Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Early Morning Riser – West Thumb Geyser Basin

I was up and out early the other morning, ready to spend a few quiet hours roving West Thumb geyser basin on Yellowstone Lake. At just past eight o’clock, I knew I would have the place pretty much to myself.

Boardwalk at West Thumb geyser basin on Yellowstone Lake

Sunrise had come and gone several hours earlier, but that did not matter. The surface of the lake was still calm and glassy, the sintery shoreline a shallow green that graded outward to a deeper blue.

The lakeside boardwalk at West Thumb - Big Cone lies just offshore

A lone goldeneye rippled a delicate trail past Big Cone, the only offshore cone geyser that is not (yet?) submerged by spring snow melt and the slowly rising waters of Yellowstone Lake.

Above waterline, Big Cone geyser continues to bubble but not erupt

Clusters of short yellow monkeyflower edge the steaming pools in brilliant contrast to the varied greens of the grasses and lodgepole pines. I knew that in a few brief hours, excited visitors would overrun the geyser basin boardwalk. I wanted to savor every moment alone.

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Early morning in West Thumb geyser basin

West Thumb is the largest geyser basin on Yellowstone Lake and the only one with a boardwalk system. Its understated beauty lies not in the predictability of its geysers (none are predictable) but in its colorfully radiant alkaline pools. The color of each pool offers clues to its temperature and to the types of microbes that inhabit its heated waters.

For sheer exquisiteness, West Thumb totally smokes all the other thermal areas of Yellowstone.


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