almost painted and fake because of the canyon's colors in the lighting from the dreary sky.
The second very brief stop on the canyon rim was at the brink of the Upper Falls where you don't really get a good look at the falls because you're standing above the drop but the matching polka-dot umbrellas of the tourists there from several tour buses was funny. Because of the weather we didn't fight the crowd to get down to the viewing platform above the falls. Instead we stopped at another of the popular view points of the Lower Falls. At this location we managed to get several pictures of an Osprey on her nest atop one of the spires in the canyon. We remembered a nest atop this same spire from our trip here in 2007.
After the falls we continued our trip around the lower loop drive and took a side trip on an auto-only loop past the Virginia Cascades. A cascade is similar to a waterfall except the water doesn't drop freely but flows down a steep rock face. The point along the drive where you can actually see this cascade is narrow and vehicles aren't supposed to park. We stopped only long enough for Mary to jump out and shoot some quick pictures. Not to be out-done, Lee managed to park at a wide spot a little further up the road and run back for some quick pictures. Though we started along the one-way road pretty much alone, our stopping quickly resulted in some traffic congestion so we couldn't stay parked for more than a minute or two.
Continuing along the south loop, we passed the geyser basin and more steaming geothermal features. We decided to stop at the Old Faithful Inn, a 108-year-old Yellowstone lodge adjacent to Old Faithful. While there we decided to eat dinner. In hind sight, it would have been much cheaper to have eaten our picnic lunch for dinner and eaten at one of the cafes in the park for lunch. But we split Linguine with Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken that was quite tasty. After eating, we made a quick visit to the gift shop, took some pictures of the Inn and the atrium/lobby and then some pictures of Old Faithful between eruptions before getting back in the car for the trip home.
All in all, it was a fun day despite the rain and a much welcomed "get-out-of-the-house" adventure.