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It was time to leave Yellowstone National Park. We still had quite a way to drive to South Dakota. But in the meantime, we enjoyed the landscape along US Hwy 14. There were some cool mountain peaks and stone formations. We passed the Buffalo Bill Reservoir before we arrived in Cody. Cody had only one room left, due to a famous rodeo in that area. But we were not willing to pay over $200 for a tiny room. So, we had dinner and moved on. We made it through the Bighorn National Forest before we got into a motel close to Sheridan.
The following morning, we all cleaned up, had breakfast, and were ready to drive the next leg to South Dakota. All these years, I still wish we made it to the Devils Tower. But due to a time crunch, it was either the Devils Tower in Wyoming or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. We chose the latter. It’s another reason to visit Wyoming again. 😉
Once we left the campgrounds, we were on our way to drive along Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River. It was pretty smoky in some areas due to the fact of a wildfire in the park. The helicopters were frantically working on keeping the fire under control. However, it wasn’t bad enough that we had to evacuate Yellowstone National Park. Before we arrived at the Upper Falls of Yellowstone River, we saw lots of bison in the meadows and close to these vent holes. These bison are used for the sulfur stench. As long as they are warm, they didn’t seem to mind the smell of “rotten eggs”.
The Upper Falls are very interesting. But the famous Lower Falls don’t disappoint with a height of 308 feet (94 meters), while the Upper Falls are only a third as high with 109 feet (33 meters). The Lower Falls are nearly twice as high as Niagara Falls in New York/Ontario. Since the Yellowstone River bends in this area, the Upper and Lower Falls can not be viewed on the ground at the same time. Katelynn didn’t mind “modeling” in front of the Lower Falls back then. Now, she’s happy she has photos to show of her trip to Yellowstone National Park.
When Kevin turned around to exit the park at the East Entrance, we still could see a lot of wildlife: more bison, elk, ravens, and a young grizzly bear. We didn’t know, if the bear was already old enough to be on its own or Momma Bear is hiding out behind the treeline. Nope! I didn’t want to chance it. I told Kevin to keep his window up, and I photograph through the glass. In the early evening, we finally exited Yellowstone and drove US Highway 14 towards Cody, Wyoming.
When we came back to the campground, Kevin and I were discussing the situation about the cooler nights in the Rockies. He didn’t want to spend another night with Sara in the car because it went below freezing. For a 9-month-old, this is just too cold. And she always keeps pushing herself out of the warm sleeping back. So, we decided, we call this trip in Yellowstone done and move on to the Mount Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota. But until late afternoon, we can still spend some time in the National Park. Said, and done! We packed our belongings, while Sara took a nap in her play bin. Katelynn helped get the pillows and the blankets in the Grand Cherokee. And once Sara was awake, fed, and had a diaper change, we moved on to see more sights.
Two days prior, Kevin and I had no idea there was a geyser basin within walking distance from the Grant Village Campground. And we almost skipped it, but then decided to visit it anyway. And it turned out to be my favorite place in the whole park: The West Thumb Geyser Basin.
West Thumb Geyser Basin is one of the smallest, yet most concentrated, geyser basins in Yellowstone, but its location along the shore of Yellowstone Lake ranks it as the most scenic. The 1870 Washburn Expedition gave West Thumb its name because of the thumb-like projection of Yellowstone Lake. The trail begins from the parking area and is a short figure-eight-shaped boardwalk looping through the basin and along the shore of the lake. Fishing Cone is one of the basin’s most popular features; its location on the shoreline and its symmetrical cone was popularized by early stories of “boiled trout.” Abyss Pool-the deepest in Yellowstone- is noted for its color and depth.
Yellowstone National Park has approximately half of the world’s geysers—and most of them are located in the Upper Geyser Basin. One square mile contains at least 150 of these hydrothermal wonders, making this area the most densely concentrated geyser region in the world. Five major geysers—Old Faithful, Grand, Castle, Daisy, and Riverside are located here.
At the time, when we visited the Upper Geyser Basin. The National Park was building the new Old Faithful Visitor and Education Center. It is a museum with a store where educational exhibits such as volcanic geology are on display. There is also a big glass window, where visitors can see the eruption of Old Faithful and look over the Upper Geyser Basin on a rainy day. I just wouldn’t recommend visiting this area from 12 – 6 pm, due to tour buses being full of tourists. It reminds me of the very first episode of Spongebob Squarepants, where the tourist anchovies run into the Krusty Krab, making a lot of ruckuses until Spongebob has every single anchovy served with a Krabby Patty. We went to the Upper Geyser Basin in the morning. So, it was comfortable to walk with a stroller.
Midway Geyser Basin: Exelsior Geyser Crater – Grand Prismatic Spring
The next stop was Midway Geyser Basin at the Firehole River. The Midway Geyser Basin is very famous for being the home of the Grand Prismatic Spring. The Grand Prismatic Spring is famous for its size and colors. With being deeper than a 10-story building and larger than a football field, it is the thrid largest hot spring in the world. The Grand Prismatic Spring gets its rainbow colors from the bacteria that lives in progressively cooler water. And the water scatters the blue wavelenght of light, and therefore the center reflects blue back to our eyes.
The Excelsior Geyser Crater is a dormant geyser, but a steamy blue spring. It is so hot, that the runoff water is still boiling, when it hits the surface of the Firehole River. The last time the geyser erupted about 80 feet (25 meters) high for two days was in 1985. Back in the 1800s it could reach a height up to 300 feet (90 meters).
When we visited, we also could see wildlife and wildflowers across the river. We’ve seen a big male bison grassing in the meadow, a relaxing female elk, a couple of ravens, and a big Flame Skimmer dragonfly. There were also wild roses and beautiful pine trees in the area. After the Midway Geyser basin visit, Kevin and I called it a day. We all were hungry and tired for walking around. Sara needed a small nap, before we had dinner at the camp ground. That night, we went to bed early to have an early start the following morning.
From the Norris Geyser Basin, we’ve traveled up to the Lower Geyser Basin, which is inside the Caldera Boundary and the largest geyser basin in the area of Yellowstone National Park. There we looked at the beautiful Silex Spring, the Fountain Paint Pot and watched the Great Fountain Geyser erupt. It was windy in that basin. so, we felt the water from the geyser hitting us like raindrops. Katelynn seemed to enjoy it. Along the walk from the car to the boardwalk we noticed some beautiful flowers like Variable Groundsel and Blue Penstemon.
When Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I left the Mammoth Hot Springs, we passed the Antler Peak to get to the Norris Geyser Basin. At the Norris Geyser we saw Steamboat Geyser and Emerald Spring. Unfortunately, we missed out on the Artist’s Paint Pots, Monument Geyser Basin and Beryl Spring. This means we need to go back to Yellowstone National Park again. 😉
Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest active geyser. It’s located in the Norris Back Basin. It has unpredictable, infrequent major eruptions of more than 300 feet, and frequent minor eruptions of 10 to 40 feet. As comparison, Old Faithful can vary in heights from 100 – 180 feet.
Once Kevin, the girls, and I crossed the state border back into Wyoming, our next destination was the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces. There are some interesting facts about the springs:
At Yellowstone each year, the rain and melted snow seep into the earth. Cold, to begin with, the water is quickly warmed by heat radiating from a partially molten magma chamber deep underground, the remnant of a cataclysmic volcanic explosion that occurred 600,000 years ago.
After moving through this underwater “plumbing” system, the hot water rises up through a system of small fissures. Here it also interacts with hot gases charged with carbon dioxide rising up from the magma chamber. As some carbon dioxide is dissolved in hot water, a weak, carbonic acid solution is formed.
In the Mammoth area, the hot, acidic solution dissolves large quantities of limestone on its way up through the rock layers to the hot springs on the surface. Above ground and exposed to the air, some of the carbon dioxides escape from the solution. Without it, the dissolved limestone can’t remain in the solution, so it reforms into a solid mineral. This white, chalky mineral is deposited as the travertine that forms the terraces.
The following morning, we were ready for our first trip through Yellowstone National Park. Since our campground was in West Thumb, west of Yellowstone Lake, we had to drive all the way up north from US 191 & US 89 to make it to Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana, which is also the North Entrance of the park. That’s where we wanted to begin our journey. On the way up there, we saw our first Grizzly in the wild. The bear was making his way up the hill, before it disappeared behind the tree line.
In Gardiner, we enjoyed lunch at Rosie’s, before we looked at Roosevelt Arch and made our way back into the National Park. The distance from the arch and the Montana/Wyoming state border is exactly 3 miles.
Since Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I still had to wait for our camping site to be ready in Yellowstone, we visited Grand Teton National Park. We’ve entered from the Moran Entrance Station and drove north on US Hwy. 191. Along the way, we’ve made several stops and walked around to enjoy the view. One of the ladies in the Souvenir Cabin mentioned to us, when we visit next time to make Grand Teton our priority. Everyone wants to go to Yellowstone National Park, because it is more famous for its hot springs and geysers. But the real beauty is in Grand Teton National Park. I’ve heard that before about Australia and New Zealand. Most people want to go to Australia; but New Zealand has the real beauty. I have to keep that in mind, before I plan another trip to Wyoming.