My good friend Steve and I spent the week of October 3rd to the 10th, 2016, visiting Yellowstone National Park. Of course we had both been there previously, but not for many years. In fact, our last time there was a whirlwind trip together through this fascinating world with our wives. But now we were there to explore this unique terrain on our own with our cameras and with no specific agenda other than what caught our imagination (we were bound, though, to return to previously arranged lodgings for the night).

Weather reports prior to the trip raised a degree of concern, but as it turned out we were favored with excellent conditions for picture making despite the unpredictability and ever-changing nature of the forecasts which seemed to bear little correlation with reality .

The week's itinerary consisted of two nights in West Yellowstone, MT, two nights in Gardiner, MT, two nights at Old Faithful, and a last night back in West Yellowstone. These locations provided excellent bases for seeing a good portion of the park including all of the major thermal areas.

For our first day in the park we decided to head to the Norris Geyser Basin. This was a sojourn of perhaps 30 miles from West Yellowstone and followed the Madison River for the first half of the drive and then the Gibbon River. The park had been graced with a dusting of overnight snow making the drive quite beautiful.

Click on any of the photos in the grid to see a larger version.

The geyser basin has two loop trails, and we decided on the longer one to start. This was less traveled which gave us a chance to get our feet on the ground and our camera techniques more practiced. After a gourmet lunch we followed this with the shorter Porcelain Basin Trail which was where the bulk of the tourists headed.

The following video provides a quick overview of a few of the thermal features we encountered. The audio track with the panorama of Porcelain Basin contains a smattering of Asian languages which was a background at many of our stops throughout the park. Despite the lateness in the season the park was still inundated with tourists, the bulk of whom arrived in large tour buses and were mostly from China or Japan.

The video is embedded from YouTube. Close the YouTube window after viewing and you will be back here for the rest of the show.

Emerald Spring

Black Pit Spring

Echinus Geyser

Besides the thermal features providing most of the "wow" factor, there was an abundance of other interesting things along the trail. Click on an image for a separate slide show.

Here are some additional images from our walk around the Back Basin Loop.

The Porcelain Basin Loop was much shorter and also attracted most of the visitors during the time we were there. The terrain was more open and allowed more expansive views of the surrounding countryside.Thermophilic bacteria had created beautifully colored mats in many of the areas of thermal runoff. At the end of the loop, Porcelain Spring provided eye-popping aqua-colored water which was enhanced by the steam and mist.

Near Norris Geyser Basin was another thermal attraction called Artists' Paintpots containing additional colorful and fascinating features. A small snowman at the start of the trail was a reminder of the previous night's snow.

On our return to West Yellowstone, a congregation of vehicles along the Madison River signaled the presence of wildlife. In this case it was a bull elk feeding in a meadow along the road while keeping a close eye on his harem.

Back in West Yellowstone for our second night we dined at the Buffalo Bar, edited photos, and prepared for the following day's drive to Gardiner, MT.

This is the first of five presentations about our trip. Stay tuned for the rest.

©2016 John Aldrich

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