Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Obsidian Gone Wrong

Near West Thumb Geyser Basin are a couple of short trails that had been calling my name since I arrived in Yellowstone 6 weeks ago. Very scenic, one leads to a small lake and the other climbs 500 feet to a ridgeline overlooking a fair portion of western Wyoming.


The trail down to Duck Lake is only ½ mile long. Since this is bear country, I was armed to the teeth with bear spray, my park radio, and a loud voice. “Hey bear! Get out of there!” I would sing incessantly as we marched through the spruce and lodgepole pine forest, new growth since the massive fires of 1988 that burned 793,880 acres, fully a third of the park.

Duck Lake

Trail to Duck Lake
A variety of ducks were bobbling about on the lake – Barrow’s goldeneye and bufflehead (or maybe they were scaup) – but they were too far away for any good picture and positive identification. They also refused to cooperate by coming closer.

As we headed back up the trail I noticed some familiar rocks lying about on the trail – pumice! That frothy, gas bubble–rich volcanic rock that I had spent so much time lobbing into Naknek Lake at Katmai last summer appeared like an old friend. Hey! I know you!

Yellowstone pumice

After our blistering one–mile hike we needed to re–fuel so we wandered over to the picnic area at The Basin.  I could have sat there all day and listened to the wind in the trees, but we had new trails to hike and views to absorb.


Yellow violet

Lake Overlook trail

We watched and wondered what treats the cowbirds and Clark’s nutcrackers were feeding on so intently in the meadow. Elk poop, perhaps? Pine seeds?

BrownHeaded Cowbird_Clarks Nutcracker
Cowbird and Clark's nutcracker

Clark's nutcracker

The trail climbed 500 feet in that one easy mile to a ridge overlooking Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountains to the east. Southward we could see the Red Mountains with Mt. Sheridan’s snow-clad peak. Beyond, the jagged Grand Tetons were adrift in the cloudy horizon.

Yellowstone LakeFrom Overlook Trail
View east towards Lake Yellowstone and Absaroka Mtns.

(L)Red Mountains and Mt. Sheridan; (R)Tetons in distance

I got on my elbows and knees to photograph some glassy volcanic rock along the ridge, but when I got home the images were a fuzzy mess. ACK!!! Obsidian gone wrong! I must go back!

Hot spring with grasses and yellow monkeyflower

Hot spring with grasses and yellow monkeyflower

Mountain bluebird

Glacier lily


  1. Yet another great hike and certainly worth repeating.

  2. Pretty much any place in Yellowstone is worth repeating, if given enough time. Ah yes, time... There is so much to see here, a person could spend a lifetime and not see it all. Just like GC.