Yellowstone Primer (plus a new tiny house)

If you’re like I was, completely ignorant of what’s special about Yellowstone, I’ll give you a layman’s quickie description.

Long ago, a giant volcano left still-hot magma under the surface here. Pockets of heated gases and brine have formed right under the top layer of earth due to <insert geological stuff I don’t understand, plus “silica”>. Cold rainwater runoff hits the super hot gases and brine, <more geological stuff> and pressure builds and they rise.

Basins throughout the park are low areas along the edges of the magma where the gases are escaping, and each little escaping spot is a hydrothermal feature. There are 10,000 hydrothermal features in the park: the world’s biggest concentration of geysers, the largest geysers, plus hot springs, mudpots, and steam vents.

Because the land around the hydrothermal features is hot, fragile, and dangerous to walk on (you could fall through to the heated gases and brine below), the park has built long boardwalks for visitors, winding around the features, many of which have been named and are marked.

Yellowstone also boasts gorgeous mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and an absolute ton of wild animals. Meet the bull elk who hangs around the tourist center of Mammoth Hot Springs, threatening cars if they get too close to his heard.

Right before Tracy shot this photo from the truck window, this guy had lowered his rack and started to charge that red truck that’s driving away. We didn’t turn around to get a better shot.

It’s bison who hurt and kill more people in the park than elk or grizzlies combined. They amble along the highway, sometimes in the very center, and look like big slow cows, but the bulls will turn on you just as quickly as the bull elk.

Timing Is Everything

Although you can see elk and bison anytime even as you just drive through the park, like most anywhere, animals are more active at dawn and dusk. The reason we’ve paid attention to timing, though, is to find a parking space before it gets so crowded that you can’t park outside any of the hydrothermal basins.

Our third morning of getting up at dawn and driving in was to see the Grand Prismatic Spring: the super-colorful spring that’s an icon of Yellowstone. We got there so early, though, when the air was cold, so all the hydrothermal features were steaming, even the ones that seem clear later in the day. Driving through the park looked like this, with steam rising everywhere.

And the Grand Prismatic Spring was basically a foggy area where you couldn’t even see a distinction between land and water, much less the vivid colors. I didn’t help that the early morning sun was slanting low right over the springs instead of directly on them.

What’s wild though is that the steam comes off the colorful ones, itself in colors.

As we walked along the boardwalk, the air warmed a bit and we did get some good views. Again, different colored bacteria can live in water at specific temperatures, and it’s the bacteria that provide the colored rings. (Plus silica deposits inside the craters.)

The Names of Thermal Features

Later that day we walked around Norris Geyser Basin again, this time along a longer boardwalk around different features. What’s immensely entertaining are the names of the features.

Black Hermit Caldron simply steamed ominously. Palpitation bubbled up at a predictable rate, blurp, blurp, blurp. Porkchop lay dormant for now, but entirely unpredictably it shoots out steaming, chemical-filled water much higher than Old Faithful does, and it’s scorched the pine trees all around it.

This one was just a small, mildly bubbling cauldron as we walked by it, but suddenly water jetted up 10 feel in the air, in these sudden, narrow spurts, for maybe three minutes, and then it calmed down again. We kept walking, but behind us we heard it suddenly start again. This one is called Vixen.

This is Emerald Spring, with silica deposits along the walls.

And this is named Echinus Geyser because the mineral deposits look like the spines of sea urchins and star fish.  

They each spurt, roar, hum, gurgle, and even breathe. This one seemed to do all that.

We still have two more days in Yellowstone, but we’re taking a break from going in at dawn and will try instead to catch sight of grizzlies right outside the park at dusk, and maybe hit some hiking trails. Stay tuned.

Pink Sofa Tiny House

After having offloaded the Waterwheel tiny house on Tom, I now have a bin cleared so I can start work on the next one. I’m calling it the Pink Sofa tiny house, because I’m proud of how well the sofa turned out.

It’s super-hard to glue layers of wood, cushioning, and fabric together exactly when it’s all so small, to stuff pillows, and to get the whole thing to fit together and stand up on teeny little legs, but this one is a success! There are four back cushions (two hidden by the throw pillows).

I struggled with cutting and gluing the fine paper that make up the little pink radio and the coffee cup, so those are out of focus here, as well as the gold trim along the hutch.

I do like how the battery box for the lights is hidden behind this brown secret passageway. And my friend Jacqui ID’ed the designer of the wallpaper thanks to her her amazing style superpowers.

The directions in this kit are just as hard to follow as the last one, with no clear order for construction, and important details aren’t given until the end, like: run the wiring for this chandelier under the floor covering before you put that down—that’s hidden in tiny text pages away from the description of which floor covering to put where.

But I’m learning how to sort the materials better first thing and make notes throughout the instructions before I start. I still managed to think one piece of material was missing so I subbed in another, only to find the missing material stuck to a bigger piece later on. But I’m learning to improvise, as well.

Tiny house stardom, here I come.

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