A Yellowstonian Extravaganza

After waking up at the ungodly hour of 6:00, we had a quaint breakfast at the lodge consisting of french toast and sausage. Delicious! Heading back to our lodges, we packed our things for a two day trip into Yellowstone. With our backpacks practically bursting at the seams, we headed back to the lodge to find out who we would be spending the 4 hour car ride with. Clearly the most important information about our day… 😉 We separated into three vans and began our journey into the great unknown. However, the suspense of the great unknown grew old pretty quick, and we found ways to entertain ourselves, be it talking, listening to music, or trying to identify the different rock and glacial formations we passed.  

After waking up at the ungodly hour of 6:00, we had a quaint breakfast at the lodge consisting of french toast and sausage. Delicious! Heading back to our lodges, we packed our things for a two day trip into Yellowstone. With our backpacks practically bursting at the seams, we headed back to the lodge to find out who we would be spending the 4 hour car ride with. Clearly the most important information about our day… 😉 We separated into three vans and began our journey into the great unknown. However, the suspense of the great unknown grew old pretty quick, and we found ways to entertain ourselves, be it talking, listening to music, or trying to identify the different rock and glacial formations we passed.  

     Although many of us were unexcited for the three-to-four hour drive ahead of us, all concerns ‘melted’ away when the Geo-DESLA staff pointed out various patches of glacial ice on the drive up the mountain. After a scenic drive through the Beartooths, we were treated to spectacular views of small glaciers and lakes deposited by larger glaciers long ago. Not only did this provide an incredible photo-op, but it was a wonderful place to view and learn about the impacts of glacial activity. What we thought were just a series of lakes turned out to have a much more interesting name: patternoster. Everyone agreed that this would be a great Scrabble word. Before we moved on to our next adventure, we even got the chance to stand on a glacier and touch some glacial snow. Although we chose not to have a snowball fight, (for obvious reasons), it certainly was an unforgettable experience.   

After the scenic route past the beartooth valley, we drove to Lost Creek Falls. We gathered our lunches, backpacks, and water bottles to begin the hike up to the waterfall. The trek through many different types of brush, such as gooseberries and raspberry bushes, was quite short. However, we then reached the steep incline littered with crumbling lava rocks, large boulders, and fallen tree trunks. One by one, we climbed up to reach a comfortable(ish) place to eat, about halfway to the top. After some struggle and slipping up the incline, we were finally able to enjoy our lunches, listening to the rushing water below and screeching crows. Although many were feeling the burn of climbing, we still had to continue to the base of the cliff to examine geological formations. We took out our yellow “write in the rain” notebooks and began making observations about our surroundings. Looking at the cliff, we noticed many horizontal, elongated holes in the rock. We had never seen anything like this before! Through our macro lenses, we even noticed different crystals, which were colored green, yellow, purple, and clear. After listening to Loyc explain the rock formation to us, we found out that this cliff was formed by a volcanic explosion 630 thousand years ago. The ash was compressed over a very short amount of time, maximum of a month. This type of rock is called tuff, or ignimbrite. White striations in the tuff were caused by pumice weighed down by ash. The strange holes we noticed right away were created by gas bubbles attempting to escape. Enough of that scientific jargon.  After taking our last looks, we began the descent down back to the trail, which many of us made on our a**es. We made our way back to the cars with the seat of our pants stained.

Next on our itinerary was driving to the overhang cliff at Tower Falls. Here, the overcast clouds parted and we were in complete sunshine. Immediately, we noticed the columns spread horizontally across the valley, next to Yellowstone River. The domed mountain where the columns formed was yellow, and the river was perfectly blue. We then looked back to the overhang, and saw identical columns in the same exact plane. We later found out that these are called basalts, which are extrusive igneous rock forms. At one point in time, the overhang and rounded mountains across the valley were connected, and the basalts joined together. 

Our last stop on the first day of our Yellowstone extravaganza was the Mud Volcano. Unfortunately, we were delayed on the boardwalk by bison. Indeed, bison. They were just chillin’ next to the walkway, sometimes crossing from one side to another. Now, seeing as we are all quite reasonable people, we stayed a safe distance away, meaning we were stuck until they passed through. Finally, as if Moses himself had parted them, the bison moved far enough away that we could pass. Our first stop was the Churning Cauldron, a bubbling brown mix that smelled oh so wonderfully of rotten eggs. Mmmmmm, tasty. With the wind blowing directly into our faces the entire time, we got the full sensation of the uncomfortably moist mist of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S in case y’all were wondering about the chemical formula (: ). We learned about the formation and properties of the Churning Cauldron, which is a lot of technical, sciencey blab that I’m sure you don’t want me to go on about. Seriously, don’t get me started. We walked around the rest of the looping boardwalk, experiencing the heavy fumes billowing off the mud pits. We also enjoyed how everything seemed to be brighter and happier after taking a few deep wafts of the surely medicinal, sulfuric fog. But, on a serious note, everything there was amazing and we had an awesome time seeing the wildlife and naturally occurring volcanic springs. Truly a once in a lifetime experience… unless you go again. Then it’s a twice in a lifetime experience. 

With our heads bursting with knowledge, and frustration at tourists who held up traffic for the greater part of 20 minutes to view two antlerless elk, we made our way to Madison for dinner. On the way, we became privy to what was perhaps the most educational piece of information all day. We had the unique opportunity to travel through a remote location where a crime could be committed without persecution. For safety reasons we cannot disclose this information on the interweb, however, we assure you no children were harmed in the composition of this blog. Once arrived in Madison, many of us ended our day with a nice juicy bison burger. Although some students experienced moral conflict over consuming the animals we had admired all day, the consensus was almost unanimous that bison is quite tasty. 

Your ROCKing Bloggers:

Julia, Anna, and (most importantly) Kole

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